Who gets to design the future?

We find out how to involve younger voices in design conversations, and why it’s vital for the future of the industry and the products it produces that they’re heard

Towards the end of last year, a campaign group in New Zealand won a supreme court ruling that found the current voting age of 18 to be in breach of human rights. The basis of the group’s argument for lowering the age is that young people are inheriting a world that was shaped without their input, yet they will ­ultimately endure the consequences – environmental, cultural, economic – for far longer.

It’s a consistently divisive topic in the context of voting but raises a valuable point when translated to the world of design. The assumption of course is that anything aimed towards young people will involve their insights at some stage in the process. However, their voices are in fact not always heard, which Danny Miller, the co-founder and CEO of design agency Human After All, finds baffling.

“Why would anyone not consult with, and embed with, and empathise with their audience before making something for them?” he says. “But I suppose if you looked at everything that gets made for everyone in the world in aggregate, it probably just doesn’t happen 90% of the time.” He suspects this is why so many products and services are “summarily discounted by that audience group. It seems self-­evident to me [that you would consult your audience], but I get the fact that probably a lot of people don’t do it.”