Finding a true problem space

August 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

‘There are people who are already making reusable pads and doing great stuff. There was no use for us to make a better pad,’ Iwai says. Their approach was to create an affordable, easily transportable kit that would help girls wash and dry their reusable pads in relative privacy.

An Innovative Solution To Menstrual Hygiene In Developing Countries

Mark Rolston from Frog Design on Research

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

“It’s less about data and more about beginning to empathize. … The strongest outcome is our stories—a way to bring the customer along. You can do it with metrics and data, but that often [omits] the critical aspects of the data. It’s trying to make these human factors much more tangible.”

Frog Design: ‘Chinese soccer moms’ and why software is king

Interviewing Moms with Their Kids

October 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

When a mom asks you if you would like her four-year-old to sit with her while she talks to you, and then she immediately says, “It could get a little crazy,” you might be thinking to yourself, “No, this will be great! It will give the interview color! Realism! Sweet!” You are delusional. It will not be sweet. It will be squirmy. Very squirmy. And loud.

Ask for some paper and crayons. Tell the child that it’s very important for your research that she draws you a cartoon of what her average day is like. You only ask very special people to help with this type of research. If you’re lucky, this will buy you 5 minutes of peace in which the mom will think of way better things than you ever could to occupy her kid’s time.

And don’t forget to solemnly take the cartoon at the end of session, put it in your notebook, and give the child an awesome sticker. You remembered the stickers, right? Bonus points if you send the mom a thank-you note with the cartoon included, letting her know that it has served its purpose in your research and is now a present for her.

The Role of the Citizen in Design

April 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

Whether we’re city planners or interaction designers, it seems we come up against the same questions about the value of involving those for whom we design in the design process. As I’ve been studying city and regional planning forums for my master’s capstone research, I’ve come across some conversations that are eerily similar to those that still sometimes happen between designers in my own field. From the Cyburbia forums (registration required):

Submitted by jaws on Sun, 2006/07/23 – 1:28pm.

Citizenship has nothing to do with how roads and pipes and squares are going to be built, anymore than citizenship entitles you to decide how everyone’s shoes are going to be made. You’ve appropriated the notion of citizenship into a sphere that is completely irrelevant.

Submitted by Lee Nellis on Mon, 2006/07/24 – 7:45am.

Ah, the technical delusion.

Citizens should have EVERYTHING to do with where new roads, pipes, squares, etc. are to be built. They are the ones who are going to use them. They are the ones who will be impacted by them. That is why planners are not technicians (and why engineers who listen poorly, if al [sic] all, have messed up so many communities), but facilitators and educators.

There is, of course, a technical aspect to all of these facilities. Citizens are not going to have much to say about the actual piping schematic of a sewage treatment plant, but they are/should going to have a lot to say about the impact a new plant will have on the pace of growth and the quality of life. The reality is that efficiency cannot and should not be our goal in planning (in the actual construction of a plant, of course). Our goal has to be to help folks actualize their citizenship – and that is a messy, inefficient process.

Despite the vocal holdouts, many city and regional planners have been employing participatory design methods (mainly charrettes, interviews, and focus groups) perhaps even before interaction design existed as a profession. We may be working in different mediums, but I think this is yet another example of how designers of any object, system, place, or service have a lot to learn from one another.

Bring the Extra-Sticky Post-Its

October 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

Last week in Interaction Design Methods, we collected all the research our team has been conducting this semester and created an affinity diagram.

Affinity diagramming takes a long time — bring rations!

Affinity diagramming takes a long time — bring rations!

It was a grueling process to transfer all our notes to post-its and arrange them into categories that made sense, but in the end, we developed some helpful insights that have pushed us further toward nailing down a design direction for our project.

As a team, we were surprised at the usefulness of the resulting diagram because our research had been seemingly unrelated up to that point — contextual inquiry with the city volunteer-matching program, ethnography at a local community garden, and a focus group of Bloomington citizens about their attitudes toward “buying local.”

Me, Augusto, and Xiaohan, transferring our research data to post-its

L to R: Me, Augusto, and Xiahan, transferring our research data to post-its

I’m eager to try this method out again with a future project — definitely with my capstone. Our instructor and associate instructor were nice enough to provide us with pictures of the workshop.

Our Related Readings

  • Beyer and Holtzblatt (1998). Contextual Design. Chapter 9.
  • Kuniavsky (2003). Observing the User Experience. Chapter 8.

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