Design research methods are themselves “products” that need to be designed for different audiences, purposes and contexts – it really does all depend on what you want to do
(Eric Dishman: “Designing for the new old” in Brenda Laurel’s “Design Research: Methods and Perspectives)
The paradox of design research
Both empirical and imaginative:
Must go beyond what is visible…
Yet grounded in the context of use…
From insight to performance:
Ethnographic field methods
“ Informance”: performance, design improvisation for new kind of products or completely unknown users …(Bonnie Johnson in Design Research )
Originally from anthropology…
Different forms of participant observation
Contextual: immersing in the flow of everyday life
Guided: shadowing, following people and activities
Engaging in an activity to observe when engagement is not possible
Different for design (time, resources, objectives)
Needs to have focus/ structure to collect useful information for a design (e.g. observing social interactions, use of objects, behaviours, use of space - these can be headings, representing research questions)
Photographs, video recording
Still image diaries
Notes on an observation sheet (1 per person or group)
Mapping, sketches, of places and people
Illustrating particular points of interest
Time-based recordings: observing change or processes taking place over time
How does observation inform design?
What you make it out is crucial:
Looking for patterns or exceptions
Observation >interpretation > inspiration
Communicating observations to a team
Susani, M. (2002). Mapping communication. Flow . Amsterdam, Doors of Perception. 2004: Conference report.
Word of mouth Intimate Daisy The fish Butterfly
… photo strips/ diaries
details of everyday
VIDEO: In the land of the deaf – Nicolas Philibert, France, 1992
Two situations: deaf kids learning sign language and deaf adults learning sign language
How are these two stories told? In what ways are they different?
What does the filmmaker try to illustrate?
What kind of observations can we make out of this?
VIDEO: Lift – Marc Isaacs, United Kindom, 2001
The filmmaker spends a few weeks in the lift of a London apartment block
In what way is the observation study different from the previous film?
What is the film maker trying to achieve and how?
What kind of detailed observations can we make out of this?
Observation <……………..> Intervention
When do you need to be a hidden shadow and when do you need to engage with people?
Mapping observations - previous experience?
Different ways of representing space, movement and changes in time
Time-based sampling to get a sense of change
Use of maps as a creative process
Choose a site of production (one already visited, or which you know) and plan a research visit:
1) What would be some interesting questions/points to investigate?
2) Which kind of observation would be appropriate?
3) Plan a script to capture specific activities (e.g. time-based filming, interview in situation, still photo diary)
4) Think of different questions you would like to ask people - try them out with others
Observation + time-based mapping
45 mins - choose a production process (workshop in Design or coffee making)
Identify a role: ‘fly on the wall’ or active participant
Time based maps: one for 10 minutes of activity, two for 5 minutes and two for a minute of activity
Identify ‘characters’ based on their role in the process and typical (or unusual) behaviours