The Contemplation of Human Values as they Relate to Design

Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher of Microsoft Research, is a self described advocate for innovation and design.  As someone who has been at the forefront of developing and creating technologies that afford change, it’s no wonder that Buxton is respected and revered for his thoughtful approach to creating and innovating technolgies of meaning.  Always concerned with the perceived human value in relation to the depth of his findings across disciplines; Buxton offers a refreshing take on the importance of considering the overall user experience when developing a compelling idea.

It was particularly poignant to engage with Buxton at the Canadian Innovation Exchange and hear him discuss the latest myths about innovation.  Buxton also drove home the importance of maximizing one’s potential value, derived from a culture that continues to breed new and changing ideas. Buxton made clear that in the technology sector, we haven’t been bred to design. Because we don’t focus on the  overall aesthetic and architecture of a concept  we often lose the human connection to the object itself.  According to Buxton, it’s those companies that will focus on the importance of true design whom will be the leaders of today and tomorrow.

Buxton argues that the notion that ideas come from the individual actor and from a flash of genius as we’ve come to understand the term, is false. Buxton is against acting in silos and furthers his understanding of the creative process by working in teams.  Buxton says that “the difference between a genius and a thief is who you choose to steal from.”  A testament to the idea that no artist designs anything in isolation and that the minute one starts believing themselves to be at the centre of an idea, they really must take a step back.  If it’s true that all great inventions come as side effects of other activities, then Buxton believes we must be honest with ourselves and assess where we fit on the food chain, because it takes almost as much creativity to understand a good idea as to have it in the first place. 

Buxton understands that anything that will have a billion dollar impact in the next ten years is already ten years old.  As a leader at a company that has built its reputation on originality and novelty, Buxton believes that consumers are no longer concerned with efficiency, but about the quality of the experience.  As such, he works with his team at Microsoft to encourage the creation of technologies which truly speak to the human condition.  With heterogeneous social networks being the wave of the future, Buxton comprehends very well that the nature of production in the high tech sector has changed. As the frontier draws to an end, I have no doubt that Buxton will continue deepening our understanding of the relationship between culture, conception and change.

For more on Bill Buxton, please click here.