Reaction: Design vs. Engineering

(Originally published in June 2013)

A Surprising Barrier To Clean Water: Human Nature : NPR

“Getting clean water to people in the developing world isn’t just an engineering problem. . .
An upside-down bottle of chlorine with a dispenser. . .is free to use. . . [but] if you test the water in people’s homes in villages where the dispensers have been installed, only 40 percent test positive for chlorine.”

Even though it seems counter-intuitive or absurd, we can’t simply provide people with all the tools they need to improve their situation– We need to guide, educate, and instill healthy new rituals into their daily lives. 

“I’ve had malaria five times now, he says. “I have a bed net hanging above my bed, and I don’t use it.”

To solve “people problems,” designers should be studying behavioral psychology, belief systems, and religion…

Design Considerations:
When high-functionality, “rational” solutions seem to be failing, how might we tap into peoples “irrationality” (e.g., habits, emotions, identity, etc.) to improve an outcome or experience?

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