IDEA9106 Design Thinking

Design is a state of mind



Master of Architecture student @ USYD

Tutorial 5_Ideating

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.



Tutorial 3_Creating Personas

1_ Describe your experience of creating personas from different users’ perspectives gathered in the interview data. Was there enough commonality between the 4 people interviewed to form a coherent persona? Or did it make more sense to create a second different persona?

  • The experience creating the personas was an interesting process. The first step was in pairs. Ali and I asked each other questions regarding public transport. We soon discovered that we were polar opposites regarding the frequency we catch trains. I catch the train daily where Ali, catches pubic transport once a year. What we did have in common was our experience in its use. We both enjoyed certain aspects and disliked more or less the same things. When we combined forces with our neighbouring group we were able to collate the facts concisely. What we gathered, Ali again was on the other side of the spectrum in terms of frequency. Adis, Pistachio and myself were all frequent in our use of it. Our combined motivation was a commonality; so were our modes, our frustrations and activities whilst on commute. However what were dissimilar were our travel times, our favourites, and cultural background. There was sufficient commonality to make a coherent persona but a second was needed as well, as Ali’s frequency of use was a significant factor. Two personas that sit on the fringe of two oppose frequency of use of public transport were created. They reflect the frequency of Adis, Pistachio and myself and one in reflection of Ali’s frequency – the busy commuter and the casual traveller.

2_Do you think your final persona was successful in generating empathy with users? What would you change to make it better?

  • I think the two personas are a successful model for generating empathy to users as it demonstrates two extremes. What would have made it a more effective model would be to have a persona, which reflects a commuter, whose frequency of travel is a median of both personas created.IMG_1063IMG_1159IMG_1160

Tutorial 4_Empathy and Defamiliarisation

1_a) Reflective Listening

  • My partner Ali and I took part in the reflective listening exercise – our topic of conversation was based on the question, ‘how do you imagine yourself in 20 years?’ I thought this exercise was extremely thought provoking as it allows you to focus on aspects of your own listening and empathetic aptitude when positioned in a one on one conversational scenario. When in conversation you’re attempting to listen and periodically provide positive reinforcement/feedback while trying not to take the lead or take over the conversation; but trying almost only to facilitate its general direction. I thought as a team Ali and I did quite well and our conversation/discussion was great. By listening attentively you were able to grasp the conversation better and evidently, provide a more positive and concise response that would further reinforce and direct the conversation along. As a team we discussed the outcome, personally I felt I was more comfortable listening, but when I spoke I felt more alive and happy. As a shy person I tend to listen more, more so in group/communal scenarios; my voice or opinion is often not heard so it was exciting to engage and provide my own perspective and feelings. As a team we thought that in that small eight-minute block you were able to learn the angle of the person quickly and empathize and relate well. Ali provided his own quote to summarize – ‘a highway to the person’s inner thoughts.’  

b) Defamiliarisation of Everyday Reality

  • The second task was interesting as well. More so because it hit close to home. I use to work in Circular Quay so that particular platform where I was supposed to visualize myself on is where I use to arrive to via train. The view to the quay, the wharf below and the train station is an all to familiar place. The act of catching trains is familiar to; I catch the trains daily as a means to get to and from work and university. Standing there at the station brought on a sense of familiarity, as there is an attachment to work and travel. There was a sensation of awkwardness as well. Standing alone, looking around trying to pass the time by finding things to distract your attention to rather than the time. Concurrently, there was a sense of excitement and happiness as the observation of water; the ship and the noticeable landmarks made me feel connected and inspired by the beauty of the location. The physical sensation was interesting. My legs felt heavy because I know all too well the feeling of standing for long periods of time waiting for the arrival of public transport. Fast passed thinking occurred as everything hit me at once – my subconscious surfacing memories and my consciousness registering familiar objects so that I can pass the time.

c) Experience Modelling

  • The third exercise was great. From this task you get to grasp pretty quickly to the importance of colour and sound. They are tools to recognizing environmental surroundings and the processing of information about location and about your own sense of familiarization. Sound and colour are integral. Especially at a train station setting. You can tell a train is on its way instantly by the sound it creates on the tracks, the screech that is heard as the breaks are applied. Colour also, with regards to the train itself. The iconic blue and yellow colour of the logo/decal as it emerges from the tunnel. The colour of the tactile mats and texture of the concrete and steel housing of the train station itself. The plastic wrap that was applied to the safety glasses was a good model for demonstrating this unfamiliarity of the senses in familiar settings. The blur and darkness of the objects (tables and chairs) made it familiar to avoid. The sound of the fan, my own footsteps, the voice of Ali and of the sound my clothes brushing along objects made the unfamiliar perspective more familiar as I navigating my way through. As a summary your senses are integral to recognizing situations and environments. Through our senses we are able to connect and experience the unfamiliar at a more tangible level.


2) & 3)





Blog at

Up ↑