Reflections on the reports

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE IDM PROJECT REPORTS

To not confuse my comments with the examination, and to re-iterate my previous advice that you probably can learn much from each other here follows some thoughts after reading your reports. Although all comments do not apply to all reports, there is something to be learned by looking at many examples of how your peers have tackled the brief. Looking at what things were picked up, what issues fell to the side, where a given project appears strong or weak, etc., you gain important insights into the range of issues and possibilities the brief brings to the table – and what it takes to develop a strong response. Again, what Schön picked up from Dewey when he developed the notion of ‘the reflective practitioner’ comes to mind: “The student cannot be taught what he needs to know, but he can be coached: “He has to see on his own behalf and in his own way the relations between means and methods employed and results achieved,. Nobody else can see for him, and he can’t see just by being ‘told,’ although the right kind of telling may guide his seeing and thus help him see what he needs to see”.

With these comments, I do want to encourage you to read each others reports. I’m sure you will learn a lot.

 

ABOUT THE METHODS

In general, most projects have an appropriate selection of methods. Especially basic methods for gathering information and inspiration in the early phases of a project are present in most reports. This is an effective way of not only getting started, but also a basic strategy for grounding some key arguments that then will be used when proposing a design. There are, however, a few things to think about here in order to get all the way here.

For instance, quite a few reports confuse what is found with what is assumed. Of course, one might get both observations and ideas out of many information-gathering methods, but it is important to differentiate between them, or else you risk undermining the entire process.

Related to this issue is when you do not use methods to push yourself out of your existing knowledge and/or comfort zone, but rather as support for ideas or assumptions that were more or less there anyway. For instance, if you look closely, it is not that difficult to see the difference between someone going out and seeing something for the first time, and someone just going to get an illustration of something already known. This is not to say that one is faking observation (because this might not even be that obvious to oneself), but rather that you really need to push yourself and the method you are using to the point where it starts saying non-trivial things back to you. You may get far with common sense, but not far enough. And so, whereas most of you select appropriate methods, many of you need to work harder on their execution. ”God is in the details” as Mies van der Rohe put it.

Whereas some methods are more or less like events in the process, other methods require you to move back and forth during the process. Personas, for instance, are like that: to really get something out of personas one needs to keep in mind that while you shape the personas to reflect what is important in the design process, all of their characteristics must be possible to trace back to a specific observation. So, while personas are created, they can only be built using the material obtained during observations, interviews, etc. – to the extent that it should at all times be possible to go back to that original data to make sure one has not confused things. Unless you create and keep such connections, personas easily become worthless as they loose touch with the reality they are meant to represent.

One problem evident in many projects is they are not really finished. For instance, quite a few projects do not come all the way to the point where the design proposal is not only proposed but actually tried in some form. In quite a few cases, even the most simple rapid prototype would reveal basic problems in the proposal – and so even if the basic idea might be interesting, the proposal is easily dismissed for reasons you perhaps could have prevented had you just finished the process. What you need to take away from this exercise is the need to not just start the process, but to plan it from the start to make sure you have the time and resources necessary to finish it.

When it comes to being in control over the time and resources to make it all the way, the initial respect for a large and complex problem may sometimes be an obstacle. Not knowing what to do makes it hard to feel confident making important decisions. This often being the case in design, one simply has to learn to live with it. One key thing is to not let go to impulse of spending ever more time on just doing basic research, thinking that ”once I know everything I need to know I will start designing”. Instead, what you need to do is to think of the entire design process as a matter of learning and finding out more about the problems at hand. The early design proposals are not just tentative solutions, more importantly they are also probes that allow you to test and try ways of framing the problem. Indeed, this is one of the most difficult things in design: how to find a balance between grounding and ground-breaking.

 

ABOUT COMMUNICATING

The reports come in a variety of styles, the more informal perhaps being the most common, and most of them are quite easy to read and understand. The format is quite short, and it is interesting to see the different ways you cope with this. Useful and effective strategies seen in some reports include combining the description of early design ideas with existing designs: by at the same proposing one’s own idea, putting it in relation to an existing product, and then critiquing both, you get part of the background/related work, part of the process, and part of the critical analysis in one go.

Even if you choose an informal style of writing, it is important to remember that you are writing for someone, and with a specific purpose. In quite a few reports, the text is more of a continuous flow of ideas, observations, arguments, etc. – which might be fine when documenting a process to remember it oneself. But it does not work very well when trying to convince someone else. When presenting an argument or idea, you need to ground it somehow – and to do this you need to make sure the text has anchor points outside itself. For sure, the reader is interested in how you reason about things, but he or she is also interested in understanding the context of that reasoning – and that you consciously position your work within it.

For instance, many projects propose designs similar products already available. This is perfectly fine, the task was not to come up with something entirely new. What is not, however, is to not acknowledge that that is the case (especially when a few minutes with Google would reveal a range of related design proposals). What you need to do here is to use other examples as reference points, allowing you to be more precise about what it is that your design does and does not. To give an example: if you propose a design based on, say, an augmented or intelligent refrigerator, you probably should say something about why given the more less complete commercial failure of such designs in the past. I’m not saying you need a business plan, but if you are moving against things that are widely known, you need to explain why.

Another way to improve the potential impact of your proposal is to work with the balance between different sections and concerns in the paper. For instance, if half of the text is used just to describe the background whereas the design proposal is just one paragraph towards the end, then the impression is very likely to be that while the background work is there, the rest is more of a sketch. Similarly, even though one has a strong focus on, say, user-centred design in the process, that might still require the occasional remark about other concerns as well. For instance, even when comparing the benefits of two proposals strictly from a users point of view, if they are at the opposites of an investment scale (like post-its vs a new technical platform), you can not completely neglect that such differences will matter.

 

Finally, I also want to say that you have done a great job! This is no easy thing to do, and it takes practice to do it well. Some of you have come far already, others have more work to do – but in general: well done!

 

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Notes from the mid-term meeting with class representatives, Tuesday Dec. 7th.

IDM 2010
Notes from the mid-term meeting with class representatives.
Tuesday Dec. 7th.

Comments from the students:

Much of the feedback was about the individual project, as the course is in the middle of it right now. This included comments such as:
• The project task is unclear, as is the expected result. There were also comments about receiving mixed messages from the teachers regarding what is expected.
• The project is difficult, the topic is too broad and it is not possible to resolve it all.
• There was also a question about why the project is individual, as most (professional) work is collaborative.

It seems, however, that last week – ”workshop for workshop” – was helpful, not the least because of the work in bigger groups.

Confusion was not just about the project, but also about contents of the course, sometimes leading to the question ”What are they talking about?”.

Comments from the teachers:

From what we see during lectures and projects, it is clear that a main challenge is how to support a transition from being passive students to becoming active designers, as this shift in mind-set is more or less required to make sense and use of the methods and approaches presented in the course. Importantly, “passive student” does not refer to an individual attitude to class, but to a style of learning typical to much education where knowledge is considered something you are taught rather than something you have acquire on your own. Donald Schön’s work on how to educate ‘the reflective practitioner’ has been very influential in design education:

“The student cannot be taught what he needs to know, but he can be coached: “He has to see on his own behalf and in his own way the relations between means and methods employed and results achieved,. Nobody else can see for him, and he can’t see just by being ‘told,’ although the right kind of telling may guide his seeing and thus help him see what he needs to see” (1974, p. 151)[Dewey]” (Schön 1987:17)

It would be interesting to evaluate the course at a later stage, e.g. later next spring, and see what has happened (because this shift takes some time to get around), and if the course should be redesigned to put more emphasis on this challenge.

/johan

Workshop Comments – Brendon

It is an impressive array of activities the various groups facilitated throughout the day Thursday. It seems that everyone has gotten a taste of what it is like to lead a workshop activity: how difficult it can be prepare and facilitate, what can work and not work as far as motivating participation, drawing on people’s individual experience, and encouraging them to project into the future, and what provides value to your project as a result.

From the laughter on the videos, it is obvious that it was sometimes fun as well.

Looking through the videos and reading the descriptions, it seems that each group learned something, although everyone found much room for improvement. I can only imagine that next time you will learn from what you did as well as what you learned from participating in the other groups.

Below are some of my thoughts when viewing the material:

-Presentations: Not many had their WS participants “perform” at the end of an activity (Peformative Task). To have very compact, “crisp” presentations can be a very valuable way to draw on people’s experience both in general and in their group work, and to have something specific as an output. Ultimate Gold did do this. The “Re-hartinator” (if I heard correctly), is a refrigerator concept in which you can hear some of the values of the presenter come forward in the solution (healthy food, heart, etc.). Tasks where people make something (like their paper prototyping) are specifically well suited to this as well.
– Scenario/Performance: The next step is to have people “perform” in different ways. The Shopping Cart group seems to have gone in this direction (although their video did not have a specific start and stop with a clear performance, they were moving in the direction of putting someone in a shopping scenario and having them act it out, instead of describe. PUDDI PUDDI used extreme characters to do this. They mentioned the difficulty form getting people to have ideas “for” the character versus ideas “from” the character. This is an important distinction that also can be address by having people demonstrate and act out versus “describe” .
– Props: Many groups mentioned that next more props or objects would have been useful to get people engaged. Others, such as Group Lasse introduced pictures and discussed how a picture can both be misleading, and can be an invitation for people to give it context. (The video had no sound though, so I did not hear how it worked☺
I encourage more experimentation with props/objects in workshops.
– Organization: Some groups mention the importance of timing and two groups working at the same time. Group pancake talked about next time trying out the activity. This can help with the overall organization, but also in relation to sharpening the activity and getting a better understanding of what type of results can come out of it. “Tomatoes” group mentioned the unexpected number of people that showed up, highlighting the need to be willing to improvise and make adjustments to unforeseen circumstances—one of the most important parts of facilitating workshops.

– Solutions First raised the issue of value of the activities. Often it is difficult to see the value until the final presentation, or even until the next day or two when looking back at the material. It is therefore it is often important to follow-through and to document well.
– Brice to Nice found the game set-up to help motivation.
– French Fries were concerned about having a representative sample. There are some times to be representative, but other times it is very important to dive into great detail with the people you have, then find others to go deep into. For instance, the group mentions that not only asking for opinions about price versus quality, but observing could be more valuable. I would also add that to go deeper into the issue, it would be interesting to find the moments that do not fit what people say they do. What moments, items, times, trigger people to act outside of their ideals? This could be set-up by combining observations and interviews in preparation, and then holding a workshop using material from their lives.
– Roliga Lappar nicely introduced vision activities that were “tainted by optimism or pessimism” (well put). Drawing on the extreme visions often triggers peoples values to come forward.

Last week Workshop project

Please upload your results from last weeks thursday exercise, and do not forget to include your names and reflections. /Eva

Information from the administartion at Applied IT

Interaction Design Courses moves to the Department of Applied IT (ITIT)
By January 1st 2011, all interaction design courses (except DATX05) will be administrated by the Student Office at the Department of Applied IT. Please see below for how these changes will affect you:

Chalmers students
Registration: You register for your courses at Chalmers, just as per usual.
Results: All results will be reported into Ladok by the Student Office at ITIT.
Certificates of Results or Registration: Issued by the Student Office at ITIT.
Study Counselor: Will remain the same.

The Student Office is located at campus Lindholmen in house Patricia, level 2 in room Fnutt. For opening hours, please see http://www.ait.gu.se/english/Student_at_applied_IT/student_office/.

University of Gothenburg students
Registration: You register for your courses at the Department of Applied IT. Registration and introduction of ITIT will be on Thursday January 13th at 9-11AM. For more information, please visit http://www.ait.gu.se/english/study_start/.
Results: All results will be reported into Ladok by the Student Office at ITIT.
Certificates of Results or Registration: Issued by the Student Office at ITIT.
Study Counselor: Will change to Mr. Jon Mjölnevik. (jon.mjolnevik@ituniv.se). His office is in room Delete, level 2, house Patricia.

The Student Office is located at campus Lindholmen in house Patricia, level 2 in room Fnutt. For opening hours, please see http://www.ait.gu.se/english/Student_at_applied_IT/student_office/.

Brice from Nice

Description
We made our workshop as a game, where the person with the most points won. The game was divided into two tasks. Each task had two parts.
In the first part of the first task, the participants should come up with what they thought were the most bought products in a supermarket. For each unique product, they got one point, and if someone else came up with that product, they got half a point each.
In the second part, they should place the products in a diagram. The Y-axis represented environmental impact, and the X-axis represented most bought products.

lawlz ma ballz

Task 1, part 2: Put everything into the diagram

The second task consisted of coming up with different kinds of environmental effects, for example carbon dioxide, overfertilization etc. Then they should come up with contexts a solution would have the biggest impact, for example in the kitchen, in a school etc.
The last part consisted of coming up with a technical solution for informing of environmental impact for that specific context.

lawlz ma ballz

Task 2, part 2: Put the environmental effects in different contexts

Reflections
Making the workshop into a game was pretty helpful, because everyone wanted to win (we told them tha the prize was a cake), and therefore tried to come up with as many ideas as possible. As you can see in the images above, the participants brainstormed very good, and filled up the graphs without problems.
One thing that would have been good would to have more time for reflections. As it was now, we only got about 20 minutes, because it took a little more time than expected to change groups.

Group members: Erik Einebrant, Tobias Johansson, Mandis Söderström Johansson

French Fries

WS

1. Description

Some see price and quality directly connected which means that a higher price let them assume that the quality of the product is higher. Quality is understood in many ways: For some people for instance food produced by local farmers is preferred whereas other people only trust in their taste. Others include environmental aspects or fair trading.

The point of our workshop was to get some opinions and point of views relating to importance of the price and quality a product has. The attendants had to put certain daily food products into a scale (see Figure 1.) according to their personal importance of price and quality. Afterwards they should discuss the results and try to merge their results.

https://chalmersidm.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bildschirmfoto-2010-12-06-um-11-14-35.png
Figure 1: Picture of a scale with different products and their importance.


Figure 2: Test persons working on their scaling.

2. Reflections

The Workshop we did was not really representative relating to the results, since only students, which have a low financial status, attended. In the following we present the most useful information we got though.

The price is the most important argument for food you buy for your daily living (i.e. rice, pasta, milk, bread, …). Brands and superior quality are an argument when buying luxury goods or products you don’t buy every day (i.e. spirits, whine, hazelnut spread, …).

There were some misunderstandings as some wanted to buy always the cheapest products with the highest quality. We should be clearer about that next time.

A more representative set of samples for the probe. That could be people with different social backgrounds as well as levels of income (working people, retired people, students, …).
As people don’t really say what they do it might be better to observe them doing their shopping in their usual context instead of asking them about their habits. Additionally other certain methods could lead to more representative results, such as observing, interviews, or a gamelike approach where test persons have to decide between different products while the purpose of our study is not that obvious.

3.
Group name: French Fries
Group Members: Christoph Gonsior; Matthias Czaja