IDEA9106 Design Thinking

Design is a state of mind



Developer & Designer. Here I observe, synthesize and share my learnings from over 15 years working in software focused on user needs. Believe in relationships, empathy, evidence and results.

Research Summary Poster

Poster below:


Blog Reflection 02 (jcon3801)


How is this technique different to the traditional note taking?

Being visual and graphical, there’s a lot more generality and metaphor where text would be more specific. I guess there’s truth to the saying that “a picture speaks a thousand words”. 😊 I found it took me longer to express a concept in drawing than in writing, because I had to draw a picture/icon, where with text, I could write just a word or a short phrase.

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

I thought that the use of drawing enabled both more abstract, and thus richer, recording of information than with writing. Also it afforded a greater flexibility of layout. Rather than flowing from left to right, like text, I could position elements more to my taste. This flexibility then opened up the possibility of linking and grouping elements together in ways that wouldn’t be possible with pure text.

Personal challenges as a sketch-noter?

Time wasn’t on my side, as I’m a slow drawer. I had to sometimes force myself to draw faster, simpler shapes and less detail, in order to keep up with the flow of the TED talk that I was drawing about. Also it was tricky to get the elements positioned and sized right, so that I could put things in the right place, and have space left to draw. If I could do anything different in future, it would probably be drawing smaller, and more spread out, so that I have room to new elements and connect/group existing elements.

Blog Reflection 03 (jcon3801)

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

By listening to their narratives about themselves and their needs, from their own words, this helped me to understand the situation they were in. I could empathise with the person because I could see what he was going through, and what kinds of responsibilities and pressures were weighing in on him. I also built empathy for his family and friends, who, as an extension of him, also had their own interrelated responsibilities and pressures. An example would be the empathy I felt for the person trying very hard to get travel deals that would excite and delight his sons. I felt for both him and his sons in that moment.

How did the clustering of information help you to understand user needs?

It helped in two ways: A) it helped me to see the bigger/broader issues facing the person, so rather than being focussed on individual needs, I could see more abstract needs that many individual needs were playing into; B) it helped me to differentiate properly between needs; some needs that might’ve superficially seemed alike, on categorisation, could be discovered to be actually quite different.

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

The identification of the ‘needs’ was challenging, because it was necessary to try to differentiate between needs and other kinds of expressions, such as opinions, ideas, reflections, memories, etc. It was also difficult sometimes to decide whether to split a ‘need’ sticky into two sticky, or to keep it as one. Some needs seemed like they might be composite, and thus, might be better off being split, in case different parts were to actually go to different categories.

I think it could be done better next time by going back and forth between the text (interview questions/answers) and the ‘need’ stickies – both creation and organising of them – rather than moving straight from the text to the stickies. This might make the splitting and categorisation of stickies less difficult, if by revisiting the text, we gained deeper insights into the nature of the needs.

Blog Reflection 01 (jcon3801)


1) How did engaging with a real person, testing with a real person, change the direction your prototype took?

It became less focussed on the goal (transporting a person to a gift / gift to a person) and also less focussed on the gift itself.

The person was imagining himself using the prototype, as a way to get to a shopping centre in Malaysia, then back to his family’s place, in a calm, relaxed way, so that he would be better able to enjoy the day with his family.

Additionally, the prototype took on a collective aspect, as the person imagined other individuals he knew (or knew of), and how they might similarly use the prototype. I.e. other passengers in Malaysia, who would also find it difficult commuting to the shops, and also would want a more private and pleasant means of transport.

2) What was it like showing unfinished work to another person?

A little daunting, as my idea was being put to its biggest first test. However, it was also exciting to watch the other person discover and experiment with the prototype, and to see aspects of its use and design coming out, which I had not anticipated. It was also exciting to see him extend the prototype beyond its original intention, to be used more broadly in areas that I hadn’t thought much about.

3) As a User, how did you interact with your partner’s level of lowly -resolved prototype; how did the level of resolution impact your experience as a user?

I looked at it from different angles. I also picked it up and held it, and handled it with my hands. He also took it from me, and I observed him handle it himself with his hands.

The low level of resolution was actually liberating, as it gave me greater scope to imagine potentialities which I might not have otherwise considered, e.g. if the prototype had been so specific about being “one thing” that I didn’t conceptualise it as another. It morphed from being a simple Apple-esque box design (which, say, a more specific shape might have limited it to), into being an experience of “mystery”, which two people could share, as part of the gift-giving experience, and as a common language to make the experience intelligible.

4) Design thinking is an iterative, self-directed process. Based on what you learned, what would you go back and do next? What would you do over again?

I would take the thoughts and ideas communicated by the other person, in response to the prototype, to generate new questions to ask the other person, to enable me to develop a deeper/richer understanding of the person and his problem space.

I would also use these thoughts and ideas as a basis for additional prototypes, each going off in a different divergent direction, based on some insight gained from communicating with the other person. These prototypes would serve as a means of “fleshing out” various specific ways in which the person’s vision might manifest itself in the final product.

5) What principle, what tool would you infuse into the work tomorrow?

I would infuse the tool of the “persona”, perhaps by constructing a small model representing the person himself using the prototype (i.e. being a passenger on the “gift bus”). This tool could facilitate conversations with the person about his role as a passenger/user of the bus, how he relates to the bus and other passengers, how he experiences using it, and how he identifies himself as a user of the bus.

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