Desired Lines in Urban Design and User Experience

Desired lines can be defined as an unconventional or those paths in an Urban Design context where there is no concrete construction of a pathway or a walkway. Sometimes it is also named for paths that are unofficially used as shortcuts instead of taking an official path. These paths are usually time savers and take a direct approach to reach a certain location. UX (User Experience) Designers and town planners have now started taking a keen interest in these unconventional paths. According to the designers, these paths have a vital potential to develop as active urban space; they also add to the dynamics of a precinct or city.

These desire lines are instead a post-determiner of how Urban design can be adapted by the people of a city or precinct after it is made. A post-occupancy analysis terms these desire lines as potential spaces as they are the ones that the residents prefer to use more. And as the usage is more, the importance to have a User Experience diverted more towards them is also necessary. These paths are more functional based than aesthetic, UX designers think that they could do much more in improvising the experience.

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Researchers have also stated that the pathways or roads which we use now were desire lines mapped by our ancestors in history. These desire lines were then formalized and converted into paved and mapped pathways. However, the desired goal for every architect and designer is to have these paths conceptualized in the design stage itself. Many times the adaption of the organic way of human psychology and movement becomes difficult. That’s where the UX designers come in, they help in analyzing an appropriate end product which respects the organic pattern of the lines and also helps in generating a much better user experience.

Humans love shortcuts!

You must have noticed every landscaped area has a certain desire line, even though it might have a paved pathway of its own. These desire lines are shortest and are easily navigated between two points.

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One can learn a lot about human psychology and behaviours by identifying these desire lines. Sometimes these lines can also help in mapping the loopholes in the Urban Design as more the desired lines, lesser the efficiency in planning. Designers have now started focusing on these desired lines to make the designs more human-centric than design-centric. With an ideology that a design product should add value to the existing form of living and should feel almost organic to the user. If this is not done, then the design becomes more dictatorial and loses its humane motive.

UX design has started gaining global attention in this era.  Previously it had been centric to a smaller set-up like product design, web designs, etc. Although now it has moved to a much larger scale through Urban Design. UX design is making the cities more people-centric, it is adding value to the existing pre-requisites and giving more to city life. 

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City life is facing rapid urbanization, it has reached its peak. WeWork has been a conscious product of thinkers, developers, and UX designers. With the boost in the real estate investment, city life is seeing infrastructure more centric to offices, luxury housing, luxury retails, etc. which is making the public spaces diminish. Although a developer interested in the long term benefits will always opt for spaces that are vibrant both inside and outside. Spaces that integrate financial benefits with local culture to offer meaningful services. UX designers have now started working with developers to create such experiences as per the user needs.

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Thus, desired lines form a basic foundation for both urban design and user experience. This being a rather simplistic concept, the scale of its reach is wide. Desired lines have been an organic invention in design by the people but they give a detailed narrative of how a city or space design functions.

So the next time, you take a shortcut or walk over grass think about this concept, think about how organically we are driven towards seeking these desired lines.

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Saili Sawantt
Saili Sawantt
Architect and Interior Designer by profession, Writing is what she treats as her passion. She has worked as an Architectural Writer, Editor, and Journalist for various design as well as digital portals like ParametricArchitecture, FOAID (Festival of Architecture & Interior Design), Rethinking the Future (RTF), La Polo International, etc. Formerly she has also worked with Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) Design Studio, Mumbai due to her keen interested in learning about Sustainability and Green buildings. Apart from this, she runs her blog 'The Reader's Express'.

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