Generative Design Research Methods

Lauren Serota
Professor, Austin Center for Design
Synthesis

Ethnography

ideate

identify problem
or opportunity area

discover

Prototyping

refine

iterate

implement

va...
Generative Research
To inspire new ideas and provide
context for existing ones.

discover
Evaluative Research
To make sure the idea you’ve chosen is on
the mark, compelling, useful and usable.

validate
Traceable inspiration

The insights we gain early
on become the conceptual
foundation for the
project....

And create a co...
Research Methods

Evaluative Research:


When you already have ideas
To drive incremental improvements (evolution)
Do people like the way my design looks? 
I have a developed idea for a design solution. Is it the right one? 
“How can I i...
Research Methods

Generative Research:
When you need ideas
To drive innovation (revolution)
The public transit options we have in our city aren’t working. What new
transit experience might we create?”
It is difficult...
Research Methods
Generative methods we re going to cover today:


Focus Group
Interview
Immersion
Participatory Research
C...
Research Methods
Let’s talk about:


Focus Group
Interview
Immersion
Participatory Research
Contextual Inquiry
Research Methods - Focus Groups

A group session where people are asked to express and discuss
their perceptions, opinions...
Research Methods - Focus Groups
What are some advantages of conducting a Focus Group?


Controlled Environment
Attain cons...
Research Methods - Focus Groups
What are some disadvantages of conducting a Focus Group?


Lack of Context
Introduction of...
Research Methods
Let’s talk about:


Focus Group
Interview
Immersion
Participatory Research
Contextual Inquiry
A conversation, typically between 2 people, where the
interviewer asks questions to elicit facts or
recollections of exper...
Research Methods - Interviews
What are some advantages of conducting Interviews?


Can happen anywhere
More intimate than ...
Research Methods - Focus Groups
What are some disadvantages of conducting Interviews?


Lack of Context
Interviewer / Inte...
Research Methods
Let’s talk about:


Focus Group
Interview
Immersion
Participatory Research
Contextual Inquiry
Immersion involves the researcher actually becoming the user adopting their lifestyle and activities for a period of time ...
Research Methods - Interviews
What are some advantages of Immersions?


As close to emotional empathy as you can get
Treme...
Research Methods - Focus Groups
What are some disadvantages of Immersions?


Very time consuming
Heavily reliant on reflect...
Research Methods
Let’s talk about:


Focus Group
Interview
Immersion
Participatory Research

(aka Participatory Design, Co...
Participatory Research considers the user as a part of the
creative process, providing them tools to descriptively discuss...
Research Methods - Participatory

The research team creates tools
(stimulus) that provide the participant a
“vocabulary” t...
Timeline Activity: Allows participants to express a particular
experience over time, including key influencers, barriers an...
Journaling: A pre-interview activity which prepares the
participant to discuss a topic with the team. Documents discreet
m...
Word/Image Stimulus: Representing a broad range of emotions
and attributes, these are tools for participants to use as a
“...
Research Methods - Interviews
What are some advantages of Participatory Research?


Learn users’ aspirations and an ideal ...
Research Methods - Focus Groups
What are some disadvantages of Participatory Research?


Difficult to facilitate
Highly depe...
Research Methods
Finally, let’s talk about:


Focus Group
Interview
Immersion
Participatory Research
Contextual Inquiry
Contextual Inquiry is an ethnographic method in which
individuals are actively observed doing a task or activity in the
na...
Four principles of Contextual Inquiry:

Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry
1. Focus 
2. Context
3. Partnership
4. Inter...
1. Focus

Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry
A perspective, based on a set of preconceived assumptions and beliefs. Set...
2. Context

Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry
Understanding work in its natural
environment.


Why is context importan...
The image cannot be displayed. Your computer may not have enough memory to open the image, or the image may have been corr...
3. Partnership

Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry
Establishing a Master/Apprentice
relationship.


Why is this relatio...
An apprentice is eager to learn, and makes the master feel
“masterful.” It also forces the master to explain things in gre...
4. Interpretation

Research Methods - Contextual
Discuss your interpretations with the user,
Inquiry
and watch for hidden ...
In this example, the word “wanton” has elicited people in
different parts of the world to draw different things.
Research Methods - Interviews
What are some advantages of Contextual Inquiry?


Observing unspoken behaviors & relationshi...
Research Methods - Focus Groups
What are some disadvantages of Contextual Inquiry?


You can only see what’s happening rig...
In my experience…

Research Methods - Focus Groups
When consultants do design research, it
consists of Contextual Inquiry ...
Lauren Serota
Professor, Austin Center for Design
lserota@ac4d.com


Download our free book,
Wicked Problems: Problems Wor...
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AC4D design library generative research design methods

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teaching Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship
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AC4D design library generative research design methods

  1. 1. Generative Design Research Methods Lauren Serota Professor, Austin Center for Design
  2. 2. Synthesis Ethnography ideate identify problem or opportunity area discover Prototyping refine iterate implement validate
  3. 3. Generative Research To inspire new ideas and provide context for existing ones. discover
  4. 4. Evaluative Research To make sure the idea you’ve chosen is on the mark, compelling, useful and usable. validate
  5. 5. Traceable inspiration The insights we gain early on become the conceptual foundation for the project.... And create a compelling story for maintaining design integrity through production.
  6. 6. Research Methods Evaluative Research: When you already have ideas To drive incremental improvements (evolution)
  7. 7. Do people like the way my design looks? I have a developed idea for a design solution. Is it the right one? “How can I improve the usability of my product?” We have a product out, but want to make a new version that is better.
  8. 8. Research Methods Generative Research: When you need ideas To drive innovation (revolution)
  9. 9. The public transit options we have in our city aren’t working. What new transit experience might we create?” It is difficult to get women to visit clinics in rural Africa. What are the barriers and how can they be overcome? My company creates commercial HVAC systems, but wants to break into the consumer market. Where are there areas to innovate in this space? “What is the healthcare experience of people with chronic illnesses?”
  10. 10. Research Methods Generative methods we re going to cover today: Focus Group Interview Immersion Participatory Research Contextual Inquiry
  11. 11. Research Methods Let’s talk about: Focus Group Interview Immersion Participatory Research Contextual Inquiry
  12. 12. Research Methods - Focus Groups A group session where people are asked to express and discuss their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards an idea/product.
  13. 13. Research Methods - Focus Groups What are some advantages of conducting a Focus Group? Controlled Environment Attain consensus or dissent from multiple people Productive & collaborative group dynamics “More” data for cheaper in less time
  14. 14. Research Methods - Focus Groups What are some disadvantages of conducting a Focus Group? Lack of Context Introduction of biases and influence Showy or destructive group dynamics Difficult to moderate & facilitate Less rich, descriptive data
  15. 15. Research Methods Let’s talk about: Focus Group Interview Immersion Participatory Research Contextual Inquiry
  16. 16. A conversation, typically between 2 people, where the interviewer asks questions to elicit facts or recollections of experiences from the interviewee.
  17. 17. Research Methods - Interviews What are some advantages of conducting Interviews? Can happen anywhere More intimate than a Focus Group Great for topics that are not context-specific Data can be shared easily
  18. 18. Research Methods - Focus Groups What are some disadvantages of conducting Interviews? Lack of Context Interviewer / Interviewee relationship Entirely based on what the interviewer asks Entirely based on what the interviewee says
  19. 19. Research Methods Let’s talk about: Focus Group Interview Immersion Participatory Research Contextual Inquiry
  20. 20. Immersion involves the researcher actually becoming the user adopting their lifestyle and activities for a period of time in order to understand their logic and emotions.
  21. 21. Research Methods - Interviews What are some advantages of Immersions? As close to emotional empathy as you can get Tremendous amount of context Experiences can be translated literally to design Your experience is your data
  22. 22. Research Methods - Focus Groups What are some disadvantages of Immersions? Very time consuming Heavily reliant on reflection Individual experience, difficult for group participation Your experience is your only data
  23. 23. Research Methods Let’s talk about: Focus Group Interview Immersion Participatory Research (aka Participatory Design, Co-Creation, Co-Design) Contextual Inquiry
  24. 24. Participatory Research considers the user as a part of the creative process, providing them tools to descriptively discuss their experiences and express solutions.
  25. 25. Research Methods - Participatory The research team creates tools (stimulus) that provide the participant a “vocabulary” to articulate their experiences.
  26. 26. Timeline Activity: Allows participants to express a particular experience over time, including key influencers, barriers and successes.
  27. 27. Journaling: A pre-interview activity which prepares the participant to discuss a topic with the team. Documents discreet moments over time days/weeks before the session.
  28. 28. Word/Image Stimulus: Representing a broad range of emotions and attributes, these are tools for participants to use as a “vocabulary” to discuss their experiences.
  29. 29. Research Methods - Interviews What are some advantages of Participatory Research? Learn users’ aspirations and an ideal state Understand perception of the future Get creative ideas directly from the users Clear articulation of data (semantic definition)
  30. 30. Research Methods - Focus Groups What are some disadvantages of Participatory Research? Difficult to facilitate Highly dependent on an articulate user Significant prep work / material production Heavy synthesis & interpretation needed
  31. 31. Research Methods Finally, let’s talk about: Focus Group Interview Immersion Participatory Research Contextual Inquiry
  32. 32. Contextual Inquiry is an ethnographic method in which individuals are actively observed doing a task or activity in the natural context of use.
  33. 33. Four principles of Contextual Inquiry: Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry 1. Focus 2. Context 3. Partnership 4. Interpretation
  34. 34. 1. Focus Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry A perspective, based on a set of preconceived assumptions and beliefs. Sets the scope for your research. Why is focus important? Directs the selection of participants and research plan creation. Helps manage limited interview time. Directs questioning towards a goal. Creates understanding. Keeps the conversation from becoming too broad.
  35. 35. 2. Context Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry Understanding work in its natural environment. Why is context important? See/smell/feel where the work is done. Observe real things, where they are really done. Discover details and intricacies of the setting (social interactions, physical artifacts). Be confident that you are observing and recording concrete, real data.
  36. 36. The image cannot be displayed. Your computer may not have enough memory to open the image, or the image may have been corrupted. Restart your computer, and then open the file again. If the red x still appears, you may have to delete the image and then insert it again. Construction “rookies:” This illuminating story about the clothing mishaps of rookies on the job would have been lost, had we not been there to see it first-hand.
  37. 37. 3. Partnership Research Methods - Contextual Inquiry Establishing a Master/Apprentice relationship. Why is this relationship important? Encourages users to share their expertise. Invites the user into the inquiry process as a participant rather than a subject. Forces you (the team) to suspend your assumptions and beliefs. Forces you to not “teach” the user the right thing (never ever correct them!)
  38. 38. An apprentice is eager to learn, and makes the master feel “masterful.” It also forces the master to explain things in great detail, and with patience. (Photo borrowed from Girls’ Guild)
  39. 39. 4. Interpretation Research Methods - Contextual Discuss your interpretations with the user, Inquiry and watch for hidden signals that your interpretation may be wrong. Why is interpretation important? Definitions of words vary from person to person. We cannot assume that why we do things is why the user is doing them. It reinforces us as Apprentices. It gives the user an opportunity to clarify, correct or show us again.
  40. 40. In this example, the word “wanton” has elicited people in different parts of the world to draw different things.
  41. 41. Research Methods - Interviews What are some advantages of Contextual Inquiry? Observing unspoken behaviors & relationships See the richness of an activity in context Understand all environmental elements of the user’s experience Empowered participants “teach”
  42. 42. Research Methods - Focus Groups What are some disadvantages of Contextual Inquiry? You can only see what’s happening right now Challenging logistics Needs a flexible and experienced researcher
  43. 43. In my experience… Research Methods - Focus Groups When consultants do design research, it consists of Contextual Inquiry (or some form of it), a Participatory exercise, and sometimes a pre-inquiry phone interview. Later today we will discuss how to mix these up (when we discuss Research Planning).
  44. 44. Lauren Serota Professor, Austin Center for Design lserota@ac4d.com Download our free book, Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving, at http://www.wickedproblems.com
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