IDEA9106 Design Thinking

Design is a state of mind



Blog Reflection 09

Q1. How did thinking in terms of shots and scenes influence your approach to communicating your design concept?

It made us really think about who the user was, because this is the person who will be featured in the communication of our design products. Are we going to depict one user or multiple users? What do these users have in common? It made us consider which shots are the best way to communicate our design concept in the best light, and considering whether for our design concept shooting a video would even make sense at all. Thinking in terms of scenes highlighted the affective nature of what our product is trying to accomplish, and therefore close up reaction shots of the user’s expressions was key.

Q2. What motivated your choice of storyline structure? Can you think of an exemplar from a film that uses the same structure?

So for our design concept — a website — we would start by introducing the users of the product, and the problem that they have that prompts them to use it (ie. them having a bad day). We would then place them in a physical and temporal context, which shows the when and where. The product is introduced in that same scene. We would them depict them using the product, and the benefit of that use, i.e. what it does for them affectively. So our structures goes: who, where, when, what, how, and why.

Q3. What choices did you make about audience and style? Were they related?

We automatically decided that our audience was potential users of our product: LGBT people suffering from mental health issues. Audience and style is intrinsically related, so therefore we decided that the video would be shot in very intimate, personal style. However, perhaps this video would also need to be  used as a pitch to gain funding from a government body, so perhaps the style choices and the tone of the video would need some rethinking.

Blog Reflection 04 – rgao5686


As the listener, it was important to strike a balance between listening and reflecting back to the speaker. I found that it was also important to ask probing questions at the right moments — this showed that you were listening and that you were interested in what they were saying. Letting go of preconceived notions about the speaker allowed me to really learn more about them and what motivated them.

As the speaker, it was difficult to fully feel at ease speaking on a personal topic with a relative stranger. A sense of self-consciousness could take over at times, which impacts on the listener can engage with you.

As the listener, it is important to be open and curious and non-judgmental, and be in the moment with the speaker. As the speaker, you have to let go of self-consciousness and be willing to be open and a little vulnerable with your listener.


How was the experience of writing without thinking? Did you discover any new aspects of your experience with this exercise?

Writing without thinking almost required you to shut off your brain and fight against the part of your brain that seeks to make coherent sense of things. It was difficult to shut off that judgmental part of your brain and I don’t know if I succeeded. I found that my writing was mostly descriptive of what was going on in what I was witnessing, and over time it became very repetitive. It was difficult to access a level that wasn’t pure description.

It was odd to witness scenes of everyday reality like waiting for a train and riding a bus from the perspective of somebody else. It was at once familiar and unsettling. I noticed things like the way the light fell and the particular tint of a colour. This exercise forced me to pay greater attention to aspects of my ordinary experience.

Blog Reflection 05 – rgao5686

1) 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?

Taking the position of an extreme user was beneficial because it gave me a specific user in mind, and prompted me to think about their needs, goals, and desires. This led me to generate ideas that were focused on meeting these needs and desires. Because I myself had created the character, I was already acquainted with who they were and what they wanted. I found this easier than my usual method of idea generation, which usually involves brainstorming. This method proved to be a shortcut to generating empathy with the end user. I would use this method in the future because you can easily invent a less-extreme, everyday user and design from the perspective of meeting their needs.


2) 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?

Yes — writing each idea down on a post-it and sharing it with our team members allowed each of us to collaborate on one idea and develop it to a resolution together. Our final concept was one that was initially generated by one person, but which we all developed and contributed to.

Writing our stories were helpful because it prompted me to inhabit the character I had created and think about what where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with; sharing this with my group members meant that we each gained an insight into each other’s characters. This enabled us to gain empathy for each of our characters and to generate design ideas based on their needs, as well.

Storyboards were important in working through our ideas in order to work out the kinks and logistics and to see if the idea could actually work. In the end, an aspect of my idea had to be eliminated because I realised that even in the future it wouldn’t be logistically possible.

Blog Reflection 07 – rgao5686

What kinds of information and insights did it give you about the usability of the prototype?


Observing the physical behaviour of a user as they are undertaking a task was extremely useful as it made me attend to non-verbal cues. Physical cues rarely lie, and can be more telling than verbal behaviour. Physical expressions can reveal pain points for the user which they may not necessarily articulate.

As the user being observed, it became apparent that I was showing frustration in my face that I was not necessarily voicing. Therefore attending to physical cues during a user evaluation can give you critical insight into what’s frustrating about the prototype, or what’s pleasurable to use about the prototype.


As the user, Thinking Aloud was extremely helpful because it helped me to clarify my own mental processes and the models that I used to navigate a website, for example. The types of information it gave me included whether  the prototype was easy to use, whether it cohered with my expectations, whether I thought there was anything missing, whether I understood the function of everything that was presented to me.

Listening to another user verbalise their own thoughts was similarly helpful in gaining insights as to the mental processes they went through in trying to accomplish the task. This gives you an insight into the underlying assumptions and mental models they have in their head, which they have gained with past experiences. This gives the tester useful information about affordances and consistency.

What were aspects of the technique that worked well or were frustrating?


As the user, thinking aloud can sometimes be difficult because it can be hard to clearly articulate your thoughts and impressions. You have to get over a certain level of self-consciousness. There are many things you take for granted, which you may not feel you need to voice. Or you may have too many thoughts about what you see, and you are unsure which ones are strictly relevant to the tester.


It was difficult to record non-verbal behaviour in real-time because it is so dynamic. Therefore taking a video and playing it back may be the best method to accurately capture this data. Also it is unclear to what extent observing non-behaviour would be useful without the aid of thinking aloud. Using behavioural data to supplement thinking aloud might be the best practice.

Recording the data in the format provided allowed us to quantify the data, which actually gives us quantitative data — this can give us the data upon which to base our design decisions.

Overall, the experience of evaluation reinforced the value of user testing and showed me how useful it could be in the iteration process. Conducting user evaluations is a critical source of feedback. Doing it with “expert” users like fellow classmates was a vital source of feedback as they can give you highly informed critiques.


Blog Reflection 03 – rgao5686

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?

Interviewing and gaining data was straightforward enough, but for the interview to be more useful we should formulate the questions with the demographic and behavioural variables in mind, so that our data is more focused. It was sometimes difficult to decide whether variables were multiple choice or whether they could be conceived as a continuum of some sort.


We only had 3 people and there was sufficient commonality between two of us to form a coherent persona, because our demographic and behavioral variables synced. But because the third person’s variables differed so markedly, it would make sense to create a further persona to account for them.

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

I think our final persona was successful in generating empathy with users because her demographic and behavioural information was based on our real data, and we added sufficient background details to make her seem like she could be a real, relatable person.

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