Corporation-centered Design

We hear a lot about user centered design, and human centered design, and occasionally about post human centered design: Ways to shift the thinking of designers to the people using their products, or maybe even the larger environment they operate in.

But really, more often than not, in practice the design focus we see is on the company making things: The practice as an extension of the organization.

There isn’t anything inherently damaging with this, I think; but it leads to occasionally awkward outputs.

Take, for example, Samsung’s “Digital Cockpit 2021” (Youtube). I’m using this example because it’s fresh, not because I want to dunk on Samsung (I don’t); what I’m about to talk about is a common theme: Corporation-centered design.

It’s Samsung’s “vision” of what the inside of a car should look like. Nominally, that vision is “Transforming Vehicles Into Places Where Passengers Would Love to Stay”.

In reality, it’s just a way to cram just about everything Samsung wants to sell into a form factor that’s already known and understood well, with a veneer of futurity.

There’s no larger vision here. It’s a product line-up and roadmap, all mashed up into a video. It’s like an org chart of the corporation crammed into a video pretending to offer a vision. It’s corporation-focused design. Users/humans come in at a distant second place.

For what it’s worth, what’s shown here also doesn’t feel futuristic, it feels like someone cosplaying future. It’s an abundance of screens, some stuff moves around. Its nominal approach is to allow switching from “entertainment” to “productivity” — in other words, you can watch videos or have video calls.

Sidebar: Ironically the only time the driver interacts with the outside world (around the 1:09 mark) is to manually select a pedestrian on a screen to have the car honk at them. What’s up with that? You sit in a cocoon of entertainment and are driven around by an autonomous car, but if a person crosses the street you come out and harass them? This seems to be quite literally the worst type of behavior to model and advertise.

Anyway. Corporation-centered design. It’s a thing.

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