As many of you are probably aware, the Better Apartments Design Standards were recently brought in. This put the brakes on what our State Planning Minister Richard Wynne memorably described as ‘dog box’ apartments. And I, for one, am happy about that.
Like Richard Wynne, I believe that a bedroom should comfortably fit a bed, and that light and ventilation aren’t luxuries. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case with many of the new high-rise apartments in Melbourne’s CBD.
So, how can we ensure that the needs of future residents are better met? And how can we create places that add lasting value to their surrounds? The answer, in my opinion, lies in taking a human-centred design approach to development.
It’s fair to say that human-centred design (or HCD) is currently in the spotlight. Many global companies – ING and Airbnb among them – are using it to create deeper connections and more meaningful engagement with their customers.
But what exactly is HCD then? And how can we apply it to our professional practices and our lives?
When you strip everything away and get to the heart of things, HCD is about putting people first. That is, placing people at the centre of the design process – right from the start – rather than fitting them in later. It’s that simple. And that pure.
I was discussing this idea with a work colleague recently, and she framed it perfectly:
“human-centred design is the discipline of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s all about empathy”. Bravo.
Because once you start thinking like that, you start creating with people rather than for them. And you bring the all-important human perspective to the design process.
So to put that into context, the majority of ‘Richard Wynne’s dog boxes’ were designed with scant consideration to people and their needs. Alarmingly, a recent study by buyers’ advocate group Secret Agent bore this out. It found that out of 3000 new apartments surveyed in inner Melbourne, only nine passed the minimum requirements set by the new standards.
Only nine apartments. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
I passionately believe that human-centred design can positively inform the marketing approach for property developments. And that by immersing ourselves in the lives of the purchasers and understanding their needs and wants, we can create a much deeper connection.
This means working in a new way – and jettisoning assumptions, clichés, template strategies and outdated design principles that don’t truly resonate with people. It also means engaging developers, purchasers and communities right from the start.
In my view, handled sensitively and by involving people throughout the process, a human-centred design approach benefits developers and future residents alike. And that is a win-win.
Director & Head of Creative