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Thoughtless Acts: Going With Gravity

Nov 01 2018

Human-centered design requires us to observe human behavior with beginner's eyes, so that we can spot the innate ways people interact with the world around them. We call these intuitive and unconscious reactions Thoughtless Acts, and IDEO designers collect photos of them to inspire their work.


It’s yet another summer at our seaside house, and my nonna is heading to the gardens to pick up some herbs for her pesce al forno. She says that freshly picked lemongrass adds a completely new flavor to her signature dish.

At 12 p.m., she walks down the rocky stairs and heads to the herb bush she carefully planted 33 years ago, the same year she bought the villa and restored it to host our ever growing family tree. As I watch her, I witness something unusual that I have never seen her doing before.

She is literally hanging from the muretto, or wall. Nonna is 94 and not really a geriatric athlete, so I run towards her. “Tutto bene, Luca!” she says as she bends back up. She tells me that this is ‘her new way’ of picking herbs in the garden.

With age, small actions become a big effort, so leaning down or bending started to become an obstacle to her recipes. The dwarf wall serves the purpose of protecting her back from injuries and keeping her from falling. As she nicely puts it, “I use gravity to my advantage. At my age, you have to find ways around things, to keep feeding your family the way they deserve.”

  • Luca Ponticelli

    Communications Designer, IDEO London
    Luca is a comms designer and serial doodler. On an average day, you'll find him dissecting the latest political news while sipping on a dark espresso.

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