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IDEA9106 Design Thinking

Design is a state of mind

Author

Rhys

Masters of Interaction Design and Electronic Arts Student

Blog Reflections 6: Bodystorming (Rhys AKA rhob8617)

1.How did physically acting out help to explore ideas?

I found this form of idea exploration was a lot of fun. Beyond the hysterics we experienced as a group – and there were plenty – the real benefit I found was that it added a layer of human limit to the to the depth of exploration. As we were exploring how we could improve the experience of visiting the doctor’s office, we needed to understand the layout and positioning of potential users: where users sit, where signifiers should be positioned etc. The benefit of of bodystorming meant that we could visualise the potential solutions and acknowledge setbacks that would potentially be missed through two-dimensional ideation such as sketching or storyboarding.

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

Yes, we managed to refine our ideas through props and running through a planned script. As we tested each stage of the script, we were able to identify issues that required further refinement.

3. What was difficult or challenging about bodystorming?

The most challenging aspect of this technique was both the limit of our collective imaginations and the limit of available resources to create props within the testing environment we created. In some instances we needed to imagine a constraint within the testing environment, such as a display indicating what position each user was in within the waiting line.

4. Does bodystorming lend itself to certain types of problems?

I believe that bodystorming has limitations in terms of the depths of exploration in to issues of design. In the case of our focus – improving the experience of going to the doctor’s office – we were only able to explore the macro level issues of design. This included the room shape, positioning of users, large visible affordances and signifiers ensuring users are aware of their interaction with the environment. Where bodystorming would become an issue would be the micro-level exploration of a design solution. Would a visible device improving interaction require language as the key conveyor of information or would more subtle signifiers be more appropriate, such as lights or unobtrusive directives. Bodystorming wouldn’t effectively be able to explore these issues without added layers of explorative techniques such as prototyping. It would be capable of discovering the need for the solution but not the capacity to explore the potential options within the solution itself.

Blog Reflections 5: Ideating (Rhys AKA rhob8617)

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?

This new position of viewing needs from the perspective of an extreme user forced me to think beyond normal conventions of need. In our case, we chose to redesign the archaic public telephone so it can appeal for an extreme users with the “Trekkie” type.

Lorcan was a huge sci-fi fan and so the purpose of the redesigned telephone needed to meet the needs of a modern day techie. I think the benefit of developing an extreme user meant the solution could potentially draw on avant garde technology. This would different to normal conventions on ideation as within this realm, a designer may focus on simple design changes to meet needs, whereas extreme user ideation could disrupt convention, leading the designer to create new and different concepts to completely rethink how we use technology and objects.

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?

I feel that the storyboard technique helped most extensively as the focus here was on simply and concisely conveying the purpose of the concept and the needs being met of the user. Further, by having a visual format of the concept, I was able to explain to my group the intended purpose of the design more clearly, rather than having to process through the rigmarole of written explanation.

Blog Reflections 3: Creating Personas (Rhys AKA rhob8617)

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?

This exercise initially required two group members to explore their interaction with an experience. We decided to focus on our last experience going to the supermarket. I found this process pulled together a significant amount of information that on face value, was only sporadically linked. Once we brought together the other two group member’s data it became obvious that we had two potential personas, each sitting on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of expectations, frustrations, quality and frequency of shopping.

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 final persona that we had created (formed from my interview data and one other group member) had somewhat covered the majority of our user needs to facilitate empathy, however, we did need to gloss over feedback that we had deemed as minor and unimportant. I think the limited amount of user feedback is the main aspect that would need to change to make this process better. A larger number of users interviewed would allow for us to find more detailed patterns within the data which would have provided stronger personas.

Blog Reflections 2: Interpreting Data (Rhys AKA rhob8617)

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

I found that this exercise didn’t so much as make me empathise with the prospective users, but actually made me look to understand the meaning and real needs behind recorded commentary. For instance, one user had greater commentary on the difficulties of navigating through a foreign town, however, his real issues focused on the ability to find shops that met his immediate needs, such as feeding his daughter. Although he had initially commented on the frustrations of traffic, his real need was food, not a navigable town.

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

By placing the information obtained in to clusters, we were able to find patterns that eventually formed the needs of the users. If we were to have left these as a random assortment of data, it would have been impossible to find solutions. Each stage of clustering helped us to hone in on the real needs of the users and also enabled us to remove the outlier comments that would otherwise have been white noise through the design process.

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

The biggest difficulty I found with the technique was the need to find a solution once the data was obtained. I feel that this technique would be tremendously helpful had we had an initial need in mind, such as more intuitive navigation, or, how to improve GPS feedback. If we had a goal in mind we would have focussed more clearly on the indicators in the user feedback that appeared to underscore frustrations with the preplanned need in mind. Aside from this, we all had our interpretations of the potential needs of the users. This meant that one of us might have seen a cluster of needs focused on town planning, whereas another designer might have seen this same clusters as a focus on improved GPS navigation.

The sole thing I would have done to improve this technique would be to have a planned goal in mind. I think that if we had an intended purpose to the information we were obtaining, it would have been easier to find the patterns of data that related to finding a solution.

 

Blog Reflections 1: Sketching as a Thinking Tool (Rhys AKA rhob8617)

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

Sketchnoting differs to tradition note taking in that it utilises both written and visual communication to assist the author with delivering his or her message. Particularly, sketchnoting enables the condensation of complex creative ideas down to simple symbols, words and shapes. This is particularly useful as it enables the reader to readily understand the “bigger picture” or macro-level of information being noted down. Using my “Making a Toastie” sketchnote, this technique benefits the reader by showing what each stage should look like prior to moving on to the next step.

Traditional note taking relies solely on communicating through language to deliver a particular message to the reader. Often, this requires more information to enable the reader to “visualise” the concept especially with the initial stages of understanding complex ideas and concepts. Understandably, traditional note taking is best utilised when micro-level information is required to provide more detail of stages of a concept whereby a visual might not provide sufficient information. In reference to my sketchnote, the traditional note taking is represented in the Method section, which assists the reader in interpreting what is required at each step.

 

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

Broadly speaking from a reader’s perspective, I found that this visual approach helped simplify the required end-result of each complex stage of a concept. Further, visuals can often transcend language, meaning that by drawing each stage, the reader does not necessarily need to be able to communicate in the same language as the author. This has been extensively achieved by Ikea furniture that relies on high-quality visuals to help users of various backgrounds and languages understand the stages of the furniture building process.

Looking from the author’s perspective, by creating a visual, they can help trigger memories of detail that might have been excluded from the sketchnote or simply forgotten during the note taking process. In the example of the toastie, seeing melted cheese extruding from the sandwich reminds the author that the toastie needs to be cooked, not just simply placed in a sandwich toaster and then eaten cold.

Sketchnoting does have limitations both from the symbolism behind each visual as well as the limited skill of the note taker. If the notes are to be shared with someone beyond the author, then multiple audiences need to be considered when taking the notes. If a shape or sketch is not carefully considered, the author could represent an entirely different idea within their drawing. For example, if an author was to the draw the traditional “A-Okay” hand gesture whereby the index and thumb create a circle with the remaining fingers pointing forward, they would assume that in a Western-English speaking country, they were implying that something is good or complete. However, if their audience is Eastern-European or South American, they would in-fact be symbolising a particular body part as well making a sexual-slur. Therefore the author needs to carefully consider the audience whom would be interpreting their sketchnotes.

Moreover, limited skill with a pencil can make sketchnoting difficult and at times impossible. If the author cannot draw the intended idea and other words or symbols are too difficult to convey, then the concept may be lost to the audience. Unlike handwriting, sketchnoting clearly needs ongoing practice to ensure fast and simple visuals are created to convey the message.

 

  1. Personal challenges as a sketchnoter.

My personal challenge is certainly that I’m a lousy sketcher! Where this can be a disadvantage is that I would need more time to consider the layout of my sketchnote to ensure I create an overall visual that is easy to understand and interpret. This can be difficult when sketchnoting a presentation as I would most likely miss key information from what is being presented as I try my hardest to make my stick-figure man look less like a potato and more like a simplified human.

That said I believe the key to overcoming this is practice and planning for the end-result prior to commencing sketching. If you have a good understanding of your goal – whether it’s simplifying a recipe or condensing the concept of wearable tech to enable the deaf to hear – then you will be able to succinctly pull together both visual and written information to summarise in a satisfactory and easily interpreted manner.

. . .

 

Below is my sketchnote, “How to Make a Toastie” which employs both visual and written information to convey the steps of the recipe process.

Sketchnoting as a Thinking Tool.jpg

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