FOR YOUNG DESIGNERS
WAYS OF BRIDGING COMMUNICATION
BETWEEN THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE TEAM
IN COLLABORATIVE DESIGN
PREM PIRAPALA CHANDRAN
Thesis Project (August 2011)
INTERACTION DESIGN MASTER AT K3
MALMÖ UNIVERSITY, SWEDEN
PREM PIRAPALA CHANDRAN
Thesis Project (August 23rd
Supervisor: METTE AGGER ERIKSEN
Examiner: Susan Kozel
INTERACTION DESIGN MASTER AT K3
MALMÖ UNIVERSITY, SWEDEN
I am indebted to the following people who have made this work possible.
My supervisor Mette Agger Eriksen, for her invaluable expert advice over our emails and
conversations on Skype.
My classmates from Masters in Interaction Design for making my time in Malmo warm enough to
last me through the cold winters.
The teachers of K3 that I have come to know. Thank you for sharing your experiences and
knowledge with us.
The team of budding interaction designers (Ian Low, Jonathan Tok, Abner Wong & Benjamin Wong)
whom I had the pleasure of teaching to and learning from. This project would not have been possible
without their willingness to participate and contribute ideas. The hurdles I faced in getting them to
work as a team motivated me to be more imaginative with my experiments.
To my brother Ravi, for standing by me to pick me up whenever I fall.
Thank you for everything.
Chapter 1 Early Ambitions Pg 1
1.1 Project Motivation
1.2 Related Work
1.3 Problem Formulation
Chapter 2 Background of Design Teaching Pg 8
2.1 What is Design?
2.2 What is Design and Technology? (as a subject taught in Singapore Schools)
2.3 What is Interaction Design?
2.4 Learning perspectives for Teaching Interaction Design
2.5 The Challenges in Teaching Interaction Design
Chapter 3 Workshops with Students Pg 16
3.1 Field studies with interaction designers
3.2 Forming an Interaction Design Team
3.3 Background of Workshop Teaching approach
3.4 Design Process and Time Frame of Project
3.5 Design Theories taught to and applied by students
3.6 Workshop 1 & 2- Setting the Context for Design (Using W5H) with Brainstorming
3.7 Workshop 3- Getting Feedback from ‘outsiders’
3.8 Workshop 4- Empathising using Social Media (Facebook) as a platform
3.9 Workshop 5- Body-storming using Navigation Devices
3.10 Workshop 6- Prototyping-“Technical Skills for Interaction Designers”
3.11 Workshop 7- Experience Prototyping and User Testing
3.12 Problems and Hurdles Faced during Workshops
Chapter 4 Reflections from Workshops Pg 45
4.1 Teaching Style
Chapter 5 Conclusions Pg 47
5.1 Revisiting the problem formulation
5.2 Discussion about Teacher’s role in scaffolding interaction design
Chapter 6 Future work Pg 55
Appendix Pg 58
1- Initial Teaching Plan for Interaction Design Workshops
Teaching aids for Interaction Design created by (teacher-facilitator)
2- Persona Worksheet
4- Sym Tools (Bubble Stickers for Sympathising with user/persona)
5- Prototyping Exercise Worksheet
Prototypes Created by students
6 – QR codes placed on Placemarkers
7 – Iterative stages of map design
8 – Final Design of Interactive map (with QR codes) created by students
How does an interaction designer pass on their skills in a knowledgeable way to
students who are unfamiliar with interaction design so they too can perform as
In this thesis, I have explored this question within the set of staging an interaction
design project for students to come together and collaborate on as a team.
This thesis contends that the work of a teacher of interaction design also entails
work as an interaction designer in finding novel ways of engaging students in
meaningful design. Intervention from the teacher is necessary when students are
not creating their own design materials to work with. For such situations, it is
necessary to scaffold the conceptual tools and techniques peculiar to interaction
design with tangible aids or ‘props’ as prototypes to find effective ways to elicit
and trigger design thinking from the students. This is to initiate their design
process so that students can construct their own design space with design
constraints. The teacher will find himself moving from roles of a facilitator to an
interaction designer as he grapples with the design context the students are
designing for and understands his students and their patterns of engaging in
design dialogue. Along the way, the teacher tests and fine‐tunes his tangible tools.
He draws on his experience to create resources appropriate to the design context,
exposing the student team to relevant examples to motivate them in exploring the
design space with greater depth and wider scope so that the students can critique
their own ideas and make design decisions as a team.
Ultimately the teacher learns that the facilitation of interaction skills needs to be
crafted concurrently with the design context for there to be progress made by the
students. When the interaction design methods are not being applied by the
students, the teacher has to experiment with other approaches that will inspire
the students to start designing with sympathy for their user. Ideally the teacher
should look to ways of placing the students in the shoes of the users they are
designing for to evoke a sense of empathy for the needs of the user their design
could aim to satisfy.
How can interaction design be staged for a collaborative studio practice for young
This thesis on group design methodologies peculiar to the field of interaction design
seeks to answer this questions by investigating how a team of young beginning
designers respond to methods and techniques of interaction design (IxD) in the
context of designing for a real problem. In my role as a teacher facilitator, I
investigate approaches to bridge their communication gaps and create dialogue
between team members in relation to the design context for them to design
Based on the observations of the workshops, I find that while an interaction design
curriculum could be planned as a discrete series of design methods and techniques
to be imparted to beginning designers, these design methodologies are more
effectively staged by framing emphatic experiences for these designers around the
context of the actual design problem. Student motivation and interest around the
design context is enhanced when scaffold using social media and tangible aids to
ground imagination. Gaps in team dynamics and communication are bridged when
such tangible aids are left open to co-construction for a shared manifestation in their
‘Empathy for the user’ is a recurring skill for interaction designers to externalize in
their design process to design purposefully. In terms of knowledge contribution, this
project shows the potential of methodologies in Interaction Design to be taught to
beginning young designers though tools to elicit design dialogue in engaging styles
to foster collaborative meaningful design.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those
who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler
It is always useful for the reader to understand the motivations and context for a thesis project.
In this chapter I explain my interest in pursuing this project of imparting Interaction Design
skills to beginning young designers for the reader to understand why I feel there is a cause for
teaching interaction design for the greater good of design education in preparing designers for
making a difference to the world for the better.
I come from a product design teaching background having taught students (12-16 years old).
My motivation is to engage these students in collaborative team work where they were
thinking and acting as interaction designers. I wanted to see how they respond to designing
for a real problem and cooperate with each other to realise the design they had
conceptualised using interaction design techniques. The learning for me is to understand how
interaction design skills can be meaningfully imparted to these students and how collaborative
team dynamics can be encouraged.
I have entitled my thesis as such because of the nature of teaching design to students without
design background. “Scaffolding” is a teaching technique to support and motivate learning
when concepts and skills are being first introduced to the students. In my product design
teaching such supports may come in tangible forms such as templates and guides or
something conceptual such as exemplars or guided tasks that can assist the student in picking
up the design skills. For teaching interaction design, I am looking at how I can support the
learning of skills by the students in a way that motivates them to make design decisions
independently and collaboratively as a team.
1.1 Project Motivation
My motivation for embarking on this project is two-fold. Firstly, it was my experience with
teaching a subject known as “Design and Technology” in Singapore. During student project-
work for this subject, my observations of the students were that they tend to work on their own
and their design focused on physical form and function. The nature of the subject content and
examination modes demanded their exposure to workshop technical processes using tools
and equipment which tested their artisan skills at applying the technologies of structures,
mechanisms or electronics to fabricate a 3D artifact that has tangible functional product value.
The skills focus on sketching and modifying physical form to adapt its façade to fit it to a
desired use. When stepping back to look at the design process, in many ways I feel that the
focus of the design process anchors solely on the outcome of the physical nature of the
product serving its functionality.
The image shows an example of my student’s work in designing an artifact that can pick up
balls fast from the practice range. He uses the inspiration he gets from the rolling action of a
fabric cutter, adapting that movement to the product form he has in mind.
Secondly, I am intrigued by the nature of the design process in Interaction Design. There is a
focuse on the use qualities where desirable features in the interaction with a digital product or
service are conceptualized, inspired to enable humans to experience reality differently. The
experience is not something conformed to a static 3D form as in the product in Design and
Technology, but has a wider context in its effects on human behavior such as in service
design and critical design. It also anticipates how the products and services will mediate
human relationships and affect human understanding.
To contrast the outcomes between design processes that take place between Design &
Technology and Interaction Design, I compare a product students of mine have made in
Design & Technology and a project I had worked on the Masters in Interaction Design course
at Malmö University.
Page from a student’s portfolio
There is no fair way to compare design project outcomes which are using different modes of
design thinking and design processes. However it can be said that the sound installation
project has a degree of complexity and consequence in its design that provokes people who
interact with it in a richer and more dynamic way than the USB lamp. It leaves an impact on
the user as an ‘experience’ which is non-functional in the traditional utilitarian way, In
“Travelling voices”, the memory of sounds from the city is recollected in a unusual setting of a
toy train that engages the users in a thought-provoking way. It creates a fresh experience of
background city sounds that would normally be ignored. The project stands out from the desk
tidy because of the design techniques that were explored to arrive at the final form. We
worked as a team where we brainstormed for ideas of the experience. We debated about the
qualities for the desired experience. We bodystormed using props in the classroom. We did
sound ethnographic studies at the different locations to pick out the sound qualities peculiar to
the location that reminded people what was distinct about the location. We prototyped the
experience using the sound recordings we made and tested the experience with users to fine-
tune the physical nature of the experience before the fabrication of the final installation.
Above all, my learning was how we pooled our different talents and skills into the project
leading to its completion and success. In the design process, conflicts arose during our
at Malmo Centralen
A USB powered Lamp made by
my 14 year old students in
response to a design brief of a
creating a design for a night lamp.
The student learnt
• Aesthetics-Shape sketching
techniques using paper and pencil
• cardboard modeling
• using handtools on plastics to
craft their project idea
A sound installation called
“Travelling Voices” in response
to the design brief of creating a
sonic experience for commuters
at the local train station to. This
project made us brainstorm as a
team, using techniques of
• body storming,
• sound ethnography
• user testing with our prototype
debates of the desired qualities of the user experience, but these were resolved by using
techniques of interaction design. This made me ponder about how a team can work
collaboratively and productively when designing for interaction. We started with some wild
ideas, but gradually these were filtered to something realistic determined by our individual
levels of expertise, what we can do and cannot do with our own competencies and how we
merge to each other’s conception to reach a consensus in the final design.
In the following section, I will describe the related work in the field and how it has influenced
the framing of the final questions for the problem formulation. Chapter 2 will be an
understanding of design teaching and compare the design processes within D&T and
Interaction Design. Chapter 3 will a round-up of all the design methods used throughout the
project; both those used by myself as a teacher-facilitator and those by my students in their
own design process and will give a detailed account of what transpired in the workshops.
Chapter 4 will be a survey of the reflections from these workshops from a holistic perspective.
Chapter 5 will be a conclusion where I return back to frame my findings in relation to the
questions I posed in the problem formulation. In Chapter 6, I suggest future work for the
project and how interaction design could be facilitated in school curriculums.
1.2 Related Work
Before embarking on this project, I conducted online research to find out whether Interaction Design
skills were taught to children or teenagers in other programmes around the world. This led me to
Project Interaction (http://urbanomnibus.net/2010/09/project-interaction/). This project is an after
school program that teaches design skills to high school students in New York to help change their
communities. This website was helpful in providing a structure of how to plan my curriculum program
for my students. An important observation from this curriculum is how the lessons were crafted
around a context familiar to the students in their immediate environment to motivate them to make a
difference. This was an important idea to me to give my own students a real design context to work
with issues that matter to them where they could test their ideas with potential users to get feedback.
Also, the issue of the technologies that the students could work with was something that worried me.
I wanted my students’ imaginations not to be restricted by technology. They were not at a cognitive
stage to do physical prototyping with microcontrollers such Arduino. Working with mobile technology
and web applications was something more achievable and realistic within their skill level. I didn’t
want my project to be a simple rehash of applying the formula of the curriculum from Project
Interaction to my own students. The context was different. As a knowledge contribution, I was
interested in uncovering what were the hurdles or gaps that surface in team dynamics when
designing for interaction and how such obstacles could be overcome within my role as a teacher-
facilitator. I also researched into existing frameworks of teaching interaction design as a guide,which
I will cover in more detail in Chapter 2
1.3 Problem Formulation
This project was a self motivated inquiry into understanding how methods and techniques peculiar to
interaction design can be adapted by a team of young students (in this project, four 15-year old
boys). The motivation stems from my experience in design teaching where most of the time the
students are working individually making design decisions justifying their rationale to only
themselves. My concern is that current design pedagogy practices has to evolve to challenge these
students to collaborate in teamwork addressing real life problems where design can make an
improvement to people’s lives.
In a section on the future roles of designers, Lawson sees designers as professionally qualified
specialists who “try to involve the users of designs in the process” by identifying “ the crucial
aspects of the problem, making them explicit, and suggesting alternative courses for action by the
nondesigner participants” (Lawson 2006, p.30). In his book, ’Design for the real world’, Papanek
talks about situating students as teams grappling with real problems. By working collaboratively,
they are able to better frame a problem based on their personal opinions to synergise a design
outcome that could fit user needs better than simply designing individually. However, collaborative
team design presents itself as an entirely different animal with its own fangs that may need muzzling
and a leash to control the team dynamics in a productive way. For this project I see myself as the
project owner controlling the leash and trying to tame and understand the nature of my ‘pet’, which is
a team of young teenagers aspiring to be designers.
For my problem formulation, I conceived it as 2 stages for my workshops with the team of student
How can interaction design methods be effectively staged for young students to understand?
This question comes from my experience in teaching design. Comparing the two subjects (design &
technology with interaction design), the immediate difference is that the methods in interaction
design focus on human-centric approaches to investigate and aid the design process. There is the
idea of using tools and techniques to engage and pose in a dialogue with human stakeholder(s) in
the early stages of the design process to reach a convergence in a design with overlapping ideas
from both parties. I have captured these notions visually in the comic graphic below using Charlie
Brown and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes as character profiles to show the contrast in personalities
In D&T however, this human centric approach is minimal. Its methods are steeped more in designer
oriented ways where the designer operates within their own bubble, making decisions mostly
independently and individually (evidence of their work is provided in Chapter 2). Hence for this
project, my aim was for my students to work on an interaction design project as a team collaborating
to address the same design situation by applying methods from Interaction Design.
Interaction Design as a Dialogue between
Designer and Client/Stakeholder
How can interaction design be facilitated for a group of individuals to function as a team?
Sustaining young teens’ interest in an interaction design project challenges the teacher-facilitator to
experiment with different modes of teaching to appeal to the students’ different styles of learning. By
working with a small team; at a macro-level, this project allowed me to engage in interaction design
practice of posing incomplete prototypes of teaching aids to the students for me to understand the
patterns in which these students learn and adapt these teaching aids to communicate with each
other. In the diagram below, I attempt to capture the role of these aids as pieces in a jigsaw that
bridge communication gaps between the members in a group for them to function as a team.
Interaction Design as a studio practice
with dialogue between team members
scaffold with aids to bridge communication gaps
Background of Design Learning and Teaching
In this chapter I explore design in general and the two types of design I am familiar with (Design &
Technology and Interaction Design). I explain within these two designs, the salient features in the
thinking processes that are undergone by student designers and provide a background of the
pedagogies to show how the design motivations from these two approaches of design yield different
outcomes. A background literature related to interaction design teaching and learning is covered to
justify the approach I took to impart interaction design skills to my students. I conclude by explaining
the design process I adopted for this project.
2.1 What is Design?
Before comparing D&T with Interaction Design, it would be prudent to come to an understanding of
what design is to see how it is approached differently from the ‘design & technology’ and interaction
Most definitions of design share three recurring themes
i) it is understood to be a process,
ii) it is goal oriented and
iii) it is to set in a motion a ‘course of events that are aimed at setting existing situations into preferred
ones’. (Simon,1996: 111).
The last theme implies a sense of dissatisfaction with current situation which motivates a designer to
resolve it. The design process is triggered by an identification of a design problem which are termed
as ‘wicked problem’ (Buchanan, 1992) where the indeterminate nature of its constraints leads to an
exploration of the design space as a range of possibilities (elaboration) leading to a reduction of ideas
through decision making (Buxton, 2007). This process is captured diagrammatically below (Laseau,
Design process moving from Elaboration to Reduction
2.2 What is Design and Technology? (as a subject taught in Singapore Schools)
Design & Technology (D&T) is a subject I teach to the 13 to 17 year old students in the school in
Singapore where I work as a full-time teacher. It is a subject that is an essential part of the school
curriculum at lower secondary(12-14 year olds) and a subject the students can opt to do at their upper
secondary level (15-17 year olds) . This subject introduces to them methods and techniques in
designing for physical form and function where they realize a 3-Dimensional artifact which they
fabricate in a design workshop by using physical tools and equipment. Students learn concepts
relating to mechanisms, structures and electronics and apply them in their product designs. Below are
three photos showing products designed and fabricated by students in a graduating class.
The methodologies in the design process focus on thinking skills and graphic skills which are recorded
in a paper based portfolio as a log of the thought processes in realizing the artefact. The focus of the
subject is applying fine craftsmanship skills starting from design forms conceptualised on paper, form
testing with 3D cardboard modeling to fabrication using tools and equipment in the technical workshop.
As a teacher, my role in the subject is to craft lessons that engage students to think like designers with
brainstorming techniques for a design theme and advising on appropriate research methods and
decision making, Finally there is the technical precision required in realizing their chosen ideas with
working drawings and workshop skills to fabricate the final design and evaluate the effectiveness of it.
Sliding Book case with
by cardboard modeling
Workmanship skills with
hand held tools and equipment
Testing and Evalutation
Record testing and evalutation using sketches , photo graphs nad notes
Planning Procedure for Realisation
Charts and diagrams to show material requirments and stages of production
Orthographic Drawings , sections and presentation drawings
Development of Chosen Idea
Show how product is to be made using sketches and exploded views
Evaluation of Ideas
Notes and Sketches
Sketching Ideas using a variety of techniques
Recording Information & Data using Sketches , notes, diagrams
Precise written statements
Identification of Problem
Understanding with freehand sketches, notes, pictures
Design Process Graphic Skills (and related Thinking Skills in though bubbles)
(Adapted from Renwick in Wong et al, 2004,10)
The thinking skills and graphic/sketching skills at different stages in a design and technology project are
highlighted in the table above. In summary, design and technology shows the following qualities as a
• Students work independently on their idea, consulting with the teacher
• Design process poses the design situation from the start and product form by looking at existing
forms and how to modify or adapt them to new forms to serve the design specifications.
• Students work with resistant materials of wood, plastics and metal.
• Sketching ideas on paper and representing forms with cardboard modeling.
• Workmanship skills using craftsman tools and equipment
Asking Questions to Analyse
Cause and Effect,
setting and monitoring
2.3 What is Interaction Design?
Interaction design as a design discipline has been described by its proponents in different ways.
“…..shaping digital products and services focusing on the qualities of their use” (Lowgren,2007)
“….the design of acts that defines the intended use of a product“ (Hallnäs & Redström,J,2008)
“....design for behavioural change” (Kolko,2009)
The different views stem from three different schools of thought of Interaction Design, the technology
centred view, the behaviourist view and the social interaction view (Shaffer, 2011). Lowgren
emphasizes interaction design to distinguish itself from other design disciplines by its focus on
digitality and aesthetics with the “the growth of goal understanding throughout the process instead of
freezing it in an early specification” (Lowgren, 2007).The underlying essence in Interaction Design to
me appears to meet a need by thinking about it holistically, and applying techniques and methods
peculiar to interaction design to investigate how best to meet this need. The process is marked in
stages by ”identifying needs and collecting requirements to develop alternative designs to meet these
requirements, to build interactive versions of the design solutions so they can be communicated and
judged” (Lantz et al, 2005). These stages are non-sequential and designers will find themselves
moving in between them in reframing the problem as they search to find an optimum solution.
Based on all these descriptors, I chose to explore teaching interaction design with the aim of the
design process to be mediated with methodologies peculiar to interaction design, and the outcome to
display aspects of digitality which had added dimensions of spatiality and temporality for the students
to design for (Kotzé & Purgathofer, 2005). By this I mean design considerations for issues of space
inhabited by the users (both real and cyberworld) and the time taken for interaction to occur.
2.4 Learning Perspectives for Teaching Interaction Design
There is considerable vast literature with regards to teaching and learning approaches for Interaction
Design but most tend to frame it in relevance to HCI (Human-Computer Interaction). Based on the
literature survey, I narrowed it to three different opinions of the teaching of interaction design that
concerns itself with the holistic view of Interaction Design as a design discipline that concerns digital
products and services and their qualities of use. (Lowgren, 2007)
Sas (2006) suggests four approaches in learning relevant to the teaching of interaction design.
• Apprenticeship and teaching by paradigmatic examples Apprenticeship takes place as a dialogue between
the teacher and the students. The teacher performs a think aloud of tacit knowledge and demonstrating
using examples through which the mental model about the task and the application supporting the task
becomes explicit to the students.
Students construct their own understanding through experiencing things and reflecting on their
experience. Meaning is not transmitted by the teacher but created by the student through their
• Situated Learning and Communities of Practise
Situated learning considers that in order for learning to be successfully acquired, knowledge
needs to be presented in an authentic setting which facilitates social interaction.
• Experential Learning
The teacher’s role is to create the learning environment in which students can experience, reflect
on experience in order to understand it and experiment with this understanding.
Agger Eriksen (2009) proposes a micro-material perspective for specific co-design situations, which is
suitable for framing a real problem tackled by several designers working collaboratively with one
another and/or a client. The challenge for the teacher-facilitator then is to stage these materials in a
way that allows framing by the team of students that leads to a meaningful collaboration. Staging the
design situation from a framing of focus of why (aim) and what (focus) to explore collaboratively, it
extends to the format of exploring design materials by turn taking or parallel explorations. These
materials can come as basic forms or predesigned specific to the field studies or project.
Fallman proposes a research model where the “combination of design practice, design studies and
design exploration is what distinguishes interaction design from other disciplines with related interests”
(Fallman, 2008). I have chosen to include the model albeit it being a research model because for
interaction design to take place, there has to be an aspect of research done by both the teacher and the
students; for the teacher to facilitate the skills to the student, and the students to have grounding in their
design process of where their focus lies at any point in time. Design work and research is interwoven
and accordingly design work becomes inseparable from research (Koskinen et al,2008). Here I have
taken Fallman’s research model and added verbs in red to explain how each perspective manifests
As can be seen, all approaches have some semblances to each other. Reflection is common feature
to all the approaches discussed above, and can be seen as reflection in action (thinking while acting)
or reflection on action (thinking after acting) (Schön,1983). Reflection in action has three main
distinctive features: involves learning by doing, coaching and a continuous dialogue between coach
For this project, I approached it by merging traits from the different approaches to create triggers
which serve as starting points to initiate the design process for both the students and myself.
What is lacking in the research found is an application of these learning frameworks to the domain of
group dynamics within Interaction Design teams. For this a more comprehensive source of literature
can be found in the “What Designers Know” and “How Designers Think” (both by Lawson, Bryan). His
Adapted from ”The Interaction Design Research Triangle of Design
Practice, Design Studies, and Design Exploration” (D. Fallman,2008)
views are expressed from an architectural design perspective, and as interaction designers can be
closely afflitiated with architects,(Lowgren, 2007), the opinions in these books were important for
framing my observations of my student design team.
2.5 The Challenges in Teaching Interaction Design
Interaction Design poses a challenge in being taught because of the very nature of it being a process
of creativity, a faculty of the human mind still yet to be fully understood. The most challenging aspects
of the discipline to facilitate are the problem specification, feedback and assessment (Sas, 2006).
Within the domain of the problem specification, educators and students have contrasting stakes in the
learning process. While students prefer more structured problem definitions, educators prefer to
provide just enough details to allow scope for exploring the design space to challenge the students.
This creates a situation of tension and resolve between the students and teachers as they engage in
dialogue of problem setting and solution finding in reframing and restructuring the problem. Feedback
is necessary to progress, students need to organise their work within and outside their mentoring
sessions. Teachers need to know when to step in to provide their experience when making key
decisions along the design process. Evaluations for design outcomes and design process are difficult
to be objectively assessed. This is because design is about envisioning and implementing a future that
can react in sometimes unpredictable ways to other constraints in the design space which may not
have been considered before. As such, it becomes impossible to tell how good a design is until it has
matured. The best gauge would be to continually involve users in the design with prototypes in the
2.4 Design process for Project
The design process for this project was inspired by the design model proposed by the Design School at
Institute of Design at Stanford.
This model was used was because it gave a good foundation to build my teaching upon as I myself am
new to interaction design. This design process model allowed me to maintain a consistency in my
framing of my problem formulation from two perspectives. Firstly it was to understand how the team
shifted between thinking modes in exploring the design space, and secondly how I as a teacher-
facilitator needed to create design materials to scaffold those transitions.It could be said that at a micro
level the students were using the model for their own design problem, while at a vantage point, I was
using it to test the effectiveness of the tools I created for the students to use.
In the next chapter I explain about the different workshops I conducted with my classmates in Malmo
and my own students in Singapore.
Design Process Model (adapted from Design School, Institute of Design at Stanford)
Workshops Conducted with Students
This chapter explains the empirical evidence I gathered from the initial field studies I conducted with
my classmates and the workshops which I conducted with my students. I explain how these
workshops were conducted, the outcomes and also my observations of the dynamics of the team and
the decisions I took in my role as a teacher-facilitator. I have kept an online blog
(http://www.premixd.com/thesis/) throughout this project with my comments following each workshop
session I held with the team of students. This was to keep the impressions and observations I made
fresh so I can read them again to make insights in relation to the issues I have raised in the problem
3.1 Field Studies with Interaction Designers in Malmö
For my initial field studies, I wanted to understand about the role tangible tools could play for
interaction designers in the design process. This was relevant to my research as it would help me
understand how interaction designers use things to communicate to themselves and others.
For the test tools, I created a set of styrofoam shapes with plastic over it for writing on. The hexagon
shapes were inspired by the molecule shapes in a benzene ring that could fit together in any flat
surfaced orientation. The shapes were given to three of my classmates and they were asked to
explore how the toolkit could be used in their own thesis project. Matthew used the shapes to assign
meaning to it based on the relevance of the shapes to his design space. For example, he took the
human shape and labelled it as a user. Xun made use of the hexagonal shapes as building blocks by
writing and drawing on it to merge and test different ideas together in a design synthesis approach.
Silvia used the hexagon shapes together with post-its to create a tree like structure that showed a
branching of her thoughts. Interestingly, when she was doing this, Xun joined in to shuffle some of the
hexagons to pose different ideas to her. As their ideas became refined with discussions, they updated
the hexagon shapes with new content on the plastic covering.
Categorising personal thoughts Creating Relationships Synthesizing ideas
Sanders propose that tookits are specific in their purpose and “creating and refining the generative
toolkits is a design process by itself” (Sanders, 2010, 6). In participatory design, tools and techniques
need to be understood in relation to purpose and context and customized accordingly (Sanders et al
2010, 196). The observations from my field studies seem to suggest that generic tools could be
adapted by designers to their design problem and even work as a platform for collaboration through
such distinct cognitive acts such as categorizing, creating relationships and synthesizing. However,
the tools are insufficient on their own. Some qualities are lacking in the medium which can only be
found by the designer when they face hurdles in their communication such as when Silvia decided to
use post-its. This prompts the designers to adapt the toolkit in novel ways to fit their needs. When I
repeated the same experiments with my students team in Singapore, they used the hexagon shapes
to slot images of the most prominent locations in the school. When this was mapped out, it identified
common meeting points showing how different destinations can be reached from the same point.
Post-its were placed over it to give directions and this led to a possible layout plan of the school
building as a map of interconnected hexagons. This suggests how an open tool can be adapted to a
context in unexpected ways depending on the context of design situation.
3.2 Forming an Interaction Design Team
“…that design is often a collective process in which the rapport between group members can be as
significant as their ideas.” How Designers Think (Bryan Lawson)
In the book above, Lawson talks about the phases of “forming”, “storming’ and ‘norming’ which a
team undergoes before they have gelled substantially enough to ‘perform’. A team is not a mere
collection of individuals. Rather, there is a synergy that emerges beyond the collective individual
talents that manifests itself as a higher order of complex behavior. This behaviour can yield itself
as conflicted or cooperative team dynamics. While conducting my workshops with the team of
students, as a teacher-facilitator I became aware of what Lawson was saying about how
individuals in a team contribute to the fusion of a group dynamic that gives birth to some norms in
During the workshops, I started to notice the how these phases showed themselves in the types of
conversations that ensued. By conversations here, I am referring to the dialogues that happen both
between the team members and the team members with their design materials. I explain in more
detail the types of design conversations that surfaced for each of the phases in chapter 4. For this
chapter, I focus on explaining the events that unfolded during the course of the workshops I staged
for the team and the outcomes.
The Interaction Design (IxD) Workshops were staged within the school premises, mainly the
design studio which is a room. I started teaching Design and Technology (D&T) as part of the
school curriculum from January 2011. Three weeks into the school term, after settling into the
school environment, culture and getting to know the students in my classes better, I began
recruiting students who would have the time to engage themselves in this after school activity of
learning about Interaction Design. I spoke to the more engaged students in my D&T classes and
four of them expressed interest and at that time said they were able participate in this after school
project. I made it known that they would be designing for the school and learning new techniques
of designing, aside from what they covered in Design and Technology. To motivate them, I said
that designing for the school could leave a legacy that their very own children who study here could
admire and something to be proud of as a contribution to the school.
The team members were all classmates and have known each other since the start of the year
2011. Before I began my project workshops with them, I did some character profiling to
understand their backgrounds to better craft my workshops to appeal to them. This
understanding could help me as a facilitator to see look for commonalities that could bridge the
communication gaps I mentioned in my problem formulation and motivate them to collaborate
as a team. As I found out later, this was useful in looking for teaching approaches that would
engage the students in collective information gathering.
Below I have summarized what they have written and spoken to me about before we started
the interaction design workshops. An important question I had asked them was to get their
feedback about what design meant to them and why they were interested to do this course in
It is important to understand that these students have been familiarised with “Design and
Technology” a year earlier when they were 14-year old students. However while that course
introduced them to some of the ideas of what Design is, their actual hands on approach focused
on workshop artisan skills using hand tools and equipment in a project to fabricate a USB
powered lamp which followed a standard template design and they did not practice any design
creativity in the making of this lamp aside. Hence, my job became more challenging in guiding
these students to think like designers with creative thinking.
The Team of 15 year old Interaction Designers
(from left Abner, Jonathan, Benjamin and Ian)
Feedback from students
Based on their responses, it is evident that their understanding focuses on the physical form of a
product satisfying the needs of a consumer. In particular, they emphasise on the aesthetics of the
product form to be purposeful and pleasing. Comparing with their responses with why they
volunteered to participate in the interaction design workshops, they said they were keen to learn
about how people respond to their ideas. This feedback was important to me in my role as
teacher-facilitator as the human element would be explored in participatory design to see how co-
design could be staged between stakeholders and the members of the team to fulfill this desire to
have their ideas given feedback by potential users.
3.3 Background of Workshop Teaching Approach
In this section I explain about the design teaching approach I took to teach interaction design
methods to my team of D&T students.
Provoking these young designers to shift their understanding of design from a focus on ‘form
and function’ to ‘space and time’ requires re-looking at the design materials used to engage
Student Question:What does design mean to you?
Why do you want to learn
Jonathan To me Design is where innovation and
creativity comes together. It is when a product
is pleasing to its targeted audience.
I want to see how people
react to the products I
Ian Design is the aesthetics and how an item is
made. It also shows how things work.
I wanted to learn new things.
Design is something that is useful in everyday
life because designing objects can make life
I want to learn about the
problems faced by others so
I can do something useful in
Design means creativity to me and serving
I want to serve the school.
them. In teaching D&T, I would make use of images to provoke them in a Socratic style of
questioning where I would ask observational questions, “where do you think this is?”, “what do
you see?”, “is there a problem here?”. These questions are to help create a context which would
inspire the student to develop the designer eye in identifying a need to be addressed with the
form of a physical design. To engage collaborative team design requires a higher level order of
provocation in the design materials used. This is mainly due to the design context not being
entirely specific in pointing to an obvious outcome for all. The challenge lies in creating a more
macro view of the design situation that moulds a more holistic understand of the design space
with its constraints.
The IxD lessons were originally planned as a series of workshops with my agenda of the topics I
was going to teach to the students and the deliverable outcomes of each workshop. This
original plan is outlined in “Appendix 1-Initial Teaching Plan for Interaction Design Workshops”.
The plan of the project timeline was to have introductory workshops where the tools and
techniques of interaction design were taught in 1 hour workshops after school and crafted in
relation to the context the students decided to design for. However with the students’ conflicting
afterschool activity schedules, I had to modify this plan to accommodate for their schedules and
adjust my teaching methods to be flexible to their needs. This I did by making design decisions
together with the team ad-hoc on what they felt would be an appropriate course of action to take
based on their present position in the design space at each stage in the project. While originally
the workshops were planned to be content driven, with the intention of exposing the students to
a wide array of IxD methodologies and letting them decide on the methods to use for their
design situation, but as the project progressed, our meetings became more task driven once the
students were clearer about their design solution and felt ready to test their ideas with potential
This surfaces an important approach to take where the teacher’s role within a design team
adapts changing from an instructor (teaching content) to a facilitator (teaching the application of
the content to the context of the design problem) to an advisor/observer (mediating the team
dynamics in their decision-making). This transition in my roles was necessary so as to not
influence my own design decisions on the team, but step back as an observer to their design
decisions and see what needs to be done to widen the team’s design options to make a well-
informed choice in the design space. During the course of this project I found my roles moving
between these 3 states within the team.
(mediating team dynamics
in their decision‐making)
of the content to the
In narrating what happened in the workshops, I have taken on 2 voices; one as the instructor with
my pre-conceived plan of the interaction design skills I intended to impart to my student assuming
they would know how to apply it to the design context, and another an observer of the challenges I
had faced in imparting such skills. I have documented the sessions in the format of workshop
experiments where I start explaining with what and how I had planned to teach the design skills,
then what actually transpired and finally what challenges both the team and I as the teacher-
facilitator faced. I have reserved a separate chapter on reflections and insights gained from the
workshops to chapter 4 to form a holistic understanding of the design process undergone by the
team. I have taken this approach as I find it will assist my framing of future interaction design
projects with students in with a more thoughtful experienced approach.
3.4 Design process and Time Frame of project
The design process focused strongly on a learning and thinking-by-doing approach where switching
between reflective modes helped in refining the design methods to try out more effective approaches
with the students. The design process was inspired by the design model proposed by the Design
School at Institute of Design at Stanford.
Design Process Model
(adapted from Design School, Institute of Design at Stanford)
The reason this model was used was because it gave a good foundation to build my teaching
upon as I myself am new to interaction design. This design process model allowed me to
maintain a consistency in my framing of my problem formulation from two perspectives. Firstly it
was to understand how the team shifted between thinking modes in exploring the design space,
and secondly how I as a teacher-facilitator needed to create design materials to scaffold those
transitions. It could be said that at a micro level the students were using the model for their own
design problem, while from a macro perspective, I was applying the model to test the
effectiveness of the tools I created for the students to use.
A framework for the design process provided a starting point as well as possible approaches to
test out the techniques and methods of interaction design in a real context for the students to
The starting point was project framing (interaction design education). Due to the vastness in the
research scope, establishing the frame helped to streamline the research and formulate the
problem as a co-dependent stage process where the techniques of interaction design were to be
mediated by investigating how group communication can be facilitated in response to a real
design problem. The framework of interaction design education suggested conducting interviews
and user studies with provoco-types to learn from and observe how students adapt generic tools
to their own interaction design problems. Time frame for the project was fairly significant as it
involved some initial interviews and field studies with interaction design students at K3 in Malmo,
Sweden for 1 week in December 2010 where the findings from the initial fieldwork were
consequential for the teaching aids to use for the workshops with young students in Singapore
from February to August 2011. The project in Singapore faced numerous postphonements and
interruptions to the original plans as it was staged as an after-school activity since other school
events had more precedence for the team and it become difficult for all to meet as a team
regularly. In some ways, it could be said that design decisions were made due to time constraints
and the design space could have been examined more deeply and widely.
3.5 Design Theories taught to and applied by students
The following are design theories that were taught by me and applied by the students to varying
degrees in the course of investigating the design space. Each of the theories is explained and
discussed with its relevance to the entire design process.
Brainstorming is a technique to leverage on the collective thinking of the group by engaging with
each other, listening and building on each others’ ideas.
For this project, brainstorming was framed using the “How-Might-We method”. Specifically for the
design context of improving the navigation experience of the school, this was framed as “How
might we improve the navigation experience of the school” and “How can we help new-comers
adapt to finding different locations within the school?”
Participatory Design (PD) is an approach that involves the users of the design within the design
process. The user is directly involved in the development of the design by providing inputs
throughout the process. This techniques is used mainly for designs which require strong focus on
user needs, and is especially appropriate for environmental considerations and context based
problems (Schuler & Namioka, 2003).
For this project, the team learned this technique and applied in the design process to elicit
feedback from potential users of their design concept. This level of participation in the initial stages
was at a superficial level as the team was not able to show their improved designs to the same
users for further feedback, but with subsequent users, the technique yielded constructive feedback
with testing the mock-ups that were already created based on opinions from earlier users.
Bodystorming is a participatory method for developing ideas in a physical setting. People explore
ideas and interactions physically, sometimes with the help of props such as images to create a
simulation of the environment and context of the interaction. Bodystorming takes ideas from
brainstorming off from the whiteboard or paper to put them into physical action to conceptualise
and test ideas. While on the whiteboard or paper, there isn’t any limit to how far one can go with an
idea. But with bodystorming, the physical limitations are uncovered to help shape ideas with
physical design constraints. This is used in the researching stages of studies, and allows for
observation and analysis of any problems or issues encountered that can be addressed in the
proposed design solution. It is a method of exploring ideas with improvised artifacts and physical
activities to envision a solution (Oulasvirta et al, 2003).
For this project, bodystorming was vital to explore new ways of interacting with navigation devices
to ‘think-out-of-the box”. It helped the team in thinking of fresh ways of combining other artefacts
together with their redesigned paper map to see how the level of immersion from a simple paper
map could be enhanced to create an entirely different experience for the user.
Experiential Prototyping is the “the experiential aspect of whatever representations are needed to
successfully (re)live or convey an experience with a product, space or system” (Buchenau & Suri,
2000). It is relevant to understanding existing experiences, exploring design ideas and
communicating design concepts (Buchenau & Suri, 2000).
For this project, prototypes were posed to users from the initial stage of the project to get feedback
of the limitations of current design examples so that iteratively, thoughtful enhancements could be
made to these designs to make them more effective in their purpose. As the team was aiming to
design a navigation system that would actually be implemented, the fidelity of the prototypes
pitched to the user was at a high end to address any fine details and enhancements that should be
made to the map and viewing experience of the user.
3.6 n (Using W5H) with Brainstorming Workshop 1 & 2 ‐Setting the Context for Desig
Conducted on: 21st and 28th February 2011
(1 hour each session at Design Studio)
For this introductory workshop, I wanted to stage the context in which the students would be
designing for. Jonathan brought a cut out of an article that had appeared in the local newspapers
about how students in one of the local universities had designed an electronic system to help new
students find their classrooms (refer to figure below). The team members were interested in the
exploring the idea of a navigation system that could be designed for their own school campus to
help newcomers to the school adapt faster to familiarizing themselves with the various facilities.
They thought this would be especially useful for new students and teachers to the school as they
had often found me asking them directions to different locations on the campus and personally it
was something they had gone though themselves as new students to the school. As teacher-
facilitator, I thought this would be a worthwhile venture for them to design for because it was a
project challenge they had set for themselves and hence would be self-motivated to design for it.
The team knew they could not change the school campus architecture, but perhaps they could come
up with a better navigation system to address this need of students and visitors to the school finding
We used a whiteboard using the W5H approach to understand the context of the problem better
(who, why, what when, where and how). Below you see an image of the outcome of our discussions
which was recorded on the whiteboard. I found this method a useful way to focus our discussion by
raising relevant points of discussion and drawing links between related points. From the image, you
can see that the ‘what’ issue was purposely left out as I wanted the students to take images of the
current navigation systems within the school so we could discuss about them and address their
limitations orconceive an entirely new navigation system
It is important to understand that while the team was aiming to create something achievable with their
design, I did not want the students to think in terms of solutions right away but rather be critical of the
current systems used in the school to get a better understanding of the actual problem.
Ian surprised me the day after the 1st
workshop by showing me a circuit he had wired together (we
were at that time teaching basic electronics in class for an individual D&T project). He was confident
his idea was ideal for users to find their way around school until I posed some questions that made
him realise the shortcomings of his gadget. What concerned me was that he was already thinking in
terms of solutions independently and this made me think that I had to intervene as a teacher-
facilitator to ensure the team do not commit prematurely to a design idea before investigating the
context in which they designing for as thoroughly as they can. I felt I should create some aids to
encourage dialogue between team-members so they could collaborate in idea sharing.
As I saw it, based on my 1st
workshop with this group of students, they were motivated in wanting to
create a better navigation system for their school campus. They were able to understand the context
of the problem that they were designing a system for different categories of users with different needs
(students, parents, new teachers and visitors). They were also able to think in a broader perspective to
consider relevant issues to the design context, such as rain affecting the route choice of people. My
biggest concern, was that they seemed to have individual stakes in this project and were not
Discussions from WH5 for understanding design context
Ian showing his high fidelity navigation circuit
communicating as a team with each other to argue out their ideas and work collaboratively in merging
their different viewpoints for a collaborative design.
As homework for the 2nd
workshop, the team was told to keep individual diaries of their movement
around school and take photos of different locations around the school that interested them. In
particular I told them to take photos of the current navigation systems within the school so we would
have material to discuss about. However I soon began to learn, from working with this team, it was
challenging to get them to follow through with team tasks. Sensing they might come unprepared for the
workshop, I brought my own photographed images of the school maps for them to discuss about so
that the session would not be a waste of time. As I had anticipated based on my experience with them
for D&T lessons, they did not take their own photos and had come unprepared not even having logged
their movement experience around school in their diary. This posed a challenge to me of how could
they relate to the users they were designing for by empathising with the experience of being in the
school environment for the first time. The images used were shown as a slide presentation
(http://www.box.net/shared/ljmsdokn2m) and printed without captions for them to discuss.
From the team discussion of the images, three distinct issues emerge that they wanted to address.
Placemarkers used in the school that were pointing to destination points were confusing to look at. The
2D map layouts was not helping people locate important venues in the school. The floor directory
plans did not help in locating the classroom at each level.
For these images that I had taken and printed to be more engaging, I placed them behind transparent
covers on backing boards so the team members could write comments on them. This method helped
the team to recognise the school map layout as being divided into sectors where the classrooms were
located in a separate block from other facilities such as the swimming pool, church and admin block.
This posed as possible starting point to design a more effective navigation system than the current 2D
maps and place-markers around school where people knew the name of the location, but just didn’t
know which direction they should be heading or how to recognise when they have arrived there.
Floor directory at
2D Map layouts
What and How of my plan
• To stage a context for design using W5H approach (who, what , when, why, what and how)-minus ‘what’ so they
don’t start thinking in terms of a solution immediately but understanding the design context more.
• Use images of school as a starting point for team discussions.
• Getting the students to make a diary as a probe of their navigation practice around school.
What actually happened
• The students didn’t take their school photos they were supposed to but they used the ones I prepared.
• The students didn’t keep diaries of their movement citing that it interfered with
their school activities or they forgot to keep it updated.
Challenges I faced
• The students were not applying the knowledge taught to keep diaries of their movement around school.
• I wanted to create dialogue between team members so they could collaborate for the design context
• I wanted to trigger past experiences and memories of the students as new students to the school to emphatise with
the user’s feelings of being lost in a new environment.
• Images spark dialogue between team-members
• Images work better when they can be easily commented on by writing annotations and visuals.
Abner and Ian writing on the overlaysIan and Jonathan talking about school images
3.7 Workshop 3‐ Getting Feedback from ‘outsiders’
Conducted on: March 7th 2011
1 hour at Design Studio following interviews with visiting exchange students)
To follow up from their own team discussions, I thought it would be good for the team to get
feedback from outsiders unfamiliar with the school building. The team decided to interview French
exchange students they were hosting in the school. The team showed them the current school map
to get their opinions. There were two separate interviews, one conducted with a single exchange
student Max, and another as a group interview with four French students.
In a post interview team discussion, the members raised these observations.
Max may have found the 3-to-1 interview a little intimidating. Due to the language barrier, he found
himself having difficulty in expressing his opinions to the interviewers. With a group interview, it was
easier to get useful feedback as the French students were better able to express their different
ideas to each other and reach a consensus to communicate to the interviewer. The group interview
showed a greater comfort level between those interviewed that led to more constructive feedback.
One idea that emerged from the group interview was the inclusion of photos of landmarks within the
school map and to make the map 3D to make the spatial arrangement more coherent than the
current 2D plan view layout. Based on this feedback, I showed Ian how to use Google Sketchup
(3D modelling software) from which he created a 3D map layout which took a week to complete.
Below I show the modifications made to the current school map layout. Enlarged views are
available in the appendix.
Solo interview with Max Interview with group
Original 2D map
3D map (using CAD)
Unfortunately the French exchange students had already left before we could show the above
modified maps with them. Nonetheless, it provided a good starting point to show others to get
their opinions to improve on the ideas.To me as a teacher facilitator, it was encouraging to see
the team’s sensitivity to the opinion of the others and implementing them in the design.
In summary the events unfolded as follows:
What and How of my plan
• To get the team to engage ‘outsiders’ in design dialogue about the design context
What actually happened
• The students interviewed school visitors, as a groups and individual to elicit their
• The students were unsure about what they could pose to outsiders to get constructive
feedback, so they decided to use the current school map (2D).
• Group interviews are more efficient at gaining constructive feedback. The team said
that there was less pressure on those interviewed and a shared opinion was a
consistent opinion that could lead to relevant useful design.
3.8 ocial Media (Facebook) as a platformWorkshop 4‐ Empathising using S
Conducted on: March 14th 2011
(1 hour touring school and 1 hour discussing about findings)
I had explained to the students about cultural probes. To show their effectiveness in collecting
information for design, I told the students to record their experiences of making their way around
the school in their notebooks. When we met for the 2nd
workshop, none had started on the
notebook nor maintained consistent records of their movements around school. I was worried that
the students were not creating any design materials of their own to frame the design context for
The first two workshops had set the stage for them to relate to designing for a range of possible
users (students, teachers and parents) but they had not built an experience around the actual
needs of these users that were to be addressed with their design. This is where I returned to my
earlier field studies to help me look for possible avenues to create an experience for them to
ground their imagination on. Grounding imagination is a method of bridging the gap between dual
aspects of practise and imagination (Büscher et al, 2004). By creating shared experiences among
team members, it creates a common platform for dialogue and ideas to be discussed related to
the design context which encourages conceptualisation of a foreseeable future.
Based on my earlier charactering profiling I noticed the team was comfortable with social media
blogging and thought that would be a good platform leverage on to record their experience of the
school building in a dynamic way as they walked around. I prepared a worksheet
(http://www.box.net/shared/6f8bcip4xn) (found in the appendix) which instructed them to set up a
facebook account for the persona “Nigel”, a student new to the school who was using his
phone(with camera to record his experiences in school). They lived the experience of “Nigel” as
they walked around school, taking photos of what interested them about the school building,
noticing areas which were confusing to navigate. The method also triggered ideas about possible
solutions to the design context. Unrelated observations of the environment when looking for
photos to take also emerged that proved to be relevant to the brainstorming process later such as
how instead of photos on the 3D map, paintings of school landmarks could be used instead such
as the student painting of the school clock tower. What emerged subconsciously from this
experience was their reliving of their own student experience and prioritising important locations
that would be most frequently visited by them as students. In relation to the original 2D map, it
underwent another iteration using these photos for easier identification.
In summary the events unfolded as follows:
What and How of my plan
• For the team to emphatise for the design context by using personas and experience experience prototyping
the “first day at school”
What actually happened
• The students went around school taking photos blogging their experience on Facebook with their
• The students sometimes let design thinking interfere with the task of recording their experience.Insights
• The method of empathy building should ideally not be interfered by design decision- making. Instead, the
empathy uilding should create a record which allows a post activity evaluation that leads to design
thinking. This is a demonstration of reflection-on-action where the designers re-examine their experience
to discuss the motions to make the design decision for the next step.
3D map with photos
3D map (using CAD)
Facebook blog of persona ‘Nigel’:
The students recorded their
experience of living their first day at
school and what were the important
and frequently visited locations for the
3.9 vigation Devices Workshop 5‐ Bodystorming using Na
Conducted on: June 3rd 2011
(1 hour discussions and activities)
For this workshop, the team members were told to each bring a navigation device. Ian is a scout,
so he brought a compass; Jonathan brought his handphone; and Abner a torchlight. They
explained their choices for those items were because the items are synonymous with locating
space and objects to reach a destination point or moving though space in darkness respectively.
I prepared a worksheet (refer to appendix 5- Prototyping Exercise Worksheet) for them to reflect
on different types of navigation devices that people use to start triggering their ideas. I highlighted
the example of the Inuits using a carved out stick as a tactile map of their coastline to find their way
around when kayaking in the dark. This was to inspire them to be imaginative with their ideas. The
team was given a task of using their navigation devices to locate a room in a 4 way junction. The
task was analogous to having to find their way around school looking for a classroom. They initially
started explaining their ideas with the device itself. I noticed this was keeping their ideas very ‘safe’
to the original functions of the devices. Ian suggested using his compass arrow as pointing to the
destination point. Abner‘s idea was the torch would be something that when shone on the floor will
reveal arrows point to them the way to go. They were challenged with the notion of how aside from
the inbuilt GPS in mobile devices, they could use their handphone as a navigation device.
Jonathan hit a brainwave when he thought about how the camera function of the handphone could
be used together with the school map as a navigation system. He remembered reading about
barcodes and QR scanners and did research to find out how this technology could be used for the
project. To help the students understand the technology better, I provided links to online resources
for them to read about this technology to become familiar with how they could apply to the context
of this design problem.
The team with their navigation devices Jonathan bodystorming with
his handphone and the map
What and How of my plan
• For the team to explore bodystorming as a technique to think of new ways of using physical artefacts to
navigate through space.
What actually happened
• The students bodystormed using the items that they had brought along with them but they tended to explain
their ideas verbally.
• The students let the form factor of the item they brought condition their bodystorming techniques with
predictable ways of using the items for navigation such as the arrow in the compass and the light shining
from the torchlight.
• On hindsight, to inspire the students to think more creatively with their props, I should have explored a
wider range of items and encouraged the students to not restrict to the theme of navigation. Using the
handphone as a navigation device seemed like the only plausible implementable solution which the team
followed through. It would have stretched their imagination more to use miming as a medium of exploring
the artefacts to let each other guess how they were using it to perform the task. This could surface more
interesting interpretations that the team could have explored in their prototypes.
3.10 Workshop 6‐ Prototyping‐“How to impart Technical Skills for Young Interaction
Conducted intermittently during months of June to July 2011 as the team refined their
I have entitled this section as such as I feel a major challenge to teaching the interaction design
process is how to infuse the necessary technical skills so that beginning designers can prototype
their design ideas with appropriate fidelity to gain contructive feedback from users. Moussette
comments that prototyping interactivity “requires substantial time and effort by individuals with
highly specialised skills and tools” which “limits their ability to approach and successfully work on
such projects” (Mousette, 2007). Having learnt some Arduino during my 1st
year of my Masters
course and watching some of the frustration of classmates, I did not want the technology to kill the
interest of my students in this project. As a teacher, I feel the technology should not overwhelm
these students yet make the prototyping possible for a design that is realistic, achievable and can
be posed to users to get constructive feedback for the team to make design decisions on the
appropriate modifications to make. Reflecting on workshop 1& 2 when Ian came to me with his
navigation electronic circuit, he was already applying the recent knowledge mastered from an
electronics project he was learning from D&T. This approach is a utilitarian approach where a form
is crafted to serve a function without much thought given to the interaction features. In his case, an
existing circuit was moulded to serve the function as a navigation device. What became apparent
from such an approach was the frustrations a designer faces in manipulating a high fidelity form to
satisfy the function. Instead the designer should relook at the problem to ask if it could be
approached from a user-centred approach as prescribed by interaction design methodologies. The
interaction is conceptualised first (what is the function and how would a person use such a service
or product) and then subsequently, the technological issues of the form factor about mediating
such an interaction are considered. The challenge for teacher is to ensure that the student does not
let technology (form) control the desired function the student(s) may have conceived at the start.
Realistically what transpires is the student will reach a compromise point where the technology is
used to mimic the desired interaction as closely as possible and form may have to meet function
For prototyping the interactive features of the map, The team first conceived the idea of placing the
QR code on the placemarker. When scanned, the QR code will download for the user a sequence
of still images as a visual guide for getting to the destination. For prototyping the experience, the
team used a simple diagrammatic layout to communicate the idea to users to get some feedback.
However even before getting feedback from others, within the team, they felt this was not an
elegant design and could still as easily be reproduced by having a sequence of still images pasted
directly on the placemarkers making the QR codes redundant.
Löwgren speaks of the pliability, rhythm and fluency as qualities of aesthetics in interaction which
can be scrutinised for aesthetic appropriateness depending on what the user expects from the
interaction experience (Löwgren, 2009). In this design context, these qualities were perceptually
gauged and critiqued by the team leading to refinement in the type of imaging used for the map
The best way to impart prototyping skills is to get the team to try out the experience themselves to
decide whether it meets their own expectations and if not, what should be done to enhance it to a
level that does. Along the way, the team would challenge their own standards to aim for a better
user experience and find the appropriate tools to realise their vision.
What and How of my plan.
• To encourage my students to test out their ideas by doing their own field work to get a first hand perspective of
the user experience.
What actually happened.
• The students went around taking still photos to sequence the route they should navigate to get to the
destination point. They realised that the still sequence could actually confuse the users as they were
experiencing the feelings themselves. They decided to switch to panoramic views as a more immersive way
to help the user have a better spatial sense of the surroundings.
• The students had to learn how to take the photos accurately to allow the stitching to be seamless to give an
immersive 3D panoramic view of the location on the map.
The initial interaction conceptualized by the team
(using still images to show route)
• Prototyping starts by working with the basic tools (in this case still images). Testing out initial hunches can bring
out the qualities that the team should focus on. This can be enhanced by researching for other prototyping tools to
achieve the desired simulation or interaction.
• While collection information for the prototyping phase, design decisions were made. The students were
demonstrating reflection-in-action where they made conscious decisions to simplify the navigation route with
just the essential few images to locate the destination point. When they were not satisfied with the
experience they decided to explore panoramic views as an alternative. To put it simply, the students had to do
the act in order to think about it. By experiencing the interaction first hand, it led them to make design
decisions and do the research to challenge themselves with creating a more authentic experience for the
user relevant to the design context.
3.11 Workshop 7- Experience Prototyping and User Testing
Conducted on 7th
For the design process to come full circle, it was imperative that the team carried out user testing to
find out the effectiveness of their design ideas. When I met the team to discuss how they planned
to do the user testing, they appeared confident and assured me that they could do the user testing
together using the questions they outlined as a team.
Interview Questions Crafted by the team
"By their very nature, prototypes involve compromises. It allows stakeholders to interact with an
envisioned product to gain some experience of using it in a realistic setting and to explore imagined
uses” (Preece et al, 2001). Low fidelity sketches can be discarded easily as not as much time and
effort would have been invested to become emotionally attached to them (Kolko, 2011).
For the user testing, the team initially created 2 types of prototypes with QR codes. One as an
interactive paper based handheld map, another as QR codes placed directly on the placemarkers.
Initially, the teams plan was to use a sequence of still images to show how to arrive at a location,
but they realised this would confuse the user more. With online research, they came across a
image hosting website for panoramic views (http://www.photosynth.com) which they decided would
be a good visual system that could allow the users to recognise the surroundings at a destination
point to find their way there.
I helped the students generate the QR codes, linking them to the photosynths uploaded by
Jonathan. As the first set of codes were not recognised by the phone camera due to the high level
of pixelisation, I used http://bitly.com/ to shorten the link to reduce the pixelisation so that the QR
code could be scaled down to fit into the map and still be recognisable.
For design conversation to ensue, it was crucial for the team to have something concrete to
discuss with and this was made possible with the first draft of the class plan layout drawn by Ian.
Using that, the team could decide on the appropriate placement of the QR codes on the map and
how to categorise information distinguishing the classrooms and departments according to the
different levels. It was decided that since the brochure would be printed in black and white to save
costs, color coding the information would be pointless.
Paper based prototyping is a technique normally applied to software design. With this technique,
the students were exploring using the paper images directly as a method of interaction. It raised
doubts whether this simulation was a true depiction of the ease of the use for a mobile device to
focus on a QR code from a distance, and how rain would affect the responsiveness of the code.
Paper Based Map Users testedDraft Map of Classroom Layout
The team then decided to take the experience out to the field for testing from research to the field
to the gallery.
The users to test were chosen based on the aim of creating this map, which was to address the
needs of new comers to the school, students, teachers, parents and visitors. Nielsen recommends
usability testing to be done with at least five users as an efficient gauge to provide insights into the
problems with a system (Nielsen, 1994, p165). However with this project, the challenge was getting
the team to actually do the usability testing. The team members could not seem to coordinate their
after school time to come together to test their prototypes with some users. As a teacher, I could
sense that there was almost a sense of their hesitation in confirming whether their ideas were more
effective than the current systems at helping people find their way around school.
A week after the interview questions were decided and they still hadn’t reported anything, I decided
to divide the task up by expecting that each of them test out their map prototypes with at least one
user and report their findings independently on Facebook with photographic evidence of their user-
testing. Abner and Jonathan were able to get back with some observations but these were
inconclusive to assist them in taking the next step with their design. They staged the test by using
the handphone with the map. The user’s opinions focused on that of QR interactivity citing that it
gave them a more ‘spatial’ feel of what to expect from that location on the map without having to be
physically there. As one student user cited, “its like this map is some kind of portal to another
QR codes on Image of Placemarkers
Users (teacher and student) testing out the map with their handphones
QR codes on actual Placemarkers
Several use qualities of the map were cited by the user such as the portability of the map, how it
could be easily reproduced and updated with additional panoramic views linked by QR codes.
Teachers liked the classroom layout as it was difficult to find classrooms without the floor directory
to guide and the map could easily be carried around. They could also mark the locations on the
map to plan their route between classes. To gather more opinions, I posted an on-line survey to the
staff to get feedback about the map, which garnered more constructive responses like including a
route to avoid rain and handicap zones for those on wheelchairs to allow them to move to their
destinations unobstructed and quickly. These findings were shared with the team to make them
think about what other improvements they could make to the map.
The QRs on the placemarkers intrigued the users. Three of them cited it to be giving them a sense
of teleportation moving from the placemarker to the panoramic view on their handphone with a
simple scan. They liked that they could store the panoramic view on their phone for retrieval later.
Some found it difficult to keep a steady hand to capture the QR with their phone. The QR code was
tested under wet weather conditions and sunlight and found to be just as responsive as rainwater
and sunlight did not create any error with the plastic laminate shielding the code from the elements.
Overall, the response for both the paper based map was favourable and all of the six users
interviewed preferred the QR 3D map over the original 2D map. As for the QR codes on the
placemarkers, they felt the it would be more effective at providing ‘visual teleportation’ to sights
around the campus that were more hidden from view and give a more immersive experience
What and How of my plan
• To help students craft questions for the interviews to get constructive feedback from the users
• To encourage them to do user testing independently as a team.
What actually happened
• The team had to do the user testing individually as they could not coordinate their after school schedules.
I conducted an online qualitative survey with my colleagues to get feedback about the map.
• Sometimes the best laid plans go wrong so perhaps its better to just try out the “quick and dirty” prototypes to
start getting some feedback in their still unfinished states. In the unfinished form, the prototypes lends itself to
more user input and saves the designers time from committing to a design prematurely.
• For user testing, doing some tests individually could yield results, but its better to have responses from a
wider pool of stakeholders to yeld more insightful opinions which may have been overlooked. This was
evident from the results of the survey which raised issues such as addressing universal design needs and wet
.12 Problems and Hurdles Faced during Workshops
I had started this project idealistically with the team of students thinking of a top down approach of
direct teaching where I would be teaching the content for the students to apply as a team to the
design context on their own. From my observation during the first two workshops, I could see they
were enthusiastic in wanting to learn different techniques for design as I introduced to them about
designing for a context using the W5H approach. In the subsequent workshops, it was apparent
they wanted to learn and apply new technologies that can lead to innovative designs. They were
eager to show their ideas to me such as in the case of Ian with his electronic circuit. As a team
however, it was difficult for them to collaborate and work on the design space together. Individually
they had many things to say and ideas to share at the workshops but fusing the different thoughts
together and expecting the team to make design decisions independently and conclusively without
my presence was not easy. This could be attributed to them being young boys still developing their
identity and hence wanting to assert their dominance in the control of ideas. It was obvious from
the workshops that they had a range of ideas and they each believed their idea(s) were the best
solution to address the confusing navigation issues in their school.
In my role as teacher-facilitator, in order for the project to progress in realising the design solutions
they had conceptualised, I could not get them to work collaboratively as much as I had originally
planned. It was more effective for me to get each of them to take on a particular aspect of the
project they were interested in doing and sharing with the team thereafter what they had achieved
and then for the team to decide which direction to take the project to next. For example, after
feedback from the student visitors to the school, Ian decided to explore using CAD software in
making a 3D representation of the map. After Jonathan had bodystormed with his handphone, he
decided to carry on with exploring the online imagining aspect of the map with the QR codes.
Abner who was mainly responsible for crafting the interview usability testing questions was the one
who carried out most of the user testing. The recurring pattern from these observations was that as
a team, the design responsibilities were mostly taken on by those who had conceived the idea
initially. There was a sense of ownership and motivation to see it thorough since they had
suggested it and the rest of the team were agreeable to it.
In terms of the design outcome, this style was reflected by the mish mash of visual features in the
map where there is an elegance lacking in the final product because it was a evolutionary form of
prototyping where the design features were added incrementally as each workshop surfaced some
design ideas that motivated the members to implement their idea into the map.
To encourage collaborative design I tested out several approaches of externalising their ideas with
tangible aids so it could be shared within the group. Here I discuss some of the techniques I used
for them to share a common reality to bridge the gaps in their communication.
Transparent image holders
By using images behind transparent backing boards, these props allowed the students to
communicate their shared reality via a common platform. The tools were crafted to encourage
writing and drawing by functioning as a record to reflect on as compared to verbal discussions
which is easily forgotten. In the images above, you can see colored outlines of markers that
were used by Abner and Ian to draw over to create sectors by color coding the layout view to
distinguish between the classroom block and school facilities to delineate between the two
areas in the school for the new map.
The bubbles were inspired from those in comic books used for dialogue. I crafted the thought
bubbles as cardboard stickers for the students to write comments on what is going through the
mind of person in the image. This was used for crafting the persona of Nigel, as an ice breaker
activity, before I got the team to do fieldwork by ‘being’ Nigel and taking photos for Nigel’s
Facebook account as an account of his experiences walking around school on the first day. When I
first tried this idea, I designed it as 2 types, the ‘thought’ bubble and the ‘say’ bubble. Physically,
WHAT IS HE
I wonder whats the
fastest way for me to get
to class ?
WHAT IS HE SAYING?
I wish I didn’t have to carry such a
Photos of Persona with Bubble comments made by team members
Overlay for Maps which were written on top of with markers
the stickers were actually plastic overlays pasted over cardboard backing. The plastic overlay
allowed the students to change their comments. The students were each given a set and the team
was shown the 2 photos above to comment on using the bubble stickers. During the course of the
icebreaker activity, I noticed the students were having diverse range of comments but not able to
describe the emotional level of the persona as discussion point for his needs to be addressed, so I
included another bubble which I called the ‘emotion’ bubble. This bubble was to help the students
surface the emotions the persona was feeling.
The bubble stickers came in 3 forms to show different levels empathizing with the persona, a
‘think’ bubble, a ‘say’ bubble and a ‘emotion’ bubble. The ‘think’ bubble was for the team member
to write what was going through the mind of Nigel, the ‘say’ bubble was to write something Nigel
might say in such an image and the ‘emotion’ bubble was to write how Nigel might be feeling. The
bubbles were useful in eliciting a range of responses from the team-members and opening up
further dialogue which created a multi dimensional persona in Nigel to explore when roleplaying
Nigel while taking the photos for Facebook.
Initially, the workshop sessions were as long as 1 hour each with full attendance, by the 4rd
session, I had shorten the time spent with the team to shorter time frames (sometimes without full
attendance.) Benjamin came to me to give me a letter he had written to say he was unable to
continue as the workshops were taking him away from his duties in the school concert band. The
students had other commitments in many after school activities that were important to their
performance assessment. To be fair to the students as they had volunteered for this program, I
didn’t want this project to drain them and lose the fun factor it had for them to learn something
aside from their school curriculum. There was no assessment to this project, but was planned more
as an enrichment after school activity. To keep updated about the their progress with their
individual efforts, the team members still came to see me to seek advise. Making decisions as a
team however was difficult, as they seemed to be rooted to their own areas of influence in the final
outcome of the design such as Ian with his 3D CAD model and Jonathan with his panoramic views
of the different school locations.
Reflections from workshops
In this chapter I reflect on the overall design process and insights I have gained from the
workshops i conducted. For this thesis, Interaction design could be said to be working from two
levels, at a microview of the actual conceptual methodologies that I am teaching my students and
macroview of creating engaging interactive design material for the young designers to work with
so they could think like interaction designers working as a team.
I base my insights from the workshops on the two modes of reflective practice as conceptualized
by Donald Schön of reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. As the teacher-facilitator I found
myself moving between these two modes in crafting the content for the workshops and
discussions following for the appropriate course of action to take for my students to learn and
apply that learning to the design problem. As an added mode, when my student’s progress had
come to a standstill as they were not applying any of the conceptual methods I was teaching, I
had to practice forethought in reflection for action to guide them with exploring the design context
with other options.
(knowledge for planning actions and imagination)
(knowledge for acting/doing)
(self derived knowledge from doing)
Different Reflective modes of
teacherfacilitator and student within design Context
4.1 Teaching style
When formulating the design context for this project, the interests of the team and its group
members and my role as teacher-facilitator may not have necessarily been the same. While we
both were interested in designing a better navigation system for the school, my more immediate
concern was my role at a teacher-facilitator and how do I stage the design process without
interfering the decision making processes of the team so they are able to think like interaction
designers. I consciously tried not to sway their design decisions as a team, but took a more
probing stance by asking them pertinent issues to think about in relation to their design space
such as explained in using the W5H approach of considering the design context.
Initially the intention was to teach in a direct teaching style of content placed separate from the
design context the team was handling. As the workshops progressed, it became evidently clear
the content had to be created in relation to the design context (reflection-for-action). This was
necessary for the students to grasp the techniques taught in interaction design for them to
reapply knowledgeably in another similar situation. The students may not necessarily have any
prototypes of their own to show but they would be get some feedback which would be useful in
taking their next design step (reflection-on-action).For example, after they had shown the first
school map to the French students, they decided to make a 3D map using CAD software. They
would also know how to stage a a more authentic participatory design session using their own
prototypes with the other stake holders (reflection-for-action). However this was postphoned by
the group till very late into their project when their prototype has already reached a high level of
fidelity. This learning by doing style could only come about from a practise that allowed them to
reflect-on-action to improve in subsequent sessions by reflecting-for-action.
In my role as a teacher-facilitator, I had to always consider the worst case scenario when the
team was not either not creating their own design materials or not getting any constructive
feedback to take the next design step. For that I had to reflect for action. For example, when I
created the online user survey for the map to share the responses with the team so they knew
what other stakeholders in the school felt about their idea as their own user testing did not
produce any feedback they could use.
The biggest challenge in teaching interaction design is the effective coaching of a design team,
especially if they are beginning designers. By effective here, it means that students are able to
make informed decisions from the information collated and a teacher is able to guide the student
in making those decisions independently and the student is able to justify their choices.
There is a fine balanced tension where the teacher crafts the project requirements well structured
enough for the students to understand yet abstract enough for them to structure the problem
independently to frame their own understanding and define the problem meaningfully on their
own terms. In that aspect, I think I achieved my aim with the resources I created and the design
decisions I took to explore different ways of getting them to create their own design materials to
work with then they were not creating any from just learning concepts.
This thesis project has been an exploration of the possibilities of teaching interaction design skills
to young beginning designers who have no previous background in interaction design. It
investigated how these students respond to the techniques of interaction design and more
importantly how the techniques were crafted into ways to help stretch their imagination and also
coalesce their thinking so they can fuse their ideas moving from individuals in a group to a
collaborative team. It is found that while there are ways to bridge communication between team
members by using tangible aids, it needs to be grounded in a real design context by creating a
shared emphatic experience for the team members. This encourages dialogue amongst
themselves and the design materials that they create in response to the design situation. In this
particular context, the students designed for a better navigation system for the school and tested
out their ideas with stakeholders. To address communications gaps, some forms of tangible aids
are suggested that can motivate more meaningful discussions among the team members to allow a
turn-taking or concurrent style of brainstorming.
Sequential Flow of Team Dynamics capturing design process
To present a holistic perspective of the design process the team engaged in, I visualised the
sequential flow of the team dynamics in relation to their group activities. The prototyping style
adopted by the group, which they were not really concious of, was evolutionary prototyping where
the current school map was incrementally redesigned to the final form tested by users. This is
mainly attributed to the team dynamics where the individual team members were more comfortable
by working on their own domains of expertise which was their individual ideas they mooted during
group meetings. This is also due to the team not being able to meet on a regular basis to argue out
their ideas and craft their prototypes from an early stage to refine their ideas with users from the
start. As a result the prototyping stage was delayed till very late into the project and also it was a
high fidelity form which did not allow much scope for any significant redesigns after user testing.
The team’s strength lay in looking at current systems within the school to identify what was lacking
for users and attempt to address the shortcomings in those designs with their own version in a 3D
interactive map using mobile technology.
CURRENT SYSTEMS AS EXAMPLES TO CRITIQUE
As interaction design is a user-centred approach to design, in the absence of immediately
engaging users with their prototypes after conceptualising their design, the team used themselves
as a gauge for testing the effectiveness their design by debating about the user experience as they
designed for the context. By placing themselves in the user’s point of view, they were able to
emphatise better and feel more compelled to design a better system that would satisfy their own
(3D MAP OF SCHOOL AND 2D FLOORPLAN WITH QR CODES FOR ONLINE PANORAMIC VIEWS)
needs. This was because for this situation, they were familiar with their own needs when they were
new students in the school adapting to the environment as well.
5.1 Revisting the problem formulation
I revisit the problem formulations outlined at the start if this thesis (section 1.3) to discuss how my
research and experiments have explored possible approaches to the questions below.
Research Question 1 (Stage 1):
How can interaction design skills be effectively staged for young students to
Based on my observations in my teacher-facilitator role, interaction design skills cannot simply be
mediated through workshops where conceptual methods are taught in a top-down approach from
teacher to students. While relevant points of discussions in context to the design space may be
raised by students as in the W5H method, the imparting of interaction design skills should satisfy
two other requirements
• adapting appropriate design methods to allow the students to sympathise and emphatise
with the user(s) they are designing for.
• testing prototypes/mock-ups of student ideas with potential users to get feedback.
When designing for a context, “design has no special subject matter of its own apart from what a
designer conceives it to be”. In the process of application, “the designer must discover or invent a
particular subject out of the problems and issues of specific circumstances” (Buchanan, 1992). As
I discovered, the young designers in the team are not able to immediately apply the design
methods taught as they don’t see the value in such an open-ended style of information gathering
using techniques such cultural probes, ethnography or user interviews. Students also may be
hesitant to contribute their starting point for discussions in building the design space as a team.
The onus then falls on the teacher to look for opportunities to mediate learning such skills through
the use of basic tools that can allow the young designers to craft as engaging interaction design
aids. The aids should not be simply be conceptual such as personas and scenarios and
explained as such, but hands-on and exhibits the following qualities of spatiality;
• Adjustability (can be easily moved around to compare ideas)
• Recordable and Eraseable (for writing/erasing and collection, sorting and manipulation)
To reaffirm this, Kolko encourages the externalization of data in a form that can be freely
manipulated and seen concurrently, allowing a progressive escape from the mess of gathered
data (Kolko, 2011, p65). In synthesising for design, progression is made from data to information
to knowledge and then wisdom (Kollko, 2011, p59). This can only happen when tools have a
quality of adaptability that allows designers to customise it to their design context. Interaction
design is designing for spatiality and temporality. As such qualities depicting time and space
should also be characteristics inherent in the tools used to explore the design context. For
example with the tools I created, the bubble stickers can be erasable and updated with new
concerns in response to a reframing of the design context. The hexagons can be slotted in with
changing content such as images or text and reshuffled to provoke fresh approaches to the
design context using the information gathered.
Such qualities leads me on to respond to the next problem formulation of encouraging dialogue
between team members.
Research Question 2 (Stage 2):
How can group communication in an interaction design team be facilitated?
To provide my answer to this question, it is necessary to understand the concept of design
synthesis. Design synthesis refers to the “abductive sensemaking process of manipulating,
organizing, pruning and framing data to produce information and knowledge” (Kolko, 2011, p172).
As Kolko describes it, “while other aspects of the design process are visible to non-designers
(such as drawing, which can be observed and generally grasped even by a naive and detached
audience), synthesis is often a more insular activity, one that is less obviously understood, or
even completely hidden from view.” (Kolko, 2011). When designers are engaged in reflection-in-
action, there is a need to bring out the synthesis that happens in their head to a consistent format
that can engage other members into a dialogue.
For group communication to be facilitated, tools should be tangible and offer a degree of
personalization which can be traced back to the team member. For example, when the bubble
stickers were used, some of the team members began writing on it their names to make it their
‘own voice’ as an opinion that matters in the design space. When the bubble stickers with their
written thoughts were pasted on the backing boards over the images the idea could be traced
back to the team member to get more insight from their opinion in the design space. Question
such as, ”why did you write that..”, “what made you feel that way ….” , “how did you arrive at
conclusion?” are types of Socratic line of questioning which opens up the discussion in the design
space for dialogue to develop and fuel brainstorming for ideas to emerge within the team. As an
ice-breaker, it also brings members unfamiliar to each other in a team to find that they may have
similar concerns in the design space which could be a good foundation to work from in designing
A common platform to share comments on and write and rewrite such as a whiteboard or a
backing board with a transparent overlay can encourage collaborative work. For example when
the students were writing on the map, Abner and Ian used the plastic overlay to write and erase
their thoughts about how the map was organized and could be made better. The Facebook group
allowed comments to be easily shared and images uploaded as a forum for open discussions
serving as a design conversation.
As for the qualities in tangible tools that can encourage an open discussion and dialogue to be
mediated between interaction design team members, I suggest two categories of tools that can
elicit conversations at different phases in collaborative design work: sym-tools and emp-tools.
These tools can be applied once the data gathering phase for a design context has started (with
at least collecting images related to the design context). The data gathered function as content for
design dialogue to be developed around it.
Sym-tools are used in the forming phase to unite team members by giving each member a voice
or opinion that can be shared with their teammates as an ‘outsider’s point of view’ to the design
context. The intention is for the designer to sympathise with the persona or user to give a framing
of the problem where a viewpoint or perspective can be shared with other members in the team.
Emp-tools are using in the storming phase for the designers to brainstorm in a more emphatic
way by situating themselves within the design context with an experience that gives an ‘insider’s
point of view’. I have summarized the qualities of these tools in the table below.
Traditional tools such as personas are created as a proxy for actual comprehensive emotive
immersion but such tools lack real feelings (Kolko, 2011, p159). Kouprie proposes a framework
for empathy in design practice which is divided into the four stages of discovery, immersion,
connection and detachment where a designer steps into the a user’s life to get a feel of it before
stepping out of it to reflect on the significance of the experience (Kouprie et al, 2009)
Based on these, I suggest Sym-tools and Emp-tools to complement personas as a way of probing
deeper into the problem to relate to the emotional level of the persona. To distinguish between
the two states of feelings, sympathy is a way of relating to the feeling of the other whereas
empathy is a way of knowing and understanding the feeling of another (Wispé,1986). The
distinction lies in the level of immersion called for in an experience to evoke an empathic feeling
as compared to a sympathetic one.
Designers often try to solve a design problem while concurrently trying to understand it. These
tools give the designers a better grasp of the issues at hand within the design space by dividing
the experience of the design team into a two-stage process. Firstly the designers relate to their
user by sharing concerns (such as with the use of bubble stickers). Secondly, they understand
the experience of their user by ‘living’ through their user viscerally, and record the experience in a
way that allows the team to reflect on the experience in making design decisions. The features of
the two types of tools are tabulated here.
Characteristics of Sym and Emp tools for aiding interaction design for young designers.
Tool Function within team design
Example in the context of
designing for a better
(outsider’s point of view)
In the forming phase to unite teams in
framing a problem with their individual
A group activity which can be run
in parallel or by turn taking.
(insider’s point of view)
In the storming phase for the team to
engage in unraveling the design context
at a deeper emphatic level.
Using social media to blog
experience of persona by
living through the persona
To follow through for the team to
discuss what design directions to
In the design conversations that transpire between designers and their materials, there is a need
to externalize the ideas in a tangible way. As Lawson puts it, “the really interesting things that
happen in the design process are hidden in the designers’ heads rather than being visible”
(Lawson, 2004, p4). This is to both communicate to others the designers’ intentions, the
relationships and patterns they have observed and also to keep in the designers’ minds a frame
of reference serving as a ‘snapshot’ of the current design space. This snapshot allows the
designers to remap it with new data that is collected or even by reframing the design question(s)
to look at the information from a different perspective.
Relationship of different categories of tools in interaction design
5.2 Discussion about Teacher’s role in scaffolding interaction design
As I see it, the role of the teacher in facilitating interaction design practice to young designers
focuses on three very important areas which together creates sympathy and empathy in the
designers to better understand the user and the design space.
1. Familiarity of the problem domain.
The teacher needs to get a firm understanding of the context in which the problem
specification is being formulated so that they know appropriate gaps to leave for the students
to collect appropriate information. However it is important to not misconstrue design to be like
a static jigsaw puzzle where pieces of gathered information fit precisely in relation to one
another to reproduce the same image each time. Instead design mimics more of the dynamic
marionette where the designers control the dynamics of the movement of the different
constraints which are inter-related such that they move in tandem in sometimes unexpected
2. Crafting resources (as content).
The teacher should collect and create appropriate media in relation to the problem and mould
them to fit the context of the design. Media could be in the form of images, photos, video
footage which could inspire the students to think innovatively and also to adapt in ways that
will allow more insightful design decisions to be made.
3. Recrafting the tools.
When the current resources are not yielding sufficient headway in the progress of the project,
the teacher needs to intervene and recraft the tools and technique to more engaging formats.
This is where emp-tools could be applied. A case in point would using communication
platforms and digital devices such as social networking websites and camera handphones to
be adapted to the problem domain to create more insight and empathy that could create
content to develop design dialogue around. Tools needs not be strictly confined to the digital
realm and can also be simple enough to elicit opinion and play such as with games and
Is the approach taken by myself the best approach to teaching interaction design?
In my view, there is no best approach to speak of, except for appropriate approaches depending on
the problem domain. As interaction design is a user-centred design approach, the focus should be
to involve users as early as possible in the design process. However with this team, this was
delayed until their high fidelity prototype was made. The team was more keen in having a ‘wow’
factor to surprise their users which also seems to imply they may have committed to their design
idea prematurely. The users tested may have found their redesigned map a fresh experience, but
whether it fitted users needs is questionable judging by other design issues raised in the surveys
such as designing for handicapped routes and wet weather.
Ideally the team should have started with some open ended interviews and ethnographic studies
but this proved to be difficult for the team to initiate as they did not see the worth of those methods
to get data and were more intent on designing something based on their judgement and not
involving the opinions of others. One approach could have been for them to interview and conduct
ethnography on each other to create content for design conversations to follow through. However,
based on my observation of their friendship dynamics, I refrained from that as the project would
have lacked objectivity and relationships could be strained with their personal opinions of each
The design process of engaging them in an emphatic experience with their shared persona ‘Nigel’
was the trigger point to get to open up and share their concerns. Posing examples of the current
school navigation systems to outsiders also provided a non-biased view constructive to the design
decisions they took. This approach shows what can be done to overcome hurdles in scenarios
when the team design for themselves instead of a user. Content related to the design context to
encourage design conversations should be made to ‘break the ice’ between team members in
reaching a comfort zone of designing without any inhibitions or need to protect individual ideas. A
persona can serve as a user and a shared emphatic experience built around this user as an anchor
point for the team to reflect on in their design process.
6 Future work
In my opinion, the future of facilitating interaction design as a studio practice among young
beginning designers rests on mediating a fine balance between the methods of exploring
empathy and putting into action achievable ideas with easy to learn technology. While most
interaction design methodologies such as ethnography, cultural probes, user interviews help
designers understand the design context, what remains a challenge is how to emphatise with the
users to satisfy their unmet needs. A bolder attempt would be to create a want with the interaction
where previously there was none. I feel empathy can only best be explored by staging
experiences relatable to the design context. A case in point is living the experience of the persona
of Nigel where the team starting blogging their experience and taking photos which allowed them
to reflect-in-action what were the really important locations students needed to find in school. This
to me is how best to engage young designers, using the very same platforms they are using as
mediums of communication to create and live viscerally the experiences of the users they are
creating their designs for. Such approaches will help stretch their imagination as they create
stories around their personas and look for design opportunities for them.
Alongside empathy is the issue of technology. Ideally, technology should not be a bottleneck to
the imagination of young designers. While some physical prototyping software may have steep
learning curves, require computing resources and infrastructure beyond the means of some
students and educational establishments, sometimes all it takes is something as simple as a QR
code and a mobile scanner application to open up possibilities in terms of what can be explored
and crafted into new interactions that are easily implementable. For this navigation project, it was
by sheer coincidence that Jonathan had brought his handphone along to bodystorm with.
Although it seemed like the obvious device to go with (compared with a compass and a
torchlight), what stood out to me as a facilitator was how the team were engaged in dialogue
about the user experience when deciding between the still images or the panoramic views. Even
in the absence of user testing until the final prototype, the process of refinement that the team
gave to the intermediate ideas showed a high-level of thinking becoming of young interaction
For future work, I intend to carry on with this navigation problem with the current team to see how
we include some of the suggestions from the online survey made by the staff. Service design
skills are another topic within interaction design I would like to explore with the team as we see
how we can implement their map for visitors and new students in the school to use. To encourage
participation by other students, the team is thinking about how to encourage other students to
upload photosynths of the school to share so that a more immersive map can be created to bring
the visual experience of the campus from both outside and inside the facilities online. As one of
the users interviewed mentioned, scanning the code and having the panoramic view open up on
the handphone felt like a virtual teleportation to another location. That could be a visual metaphor
adopted for the layout of the map to give more consistency in its visual layout.
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Initial Teaching plan for Interaction Design Programme for students
Teaching Aids for Interaction Design created by Teacher‐Facilitator
INTERA TION DESIGNC
Grounding Imagination with Personas.
(A Persona is a character with feelings, motivations and experiences created by you. It is an
imaginative process meant to help in understanding whoever you are designing for better.)
FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL!
Its Nigel’s first day at ACS Barker. He is so excited ….but….the school building is so huge and he is finding it challenging
finding his way around. He hasn’t made many friends yet and he is shy in getting to know his classmates. He is an
introvert who likes blogging about his experiences. He uses FACEBOOK to keep his friends from his former school
updated about what is life is like in ACS Barker.
Step into Nigel’s shoes and imagine you are him
How do you think Nigel’s FACEBOOK account will look like?
What kind of photos of the school building/activities will he update his page with?
What sort of captions will he write for those photos taken?
Which buildings/facilities are really important to him?
How would be find his way around to his classrooms.
What happens when he is lost in school?Set up a FACEBOOK Account and start living Nigel’s world
in school for 3 days and updating the account with the experiences of Nigel(updating statuses,
photos, links) with whatever information you feel represents Nigel’s feelings as a new student of
Teaching Aids for Interaction Design created by Teacher‐Facilitator
Sym tools‐Bubble stickers for sympathising with user/persona
There tools are sympathy evoking tools used together with images of personas or characters in a design
context (as in the persona worksheet in Appendix 3).The bubbles encourage members in a team to express
their own opinions in a playful manner to encourage conversations about shared concerns in the design
Speech bubble to create a dialogue
between personas or characters.
Thought bubble is to write what
you think a persona/character is
Exclamation bubble to convey an
emotion for an urgent concern said or
thought by the persona/character.
Observation bubble is for story
telling where events or other
observations are related to image(s)
Teaching Aids for Interaction Design created by Teacher‐Facilitator
Prototyping Exercise Worksheet
Understanding How People make Sense of Moving around in Space.
Examples of Navigation Devices
Prototype making (quick and dirty)
What materials would you use to make a Prototype (working Model) of a Navigation Device for people to try out?
What kind of Environment would you need to test out your ideas?
Can a device be inbuilt within the environment itself?
Consider how important DIRECTIONS, IMAGES and Other types of Media help a person in MOVING AROUND IN SPACE?
No Tool Image Remarks
( what can you say about it? +ve and ‐ve )
1 Map and
Skill level needed?
Time taken to read?
Time taken to Read?
3 GPS systems
oogle Maps G
a device works? How does a person understand how such
Is there a cause and effect relationship?
(Does the screen change in response to some action?)
4 Inuit Coastline
Tactile Maps used by the Inuits
ely on? What sort of senses does it r
What skill level is required?
Prototypes Created by Students
Appendix 6: Evolutionary prototypes of map design
1. Original Maps, PlaceMarkers, and floor plans located on campus
2. 3D Map (created with Google Sketchup by the team)
‐based on user interviews with foreign exchange students.
3. Draft map of classroom floor plan layout‐based on tour of classroom block
This is the navigation systems
in place within the campus.
This was shown to the visitors
and the feedback it received
was that It helps people
understand the layout and
proximity of buildings but it
doesn’t give detail for
locations within the
classrooms block or how to
recognise the different
buildings to know one has
i d h
This is the image of the 3D model view of the layout of the important
locations for students around the campus. The 3D model was decided as a
good representation of the architecture of the campus easily identifiable.
The locations were identified when the team recorded photos on Facebook
living through the visceral experience of Nigel, the persona of a new
student in the school.
This draft plan layout was drawn up by Ian. He realised the individual
floors had a common layout. He did a tour of the block to identify the
individual classes and labelled them in order to help them be identified
easily based on level. Visually this layout he was planning could be read
more easily than the orginal layout of the plain text on the floor
4. 3D Map with QR codes and photosynth prototype for user testing‐based on body
This map was conceived after the
body storming session and online
research into QR codes. The team
decided to go with this idea as it
was something implementable and
they could prototype it within
their means. Users say it’s a more
organised system to understand
visually as compared to the 2D
Final version of map
To use the 3D map with your mobile device, you will need to download the QR
reader applications listed on page 1 of the map.