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The Habit of Noticing a Habit

October 21, 2020

We urbanites come across almost 1,00,000 people in our entire lifetime. That roughly accounts for meeting at least 4 - 5 new people per day (Hyman, 2020). As a designer, I cook visual updates and react to inspirations from my daily life.


Have you ever thought of how many new people you meet daily; about their lives, passions, habits, desires, associations and lifestyle? Well, we meet 1000s of people from different cultures, races, socio-economic backgrounds having similar or different needs, habits or wants. We may fall in love with them or have radical differences with their thoughts and actions but it is important to understand and appreciate them as your probable clients. As a designer, I need to record (not literally), document, study and adapt to the behaviours and react to changes around us. This is where I feel that software and technology updates are critical in creating better designs that are simpler and easy to use.

For me, this started as a fascination I had for noticing faces. While travelling in public transport way back when I used to travel for work and college I used to stare (almost creepy right?) at people's faces a lot while trying to kill my boredom. Well, the smartphone was not that smart then, thankfully! The face reveals a lot about the person. Faces speak about daily boring lives, interesting moments and unlimited truths. From then on no matter what I did I kept this fact in mind while designing. These faces inspired a lot. I do not want to sound guilty but I notice the people around me, what they wear, the kind of jobs they do, what they wear to work, how they react to situations, whether they smile more or wear a sullen mask if they love travelling alone with headphones on (like me) or they are the life of a party and love company. I notice because I feel that these are my clients and I should never avoid them. I DESIGN FOR THEM!

These people-observations help with a lot of qualitative data. We may not realize it right away but the people around us influence us to design for them. Most of us are reacting to the needs, opinions and desires of the people around us when we sleep with our design caps on.

  • New ideas

The more people and lives I observe the more ideas I get. I notice movements. Their eyes, the clothes they wear, the movements of hands, fingers and legs, well basically whatever I can think of. This helps me in deciding grids, colours and the amount of visual load I want to put on a particular page for these groups. I see so many college students, young couples wandering around aimlessly in malls (at least before the pandemic kissed us) so when I am designing for them I keep in mind that just like in real life they love wandering around in the digital world and so a certain amount of visual load and multiple options are needed to grab their attention. I would also go for a deeper navigation system for this group because there is joy in finding new and unexpected stuff on a virtual platform.

Noticing people and movements helps me with my illustrations as well. I love the colourful simple illustrative kind of visual showcase and these styles have developed from the different lives I have noticed. I honestly believe that neither do people have the time to stand and introspect nor am I the Van Gogh of the design world; so respecting the boundaries and creating something simple yet hard-hitting is very important.

  • Change is the go-to word

Have you ever noticed a slight shift in your attitude when the situation around you shifts? Wouldn’t you change your pace and style of walking in an airport from that in a railway station? Would you lay out your napkin on your lap in a roadside dhaba? Would you dare eat with your hands in a high-end restaurant?!

The thing is we change our behaviour according to the situation we are surrounded by and designing a website is no different, if the product is high end the design has to give that feel of buying value and stepping into luxury. In the same way, if you are designing for an FMCG brand a clean modernist and minimal approach works the best because you expect people to come, see and buy the products. That's it!

  • Notice Addictions

Human beings are hooked to their obsessions (either good or bad). It is important to notice and record addictions among common people. These addictions can be used as a trigger to gain their trust.

  • Different trigger points for different groups

When you have so many different people to please and cater to, you would have to think of a different way and means to attract them. Because of this diversity designers have the liberty to create various trigger points for the same product.

I have met two kinds of people. First, the group who absolutely love discounts (me) and the second who gets suspicious of the quality of the product under discount. Since we have to cater to both, it is important to generate trigger points to appease the curiosity and grab onto the pleasure points of the customer.

  • Efficient updates to existing systems

The clientele of an established website is ever-changing. With new evolving needs and the geography of the ‘Desireland’ updates in the website/app is extremely needed. The design and overall visual identity needs to evolve. This keeps people hooked and where else can you find a new item every time you log in? This would keep us designers in the business.

Thankfully it is never too late to make that last change when it comes to a website.

  • Do not lose yourself in the process

Please do not get me wrong. I am a designer and I love my ego. So in the whole process of understanding your client, you simply cannot lose yourself. I was in a conference recently where there was a huge discussion (from a person I won't name) that it is not important whether a designer loves his / her work or not since he/she is designing for somebody else. I hate to say that this disgusts me like nothing else. I am a designer because I love my over-exaggerated world full of yellow and red roads! I need to like the work I am doing. Otherwise, I will never be convinced and will never be able to convince anybody else. Yes it needs a purpose, yes it needs clients and yes it needs to toe the branding lines of the brand but I am also a customer and my views matter too. I believe in being the boss of one's design.

- Hyman, J., 2020. Daily Average Number Of Contacts Per Person. [online] Research Gate. Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Daily-average-number-of-contacts-per-person-in-age-group-j-The-average-number-of_fig2_228649013> [Accessed 15 August 2020].
- Smith, D., n.d. The Habit Of Noticing. Irie Books.

Abhrojit Boral, Assistant Professor, School of Communication Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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