Friday, July 17, 2015

What Japanese Etiquette Can Tell Us About Good Design

The connections between hospitality and design are well known. Charles Eames once remarked to his contemporary and collaborator Eero Saarinen that "the role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests."
But how can you operationalize this concept of "being a good host" in the constantly shifting context of mobile digital interfaces?
Seven years ago, a Panasonic interaction designer named Kerstin Blanchy was wondering the same thing. As a westerner working in Yokohama, Japan, she became inspired by the cultural concept ofmotenashi (or omotenashi), a traditional code of conduct outlining the ideal guest-host relationship. Blanchy published an analysis of "this special version of Human-Human interaction … in order to seek hints on how to improve Human-Machine Interaction," which she boiled down into "three principles of attitude":
Anticipation of the other’s needs: The host should respond to guest’s needs before the latter feels such need himself.
Flexibility to the situation: Refers to the appropriate amount of formality or casualness respectively.
Understatement: The host should not display his efforts, in order to create a natural feeling for the guest.

By John Pavlus
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Ray Eames, Charlie Chaplin, Isamu Noguchi and Shirley Yamaguchi during a Japanese tea ceremony held at the Eames House, 1951.