Thoughtless Acts: Showing Off Shades

Thoughtless Acts: Showing Off Shades

Kate Burn
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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 the invention of new products, services, and experiences.

Strolling down the Porto’s Rio Douro in the bright, spring sun, a Thoughtless Act caught my eye. A man selling knock-off sunglasses had thoughtfully—or instinctively—used the bench he'd been sitting on to display his wares.

It was the perfect display stand: the slats provided a neat grid format to lodge the glasses into so they could be fully admired from all angles, while the greyed wood gave a neutral backdrop to assess the color and design.

From a design research perspective, observing the way people exploit the objects and environments around them can provide fruitful and culturally-relevant inspiration. Taking ownership of public space and repurposing it for a transient commercial opportunity was natural to this street seller. We see other examples of nomadic, 'pop-up commerce' with things like food trucks and busking musicians.

It wasn't quite enough to persuade me to part with my euros, but it was a lovely example of Thoughtless Acts in action, nonetheless!

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Kate Burn
Kate's fascinated by how the way we think, feel, act and interact is influenced by the design of the physical and virtual worlds around us. When she's not hooked listening to people's stories or getting creative with design research methods, you can find Kate making music with all-woman dream-team [DeepThroatChoir](
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