Designing the User Experience in Product Design

As product designer for more than twenty years, a question I often get asked is: how did I approach the transition from the old world of product design to the digitized one? In other words, what is my design approach to today’s User Experience.

Clarifying the term, by User Experience (UX) today we mean the complex of sensations that a person experiences when using a site, a system, a product or a service. It is a concept that goes beyond product’s aesthetics and usability and it takes into consideration more subjective aspects such as emotions, experience, meaning and value that are attributed to the lived experience.

This is the definition of UX that has developed along with digitization. To understand today’s User Experience, we need to take a step back and analyse the origins of the term and its application to product design.

An example that is part of the history of Industrial Design – and which I like to mention often as a User Experience case study – is the Model 300 telephone, designed by Henry Dreyfuss for the Bell Telephone Company in 1937.

Dreyss was based on the belief that the most efficient machines were those on a human scale. He then spent many years collecting data on the human body, its proportions and talents, and in 1961 he summarized them in his book The Measure of Man. A book with which he states the importance of ergonomics as a design tool.

In his post-World War II work for the Bell Company on telephone sets, Dreyfuss will use cognitive ergonomics experts to improve the speed of the user typing numbers on the disk keyboard.

User experience design is more than a century old and has its roots in the science of ergonomics.

The definition of UX has broadened with the beginning of mobile tech era and of the internet of things, particularly with the launch of the iPhone in 2007, which drastically changed the landscape of mobile devices.

From that moment to the discipline of design – centred on ergonomic usability and aesthetic aspect – has been added the need to design the digital experience, which does not only concern physical objects but also services, websites or mobile applications.

How can the designer of the old world deal with these new user needs, that is the design of the emotional aspect of the product?
Designing the new User Experience in an ever-digitalized world is a very stimulating job, but our approach remains human-centred: what we design and develop must be useful mainly for those who use it, to make them live better experiences through technology that is the mean.

The use of technologies requires expertise to avoid creating solutions that are conceptually interesting but difficult to implement or not functional for the user.

For this reason it is necessary to adopt a multidisciplinary design approach.

To create experiences are necessary design, technological, communication and operational skills. Every single brick of every single discipline, even in apparently very different fields, contributes to creating the right mix for a successful User Experience.


Originally published in Italian on

Federico Rossi

Design Director

Born in Borgo Sesia (VC) in Italy, Federico Rossi has developed since 1999 a considerable number of projects both for European and Asian based manufacturers. In the role of Design Director, he is in charge of following our team of Senior and Junior Designers starting from the concept generation, concept development, feasibility, modeling up to the engineering process. His most important Design Activities in Europe and abroad have been done in the following design fields: lighting, furniture, electrical appliances, faucets, bathware, office chairs, baby car seats.

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