The Direction of the Design in The Age of New Normal ‘To Empathize with Costumers and Design New Connections through Design Thinking’

The 2020 SEOUL DESIGN INTERNATONAL FORUM has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Seungkyo Seo (IBM Global Design Academic Program Director, Professor, Humanities, Arts, and. Social Sciences at Yeonsei Underwood International College)

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, social systems that operated through human connections fell into sudden stagnation. The free and flexible daily life of citizens was controlled and limited, and the operating speed of the existing system was significantly lowered, increasing the inconvenience and difficulties of citizens.
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis that no one expected and could not prepare for, members of society are showing some results by designing and implementing devices that can promote social connection in order to break through the disconnection and resulting inefficiency. It is necessary to think about the impact of these attempts on the lives of citizens and the sustainability of these connections.

The New Normal Era and Design Thinking
‘COVID-19’ is one of the most talked-about words throughout 2020. The aftermath of COVID-19, which most citizens feel, is perceived as having a very negative meaning because it cuts off the natural flow and connection of daily life and causes great economic and physical damage. Let's take a look at how COVID-19 has changed our lives.
COVID-19 has caused a mask riot. In the early stages of the spread of the infectious disease, there was a side effect of hoarding or trading at a higher price. Accordingly, the 5-day mask purchase system was implemented, which caused a situation where only a certain amount could be purchased depending on the day of the week. Faced with an unexpected and unprecedented situation, citizens experienced greater confusion as offline-oriented social activities were paralyzed and began to stock up on masks as daily necessities. Currently, we have come to take for granted the environment in which we cannot go out without a mask.
Taking body temperature when entering a train station or building to use the railroad has become a very routine procedure. If you do not check your health through a measuring device, free access or activities are restricted. This was also a limitation that we did not experience in the past, but now it is awkward and uncomfortable if we do not wash our hands and measure our body temperature.


Waiting to buy a mask and a body temperature measuring device in a public place

Creating an entry list for entering restaurants and keeping distance Seats

The same goes for restaurants. We now have to fill out an access list at the entrance of a restaurant we visit for a meal or use a QR to record our visits. Due to social distancing, it became impossible to use seats comfortably and to chat while sharing food with people.
A lot of changes have been made to the workspace as well. The spread of COVID-19 has radically changed the way we work. As non-face-to-face measures were strengthened in the daily life of performing work in the office and giving lectures in the classroom, all tasks were carried out in the form of at-home and online non-face-to-face. In the beginning, I thought that it would be easy to communicate online with just one laptop in a place where the Internet is connected, but it was very difficult to achieve work efficiency or performance in an offline environment in the non-face-to-face environment I experienced. As telecommuting began, many people started to build an environment by purchasing an additional large monitor or installing a microphone with good sensitivity. At first, I felt awkward as if I became a YouTuber or a DJ, but over time I got used to it and now it has become a daily routine, so I can work from home without much inconvenience.

New things to experience due to Coronavirus
Now we are all experiencing something new. The previously believed order is collapsing and chaos is caused by disconnection. The spread of COVID-19 infection has killed more than 1 million people worldwide. As confirmed through the article, the number of deaths is increasing, and mental fatigue around the world is increasing due to the prolonged situation. As a result, various social problems and the form of exhaustion can be easily witnessed, and economic uncertainty cannot be predicted, so many members are engulfed in anxiety. According to the data released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this year, the global economic forecast for this year is minus 4.4%. Rather than seeing it as growth, it appears more like a slowdown, and no one can accurately predict when we will be able to recover this economic growth.
Overcoming rapid environmental changes such as COVID-19 is a task given to all of us, and no one could have anticipated or prepared for it. In this social crisis, members of society are showing some results by designing and implementing temporary devices that can promote social connection in order to break through the disconnection and inefficiency caused by it.

Temporary problem solutions are derived based on keywords such as remote classes, drive-through self-isolation, eating alone, telecommuting, homing, social distancing, untact, and QR codes that were not well known and experienced before COVID-19 are now spread widely. We are all hoping for a return to a life where we can freely meet, communicate, and talk with people as in the past, rather than the discomfort in front of our eyes is temporarily resolved. Therefore, I think that these solutions are not innovative solutions that will change our lives, but only temporary measures suitable for resolving inconveniences in front of us or applying them as alternatives.
A new type of solution
Amazon, the world's largest online retail chain, has opened an offline store called Amazon Go. You can enter the shopping experience at Amazon Go through a QR code and purchase and pay for necessary items based on IoT technology and big data analysis in an untact way in a store without a clerk. The form of non-face-to-face stores based on technology, which is becoming a hot topic in the 4th industrial revolution, seems to resemble a lot of the society that is being implemented after COVID 19. These types of shops can be easily found around us.
Due to the technological development of the 4th industrial revolution, unmanned untact stores are rapidly increasing around us. The fourth industrial revolution predicted four types of changes in human life: Predictions for education, work style, lifestyle, leisure or relaxation. The generalization of online classes that do not gather in the classroom, remote working where people can work anytime and anywhere by connecting to the Internet instead of the way people gather in a fixed space, and changes in space utilization and rest and relaxation as the crowded space decreases. The possibility of enjoying leisure was also predicted in a new space.
These predictions are actually very similar to the lives we are experiencing due to the spread of COVID-19. The important point here is that in order to realize this technology-based lifestyle, it is necessary to re-recognize the concept of connection.

Resistance to new ways
It is true that there is a lot of resistance to this new way of connecting that we are experiencing today. This is because the temporary solutions given to us at present are different from the existing connections, so we cannot communicate properly and do not meet people's expectations. In particular, the digitally underprivileged, such as the elderly, are complaining of great inconvenience in their lives, including the use of kiosks, which have rapidly spread in non-face-to-face environments. Even if it is not for the elderly, the interruption of communication brings great discomfort and pain to people who are social animals.
How can we design new connections while reducing the resistance and risk of infection? As a solution, I would like to propose design thinking.

Design Thinking and Problem Solving
There are various definitions and processes for design thinking. Design thinking refers to the iterative process and thought of creating solutions by empathizing with customers, analyzing their needs, and then meeting them. What is important here is that design thinking is based on empathy, not on the creation of results.
To explain the role of design thinking through examples, there is the novel The Vegetarian by Han Kang and the movie Parasite by Bong Joon-ho. What the two works have in common is that they won the Grand Prix at the world's leading awards ceremony. It is said that the power of talented translators Deborah Smith and Darcy Paquet was great behind these works being able to win the Grand Prix at the world's leading awards ceremony.
Design thinking is the same. Design thinking plays a role in fully understanding their difficulties and needs through a deep understanding of customers, and communicating them in a language that empathizes with them.

How can you empathize with your customers through design thinking?
We will try to find out how to derive solutions by empathizing with users through design thinking through various examples.

I have witnessed citizens in wheelchairs and their guardians going down the street, and I noticed something a little unusual. The guardian climbed on the footrest behind the electric wheelchair and they moved together, and the electric wheelchair does not have a footrest for the protector originally. However since there may be a difference in speed when moving on foot, it seems that a separate footrest was installed as a way to move with a wheelchair. Design thinking is about creating better methods and values ​​by learning the language of users in the field, empathizing with them, finding the causes and remedies of user behavior. Through these designs, we solve the problems of our customers and citizens, and examples of creating social value can be easily found.

As another example, we would like to introduce an example of the discovery of a police officer in Byeolnae New Town in Namyangju and the implementation of ideas. Since Byeolnae is a new city, there have been a lot of jaywalking accidents by the elderly despite the well-developed transportation infrastructure. The police officer, who became curious about the frequency of jaywalking accidents among the elderly, thought about the positions of the elderly and tried to empathize with them. A new discovery was that, unlike young people, the elderly had a physical burden in moving, and it was found that it was very difficult to move to the crossing and even to wait for the signal to change. Elderly people instinctively crossed the road to reduce possible travel time and flow, and unavoidable trespassing often led to accidents. As this continues to cause social costs and problems, this police officer proposed a solution called a chair for elderly in consultation with Namyangju City. It is a system that installs a chair next to a traffic light at a crossing so that the elderly can sit down, recharge their energy, and wait until the signal changes. Attempts that started in Byeolnae have spread to the surrounding area and are being installed in each local government in a modified form.

Cases of the spread of chair for elderly

Blood donation is a very important part of society, but in reality, it is not easy to participate in blood donation activities. IDEO, a well-known design consulting firm in the United States, was commissioned by the American Red Cross to study ways to increase the blood donation rate. The result is that real compensation should be given, and the value that blood donors want is that they want to be recognized for their actions. So as a proposing solution, before donating blood, ‘Why I give,’ a statement about why he/she donates blood is written and presented, that is displayed at the blood donation site have been made. Blood donors can feel happy and satisfied when they visit again.

All these solutions and alternatives are the result of design thinking. Design is no longer about improving the appearance of a product. Furthermore, it will have to be redefined as designing innovative values for customers. Based on this definition, we need to create new opportunities, empathize, and discover customer needs. We must carry out activities that generate new ideas by delivering the insights obtained from customers to places where they can be implemented, and continuously foster a creative culture.

New Normal, Design Principle for New Connections
In the new normal era, we would like to summarize what principles should be established for new connections.
The first is the repetition of empathy and creativity. The process of repeating empathy and creativity with citizens through design thinking can lead to solutions that provide better value. Second, you need to find the real problem, not the symptoms. We hear a lot of stories from customers, but many of the stories are just symptoms. If you empathize enough, you will be able to recognize it as a problem rather than a symptom, so you have to empathize with them. Third, social problems inevitably lead to conflicts of interest among many stakeholders, so it is necessary to focus on expanding the synergy between individual and public values. Fourth, voluntary and active participation of citizens should be induced, and fifth, sustainability should be considered to create long-term effects rather than trying to solve problems in a short time.
Category related contents
Hashtag related contents