Round Pegs, Square Holes, And Human Behavior

Beyond survival, design thinking is at the core of our spacefaring experience, and it must become a mainstay of all conversations meant to empower us to do more in space.

Close up of a tubular space station as seen from a porthole.
”Tubular confinement” by Monica Hernandez. 2021. [r].

Form and design harmonize with function. Nowhere is this reality more evident than in the high-stakes complexity of the space industry. I have worked with numerous engineers, scientists, researchers, business executives from all backgrounds, ages, and walks of life. Sometimes, I’ve noticed an implicit bias against form, design, and aesthetics. Unfortunately, this bias relegates such considerations to the last stages of research and development, and worse to the misconception that it is only what investors, advertisers, communicators, designers, sales reps, and marketers worry about closer to the pre-deployment stages.

If you’ve read my articles across the Internet and subscribed recently to this blog, you’ll notice that I pay close attention to form, design, rationale, and function. Visual storytelling is very much front and center. I’m always looking out for improving the flow and design of my work, and that’s why I choose to work with an ecosystem of independent artists, musicians, filmmakers, and designers. But, beyond obsessing about how something “looks,” a nuanced understanding of user-centric design, form, and aesthetics can make or break the product/message/service/experience and, more importantly, get to the heart of its very existence. And in the case of the space industry, such considerations affect occupational safety, operational efficiency, how users interact with their surroundings, their moods and emotions, productivity, focus, problem-solving capabilities, and a plethora of human psychology issues. Simple routines complicate in space or mean the difference between life and death.