Last week, we introduced you to the hypothesis that: “psychology and design go hand in hand”. This time, we’d like to introduce you to the thought leaders who first sparked this idea. Not everyone on this list is a designer, in fact, hardly any of them are. We are looking to all corners of the academic world — psychology, science, economics and more — in search of better ways to improve our design process.
John B Watson – The Godfather
In 1913, Watson published what would become the ‘Behaviorist Manifesto’ – Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It – outlining a new philosophy:
“Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. …. The behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute.”
In opposition with much traditional psychology, Watson looked past the internal, mental state of his subjects — convinced that the ‘consciousness’ simply couldn’t be studied. Instead he focused on external behaviour and reactions to given situations. He believed that analysis of behaviour and reaction was the only objective way to gain insight into human action. This theory has paved the way for the advancements in psychology that we see today, and pushed psychology beyond the label of ‘science of the mind’.
Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky
Daniel Kahneman’s incredible 2012 New York Times Bestseller, Thinking Fast and Slow, presents a fresh new look at the way that our minds work, and how we make decisions. The book could be singled out as the capstone to his career, but his accomplishments shouldn’t be confined to this one work. The Israeli-American psychologist has offered fascinating theories on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, as well as behavioral economics — where his empirical findings challenge the long-held assumption that human rationality will always prevail. Thanks to his work with Amos Tversky, he will forever be synonymous with ‘the history of thought’.
“We are not the paragons of reason we assume ourselves to be.”
Amos Tversky, was a renowned cognitive psychologist. During his career, he transformed the way that experts (across numerous fields) think about the decision process — related to risks, benefits and probabilities. In 1968, Kahneman invited Tversky to give a guest lecture at one of his seminars at the Hebrew University – marking the beginning of their lengthy collaborative union. Their 1979 paper, Prospect Theory: Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk, is their most notable work. It details the behavioural economic theory that people make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains, and not their final outcome. Their model is descriptive: favouring real-life choices, over the optimal decisions, that normative models generally present.
The ‘Not Really a Designer’ Designer
Don Norman is one of the world’s most influential designers… the thing is, he isn’t really a designer — not in the traditional sense. Norman is a design theorist, with the noble cause of ‘understanding how designers work their magic’.
“Beauty and brains, pleasure and usability — they should go hand in hand.”
His books: ‘Design of Everyday Things’, ‘Emotional Design’ and ‘Living with Complexity’ — advocate user-centred design for absolutely everything, from simple doors to complex computers. He has courted controversy in the design world, practically dismissing the entire ‘design research community’ who he believes has had little impact in innovation. He believes that the technologists, and not the academics, will accomplish the world’s great design breakthroughs.
The wonderful thing about Norman is that he is not rigid in his theories, he is always learning. While his first book focussed solely on the end-user, giving little time to the importance of aesthetics; his second book ‘Emotional Design’ noted the impact beautiful things can have — highlighting the layered approach we must take to the design process.
Tom Kelley & David Kelley
Tom & David Kelley are two true design stalwarts — and original faces of design behemoth IDEO. Tom’s work focusses more on nurturing innovation, and unleashing the creative potential of organisations as a whole. David focuses more on the individual and ‘design for learning’ – teaching user-centred design methodology and design thinking to students and business executives.
They co-authored the New York Times best-seller, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Inspired by their time at IDEO, the book pushes the idea that: ‘every one of us is a creative’ regardless of the job you do. Through an entertaining narrative, we are welcomed into IDEO, one of the world’s top design firms — where ‘out of the box thinking’ is almost mandatory.