By Carlos Octavio Graffi - Product Design Lead at OpenEarth.
Fortunately, there are a lot of different actions we can take, as humans, to address climate change's impact and help mitigate the consequences of our journey on this planet. On top of that list, we can find: working on building (or developing) tools that reduce the harmful impacts occurring on planet Earth.
One thing you might be thinking is that those jobs belong only to top-tier scientists, policy and high-level decision-makers -and you would be partially right- but there is a huge field growing more and more these days: Climate Tech, the place where climate science and technologists can collaborate to develop new sustainable solutions.
You are probably wondering: “What does this have to do with us designers?”. Well… Quite a lot, actually. Working as part of the product design team at OpenEarth helped me to understand that even complex challenges like climate change mitigation not only can be addressed by the designer’s work but most importantly: it’s necessary.
The Role of Digital Product Design in Climate Change Mitigation
Different types of software solutions are all over the internet. For example, climate data portals. Some of them require a certain knowledge base to understand and use, as they are developed by specialists and subject matter experts. And they are great at giving all -or at least most- of the information to their audiences and in some cases they allow users to draw new conclusions by crossing different types of data in one single place. But, as we said, not all the audiences have enough background to actually make something out of those platforms. The scientific community has been doing a lot when it comes to finding and making useful information public, and that’s great because you can’t manage what you can’t measure, but we need to make sure that everyone -or at least the ones that can influence change- understand what is happening and how to use this to change the course in the right direction.
So… There is so much information out there but it is really complex and we need to discover how to make it understandable, effective and usable enough so the right people can acknowledge the situation and figure out what to do next. It’s not that simple for sure, but that could be a high-level overview of today’s main challenges.
Enter Product Design.
Bridging the Gap Between Science and Decision-Making
As we said before, one of the main challenges of climate tech is turning complex and intricate models into usable and simple solutions. The purpose behind this approach is not only to boost the number of daily views or deliver a winning product, it’s the crucial turning point that digital solutions need to land a concrete impact. Overall, good user experience (UX) is essential in driving action toward climate change mitigation because it does the following:
1. Enhances engagement: Intuitive interfaces and visually appealing designs capture users' attention, increasing their likelihood of engaging with the product and taking climate-friendly actions.
2. Simplifies complex information: Climate change is a complex issue with various contributing factors, consequences, and potential solutions. Well-designed digital products can distill this information into easily digestible formats, enabling users to better comprehend and address the problem.
3. Fosters behavior change: By offering personalized insights and recommendations, digital products can motivate users to adopt more sustainable habits, such as reducing energy consumption or choosing eco-friendly transportation options.
4. Encourages collaboration: Digital platforms can bring together diverse stakeholders, fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing that drives collective action towards climate change mitigation.
Digital product design can be a crucial liaison between empirical research and decision-making processes, thus catalyzing climate modification initiatives. This bridge could be built by:
1. Conversion of findings: Designers may create digital products that translate complex scientific information into comprehensible visualizations, interactive charts, and diagrams, making it more attainable to non-specialists.
2. Fostering intercommunication: User-centered products may synergize scientists, politicians, and other interested persons allowing them to trade ideas, share assets and collaborate on measures towards combatting climate change.
3. Aiding evidence-based decision-making: By providing access to up-to-date data along with examination results; digital solutions can provide decisions that prioritize climate change countermeasures.
4. Maximizing public awareness: Climate tech solutions have the potential to raise cognizance of global warming's impacts by bringing about riveting, not to mention enlightening, material letting people know about its causes, and effects as well as some possible helping behaviors.
We are facing one of the biggest challenges in human history, and one of our main weapons, along with science and technology, is creativity. To solve, adapt, enhance and empower the current efforts to engage collaboration, streamline resources and, most importantly, achieve our goals soon enough. By harnessing the power of good UX, effectively communicating complex information, and leveraging the unique skills of designers, digital products can play a pivotal role in driving collective action and creating a greener, more resilient future for our planet.
Unlike breathing or running, being creative may not be fundamental to life, but it may be key to helping us survive.
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If you want to get involved in climate tech or support our mission at OpenEarth, go to our website: www.openearth.org.