Design for Extreme Users in Extreme Conditions

by Adam Felts

AgeLab Research Assistant and graduating IDM Master’s student Sheng-Hung Lee organized a virtual panel as part of 2022 Boston Design Week. The panel was hosted by IDSA Boston, for which Mr. Lee is the current Chair.

The theme of the discussion panel was around “extremes” – extreme environments and extreme users. ​Humanity is facing a changing climate, an aging population, and other complex and systemic challenges. How should designers equip themselves to respond to these new challenges?

AgeLab Research Scientist Chaiwoo Lee participated in the panel, for which she discussed historical shortcomings in the design of products for older adults—namely an emphasis on simplicity and safety coupled with a neglect for nearly every other consideration.

She highlighted two key elements of consideration for designing better products for older users: First, instead of making “old people things” and “young people things,” designing products, services and environments that can be accessed, used and liked by people of all ages and abilities; and second, to center the user in the design process, allowing users to voice their needs and provide ideas and feedback. She highlighted the AgeLab’s research in smart home technology and automated vehicles as two areas of work in which the user experience is being studied in hopes of informing designers.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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