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Design Roundtable: How Have Cell Phones Changed Our Behavior?

Wouldn’t it be fun, we thought, to gather our growing roster of design expert bloggers in a room and toss out hot-button design issues for them to ponder, peruse and debate? Well, we can’t overnight them to our Fast Company conference table, but thanks to some of the things they’ve designed, we’ve got the next best thing: a virtual roundtable. We choose the topic, put forth a few questions to our panel and bring the most provocative answers back to you.

Wouldn’t it be fun, we thought, to gather our growing roster of design expert bloggers in a room and toss out hot-button design issues for them to ponder, peruse and debate? Well, we can’t overnight them to our Fast Company conference table, but thanks to some of the things they’ve designed, we’ve got the next best thing: a virtual roundtable. We choose the topic, put forth a few questions to our panel and bring the most provocative answers back to you. This week, with the Palm Pre about to debut, and Apple’s 2009 iPhone event on Tuesday, it seemed a good time to ponder some issues about our love affair with mobile. Today’s question: How have cell phones changed our behavior?

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Cell Phones

Ravi Sawhney, Chairman, RKS: The earliest cell phones weren’t designed with anything in mind except the technology. Early adopters included businesses that had an economic need to stay in touch. Today, cell phones are used for socializing, networking, entertainment, safety, security, and so much more. The needs addressed by today’s cell phones go all the way up and down Maslow’s Hierarchy and beyond as the cell phone becomes part of our persona.

Mark Dziersk, VP Design, Brandimage: Cell phone behavior has changed interactions. It’s sort of a double-edged blade. On the negative side, they’ve spawned an amazing discounting of previous social protocol and an implied rudeness. For example, I’m constantly amazed at people who check out at a counter in a store or restaurant while speaking on the phone with someone else, ignoring the person checking them out. Rude! On the positive side, people are in better contact, safer and can talk to themselves without looking foolish anymore.

Robert Fabricant, VP Creative, frog design: It is remarkable to me how it has taken the iPhone to create this momentum in the U.S. market: to get people to engage with mobile experiences outside of basic communication. When I travel outside the U.S., particularly in the developing world, the engagement with mobile devices is so much higher. Mobile minutes are quickly becoming the most liquid currency in Africa and other emerging markets. Even in very remote regions, you see people using their devices to transact and fulfill a broader range of needs than we see here in the U.S. And that is with the most basic Nokia phone. Forget multi-touch.

How have cell phones changed your own behavior? Leave your thoughts in the comments (and be sure to let us know if you’re typing with your thumbs).

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About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato

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