WNM700 Module 09

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 | Module

Discover your Topic

You should now have 3 options for potential topics. Write all three on post it notes. Get together in groups of 3 or 4 and walk through the following with your group briefly: 

  • Why these topics appeal to you
  • What you hope to find out from them
  • What potential for design they may have

Time to vote! Each member of your team gets 2 votes. 

  1. Topic that has potential for design impact
  2. Topic that has potential for innovation

Take the results of these votes and let it guide you to your topical decisions. The decision is yours, but the votes of your peers should inform your decision.


Define the audience

Okay, time for your first cut. One topic gets sent home, two continue on. It’s hard. Pretend you are a judge on a reality TV show.

Before you dig into your primary and secondary research, it’s critical to know who you’re designing for. You’re bound to learn more once you’re in the field, but having an idea of your target audience’s needs, contexts, and history will help ensure that you start your research by asking smart questions. And don’t limit your thinking just to the people you’re designing for.

Write down the people or groups that are directly involved in or could be reached by your project. Are you designing for children? For farmers?

Place the first of your chosen topic on the wall. Write all of the people or groups down on separate Post-its and cluster them around your topic on the wall or on a flat surface so you can visualize your audience. 

Add people or groups who are peripherally relevant, or are associated with your direct audience. 

Think about the connections these people have with your topic. Who are the fans? Who are the skeptics? Who do you most need on your side? Add them to the wall. 

Now, repeat the process for your second topic. 


Look for people, not projects

“One of my rules in consulting is simple: never solve the problem I am asked to solve. Why such a counterintuitive rule? Because, invariably, the problem I am asked to solve is not the real, fundamental, root problem. It is usually just a symptom.”

- Don Norman

Remember, your aren’t yet thinking about the design system that needs to be created, you’re just trying to look for problems and people.


Six Degrees of Separation

“Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 and popularized in an eponymous 1990 play written by John Guare. It is sometimes generalized to the average social distance being logarithmic in the size of the population.”

- https://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​i​x​_​d​e​g​r​e​e​s​_​o​f​_​s​e​p​a​r​a​t​ion

Let’s see if we can leverage Six-Degrees of Separation to your advantage given the opportunity of a large class environment. As a class, move around the room and look over the people and groups that are associated with the topics. If you see a person or group that has a connection with someone you know via your personal or social network who you think may be open to inquiry, write your name on a post it next to the person or group. If you have a contact who may be an authoritative source (like a professional, author, or expert), place a star next to your name.


Topic Commitment

Alright! Using all of the information now available to you, it’s time to commit to your topic you’d like to take forward in the design process. It’s time to enter research.


 Immersion and the AEIOU framework 

Time to find the users! This time you will be going deeper than simple interviews. It’s time for immersion.

There’s no better way to understand the people you’re designing for than by immersing yourself in their lives and communities. 

The inspiration phase is dedicated to hearing the voices and understanding the lives of the people you’re designing for. The best route to gaining that understanding is to talk to them in person, where they live, work, and lead their lives. Once you’re in-context, there are lots of ways to observe the people you’re designing for. Spend a day shadowing them, have them walk you through how they make decisions, play fly on the wall and observe them as they cook, socialize, visit the doctor—whatever is relevant to your challenge. 

Once you’re with someone, observe as much as you can. It’s crucial to record exactly what you see and hear. It’s easy to interpret what’s in front of you before you’ve fully understood it, so be sure you’re taking down concrete details and quotes alongside your impressions. A great Immersion technique is to shadow a person you’re designing for a day. Ask them all about their lives, how they make decisions, watch them socialize, work, and relax. If you’ve got a shorter window for immersion, you can still learn a lot by following someone for a few hours. Pay close attention to the person’s surroundings. You can learn a lot from them. 

A great way to make sense and organize what you see is to use the AEIOU framework.

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3


Authoritative Expert

Next, find your topical expert.

Write a brief paragraph which describes who they are, what they are experts in, and how they could potentially help you as an advisor in your project. 

Create a correspondence email that lays out who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Be sure to mention you are a student and this is a student project. Make sure you have someone proofread this email and it is free from spelling and grammatical errors. 

Attempt to contact them. Do not pester them, be polite, and send through more than one channel. It is common to get no response. You may have to repeat this process over and over!

Provide a record of your correspondence. This may include transcription of in-person or over the phone interviews. 


Primary sourcing requirements

Use your six degrees resources and results to find users.

You should interview target users. You should interview at least one authoritative expert. Document the interview and record any information you think is relevant. Start with basic demographic information, and then go through the empathy finding exercise (5 why’s).

You need to find a strategy for immersion with a user. This could be shadowing a person through a day, a few hours, or a target activity. Use the AEIOU framework to aide with observation.


Secondary sourcing requirements

Gather 3–4 pages of supporting information that includes basic information collated from reputable sources with citations. 

Write a short analysis, 1 page of what you’ve learned from your research. This will lead you to your design question, but stay open and resist the urge to rush to answers.

  • So, for next time, you will find out as much as you can about your topic. You are looking for a minimum of 4 people to talk to, although don’t limit yourself to minimums.
  • Minimum 2 user interviews. Documentation with Q & A sheets.
  • Minimum 1 immersion session. Complete observations following the AEIOU framework.
  • Minimum 1 authoritative expert.
  • 3–4 pages sourced information from secondary sources.
  • 1–2 paragraph conclusion/findings statement.