Toledo: Home of User-Centered Design

For those interested in the UCD side of things, NPR had a neat segment this weekend on Industrial Design in Toledo, Ohio. In the first half of the century, Toledo was a burgeoning industrial city with a twist — a special program set up in conjunction with the Toledo Art Museum trained industrial designers (not a very common thing back then, apparently) who worked with local companies.

They talk a bit in the segment about how the industrial designers observed how people used products and changed the way they were designed to make them better, easier to use, and more sell-able. John Heskett explains what the addition of industrial design into the process adds to the final product:

It's a very small design change, but it's a very significant one, because someone has been observing people — observing their sensibilities, their problems ... and the change doesn't necessarily have to be a massive one. If you want to make it acceptable to as many people as possible, it makes perfect sense to observe them in detail, to understand them in detail, and to design in detail for their needs.

You can listen to the 7 minute story in RealAudio, read the accompanying article, or check out the Toledo Museum of Art.