Christian Long

Paul Bennett: Design Is in the Details

In TED Talks on April 18, 2010 at 10:57 am

Reflection by ALEX D.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Paul Bennett: Design Is in the Details

Two minutes ago, I was staring at my monitor. I had no clue what to say about Mr. Bennett’s Talk. I thought it was interesting, sure, but that’s the same for most TED videos. I understood and liked the concept: the small aspects of design are as important and striking as the big picture.

So what?

My mom has always told me I don’t pay attention to details, and that I could never focus on the little things in life. I started believing her, until I saw this video.

What I learned is that the human mind can see a large design, appreciate it, and love. Then after seeing a small detail, something that is almost unnecessary, it will latch onto that one, minuscule thing. This isn’t because that little “thing” is incredible. It appeals to us because despite how unimportant it is, the “thing” will stand out from the bigger picture. The ceiling decorated by the nurses is only appealing because it differs from what we consider the norm.

I recall something similar from my own trip to the emergency room. I was nervous about the upcoming surgery, and my heart was beating out of my chest. Before I was given the anesthesia, the nurse flipped a switch, and a light shone above me. On the ceiling was a calm, sandy beach, and the switch illuminated it. It didn’t necessarily calm me down because it was tranquil; what it really did was take my mind off the operation. I spent so long thinking about how strange it was that someone would put a picture on the ceiling, that I was asleep before I was given any medicine. Small detail are interesting because they despite their size, they stand out from the big picture design.

To work a job like Bennett’s, which involves designing and innovating, one has to be able to pay attention to detail on their own, along with having the creativity to think of something truly remarkable.

I thought it was very ingenious of the designers to keep human interaction in mind when working with the hospitals.

It’s true that hospitals are no longer a place that patients see as a blessing, but instead as a house of horror that is to be avoided. What words would you use to describe a hospital? Cold? Convoluted? Distant? One will sit in a hospital bed for what will seem like hours, and a nurse or doctor walking into the room can be a breath of fresh air to the patient. Worried and scared, a patient can easily be reassured by the words “It’s going to be alright.” A person should enter a hospital thinking “thank God,” not “oh, why me?” The distant convoluted coldness of a hospital is moved aside when a nurse or doctor is present. It makes one feel as though they are in good hands.

The innovations in hospital designs discussed by Bennett were subtle, yet remarkable. I say remarkable because it was interesting enough to make a remark about. The idea of the flours being different in the patients rooms… why did no one else think of this! It may seem silly, but the idea is profound. “This is my room” can actually be said now. The chilling floors make one feel as though they are in an institution. Although laying in a bed, and not looking at the floor too often, a patient will feel the change.

What Bennett and his team at IDEO were really good as was putting themselves in the place of the consumer. The man in the hospital bed, and the person under the table, were both innovators. I laughed at first at the idea of “children’s storage,” but then I saw the brilliance of it. A child can make his or her own decision as to what they want to play with. Not a big deal at first glance, but as they mature the ability to pick and choose becomes crucial in life. Granted, some kids will pick every toy, throw it down, and not clean it up. Some children would not know what to do with a great amount of toys, and would want to be given one instead. But the option of picking is always there for them.

One design inspires another. If a design is based on another, then it wouldn’t really be original, would it?

Start with a blank slate, design to improve, open your mind, and let “ideos” in.

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