User Information for Designers:
                                     A Visual Research Package
             Anu Antikainen...
with the combining version of grouping (i.e. finding out the order
research. However, the software is not replacing person...
Figure 5: The visual research on emotions linked to the
Figure 6: The confusion matrix. The information is presented in numbers and different colours and shades.
Results from the traditional form of semantic differential can be         developing the package is that whenever users’ v...
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  1. 1. User Information for Designers: A Visual Research Package Anu Antikainen Mirja Kälviäinen Hugh Miller The Kuopio Academy of Design The Kuopio Academy of Design The Nottingham Trent University PL 98, 70101 PL 98, 70101 Burton Street Kuopio, Finland Kuopio, Finland Nottingham NG3 5DY, UK +358 (0)17 308135 +358 (0)17 308201 +44 (0)115 848 5550 developed by Pieter Jan Stappers at TUDelft, has been to use ABSTRACT multidimensional scaling to present complex characteristics of In this paper, we describe the development of a flexible, visually- products to consumers, and to allow them to manipulate the based on-line package, based on free sorting and multi- displays to emphasise those dimensions that interested them most dimensional scaling to help designers research users’ emotional [8]. The approach of presenting complex information in visual, and social responses to designed objects. preferably user-manipulable ways has been promoted by researchers like Ben Shneiderman [7], and consultancies like Categories and Subject Descriptors Doblin, with ‘innovation landscapes’ [2]. H.1.2 [Information Systems]: User-Machine Systems – human The multidimensional scaling approach used in the chair research factors. was evaluated by small design companies in Finland, who were General Terms: Human Factors asked if they could see ways of using this technique in their design process [5]. We found that designers felt comfortable with Keywords: Design and emotion, visual research, the kind of pictures the research produced. An analysis which gave them groups of pictures with different explanations of how multidimensional scaling, on-line methods the users saw them was useful from their point of view, and they could also see how such a presentation might be valuable in 1. INTRODUCTION discussing designs with management and with outside suppliers. Designed objects have a social and emotional impact on The present paper describes how the grouping method has been consumer’s lives, and researchers have tried to find ways of developed further and combined with other supporting methods to researching and describing these impacts. Approaches range from form a consistent software package that can serve researchers considering ways of characterising the personalities of objects [4], working with companies and in educational use. We set out to through using morphological analysis to find those ‘form present information in a visual, easily manipulated, exploratory elements’ that are associated with certain aspects of the object [1, way: a way which corresponds with the way that designers like to 3], to calculating numerical indices that indicate how the elements work. There are limitations in using purely pictorial of an object convey certain qualities [9]. Understanding how representations of physical objects, but it makes for a quick and objects are perceived by users should be helpful in the design easy presentation method, and designers we spoke to, who often process for producing enjoyable objects, but such research is often work with visual sketches in the early stages of developing a conducted after the design process is finished, and may produce project, found it an acceptable approach. The results can be used rather abstract results, often verbally- or numerically-based, rather either as a practical support for designers and marketing personnel than visual. in a company or to increase general understanding of users. This A visual research package for design development and marketing paper describes our intentions in developing this package. Once it research is being built by The Kuopio Academy of Design, based is complete, in fall 2003, we hope to go on to evaluate its on a method developed for evaluating chair designs by Hugh usefulness to small design companies. Miller and Mirja Kälviäinen [6]. The method of grouping items, based on free-sorting and multi-dimensional scaling, was intended 2. THE VISUAL RESEARCH PACKAGE to produce holistic, user-centred accounts of both social and DEVELOPMENT PROJECT design aspects of the objects. A complementary approach, 2.1 Aims The aim is to develop a tool which can obtain useful information Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for to support the design process as well as other functions in a personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are company. The advantages are flexibility in designing research and not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy speed in collecting and analysing data from a large number of otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, respondents globally. Consequently time and financial resources requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. are saved compared to the manual process used in the original DPPI’03, June 23-26, 2003, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Copyright 2003 ACM 1-58113-652-8/03/0006…$5.00. 1
  2. 2. with the combining version of grouping (i.e. finding out the order research. However, the software is not replacing personal user of preference in the ‘I would buy – would not buy’ example). research, but aims at giving supplementary information to designers and marketers that can be both qualitative and The semantic differential method in the traditional form can also quantitative. be used visually. The respondent is asked to set one to three pictures of, for example, products on a scale between a pair of Starting in fall 2001, The Kuopio Academy of Design started a words. This method is particularly useful when more accurate design-based EU-funded project titled Muotoiluparkki. One of the information from selected items is wanted after the grouping project aims was to develop the new software, with the active method. cooperation of the Lahti Design Research Institute, which operates as a research consultant in design and user research. It is Multiple choice can be used with words or with pictures. Verbal intended that the project will be finished by the end of 2003. questions can be used, for example, in collecting background information. Free text is used mainly as a supportive method, and 2.2 Components Of The Software Package could be used in other forms such as in a story-telling method, Although the software package under development is based on the which might be seen as a useful additional research method in grouping method, other approaches like semantic differential, some cases. multiple choice and free text have been added to make a more To briefly illustrate the application of the methods, short flexible research tool. Combining a variety of techniques gives the descriptions of practical company cases that we used in advantage of gaining results from various different perspectives. developing the package are presented. These are being used However, the grouping method is the primary research method throughout the development process to improve the package. and is thus generally used first. This method has been modified into several different versions to 2.3 The Furniture Company Case match different research settings (figure 1). The free sorting A Finnish furniture company has a large variety of products. One method using to a supplied theme or question is best applied to of their important product lines is sofas. To gain further gain information of product categorisations or to position a information of their market position and different consumer chosen product among other products in the market. In all forms groups’ taste they wanted to do research on their and competitors of grouping respondents are usually asked to describe their products by grouping. In addition, new product prototypes under choices after grouping items, which can be pictures or words. development are being included in the study (figure 2). A second version of grouping is called combining, in which there is one or several predetermined groups where the given items are placed. The respondent has freedom to place items into the groups, or to leave some items aside. A practical application could be to study which products are appealing (i.e. a box titled ‘I would buy’) and undesirable (i.e. ‘I would not buy). Alternatively a selection of descriptive words can be offered as items to be combined with two to four product (or other visual) pictures, which can be either prototypes or finalised products. Finally grouping can be arranged in a scale form, which resembles the semantic differential method. Organise the given pictures Move products you would buy and according to their potential users would not buy into the boxes below Figure 2: Free sorting Organise the given products on the pleasing – unpleasing scale 2.4 The Wooden Cutlery Case A Finnish wood processing company had invented a unique automated cutting mechanism, which enables all kinds of forms to be shaped from wood. As a challenging test product the company Pleasing Unpleasing decided to try producing a set of wooden cutlery. The visual research package was used to study what are the general attitudes Figure 1: Three versions of grouping; grouping freely, towards wood as a material for cutlery and how wood associates combining, and scale form with cooking and eating. Research questions include, for example, how wooden cutlery relates to steel, silver and plastic, and what are the ideal user environments (figures 3 and 4). Two opposing verbal definitions are set on two ends of the screen and the respondent arranges pictures on a scale or space between them. This way the information gained is more precise compared 2
  3. 3. Figure 5: The visual research on emotions linked to the bathroom. After grouping the respondents are asked to describe the emotions that are linked to the pictures Figure 3: Grouping by combining is used to find out the most pleasing and displeasing fork forms 3. PRESENTATION OF RESULTS The results that are produced are presented in a form that is visual and easy to approach and work with. Each picture can be enlarged on the result screens. A package that is visual, flexible and provides a multiple way of presenting results should be easy for designers to approach and use in their visual work as opposed to the traditional, verbal or numerical research results. Interviews with designers have confirmed a need for these features [5]. The first screen of results from the grouping task is presented as a confusion matrix (figure 6). It simply shows how often each example has been grouped with each other example. The confusion matrix is an easy way to gain an overall picture of the results. However, other ways of presenting results are necessary to gain a more accurate view of general meanings behind groupings and meanings connected to individual groups. After viewing the confusion matrix the researcher has a choice of proceeding to either a two-dimensional plot formed when the confusion matrix is subjected to a multidimensional scaling analysis, or a network view that presents interlinkages between Figure 4: Grouping by combining is used to study a suitable different items. In the two-dimensional plot the dimensions are environment for wooden cutlery. given meanings by using the descriptions that arise from the grouping results as Miller and Kälviäinen [6] did in their study of chairs (Figure 7). The constrained sort can be analysed in the 2.5 Study of Emotions Linked to the same way. The visual scale shows small thumbnail pictures of the items studied. Explaining words or codes can be added to the Bathroom thumbnails. The results are read from the distances to other items Ido Bathrooms produces bathroom furnishing. The company was and the dimensions. interested in finding out about real and dreamt emotions people The results can also be presented as a network display (figure 8). link to their bathrooms. This information is intended to assist the Any item from the confusion matrix or the two-dimensional plot designer in his design process: the results will be part of his can be selected as the centre of the display. Items which were design brief. The study took two approaches: one which frequently grouped with that one will appear clustered round it, approaches emotions with a set of pictures such as buildings and with less-frequently chosen items a little further away. Selecting texture that are meant to match with emotions linked to the any item will move it to the middle of the screen, with an bathroom (figure 5), and another which aims at arising emotions appropriate rearrangement of the others. The same presentation through pictures presenting situations and actions. can be used for the words used to describe the groupings. 3
  4. 4. Figure 6: The confusion matrix. The information is presented in numbers and different colours and shades. The stronger the shade, the more often the two examples were grouped together. Figure 7: Example of a two dimensional plot 4
  5. 5. Results from the traditional form of semantic differential can be developing the package is that whenever users’ visual viewed on a screen similar to the one used for gathering the impressions are sought and two dimensional visual material is data. Additionally two scales can be combined to form a two sufficient, the visual research package could be applied. dimensional graphic, where the items are presented as 5. REFERENCES thumbnails. [1] Chuang, M-C. and Ma, Y-C., 2001, Expressing the Generally the results can be read in a flexible way. Clicking any expected product images in product design of micro- of the items in the result screens can fetch access to individual electronic products. International Journal of Industrial explanations. Also access to individual questionnaires or other Ergonomics, 27, pp. 233-245 results concerning each item can be opened directly from the [2] Doblin, 2003 Innovation Landscapes: Visualizing different screens. Everyone using the results of a certain research Innovation Available at can gather and save an individual collection of results in a personal file. [3] Hsiao, S-W. and Chen, C-H., 1997, A semantic and shape The visual research package aims to be a conceptual and grammar based approach for product design. Design exploratory tool that supports the work of designers and Studies, 18, pp. 275-296 marketing people in a company. In addition the results can aid discussion between designers, managers, and clients during the [4] Janlert, L-E. and Stolterman, E, 1997, The Character of product development process. Things. Design Studies, 18, pp. 297-314. [5] Kälviäinen, M. and Miller, H., in press, Researching Users’ Understanding of Products: An On-line Tool. In McDonagh, D., Hekkert, P., Gyi, D. and van Erp, J. (2003) Design and Emotion, Episode III: The Design of Everyday Things London: Taylor and Francis [6] Miller, H. and Kälviäinen, M., 2001, Objects for an Enjoyable Life: Social and Design Aspects. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Affective Human Factors Design (Singapore), edited by Helander, M., Khalid, H. M. and Ming Po, T. (London: Asean Academic Press), pp. 487-494. [7] Shneiderman, B., 1999 Dynamic queries, starfield displays, and the path to Spotfire Available at Figure 8: Example of a network display [8] Stappers,P.J, Pasman,G. and Groenen, P.J.F., 2000, 4. CONCLUSIONS Exploring databases for taste or inspiration with interactive multi-dimensional scaling Proceedings of IEA 2000/HFES The practical examples discussed above show how the visual 2000 Ergonomics for the new Millenium San Diego July- research package can be used in various applications. The August 2000, pp 3.575-3.578. Available at development process of the visual research package is still under way, so the content presented here may change during the There is more information at process. Commercial and cooperative company cases are being used throughout the project. Some interesting cases are product development for a multinational corporation, the development [9] Veryzer, R. W., 1997, Measuring Consumer perceptions in project for a new travelling vehicle, and an image study of the the Product Development Process. Design Management Kuopio soccer team corporate identity. The guiding idea in Journal, 8, pp. 66-71. 5