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    User-Centered Design

    Stephanie Jan 18 '10 3

    So we started a new workshop today, and it's really exciting. It's a 2 week preparation for our new semester project, and I find the premise to be really useful. I think it will challenge me a lot.

    We are learning how to use particular methods to focus our designs on the needs of the user. Seems obvious, I know, but very often designers just start drawing and sketching 'from scratch' with invented problems they have made, or based on only their own experiences. This is a way of problem finding and problem solving, something Richard Sennett would definitely see as a manifestation of 'craftsmanship' in design.

    The role of the designer takes a completely different turn; we are no longer the 'experts' giving our own version of aesthetics and form. We have to get a profound insight into the users, and then integrate that insight into the design process. The designer is more an empathetic listener than a unique 'artist.'

    Why use this method?

    Today, it's not enough just to make a beautiful form... we are asked to give a deeper understanding of people's role in the world. We have the opportunity to influence the way people live through our designs. As people moved from an industrialized society to an intellectual society, there are more demands for objects to fit themselves to the human user, rather than the other way around. The designer's task is to create value for the users.

    We had a very good introduction by a self-employed designer here in Copenhagen, and our task for Wednesday is to find out 'what we want to know'. This includes identifying the user, how to contact the user, the problem, relevant and insightful questions, and relevant background information. From there we will be doing actual field work--using tools we will come up with in the next 2 days to gather information from users. Since our semester project will be to design a chair for elderly people, we plan to use a 'make your own chair' type of flip book, with different options for legs, seat, and back. In this way we can analyze people's aesthetics and practical views.

    Now, we just need to find some old people....

     

     
    • 3 Comments

    • will gallowaywill galloway
      Jan 18, 10 7:08 pm

      find old people. sounds flippant.

      one question, an sorry if i have misunderstood - if you are providing the various chair parts to begin with are you not simply designing several versions and asking the old user to pick one? isn't that forcing them into a corner of your choosing?

      why not start farther back. what if what they really need is a sofa? does your interview process accept possibility you don't have everything covered?

      thing about users too is that they seldom know what they want or need either. which means you have to be more sensitive and actually care.

      Stephanie
      Jan 19, 10 9:21 am

      one question, an sorry if i have misunderstood - if you are providing the various chair parts to begin with are you not simply designing several versions and asking the old user to pick one? isn't that forcing them into a corner of your choosing?

      I haven't described the point of the book, perhaps. It's not a design tool for us at all, but a way of gathering information about user preferences: do they choose chairs with upholstery or not? Do they choose armrests? Straight backs or curved? Deep seats? Do they prefer chairs that look solid or delicate? Are the attracted to a particular type of fabric, color, or ornamentation? And most importantly... why do they choose these things?

      The book is to help us understand some basic things about how people choose their furniture--not so that we can just match up some parts and put it all together. Once we have information about people's choices, we can ask more questions about why it's important to have such-and-such feature.

      It may very well turn out to be a bad way of posing the question, but that's what this course is about, learning how to find information and use it to design.

      why not start farther back. what if what they really need is a sofa? does your interview process accept possibility you don't have everything covered?

      The book is just one tool we plan to use, and won't be implemented until late in the research process, as I mentioned. Our first goals include finding out what we want to know. How do we move from the general to the specific to gather our information, and what questions need to be asked?

      Of course it remains open what we discover, we are trying to clear our minds of preconceived notions about the 'needs' of the aging. I understand what you're saying about the users not knowing what they want--that's why it's going to be a challenge. We have to find a way to open up a conversation about design with people who may rarely consider things in the detail we do...

      As I said, it's about problem finding as much as problem solving...

      Hope that makes our intent a bit more clear :)

      jacklawyer
      Jan 24, 10 7:46 am

      "we are trying to clear our minds of preconceived notions about the 'needs' of the aging"

      --Reason why i think this is an awesome exercise...

      In todays world we have preconceived notions about the needs of everyone not just the aging...

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