Q1_ How did taking the position of an Extreme User influence your thinking in relation to the design challenge? Was it different to how you usually generate ideas and empathy?
By taking the position of the ‘Extreme User’ it was able to influence the ideation process through an empathetic lens; where I as the designer was able to conceive ideas and potential outcomes by examining the thinking and needs of potential extreme users. In my group we examined the ‘money-spinners’ – this extreme user is considered to be an entrepreneur and very talented at deal making. To design a future payphone considering the needs of he or she as a money-spinner is a quite unusual task – unusual in the sense that it’s such a direct user focus. One does not design payphones for a focus group but rather designs for the whole; incorporating the needs and desires in a holistic approach as it is a development of technology that everybody will benefit from. In stating this however, it does open avenues of design that one would not normally contemplate or consider. By thinking out side the box and focusing on multiple user focus groups there is potential for a more cohesive and functional end product, and I believe this design challenge and design thinking technique is a great exercise in doing so. I suppose a product that assimilates with the movement and ideology of many is a great product – observing the I-Phone is outstanding example due to its increasing popularity matched with its superb functionality. The I-Phone was designed to fit the comfort and needs of the many – integrating the things we need, where we need them. If Steve Jobs and Jony Ive did not observe their design approach this way but focused their design energy to focus groups, like business men and women, than the device that’s on the market now may have had a different outcome. The payphone exercise was great in a way that you could stretch your thinking to its extremes and formulate some quirky and eccentric devices that are functional to the extent of the extreme user and aesthetic on the basis of what is functional. I believe the observation of the extreme user is a great tool especially when your designing for focused groups to begin with, for example, the disabled, race car drivers, athletes, basically a large group of people who are a minority of the whole. In order to expand and advance technology further and improve the ethnography and ergonomics that goes hand-in-hand with design than these Extreme Users is an approach one can take. In order to have a device or piece of technology that is perpetual and functionally all-encompassing than one must design in balance with a focused outlook as well as a wide-open view to the present needs of the whole.
Q2_ Did any of the other design thinking techniques (design provocation cards, stories, storyboards, etc.) help you to work through ideas and collaborate with your group members?
The stories was a great design thinking technique – by providing your chosen ‘Extreme User’ with a background and a story you are as the designer able to envisage how he or she integrates with the technology and why it is so important and relevant to their present functional needs. By recognizing the motivation of users and the current problems/redundant qualities that present technology has allows for growth in design and potential for technological improvements. How can we improve and make the everyday life of potential users more efficient? This is question at hand and one that can be improved by observing the multitude of backgrounds and stories that users have. Storyboards were another great tool to provide the technology a background and possible scenario of utilization. The environment in which something is used plays an important role to product design and design of all intents for that matter. Storyboarding how the user interacts with a design prototype is a quick and informative method of observing the designs functionality and intent. Here you are able to empathize with your user through a development of character and place whilst concurrently observing areas where the design exceeds and more importantly observing areas of weakness. Interaction is paramount with any approach to design. The relationship between people and technology is a constant interaction, which, must be studied and examined thoroughly in order to have a design that is ultimately functional. Storyboarding is a useful preliminary technique to observe such interaction.