In Chapter 6 of Design of Everyday Things, Don Normal lays out four stages of the cycle of Human-Centered Design: Observation, Idea Generation, Prototyping, and Testing. In the first stage of design, Norman discusses the importance of not only observing the potential customers in their natural environment, but also keeping in mind the intended audience for the design while choosing to observe a group. Norman discusses the importance of detailed analyses of the intended group because of cultural and age differences, but goes on to touch on the marketing that will be involved to appeal to the intended demographic.
While reading about the importance of picking the right group to do observational research for a functional design perspective, this also brought me to thinking about analyzing the intended target market for aesthetic design purposes as well. Branding and style play a huge role in marketing as well as maintaining repeat customers as well. For many visual people, functional design is only half of the role of the product itself. Additionally, paying attention to the demographics that interact with similar products can say a lot about why those people use that product in the first place, and by interpreting the problems with competition, can help the designer improve their own product.
Norman says “different methods have different goals and produce very different results. Designers complain that the methods used by marketing don’t get at real behavior.” I would disagree with those designers who say that observing marketing strategies do not imply true behaviors, because I think what draws people to products, services, or everyday objects has a lot to do with how and why they use those products. Looking at demographic data says a lot about the users who interact with your product, and by analyzing the design trends that overlap between those demographics can give designers a good idea about how to design their products, where they should focus their advertising efforts, what purpose the design serves, and so much more.