This tutorial was conducted at EPIC2021. Exercises and discussions have been omitted to protect the privacy of participants.
After the richness of fieldwork, the research and design team must figure out, “What does this mean?” and “What should we do?” The synthesis phase presents a tough set of issues: we want to accurately represent all of our participants, yet we must make hard decisions around whose stories and learnings to prioritize. New data and points of view, sometimes conflicting, are introduced by other stakeholders in the project. And we must move from being descriptive to being directional.
In this tutorial you’ll learn strategies for two key challenges of synthesis: emotional dynamics—how we navigate interpersonal relationships to come to alignment—and convergence—how to prioritize when faced with tons of data and ideas. Participants will learn how to externalize the hidden criteria that are the key to client commitment and engagement.
Despite its importance to the success of a project, the synthesis phase lacks its own unique methodologies. At best, we borrow methods from analysis and design, and at worst, we spend laborious hours talking and wordsmithing. The latter gives synthesis its reputation as an emotionally painful process, compounding the reluctance to engage with or create new tactics. This tutorial is rooted in abductive reasoning, the logic of creating new hypotheses, insights, and ideas. Through a purposeful cultivation of abductive methods, participants will be better equiped to grapple with newness, novelty, and transformation. Participants will leave the tutorial with a better understanding of the synthesis phase and new methods to meet their goals.
Ksenia Pachikov works at the intersection of human-centered research, visual communication of insight, and early concept development. She leads research across multiple domains, including media, education, medical, smart devices, and insurance. She started her company, Field Studio, out of the belief that to be effective, research needs to be transparent, efficient and focused on implications. She holds a Master of Design from the Institute of Design in Chicago and has taught at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons the New School for Design.
Marta Cuciurean-Zapan is a design researcher and Design Director at IDEO's Chicago studio. At IDEO, she is focused on building innovative research approaches, futures perspectives, and the intersection of content and culture in teamwork. Marta also teaches human centered research and design at DePaul University. She has a Master's in Cultural Anthropology from Temple University and a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University.