IDEA9106 Design Thinking

Design is a state of mind



SVAN5515 – Blog Reflection Week 10

How did thinking in terms of shots and scenes influence your approach to communicating your design concept?I think that using a cinematic language of framing gave me pause for thought as to which aspects of the concept were most intuititve because I had to figure out how to effectively convey functions visually within very few frames. It was actually the exercise of inserting the personas into the scenarios and marrying them together with design concepts that actually helped me to explore my ideas with more clarity and notice additional user needs. In shory, I had been thinking of my concepts in a vacuum, but through storyboarding I contextualized them for the first time and this revealed new design opportunities.

What motivated your choice of storyline structure? Can you think of an exemplar from a film that uses the same structure? From the beginning I had a vision in my minds eye as to what my storyboard should look like sequentially, but learning the different type of shots that are used helped me to refine my ideas by being more aware of how to steer the audience’s thinking and direct their focus to certain features of my design concept using visual cues and framing devices. The sequence I settled on started with an accident to grab the viewer’s attention and engage them via a sense of drama, before going on to create other vignettes of applications of the concept. This is a Hollywood trope, but it doesn’t relate to any one source in particular. During class, my group used the 6-question technique to challenge the initial sequence we had in mind, by working with team members to play around with different sequential options and hear their ideas.

What choices did you make about audience and style? Were they related? Accessibility is a key priority for the design concept my team will be presenting: a device to aid road-safety training for floating populations and new migrants to Sydney; the product focuses on increasing competency to overcome fear. Therefore, a low-fi aesthetic and relatable contexts were chosen, with a friendly narrative. This is opposed to a slick aesthetic and emphasis on luxury features that I may have selected if I were targeting an affluent audience with a high-end product.

References: Tognazzi, B. (1994). The ‘Starfire’ video prototype project: a case history in Proceedings’    visited 10/10/16


SVAN5515 – Week 9 Tutorial reflection


Choose one of the objects that you selected and describe how your initial understanding of its initial affordances changed over the course of the exercise. Step 1 was sketching my three items (wooden pencil sharpener, cotton bud and a teaspoon). I found that by sketching the object, I was able to pinpoint which features were most characteristic and highlight these visually but annotating extended my consideration further and helped me to attune to other sensory properties (weight, texture, sound, materiality). Through interacting with the object, actively looking for other capacities for use and mentally inserting it into different contexts, I was able to distance myself from the way I am conditioned to interacting with the objects and come up with a wide range of alternative applications or affordances. I considered how different users might interact with the object, and these constraints and varying capacities helped me to be more creative in imagining how the functionality of the object might be improved for some user groups, with small adaptations to the design. For instance, I imagined that a person with a tremor could not use a teaspoon very well as lifting the spoon and scooping requires precision. I also tested whether right-handed people find it easier to use the pencil sharpener than I do, as someone who is left-handed.

Given that affordances is a relational property between a person and an object, how did the manipulation of the object and person’s abilities inform your understanding of the subject? Did it give you inspiration or insight for how to work with affordances as a designer? Discuss this through the specific objects you explored in the exercise. Gaver defines affordances thus: “Affordances are properties of the world that are compatible with and relevant for people’s interactions. When affordances are perceptible, they offer a direct link between perception and action; hidden and false affordances lead to mistakes” (Gaver 1991, P.79). From the perspective of Norman: “affordances reflect the possible relationships among actors and objects: they are properties of the world (Norman 1999, P.42). According to Gibson, “affordances are relationships. They exist naturally: they do not have to be visible, known, or desirable” (Gibson in Norman 1999, P. 39). To expand:

  • Perceptible affordances are obvious attributes with potentials that users perceive in their environment for action “without significant intermediate stages involving memory or inferences” (Gaver 1999, P.729).
  • False affordances are misleading signposts that suggest a capacity that an object does not have. “When apparent affordances suggest different actions than those for which the object is designed, errors are common and signs are necessary” (Gaver 1991, P.80).
  • Hidden affordances are when there is potential for action but these are not obvious to the user. “If there is no information available for an existing affordance, it is hidden and must be inferred from other evidence (Gaver 1991, P.80).

During Step 3 of the exercise I moved from sketching (observation) to tactile exploration. “Affordances are not passively perceived, but explored” (Gaver 1991, P.82). By imagining my objects reframed in different contexts (rooms of the house), as well as testing out their capacities in relation to my own body, I discovered the following alternative uses; many of which are not limited to the visual – “affordances may be perceived using other senses as well” (Norman 1999, P.82).

  • Teaspoon: perceptible affordances included measuring, stirring, scratching, hitting, turning (like an allen key), combing hair and making noises.
  • Cotton bud: cleaning ears, applying and removing dots, stirring, mark-making with paint or glue, mopping up small drips with absorbency (I also thought a kid might put it up their nose), rolling along a hard surface to massage the palm muscles.
  • Pencil sharpener: sharpening pencils, tiny instrument (especially if hit with spoon), pencil holder (if turned on the end). The pencil sharpener had a false affordance as it has a small hole at the end (probably to prevent graphite compacting at its end) however this suggests that something should be inserted into this hole, just as the larger hole does at the other end.

The second half of the tutorial, subverting artificial affordances was where I was able to apply the lessons of thinking using different perspectives and identifying hidden and false affordances of the objects. During this section, I practiced using my objects with a disability (only one arm, which was tethered to my body with Glad wrap and also using modified chopsticks to hinder functionality) and this allowed me to identify the primary affordances and explore constraints. My partner’s eyes were blindfolded using aluminum foil, which highlighted the non-visual perceptible affordances. We also subverted a complex object (a Swiss-army knife of cutlery) to limit its functionality, and we practiced exploring the uses of this strange object. We found the object retained most of its functionality, however it took on new affordances as a sculpture and shadow maker. I felt this process counteracted a tendency identified by Norman: the “designer cares more about what actions the user perceives to be possible than what is true” (Norman 1999, P. 39) and helped us to break free of the perceived affordances with the outcome of discovering hidden affordances and a consideration of ways to improve the original object.


Gaver, W. (1991). Technology affordances in Proceedings of the SIGHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’91) in Robertson, S. et al. New York, USA. ACM, Pp.79-84

Norman, D (1999). Affordance, conventions and design, Interactions 6 (21:4); Pp. 36-9

Wright, P., Wallace, J., and McCarthy, J. (2008). Aesthetics and experience-centered design, Computer-Human Interactions (15:4), Article 18 (November 2008)

SVAN5515 – Blog Reflection Week 8

What kinds of information and insights did it give you about the usability of the prototype? Although one is prototyping and the other is testing, what it has in common with body-storming is that the think-aloud user-testing technique is immediate, inexpensive and effective. It has enormous potential to quickly reveal usability issues and connect these challenges to the emotional impact on users.

As an observer, you are able to record challenges as they unfolding and identify user misconceptions which point to design elements that must be amended (Neilsen 2012). I think that the higher number of tests you do, the more effective and useful the technique becomes as it allows the tester to not only identify usability issues, but also to identify the most consistent user challenges and misconceptions and therefore prioritise which design elements most need to be altered. Three different scenarios and users were tested during the tutorial, and I think our team honed our observational skills and ability to narrate without self-editing our thoughts as we progressed through each exercise.

What aspects of the technique worked well or were frustrating? Speaking generally, an area of improvement for next time is that as invigilators, we gave into the temptation to intervene in the testing process and assist users who were really struggling to complete the task or to run our own commentary via interjections. In other words, at times we needed to “shut up and let the users do the talking” (Neilsen, 2012).

We also could have asked more prompting questions, rather than allowing users to fall silent at times, whilst they worked things out. Valuable data may have been lost as the monologue was internalized.

I think another pitfall when facilitating is learning to prompt neutrally, without asking leading questions that may influence the user’s behavior and skew the data collected. Neilsen called this “biasing user behaviour” and it takes some skill to exercise restraint as a facilitator (Neilsen 2012).

As an observer, when consciously looking for “clues” as to the user’s emotional state and reactions, I started to really question the accuracy of my interpretation of gestures as I became acutely aware of how different individuals express emotions through different expressions. This leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. For instance, a raised eyebrow in one user seemingly indicated puzzlement, and in another user it had indicated a totally different emotion: self-consciousness.

From the perspective of performing the testing tasks myself, it took some confidence to give an honest and unmediated monologue – the temptation was to fall into silence when challenged, and I also had to push against my ego, and resist the urge to suppress comments that I feared would make me sound stupid. I just had to force myself to get over this, but I think if I had been in a more formal environment with strangers testing me, I would have felt even more self-conscious.

If I were designing the test for my own project, I think I would have also ensured that I scoped the user testing more effectively and communicated key aspects that I wanted to test with the other team members (Greenberg 2012. P.236). I am not sure that we were clear from the brief about what particular aspects of the websites or user behavior we wanted to pay specific attention to, instead we tried to record every single reaction to the set task, which was challenging even with the benefit of reviewing videos.


Neilsen, J. (16 January 2012). Thinking Aloud: The #1 Usability Tool.

visited 19 September 2016

Greenberg, S. et al (2012). ‘Think Aloud’ in Sketching User Experiences; The Workbook, Elsevier, Chapter 6.3, Pp.235-40


SVAN5515 Blog Reflection – Week 7

 How did physically acting out help to explore ideas? Bodystorming is what we call “use-case theater”. It involves prototyping the space and place of your product’s use by employing living personas or “actors” and “props.” (Schleicher 2000, P.48). Bodystorming is a generative and exploratory research method that uses the body to physically sketch a scenario, to identify “gaps and opportunities” (Schleicher 2000, P.49).

Enacting the cramped airplane situation enabled our team to access memories about the context and recall some of the constraints and pain points that we had physically experienced. This allowed us to think using our senses, not just mental imagery.

Using a team to bodystorm helps to identify a broader range need states than if a single participant were to approach a problem. “Need states are conditions of a situation that require satisfaction or reveal a breakdown” (Schleicher 2000, P.49). The process also generates a collective vision and ensures there is ‘buy-in’ from the design team when approaching a problem and its context.

Did you refine your ideas and solutions to the problem through body-storming? In what way? Bodystorming is rapid prototyping: with multiple ‘takes’ allowing the same scenario to be explored from a range of perspectives and new ideas can be inserted and tested with small tweaks to the scenario, rapidly and with little expense (Schleicher 2000, Pp.47-48). Therefore, as the same scenario was enacted multiple times, problems were fleshed out and early concept solutions could be tested in real time.

What was difficult or challenging about bodystorming? As a bit of an introvert, I thought this was going to be a very intimidating exercise if everyone in my team were observing me attempting to act out a scenario. However, I was pleasantly surprised about how confident I felt, because multiple team members were enacting a scenario we were able to respond to each other and the experience became a comfortable dialogue and exchange. Perhaps because the team members shared a certain degree of overlap in our experience of air-travel (eg we all travel economy) there was a degree of confluence in the way we constructed the scene. However, had one team member been more accustomed to a different experience, perhaps first class travel, it would have been more difficult to collaborate on structuring the problem and uncover the main need states. Then again, perhaps we were in danger of encountering “group think” because we shared similar perspectives, and perhaps we needed some diversity to create a productive state of disruption to uncover latent needs?

Does bodystorming lend itself to certain types of problems?Bodystorming has different modes, as outlined by Schleicher, however “use-case theatre” is most suited to problems where behavioural responses need to be identified, and I think it is particularly powerful in articulating problems where senses beyond just the visual come into play. For instance, simulating air travel was very suitable because we were able to enact and detail physical discomfort and map reactions to that. Body-storming offers an immediacy and cultivates a first-person understanding of the experience of that contex within the designer, which is much harder to achieve from observational ethnography (Schleicher 2000, P.49). “An effective bodystorm is one that captures the need state, highlights the breakdowns, and shows how the change in process (the designed aspect) satisfies the perceived problems” (Schleicher 2000, P.49).

Reference: Buchenau, M. and Suri, J. (2000). Experience Prototyping in Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices and Techniques, ACM Press, New York, Pp: 424-433

SMALL-SVAN5515-Assessment 1_Summary Poster

svan5515 – Blog Reflection Week 5

IMG_4098Reflect on your experience of the ideation exercise by answering the following questions:

  • 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?

I have been reflecting on the experience of the Extreme User over the past week, as it shifted my perspective somewhat, not just during the class, but also filtering out into the world beyond that timeframe.

After completing the activity, I noticed that everyone in my group had chosen a character with whom they shared a gender. I started to question whether I am empathic enough to be able to occupy a male character; whether I have the ability to occupy that experience meaningfully and with true empathy and nuance. I wonder how I could push this a little to expand my capacity for empathy? Perhaps visual enthnography and shadowing a male could help?

I also noticed that we all had many ideas initially, to fit the design brief of converting the old payphone, but as we began to put on the shoes of our characters, more and more lateral ideas sprung forth. I also noticed, when I started out I began with a bit of a cynical caricature of a “do-gooder”, but the more I fleshed out the details of “Marilyn” the less I sneered at her, and the more I began to understand her caring disposition. In a small way, this was quite moving. I would say that I usually ideate from my own perspective, and then move onto an “iterative” prototyping process and ask for feedback from others, but this Extreme User technique actually pushed me to be more creative and generative as I moved my thinking into realms I would not usually have access to, when thinking as me.

  • Did any of the other design thinking techniques (design provocation, cards, stories, storyboards etc.) help you to work through ideas an collaborate with your group members?

My group had very fertile imaginations and there were many ideas generated in response to this brief, so the provocation cards were not used initially. However, once we introduced new criteria (such as the character must have a dark side) that is when our characters began to nuance and become convincing. I found that provocation cards would be good to help shift gears in the brain, to prevent “dead end” ideas but I actually found that storyboarding was the most effective technique to help me develop a narrative for my character – because I had to come up with imagery and a setting for the character, and then to think about how the user would react and what behaviors and thought processes to attach. Having said that though, I am very SLOW when it comes to drawing, and whenever it comes to rapid sketching, I do a terrible job because I get hung up on capturing detail and rather than semi-abstracting. On the up side though, I think I found my figurative “sketchnoting” style – using Isotypes, as part of concept mapping during the research report for assignment 1.

Reference:, visited 30/08/16


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