J. PAUL NEELEY
Neeley Worldwide & Royal College of Art
Extrapolation Factory & Parsons School of Design Download PDF
In our world where emerging technologies are increasingly a source of significant disruption in people’s lives, methods from Speculative & Critical Design (SCD) practice are finding their way into the designer’s and researcher’s toolkit as powerful ways to create new kinds of meaning and perspective that create new organizational value. These practices design future products and services not in a predictive way, but as a way to prototype and understand the social, cultural, and ethical implications of emerging technologies. These practices generally decouple design from short-term company product and market needs and visions, and engage in new conversations about alternative futures as a way to better understand and navigate future complexity.
SCD often works to design for the messy and complex people that we are rather than the perfect consumers...
by THOMAS WENDT, Surrounding Signifiers
“The term ‘empathy’ has provided a guiding thread for a whole range of fundamentally mistaken theories concerning man’s [sic] relationship to other human beings and to other beings in general.”
Popular design discourse is full of articles, books, and conference presentations on the role of empathy in design. In both commercial and non-commercial settings, most designers argue the same thing: designers should attempt to build empathy for “users” so they can better design for them. But empathy as it’s generally practiced ultimately subverts its own goals. It tends to reinforce “otherness”, promote anthropocentrism, and ignore ecological considerations.
I recently moved from Manhattan to Queens. My old neighborhood, NoLita (north of Little Italy…thanks, real estate agents), had fully gentrified, with storefronts quickly transforming into cold pressed juice bars ($10/cup) and men’s shaving supply stores ($25 “beard oil”). My...
PechaKucha—This presentation explores the 3 guiding principles for research to create impact: clarity, coordination, and curiosity. Without all these elements, research struggles to make impact for the intended users. In this case, the user is Jojo, a silverback gorilla. Jojo was 80 pounds overweight, and this was caused by a number of reasons. Every solution required a clear framing of the goals, a complex and coordinated effort from everyone involved, and a genuine curiosity to engage in the solutions.
Keywords: gorilla, silverback, clarity, coordination, curiosity, observation
John Dominski – I am a design researcher at gravitytank in Chicago, IL. I believe the purpose of research is to make impact and I practice doing this at gravitytank and as a co-author and photographer of Gorillas Up Close.
2016 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, p. 553, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org...
by ANNEMARIE DORLAND, University of Calgary
Design ethnography—the term rings with power and potential. Now widely promoted on design studio and agency websites as a core capability, it suggests the melding of design-thinking and interpretive analytical approaches to understanding how people create and make sense of their worlds. But behind the pitch, what are designers doing when they do ethnography? How do they understand the research work they do, their field, their data?
When I ask designers about how they conduct ethnography, I hear things like, “It’s just watching them, but it’s billable.” Or, “Oh the Jane Goodall thing! We kind of do that.” And even, “Is that even a thing anymore? Isn’t that from, like, with islanders?” I’ve finally perfected a neutral, non-judgmental facial expression to present to designers who tell me in interviews that they really don’t have a clue what ethnography is—and these are creatives with ‘design ethnographer’ in their bio, designers who are tasked with conducting...
by CHRIS HAMMOND and JESYKA PALMER, IBM Design Research
As consultants we practiced the basics of design thinking and user centered design for years with a range of organizations. However, upon joining IBM and learning to apply the IBM Design Thinking mindset, we both realized this way of working differed from our past experiences. This difference is largely expressed by the addition of “the Keys” or IBM’s way to scale design within a large, geographically disparate organization.
As researchers and strategists, the most resonate Key is Sponsor Users. A real challenge for enterprise and healthcare programs is access to users and their environment—rarely can you approach a hospital and ask if you can walk into an operating room with cameras and notepads in hand. In the healthcare space, we overcame the challenge by creating partnerships with clinicians and hospitals. These relationships brought clinicians onto our teams and closed the expertise gap. Clinicians shared with us a day in their lives and showed us their struggles...
by MICHAEL THOMAS, Ford Motor Company
User Experience (UX) Research and Design is a dynamic and diverse domain where designers, social scientists, and hybrids of all sorts are putting theory to work. It has successfully advanced a more holistic framing for human-centered design intervention, ideally keeping our attention on the user as the key unit of analysis at every stage. But we’re also discovering that herein lie potential opportunities for further refinement.
UX has familiar practical limitations, and we debate these continually—the best way to measure, how to communicate, appropriate sampling, sample size, methods, protocols, metrics, and so on. Its fundamental limitations, by contrast, are inherent theoretical assumptions and biases. It is critical to innovate at this level of UX’s underlying principles; to move beyond the generally unspoken assumptions that the user is necessarily an individual and that the user’s perceptions about discrete temporally and spatially bounded experiences are authoritative.
As a case...
by MARTHA COTTON, GARY GEBHARDT, TRACEY LOVEJOY, ABBAS JAFFER — and you!
How have professional skills & requirements for ethnographers and other human-centered researchers changed over the last 10 years—and where are they headed? How can you evaluate the confusing terrain of position titles and descriptions, as well as assess the organizations offering them? Post your questions, insights & ideas!
EPIC people gathered for an online discussion with Martha, Tracey, Gary & Abbas. Here are the introductions.
Martha Cotton, Partner, gravitytank
Back in the mid-90s when I was at eLab, researchers went through a brief period where our business cards said “Understander.” As a word, it fit to describe what I did for a living. But as a job title to communicate my role to others outside of my small ethnographer community, it was very hard to, well, understand. I have a memory of handing my business card to the store manager of a Boston area sporting goods store where I was to spend the day observing people...
Focusing on the mid-20th century, this paper explores the relationship between design and economics. Then, through the postwar emergence of user-centered design, it explores the positive and negative outcomes that this dominant approach has had on larger social relations, specifically asking: How are the motivations influencing user-centered design processes inherited by its products and their users? Using case studies and insights from design theorists, historians and practitioners, the paper calls for a new approach to industry lead design research and practices that evolves the question “how does this work for me?” to include “how does this work for us?”
In her presentation to EPIC, Kimbell reflects on how data are visualized and how they are experienced. Drawing on work in the visual arts and design, she considers what practices that seem to be gathering and visualising data are actually doing, from installations such as her project ‘Physical Bar Charts’ (2005-8) to methods such as cultural probes. These examples are combined with ideas from Science and Technology Studies (STS), which foregrounds the empirical and the mundane, and questions how accounts of the social are constructed. Writers in this tradition have emphasized the ways that public experiments are used to assemble data and paid attention how data are visualized. The discussion includes work from a recent public experiment in which Kimbell was involved, as organiser of an exhibition of work by artists and designers as part of an academic workshop in Oxford entitled ‘Imagining Business’. Together, these different ways of thinking about visualising and experiencing data raise questions for ethnographers...
by JOHN PAYNE, Moment
Like many design consultancies, Moment uses a variety of research methods to help us develop a contextual understanding of our clients’ customers. We do this to discover and adapt new business opportunities to prospects’ wants, needs and desires. The value to the business is that their products and services better fit their audience, increasing adoption and use. Tangible results from this work range from incremental product enhancements to disruptive innovations that provide significant competitive advantage.
Design ethnography is how we approach “fuzzy front end” projects—those that require us to define the problem before formulating a solution. Through ethnography, our field team achieves a robust understanding of the situation, but then faces the challenge of transferring the richness of these learnings into the narrow frame of new product development methodology. This make-or-break moment of transfer is when design ethnography truly delivers—or doesn’t.
Speaking for the design...
by STOKES JONES, PREE KOLARI, Motorola CXD
Of course, EPIC has always been a ‘community of praxis’ (as much as practice) helping attendees put what they learn into action. For us at Motorola Mobility, 2013 was no exception. The company had reduced its phone portfolio to a handful of products; and knew the only way to grow market share was expanding sales outside the US. But we had not done ‘front end’ research outside American shores since 2009. Likewise, most of our newly hired designers, product managers, and software engineers had never created phones for any geography but North America.
So how could we “sensitize” whole teams to the differing desires & needs of people in Brazil or India? And how could we flush out those devilish details which we didn’t yet know we did not know...the ones that make the difference between a product being “just right” vs. “totally wrong” in a new environment?
We decided lone report-writing researchers could not bring product teams in tune with our “next...