How to experience what you don't understand: a photo report of my trip to Tokyo, the most densely populated and densely designed city on the planet.
Man-made user experience
Tokyo has long been high up on my list of absolute urban must-sees. A genuine metropolis, with a staggering population density at about 38 million citizens across the greater Tokyo area, this has to be one of the most intensely designed patches of land by its very nature. Surely, there are lessons to be learned from this highly orchestrated ultimate venture in man-made user experience – especially for a design aficionado suffering from a severe architecture fetish such as yours truly…
Tokyo boggles the mind
As a designed entity, Tokyo just blows the mind as soon as the plane descends on the cityscape. The layout of the place boggles the mind, mesmerising any visitor with enough neon lights to illuminate a small asteroid belt. As I was about to find out on my three-week visit, though, this avalanche of user experience design was about to change my perspective on the language of objects, and on the way I usually take in the designed world around me…
Normally, design is used to clarify the looks, functions, and workings of objects, be they buildings, websites, advertisement, or appliances. Good design facilitates interaction with these objects, making for a more pleasant, engaging, and meaningful user experience. That is exactly why good designers have to invest in understanding their end users before producing their actual designs. That is what we’re all about here at Rodesk, and that’s what I intended to improve, as always, during my Tokyo visit. For us Rodesk tribe members, this is an ongoing process of honing our skills in observing, documenting what we see, and then implementing lessons learned from user behaviour in our designs.
An interesting observation process
Immersing myself in the Tokyo designer-scape, I quickly realised that my means to take it all in were severely limited, since I don’t speak, read, or understand the Japanese language in any way. This made for an interesting observation process, because the usual helpful explainers, guidelines, and written information were all useless to me. As I found out to my delight, however, this did not degrade my own user experience at all. In fact, the lack of supporting information made the experience more intense, forcing me to use my own senses and understanding in radically basic ways. As I hope you will see from the photos I included in this post, my cultural handicap proved a valuable lesson in UX perception. In a pretty literal sense, Tokyo left me speechless, and I loved it.
The end of my Tokyo photo report
Make sure you visit this metropolis… one day.