Make the Complex Clear

Maria Giudice, VP for experience design at Autodesk

By Maria Giudice

April 11, 2016

The VP for experience design at Autodesk on creating business products that produce emotional connections.

Enterprise products can be so disrespectful to the user. The message is, “You gotta use these products, so screw you, suck it up.” There’s this assumption: “Oh, our products are so complex, they can’t be simpler to use.” It’s all about being serious, stable, performance-driven. Hey, that’s table stakes! We have this opportunity to really think about those products in a new way and not hide behind the complexity. Our job is to make the complex clear. This is where we need to go.

I grew up in a time when we were just grateful if things worked. We live in a world where a whole population expects good, fluid experiences. This is where consumer and enterprise are meshing. We always saw a line between enterprise products that were powerful and consumer products that were lightweight and emotive. There’s a whole population that doesn’t see that. They work at home; they play at work. That’s why I’ve been thinking about emotions and product design. That connection goes way back in the world of physical products. But emotion is still not considered much in digital products. There are exceptions—Uber shows the tiny cars moving around your phone’s screen. I might hate Uber as a brand, and I know that the interface isn’t even accurately mapping the cars on my screen, yet it’s so comforting and delightful to see the little cars! That’s a product where people are considering human emotion.

When we think about designing products well, the science behind creating emotional connections to our products is called anthropomorphism. We should be designing interfaces as if they were people. That changes the relationship you have to the product. With artificial intelligence, machine learning, the rise of robots—all these things—the relationship you’re going to have with digital devices will be less directed and more about co-creation. With traditional products right now, we don’t know enough out of the gate, so we give customers a 10-course meal all at the same time. The more we know about our customers, the more we know about what they need next. The machine is going to know so much about you and your behavior that, rather than you telling the machine what to do, the machine will offer up what you should be doing.

Editor: Brad Wieners