Checklist: How To See The Designs Around You (Beta)


To help readers apply the ideas from the book into their own world, the book includes a checklist for everyone. Anyone can use it to think about any designed thing: a product, a place or a service. The goal is to help people think more critically about design, and to facilitate better design discussions.

Beta testers wanted: Try out the checklist! Pick an object, write up your answers and report back (leave a comment or email). How can the checklist be made more useful or interesting for readers? (strongly prefer feedback from after you’ve used it – thanks πŸ™‚

Constraints: the goal is for this to fit on a single page, so it’s easy to copy and use.

How to use this checklist: Pick any product, place or service that’s nearby, so you can look at it and use it. Maybe a street intersection, a kitchen appliance or a new mobile app. Take a minute to study how it looks and works. Then answer the following questions.

  • When it was made, what were they trying to improve?
  • Who were they trying to improve it for?
  • How successful were they?
  • Is it clear what it does? Is easy to learn? Does it work reliably?
  • What hidden constraints could explain its weaknesses?
  • Who paid for it? Who profits from it?
  • Who were the powerful people who influenced the design?
  • Did people come first, or a technology, or an organization?
  • What message is it’s style sending to you?
  • Who is included or excluded from participating?
  • What systems is this design a part of? Are those systems working well?
  • Where in another place, or in the natural world, is there a better design?
  • Does this design create flow or conflict?
  • What new problems does this design create if it’s successful?
  • What are you going to do about all of this? (If in doubt, start a conversation.)

Checklist Feedback:

  • Make a google/online doc
  • Include a photo of what you studied. Plus your answers.
  • Add a link so I can check it out.
  • Feedback:
    • Did each question make sense? How could they be made clearer?
    • What important question was missing?
    • Was this fun or interesting? How could it be more engaging?

Sample: here’s a test version I did using my office chair as “the design”

5 thoughts on “Checklist: How To See The Designs Around You (Beta)

  1. OK, here’s my worked example, a profile of two adjoining supermarket car parks:
    For the checklist – I found answering the question about hidden constraints was easier after I had addressed the questions about include/exclude, systems, and new problems – the three later questions helped me to identify the weaknesses of the design.
    In the example I chose, the questions about systems and new problems have a fair bit of overlap. However, I think it’s useful to ask those questions separately – other designs will have less overlap.
    The questions generally seemed easy to understand and answer. I did re-think and shift some of my answers around. Overall it took me about one hour to produce a fairly detailed response; again, that could be related to the type and complexity of the particular design I chose to analyse. (But you had already done the comfy chair πŸ˜‰
    And yes, it was nerdy fun. An hour after finishing the document, and despite several other distractions, I’m still thinking about nuances, implications and opportunities to do better car park design.


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