Design Knowledge Based On Psychology And Sociology Is Timeless

Ankur Kushwaha | 6th June 2018

Most of the times you will hear the phrases “user-centered”, “human-centered”, or similar terms, and often used interchangeably depending on the context.


A focus on the human means a focus on human psychology. Technology and design may change over time, but human psychology—our desires, emotions, and motivations—changes very little. Therefore, from a purely psychological viewpoint, what made a user interface successfully in the 1970s is the very same as what makes one successful today.


The success and failure of a design is the result of a broader, more social interaction which means that a designer must have a toolbox full of concepts and methods are drawn from the field of sociology. Simply put, sociology is the study of social human relationships—and such knowledge is thus necessary to us as designers.

In a similar way to psychology, sociology remains fairly stable because groups of humans still have roughly the same dynamics today as they did 100 years ago. Therefore, Design knowledge based on sociology is a stable foundation to stand on, even when it seems like the world is moving at an ever-increasing pace.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow breaks human thought and decision making into two systems to help illustrate the difference.


Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow divides human thought and decision making in two systems to tell the difference.


System 1: fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, subconscious.
Thinking of this system is reactive—responsible for complex but instinctive cognition like determining the distance between objects or determining emotional responses. Your lazy brain generally defaults to System 1 thinking.


System 2: slow, effortful, logical, calculating, conscious, infrequent. Imagining of such system is analytical and can be applied to much more complex situations, such as finding appropriate social behavior or comparing two products with different prices and characteristics.


As we learn more about design psychology, the brain, and perception, design norms will continue to change across the industry.

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Ankur Kushwaha

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