For humans, by humans
Dave McDougall, May 2016

Whether social networking with friends and family, or interacting with products and brands, our lives are dominated by screens and devices. As a result, these interactions are becoming increasingly impersonal. But, as complex creatures, we respond to a more human touch, seeking experiences that feel more natural, more friendly and more personal.

What does this dilemma mean for the work we create as strategists and designers? And what touches can we weave into our work to make brands feel more human?

In Rob’s article, It’s time for brands to walk the talk, he put forward a set of ‘Key Human Indicators’ to consider: Care. Craft. Openness. Humour. Integrity. And these are just a starting point. Many things mark us out as human: collaboration, community, playfulness, invention and our ability to ask why.

With those ideas in mind, who’s doing the job well? Which products, services or brands are being crafted ‘for humans, by humans’?



Asking tough questions

The desire to ask questions is a driving force of human nature. We are curious, we interrogate things and experiment to find the answers. Asking questions about where our products come from is becoming increasingly important. Patagonia has long led the way on this front. The brand takes transparency seriously, and openly explains the environmental sustainability decisions behind their products.



GoodGuide goes one step further, allowing anyone to check if the products they buy are safe, healthy, green and ethical on a huge range of brands and products.


Helping people to help

Humans have always had an innate need to help others within their social groups, and collaborate through communities. How does that translate now that our social groups extend around the entire planet?



Lily Cole’s social platform, Impossible, is built around an altruistic purpose, rather than narcissism and the ever-present selfie. The platform connects people who are sharing their skills, time and possessions for the benefit of others. As a ‘gift economy’, it’s a real enabler of collaboration and a great example of a human-centric social network.


Stronger, faster, better?

Aside from a blissfully contented minority, we all seek adventure and betterment. Reebok built a brand campaign around being more human. Whilst it could be argued this is just gloss for a sport & fitness brand, it does at least bring human values into the dialogue and paves the way to us being fitter, stronger, more rounded people instead of PB-chasing gym addicts.



Could the next step in this campaign’s evolution be ‘Nike+ with a twist’? If goals and challenges aren’t just quantitative, they could be about the human qualities that help us develop more fully.


Lighten up

Regardless of age, play can inspire us and make us smile, and it’s fundamental to learning and personal development. From the gaming mechanics of loyalty schemes to the friendly language of social apps, being playful humanises an experience. Even simple things like Citymapper’s ‘Teleporter’ option have the ability to inject surprise into something functional. Being playful can simplify the complex and energise the mundane.



From fashioning Stone Age tools, through to Silicon Valley startups, humans have always sought to invent. The act of taking raw materials and crafting them into something new is something we do almost without thinking — whether it’s our choice of Instagram filter or the way we decorate our homes.



Platforms like Littlebits put invention at heart of the product in a way that is simple, accessible and playful. They allow us to fulfil the desire to invent and make, regardless of ability or experience.

These brands are proving that it’s possible to inject human attributes into almost any product, service or experience. As strategists and designers, we’re responsible for championing those values by emphasising them in our decision-making and design processes. With technology levelling the playing field, we believe the human touch is the differentiator when shaping brands for tomorrow.

So, the next time you find you’re faced with a strategic challenge or considering a design decision, ask a simple question: What would a human do?


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