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Tutorial 7 Subverting Affordances

“An affordance is a relation, specifying the possible interactions of one thing with another, where the things can be animate or inanimate; intelligent or not; human, animal, or manufactured object or system. Because affordance is a relation, it is a powerful, context-sensitive design concept.”

(Norman 2015)

Reflect on your experience of the Affordances exercise by answering the following questions:

1) Choose one of the objects you selected and describe how your initial understanding of affordances changed over the course of exercise?

The object chosen for the exercise was a small egg beater designed in the shape of an egg with the facial features of a chicken. Initially, I observed the egg like shape of the object which gave a visual suggestion of the utensil’s function. The three shaped wires forming the top of the object provided the visual clue that it belonged in a particular group of kitchen utensils, specifically whisk beaters.

When the position of the egg beater changed and it could be seen lying horizontally on a surface, the flat foot shaped bottom of the object was observed. We were then able to consider other possible functions of the utensil that could be afforded through the use of this bottom surface, including stamping, flattening and pattern making in other softer materials such as pastry.  The wires in the whisk part created the possibility of using it to create other patterns in soft materials. The gaps between the wires of the whisk were also considered at this angle. This led to the utensil being placed upright and the wires were used to hold pieces of paper. This allowed the utensil to act as a memo or recipe holder.


Modifications to the egg beater including wrapping the wires suggested uses such a Venetian blind duster and makeup applicator. Had the egg beater been able to be deconstructed it is possible other affordances would have been found. Additionally, if more craft material was available to further modify the utensil it is possible that additional uses would have emerged.

2) Given that affordance is a relational property between a person and an object, how did the manipulation of the person’s abilities inform your understanding of the concept? Did it give you inspiration or insight for how to work with affordance as a designer? Discuss this through the specific objects you explored in the exercise.

The first consideration on the direct interaction with the object was its feel and shape. The rough non-slip texture of the egg shape was not apparent on sight nor the important design feature that the egg fitted snugly into a closed hand.  The group members chose to modify the human user by restricting the use of fingers, then hands. It was evident that the design of this object required the use of fingers, particularly thumbs to perform its original function. However, a new affordance emerged as the utensil acquired rolling qualities that had not been previously considered.

By further limiting the user’s abilities, two new design possibilities occurred.  The first was how the design could be improved for physically disadvantaged users, where for example, by hollowing out the base and placing a small bell inside it, an auditory feedback mechanism such as a constant ringing bell sound would indicate optimum whisking technique. That would not only improve whisking technique for the visually impaired, but would also benefit those without physical challenges. The second design possibility involved improving secondary capabilities such as pattern stamping that could be further enhanced to allow the device to become more truly multi-functional, thereby increasing its utility in ways completely outside the modalities of the original design concept.


Norman, D. A. (2015). “Affordances: Commentary on the Special Issue of AI EDAM.” Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing : AI EDAM 29(3): 235.

JMAR0157    Joanne Martin

Tutorial 6 Bodystorming

Reflect on your experience of the Bodystorming exercise by answering the following questions

  • How did physically acting out help to explore ideas?

Schleicher et al (2010) suggest that “embodied storming focuses on need states and can be applied as a design-research method that helps identify gaps and opportunities” (p49).  Embodied storming requires the participants to act out, not as designers, but as humans reacting as a group to a problem or situation and utilising these strengths and benefits (p48). Physical acting out allows shared insight into the context of the design problem.

After our warm-up, our group of five chose to explore the current problem of sleeping in airplanes. We began by brainstorming problems and listing them in no particular hierarchy. Issues raised included the size of the seat, the problems of noise and light, difficulties with positioning of nearby seats and their occupants and the lack of comfort. A photograph of the list is provided below.


We then discussed how we would set up the available props to recreate the problem environment. The chairs were grouped into rows of two and the rows spaced to suggest the cramped context. The first problem acted out was the issue of space when a passenger in the front seat reclines when the passenger behind wishes to stay upright. This performance was expanded to consider the need of the adjacent passenger requiring to get out of their seat while the front passenger was still reclined.


Possible solutions including a retractable stair and movable seat bases acting in tandem were explored. Notes were taken and sketches roughly drawn of the problems and possible design solutions by the student not physically participating in the bodystorming.


Members of the group were moved to different roles to see if other ideas developed. This resulted in the problem of light and sound being explored. The initial idea of a hood that concertinaed from the headrest arose from the bodystorming which the group embraced and extended further considering how it could integrate an audio-visual element.

  • Did you refine your ideas and solutions to the problem through bodystorming? In what way?

The initial ideas were explored through extending, that is acting out and focusing on the single idea until all avenues were explored. Once an idea had been fully utilised, we moved onto the next problem. Whilst this could have been directed by the non-bodystorming group member, it seemed to just occur through the process of bodystorming, itself. The group then discussed our findings and documented them in the below concept sketch.


The idea provided to the class was a personal hood/bubble which incorporated an audio-visual, lighting and noise cancelling component. The seating problem was dealt with by a moving floor swivel seat combination.

  • What was difficult or challenging about bodystorming?

The first challenge was setting up the environment in the class with limited props. Access to appropriate props could possible help some participants to engage more thoroughly with the context.

The acting required for bodystorming can also be confronting for more inhibited group participants. I personally found myself in a comfort zone as I have studied, performed and taught theatre improvisation. I can see how some of the skills learnt through improvisation could be utilised by bodystorming, particularly the concepts of “extending” and “advancing” to explore ideas. Acceptance of others ideas and avoiding “blocking” could also assist the process of bodystorming.

  • Does bodystorming lend itself to certain types of problems?

Bodystorming certainly lends itself to situations where a realistic physical environment can be created and explored using participants as actors. The two scenarios provided to the class, being a doctor’s waiting room and airplane could be quickly and easy created in the classroom. However, props were limited and for example, using a tray laden with food utensils may have resulted in further problems that needed to be considered and the scenario may have become more real to participants. Conversely, in improvisation often the prop box is used by inexperienced improvisors as a crutch and the focus on the object can be detrimental to ideas being explored between people. I also note that the lack of props in our classroom setting did not seem to overly affect the flow of ideas.

It may be more difficult to use bodystorming when the problems are not connected to the physical environment such as the issues of information transfer and communication.


Schleicher, D. P. J. and O. Kachur (2010). “Bodystorming as embodied designing.” interactions(November-December).

JMAR0157 Joanne Martin


Poster 1.0

Week 4 – Empathy and Defamiliarisation

1) Briefly reflect on the lessons learnt from each exercise

A. Reflective listening

As listener, I was aware of the conflict between the requirement of empathetic reflection and the fear of interrupting the flow of the speaker. My speaker was a confident storyteller who understood the importance of narrative, so there was a tendency to allow them to continue uninterrupted and only interject occasionally so they were aware they were being understood. In both roles eye contact was important, both to engage the listener and to confirm to the speaker that they had the attention of the listener. As speakers, we were aware of the importance of creating a narrative and delivering it in an entertaining manner using voice modulation, eye contact and, in some instances, hand gestures to engage the other party.

Reflective listening, where the ideas of the speaker are reframed by the listener also allows the speaker to know they have been understood and misinterpretations are clarified. It is therefore important in the process of communication and assists the designer, not only in empathising with the user but ensuring that the needs of the user are interpreted correctly. A facilitator may assist the process by slowing down the flow of information and prompting the listener to restate and clarify what they have believe they have heard.

B. Defamiliarisation of Everyday Reality

This exercise reminded me of a stimulus provided for creative writing classes. In both instances the writer is attempting to explore and create empathy. It requires you to think in terms of smell, touch, sight and hearing and use a stimuli to trigger memories. We were required to watch a video of a train platform and explore our reactions to the scenario. The exercise was visually stimulating and required self reflection. The following chart briefly outlines my initial reactions and memories inspired by the stimulus.


Personally I found this exercise very easy to undertake as I was familiar with it and its outcomes. I could empathise with the users of public transport, particularly trains, as it brought back memories of my physical reactions to the experience. I could see others around me, however, had difficulties engaging with the exercise. This could possibly be overcome with practise or by making the stimulus more accommodating to the way different people experience their environment. For example making the stimulus physical and allowing some participants to explore the concept kinesthetically may improve the experience for them and produce greater feelings of empathy.

C. Emphatic Modelling

This exercise was personally less effective in creating empathy as it recreated a disability that I experience daily. For me the experience of seeing the familiar through layers of plastic was not dissimilar to walking around in the morning prior to finding my glasses.

Emphatic Modelling
However, it did remind me that sometimes it is necessary to “walk a mile in some else’s shoes” to gain some understanding of the challenges they face. I can see that this type of exercise could be useful in design to gain a greater understanding of the needs of a user.


Week 3 – Personas

1) Describe your experience of creating personas from different users’ perspectives’ gathered in 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 persona?

Our group of four women chose the topic of shopping. We divided into groups of two and each took turns in the roles of interviewer and interviewee. We then provided a verbal overview of each interview to the group and from this information the group easily extracted possible points of difference. These variables were then mapped as a continuum rather than as multiple choice. Whilst there was commonality in the group, being marriage and education, differences were immediately evident. Three members of the group shared similar shopping experience with the use of loyalty cards and awareness of advertised specials. This group was not concerned with brand but shopped to maximise their savings. They had loose mental lists of their intended buys but were heavily influenced by potential savings from discounted items.

The first persona of “Jenny” was created from the analysis of the variables on the continuum. This persona was easily identified from the data and the could be summed up by the quote, “Special offers make me happy”. It was also evident that a second persona could be created from the data as one interviewees responses differed significantly from the group and where it aligned with another group member, it appeared as a separate set of characteristics.


2) Do you think your final persona(s) was successful in generating empathy with the users? What would you change to make it better?

The persona of “Jenny” had an authenticity and was easily identified by the group. There was enough detail about her shopping habits and feelings toward the shopping experience to give her credibility and therefore generate empathy. For example, she felt that the trolleys were heavy and immovable. To improve the persona, I would have perhaps increased the number of interviewees to enable more inferences to be drawn and included a photograph of the persona to make her more real to the users.

In contrast, the second persona was less successful as it drew the majority of the persona’s habits and feelings primarily from one participant. To improve this persona we would definitely need to conduct more interviews to improve the reliability of the results. It also highlighted the need to consider the criteria of candidates for interviews. For example, it may not be worthwhile creating a persona of a user from a broad range of interviewees including those without smart phones for a product such as an android app that requires its users to have access to specific technology.

Also it was very evident that cultural differences played a significant role in the creating our two personas with the majority of our interviewees being immigrants with English as a second language. As such, we identified that these members had less experience with product brands names and therefore brands played a less important role in shopping decision making. The personas in this exercise could be improved by increasing the diversity of the interview set to include different cultures and geographical locations.


Week 2 Interpreting Data

1.How did this exercise help you build empathy with the prospective users?

The exercise required me to re-frame the prospective users wants, needs and frustrations in first person narrative. By using the pronoun “I” and the possessive “my” a more direct connection was made between me and the interviewee. For example, when re-framing the wants, needs and frustrations of the interview into “I found it hard to determine which attractions were good for my child from the internet” and “My biggest challenge for family travel is planning meals” I was able to empathise with their point of view.

I was also required to analyse the transcript and extract clear points that summarised their desires and problems.

2. How did the clustering of information help you to understand the users needs?

The clustering of information allowed the group to categorise the users needs. Similar needs were grouped together and duplicates were identified. It became evident in creating the Affinity Diagram that some needs appeared more often and distinct groups emerged. Needs that were singular were set aside. For example, a label emerged “I like a personal touch with my holiday bookings” from the different interviewees desires for travel agents and preference for verbal referrals.


3. What was difficult or challenging with the technique? How would you do it better next time?

A difficulty emerged from the various transcripts as it was evident that some of the interviewees had conflicting needs and frustrations even before these needs were grouped with others. For example, the same interviewee who did not like maps and preferred to discover things while walking also tired of the process and could get lost. This made labeling the groups challenging at times.

The other challenge was how the tutorial group as a whole clustered the information. As we were pressed for time, some members of the group took the lead in choosing groupings and labels, while quieter members found it harder to contribute. These members found it difficult to group their interviewee’s needs under a column or argue for their inclusion and so sometimes their points were excluded from the Affinity Diagram. To a certain degree, the team’s findings were directed by the more forceful members of the group. Next time I would suggest appointing a facilitator to ensure views provided are more balanced and suggest more time so we do not feel the pressure to complete the task within the time-frame.


Blog Reflection 01 – Sketchnoting

1. How is this sketchnoting technique different to the traditional note taking?

The sketchnote technique encompasses the use of visual symbols and written text to record or express ideas as opposed to traditional note taking that focuses on written text. These visual symbols are personal interpretation of ideas of the creator and can be used to condense complex concepts into a single drawing or symbol. The personal nature of the drawn symbols allows the creator to creatively capture concepts and develop ideas that may be individual to them.

Sketchnotes are not restricted to a linear one directional structure (such as the left to right writing direction of English).

2. How does this visual approach facilitate communication of your ideas?
Conversely, how does it prevent it?

The visual approach facilitates the communication of my ideas by removing the restrictions imposed by written text. I can choose if I wish to direct the reader around the page using symbols such as arrows or show ideas as a mind map where the central idea dominates the centre of the page and other ideas are depicted as symbolic branches. Alternatively, I can draw in free form and allow the reader the freedom to take in ideas in the order of their choosing.

I can creatively explore an idea or concept, expanding and reframing these new thoughts in a visual form. Sketchnotes can allow the communication of ideas in a more personal manner than written text as the symbols are the expressions of an individual. This can also interfere with communication if the drawn symbols are so personal that other intended recipients are unable to decode them. The communication of ideas could be further complicated by the composer’s cultural context being different to reader and the symbol conveying different meanings, for example the swastika which is an ancient religious symbol and a symbol of Nazi Germany. The success of the sketchnote may also be reliant upon my skills and confidence as an artist to communicate my ideas in visual imagery.

A sketchnote may allow complex ideas to be conveyed instantaneously in contrast to the written text which requires reading and interpreting. It may have instant impact, appealing on sight to the individual’s emotions. Conversely, it may be difficult to express intricate details purely in visual imagery, particularly if the sketchers skills are limited or they are slow to transfer the ideas into symbols.

3. Personal challenges as a sketchnoter.

My personal challenge was being satisfied with my ability to draw quick human figures, particularly in action, as I had not drawn for many years. My first attempts were pretty basic and I was very unhappy with the result. After further practise attempts, my own facial style was beginning to develop but my bodies in action still needed work to convey movement and enable them to be drawn quickly.


I can see the need to continue to develop a personal style that I can draw upon quickly and confidently, to capture and convey ideas. If it is my intention to use a sketchnote to pitch an idea to another person and influence them, my visual images will also need to be simple yet enticing.

Another challenge that I encountered was structuring and depicting the complex information provided in the TED talk. This also draws upon the intended audience of the sketchnote. Whilst I initially intended my sketchnote to be a mind-map of ideas and looked for a visual way to structure the information coherently, as more information was relayed so the visual structure became more free form. If I was trying to educate my intended audience, rather than just providing a memory springboard for personal use, I would review the structure within the spoken text and try to create a more meaningful visual structure within my sketchnote.


I also found that while I was thinking about the most meaningful visual symbols to use and agonising over my poor drawing skills, the speaker had moved onto other points. I could not keep up or adequately represent some of his more detailed or complex ideas and on review, I could see I resorted back to written text too much. Some of these issues I can see, will be addressed with more practice and use of sketchnote taking.

jmar0157 – Jo Martin

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