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A design concept is planned. How should we make the design? What about the context and people must we not ignore?

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The makeup of contexts and people create constraints for designing. If a designer hopes to create a product, service, or system that is effective, the designer must create outcomes that will function within conditions in the context and align with the person’s makeup. If a design object is formatted in such a way that the intended user can not operate it, the person will likely have a bad experience. When designers create physical products, size is a significant concern. If a design outcome is too large to fit on a shelf or to go through a doorway, the outcome may even become entirely useless for some people. Design outcomes whose form and function align with aspects of a context, as well as people’s physical and relational makeup, are more likely to achieve their intended purposes and facilitate positive experiences.

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Designing with Constraints Research

Defining constraints and identifying alignments before a design is implemented enables designers to create products, services, and systems that will function within real parameters and in ways that are relevant for users. Here are a few constraints and alignments-design decision pairings that demonstrate this concept.

Weather in Maui


Constraint: The weather in Maui is pleasant year-round, though it rains once a day for a short stint.

Design Decision: The airport check-in counter can be located outside, though a cover will be needed for the rain.

Cell Signal Strength in Concert Venues

Available Resources

Constraint: Cellular signals are found to be very weak in a concert venue and there’s no wifi.

Design Decision: An app that allows concertgoers to post their experiences may not be a great way to publicize the band’s tour because the signal is spotty.

Aging, Eyesight, and Apps


Constraint: Older adults’ eyesight is not as strong as younger adults’ eyesight.

Design Decision: When designing an app, make sure the font size can be adjusted so older adults can read.

Electrical Outlets in Europe


Alignment: Both the Netherlands and France use the same electrical outlet type.

Design Decision: We can buy one adapter for all customers who travel with the European tour next summer.

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