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“You Cannot Understand Good Design If You Do Not Understand People”

The Design Process

STEP 2: Define

In my last post I talked about Step 1 in the Design Process, namely Empathize. After struggling with our focus area, we finally arrived at a topic that we, not only found to be interesting, but also relevant for us. We knew, we would benefit from this problem being solved, but we had to determine the extent of the problem among the general population in the UK to pin down the persona we were designing for – Understand people with this specific problem.

d. School’s User-Centered Prototype-Driven Design Process

Firstly, we discovered in our research that one of the main focus areas of NHS and the Mental Health Foundation UK had been the lack of sleep – or problems with sleep – mainly due to people suffering from a racing mind, while trying to fall asleep. It gave us the option to form a general frame of the problem in the UK, before going in depth with our own interviews. On behalf of these institutions, Sleepio conducted a survey to try and measure the extent of the problem. Their survey was conduction on more than 20,000 people, from teens to people over 60 years old, in the UK over a period of two years. Among other things, it showed that the ‘racing mind’ is the main cause of sleeplessness. Simply put, our own thoughts are the number one reason for our sleepless nights. Based on the results of the survey, more women than men seem to be suffering from sleep problems, but the negative impact on their lives seems to be similar; They reported to be feeling more alone, unproductive and helpless than those with a healthy sleep pattern. 

Great British Sleep Survey, 2012 by Sleepio

We found that people experiencing sleep problems due to a ‘racing mind’, usually had gone through a particular stressful period of their lives with extensive worry and anxiety. People in this state of mind generally have lower levels of serotonin – by some researchers defined as the chemical that is responsible for balancing the mood. We knew from our own experience that sound had proven to be helpful in making us fall asleep, but we wanted to understand why; We found that music, or sound, can help increase the levels of serotonin and in return help people feel relaxed and calm. 

With this information we were ready to continue with our own research – we had a much better idea of where we could locate the people suffering from these problems, and verify or discard our own assumptions on the subject.

Lucky for us, our own Masterly: team member, Andrius, had been attending a NHS sleep workshop, and could provide us with some insights into the mind of those really suffering from sleep problems. His experience is an interesting read.

Our next step was to brainstorm, come up with as many wild ideas as possible that could be a solution to this problem… Next time!

“You can not understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people” – Dieter Rams.


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