EDA companies design tools for two different publics, the circuit design public and the semiconductor industry public. This viewpoint outlines the dynamics of these two publics and explores the concept of public in detail. It also looks at interdisciplinary areas of psychology and human factors to understand how design is perceived.
The circuit design public
The condition that defines and knits the circuit design public is the singular passion to do circuit design. Yet, within this larger emotion features an array of smaller issues that add depth and character to this public. Jack, a member of this public, is frustrated at the various things that are a hindrance to doing what he is passionate about. He does not like the organizational dynamics that force him to do something that he is not interested in doing. He does not appreciate why he has to spend majority of time looking at the data that is thrown at him by these “new tools”. Also, he is not happy that the art of doing circuit design is transforming from being an intuitive and challenging process to becoming a meandering and cumbersome process. He feels that yet another fast simulator is not what he needs but an efficient way to organize and get his day-to-day work done smoother so that he can spend time on things that are important to him.
The semiconductor industry public
The condition that defines and knits this public is the belief that technological advances are needed to create better user experiences. The industry always is looking for ways to advance the current state-of-art by designing chip solutions that are innovative, feature rich and widely applicable. With an increasing demand from its consumers to deliver feature rich products fast, the semiconductor industry has always focused on time to market and product features. The complexity of a chip increases with the features and the time to market pressures significantly impact the business decisions. This public, hence, is concerned mainly about the issues of speed of achieving the time to market goals. The EDA tool vendors have to sell “speed” to keep this public interested.
Designing for any public
To understand how designing for a public works, we need to take a look at the concept of public in detail. Also, it is prudent to look at interdisciplinary areas of psychology and human factors and understand how design is perceived.
I think that the empathy associated while designing can drop significantly with increasing cloud or size of the public for which the designs are created. We invariably find that smaller publics are connected by traits that are core to their existence or daily lives. The central characteristics that constitute this public are very well defined amongst the members of the public itself. For instance, let us take a small group of individuals who share a passion for a brand like Apple. It is perfectly plausible to attempt understanding the value system and problems faced by this public. On the contrary, a huge public like “residents of America” will present more challenges in understanding the value systems and problems.
There is a great deal of research being done on “Designing with” vs. “Designing for”, which is also known as co-creation. This is the process in which a designer engages the end user to participate in designing a solution. This is a very interesting topic that has been successful in tackling several social problems [2,3]. In , Le Dantec talks about democratizing design process at the margins of the different publics involved. This work, though not directly related to the semiconductor/EDA industry, offers a lot of insights that could be applicable for creating better products. Here, Le Dantec urges a designer to design at the common boundaries of both publics. He maintains that designs should be democratized and for doing that, it is imperative that we follow the “design with” method and not the “design for”. In a simplest explanation, designing for someone is akin to sympathizing while designing with someone is empathizing. Quoting Emily Pilloton , “To take it one step further, you can’t design effective solutions for people unless you make your clients or end users part of the design process —co-creating systems that will work for and be owned by them. To do either of these things, you simply have to be there, present in a place, and part of the community.” Again, this is in the context of solving a social problem. We can take a step back and apply it in the context of the semiconductor industry. What Emily Pilloton talks about is the process of making the client part of the design process. Though, there is no concept of a client owning the solutions in the semiconductor industry, getting them involved in the tool design process will enable the EDA companies to design a product “that works for them”.