How did physically acting out help to explore ideas? Bodystorming is what we call “use-case theater”. It involves prototyping the space and place of your product’s use by employing living personas or “actors” and “props.” (Schleicher 2000, P.48). Bodystorming is a generative and exploratory research method that uses the body to physically sketch a scenario, to identify “gaps and opportunities” (Schleicher 2000, P.49).

Enacting the cramped airplane situation enabled our team to access memories about the context and recall some of the constraints and pain points that we had physically experienced. This allowed us to think using our senses, not just mental imagery.

Using a team to bodystorm helps to identify a broader range need states than if a single participant were to approach a problem. “Need states are conditions of a situation that require satisfaction or reveal a breakdown” (Schleicher 2000, P.49). The process also generates a collective vision and ensures there is ‘buy-in’ from the design team when approaching a problem and its context.

Did you refine your ideas and solutions to the problem through body-storming? In what way? Bodystorming is rapid prototyping: with multiple ‘takes’ allowing the same scenario to be explored from a range of perspectives and new ideas can be inserted and tested with small tweaks to the scenario, rapidly and with little expense (Schleicher 2000, Pp.47-48). Therefore, as the same scenario was enacted multiple times, problems were fleshed out and early concept solutions could be tested in real time.

What was difficult or challenging about bodystorming? As a bit of an introvert, I thought this was going to be a very intimidating exercise if everyone in my team were observing me attempting to act out a scenario. However, I was pleasantly surprised about how confident I felt, because multiple team members were enacting a scenario we were able to respond to each other and the experience became a comfortable dialogue and exchange. Perhaps because the team members shared a certain degree of overlap in our experience of air-travel (eg we all travel economy) there was a degree of confluence in the way we constructed the scene. However, had one team member been more accustomed to a different experience, perhaps first class travel, it would have been more difficult to collaborate on structuring the problem and uncover the main need states. Then again, perhaps we were in danger of encountering “group think” because we shared similar perspectives, and perhaps we needed some diversity to create a productive state of disruption to uncover latent needs?

Does bodystorming lend itself to certain types of problems?Bodystorming has different modes, as outlined by Schleicher, however “use-case theatre” is most suited to problems where behavioural responses need to be identified, and I think it is particularly powerful in articulating problems where senses beyond just the visual come into play. For instance, simulating air travel was very suitable because we were able to enact and detail physical discomfort and map reactions to that. Body-storming offers an immediacy and cultivates a first-person understanding of the experience of that contex within the designer, which is much harder to achieve from observational ethnography (Schleicher 2000, P.49). “An effective bodystorm is one that captures the need state, highlights the breakdowns, and shows how the change in process (the designed aspect) satisfies the perceived problems” (Schleicher 2000, P.49).

Reference: Buchenau, M. and Suri, J. (2000). Experience Prototyping in Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices and Techniques, ACM Press, New York, Pp: 424-433

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