News and blog posts from our students and faculty

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Reflections and Lessons Learned from SDNC11

I gave my very first talk at the Service Design Conference 11 in San Francisco last week. It was a really good experience and I wanted to share some of my reflections and lessons learned.

1. Biggest takeaway from the conference

This is my first exposure to the “service designers”, and it’s very different than the Interaction Conference in Boulder. As a gross over-generalization, the field often associates interaction designers with software developers, service designers with business analysts, and product designers with mechanical and electrical engineers. Interaction designers speak in the language of user interface and usability; service designers speak about customer journey map and touchpoints. At the moment, while interaction designers are asking if they should learn to how to code; service designers are asking how to show the business value of their existence to management.

One of my favorite talks was by Brandon Schauer from Adaptive Path, on how to “capture lost revenues from the Service Anticipation Gap by applying just a portion of the overwhelming ad spends on the optimization and creation of services”. He defined Service Anticipation Gap as the gap between customers’ expectations and perceptions vs. what they are actually getting. While ad spend creates promises, service design is what actually deliver those promises. His arguments are compelling and illustrated by great examples. Presentation can be downloaded here.

Richard Buchanan was the closing keynote with the conference. AC4D students should all be familiar with his definition of “wicked problems” and the four degrees of design – signs, things, actions, environment. After two days of talks focusing a lot on the tactical of how to make a case for service design to management, Buchanan reframed the discussion to why management itself should become a design discipline. He left Carnegie Mellon and went to Weatherhead School of Management (note: management school, not business school), because he envisions management as design activities and is currently working with organizations at all levels – corporate, government, foundations, community, to look at how we should build our future organizations. Going back to management literature in the past, Buchanan reminded us that the purpose of an organization is not to make a profit. Profit is the means that allow the organization to fulfill its purpose. The purpose of an organization is to provide goods and services to citizens. We, as designers, are at the heart of what makes an organization valuable. He concluded his talk by saying that design is a very humble profession, and suggest that as designers, we should let go of trying to be the star, but instead, the facilitator of the world around us.

Relating back to my own personal reservations about starting companies, calling myself an entrepreneur, and the general hype in the start-up world; Buchanan’s perspective on design continues to give me a strong ground to plant my feet on when I think about how this is not as much about “starting a company”, as it is about designing at the 4th degree – the environment and the organization, in which will hold and deliver the products and service I’m designing, in order to create the impact I want to make. As AC4D aims to turn students into founders and projects into companies, there are different tactical skills required for design (ex. making) and business (ex. marketing). However, I think it’s helpful for us to remember that it’s a similar creation process: how do we design at an organization/environment level to create an impact? what activities and interactions need to happen, collectively, to achieve the original vision?

2. Personal step forward in public speaking

I had 10 minutes for my talk. As I was preparing, looking for photos, and trying to put together powerpoint slides, it just didn’t feel right. It felt like I was forcing the limited amount of photos I have on my computer to tell a very powerful and emotional story. So in the end, I decided to go with one slide. It had one photo on it: the photo from Church under the Bridge.

I explained Church under the Bridge to the rest of the conference by saying that was where everything started, and is what keeps us grounded in everything that we do. So I wanted that to set the context of my talk. From there, I shared the leap of thinking and the journey of going from a homelessness project to an education startup. Finally, I concluded by stating that at HourSchool, we measure our success by the number of people we are able to turn from a student to a teacher. Overall, I think the talk was well received. It was short and not in-depth. But I didn’t think it was meant to be.

Personally, this is a huge step forward for me. For those that started ac4d with me last year could attest that I hated speaking in public, I was bad at it, and I would do anything to get out of it. But here I am, a year later, signing up to speak in front of over 300 people. I can pinpoint a very specific moment of this turning point. It was when I had to go present to the staff at ARCH with Ryan and Kat because Alex couldn’t make it. After that, I wrote about how rewarding it was, and how it was different – because it mattered. Since then, I have been willing, and wanting, to talk in front of crowds, because the story matters. And I want as many people to hear it as possible.

One of these nights I was working late at Thinktiv and overheard some conversations from Jon’s class. He said something along the lines of needing to get used to presenting our work and being confident in what we’re able to do. I share many of the same sentiments with the other students – it’s intimidating, it’s scary, it’s hard, to put yourselves out there, to be judged, criticized, and compared. I understand. But next time when you’re unsure of yourselves, just remember that this isn’t about us. Your stories need to be told, your work needs to be presented. Because it matters.

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Mitigating complex problems through the language of design

Our final assignment for the first quarter is to describe the difficulties in solving complex problems. For those super-complex problems we affectionately refer to as “wicked problems,” there seem to be an endless amount of difficulties that continually shift as personal, cultural, and governmental environments are ever changing. 

Before getting into what Cheyenne and I would consider to be one of the main difficulties in solving complex problems, we have to start with the question, “Why does solving complex problems matter?” Even though the answer may seem obvious it is worth emphatically stating that complex problems are everywhere and they affect everyone, and as such we may, at best aim to mitigate rather than truly ‘solve’ them.

In looking at the seemingly infinite list of complex problems it is apparent that one of the main difficulties or hindrances to solutions being found is the lack of a common language among problem solvers.  This rest of this paper will provide an argument for what this common language could be and thoughts on how this language should be taught.

What should be the new “problem solving language?”
To quickly define our terms, language will refer to any set or system of signs, sounds, symbols, or gestures used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another.

And problem solvers will be individuals who devote cognitive, financial, time, and/or skill resources to solving a complex problem.

With these definitions in mind, let’s turn to identifying what this common language could be. Being students at the Austin Center for Design it may seem trite to say that design and design thinking could be this new problem solving language. However, when looking at the essence of both complex problems and the field/profession of design it seems to be a natural fit. In his article entitled, Wicked Problems in Design Thinking, Richard Buchanan positions design as “an integrated discipline of understanding, communication, and action,” with practitioners being tasked with deeply understanding the novel intricacies of a situation or problem as to create something that affects human experience for the better. Since wicked problems are “complex”, and designers, according to Buchanan, are tasked with inventing new areas of expertise and understanding with each problem they have to solve, it makes sense that the language used in design could become the new language for solving, or mitigating complex problems. Chris Pacione of the Luma institute would most likely support this idea of design being a good candidate language of problem solving as he compares design literacy to math literacy in his article, Evolution of the Mind: A Case for Design Literacy. Pacione asserts that concepts and skills such as inquiry, evaluation, ideation, sketching and prototyping as foundational for solving problems.

So if design is to be this new language for problem solvers, what should be the foundational symbols of communication for this language? In addition to having an understanding of inquiry, evaluation, ideation, sketching and prototyping (Pacione), Cheyenne and I feel that another critical component to being fluent/literate in design is having a solid understanding insight. Insight by both designers and non-designers alike can sometimes be viewed as this mystical “aha” moment designers get seemingly on a whim. In reality, insight can be cultivated and better understood through rigorous methods in the areas mentioned above (inquiry, evaluation, etc). This understanding of insight is critical, such that furthering literacy of insight methods is a crucial part of innovation and argumentation. In turn, strong innovation is key to finding solutions to complex problems.

How should we teach the language of design/design-thinking?
When looking at how to teach the language of design and design-thinking we need to ask ourselves what is the end goal of our educational efforts? Are we trying to make designers out of everyone or are we trying to facilitate dialogue and collaboration among designers and non-designers? Cheyenne and I would argue the latter to be the goal. In his article on wicked problems, Richard Buchannan contrasts specialist professions that exist in science with the more generalist profession of a designer who seeks to have a broad integrative understanding of many different fields. Based on our readings and the discussions we have had with guest lecturers it seems that this movement of design-education within organizations seeks in some ways to turn specialists into designers. Cheyenne and I wonder if there are better ways to go about widespread design-education as to maximize the skill sets of great designers and great specialists in the purpose of collaborating to solve complex problems.

One of the ideas that consistently surfaces as we discuss the idea of teaching design to outsiders in the context of intensive seminars or boot camps is the fear of teaching people just enough to unintentionally design something that does more harm than good. It seems that there is relative consensus among classmates and instructors that people become good designers through interactions and feedback with people who are better designers than they are. This generally occurs over a longer period.

Cheyenne and I feel that a different and possibly more effective approach to design education could be:

  1. Establish more institutions that create great designers
  2. Teach all problem solvers (everyone) the value and basic tenants of design and what makes a great designer
  3. Create better channels and methods for communication between designers and specialists
  4. Create spaces and roles for a team of designers to exist in organizations that currently do not have said team
  5. Create platforms for apprenticeship for designers working in environments where they feel like they have hit a professional wall
  6. Help designers themselves with the skills necessary for more effective external and transparent communication of insights and non-linear thinking.

We’ll let you all know what our fellow classmates and instructors think in a future blog post.

 

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Design and the Difficulties of Complex Problem-Solving

by Jaime Krakowiak & Diana Griffin

Interconnected. Globalized. Complex. These words describe not only our contemporary world and the systems we’ve developed to deal with it, but also, equally, the problems that plague it. As these problems increase in scope and impact, we struggle to redefine them, to pin them down so that we can get to work on solving them. Increasingly, however, we have been forced to recognize that such problems are by definition indefinite and ‘unpindownable’. These complex problems pose particular challenges for design—a discipline widely understood as an approach to solving problems. Complex problems may, in fact, be unsolvable; the difficulties they present in their mutability, messiness, and expansiveness must be addressed by creative insights applied strategically on a scale that design is currently unequipped to carry out. It will require a fundamental shift in society’s understanding and perception of design, brought about by a shift in the understanding and perception of their role by designers themselves.

The complexity of contemporary problems was already being expressed four decades ago by theorists such as Herbert Simon, who compared well- and ill-structured problems, while Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber formulated a definition of wicked problems that would later be taken up by Richard Buchanan. Their definitions of ill-structured and wicked problems overlap in the shared recognition that these kinds of problems are elusive, mutable, and confusing—resisting definition because their definition is constantly shifting. Buchanan sums up this issue as one of indeterminacy: where determinate (well-structured) problems have definite, identifiable conditions, the conditions of indeterminate (ill-structured, wicked) problems are fluid and unfixed. Like liquid mercury, these problems can be made to appear solid and bounded when considered from outside or applied with artificially structured definitions, but any attempt to intervene reveals their amorphous nature as they slide, shift and reform, avoiding imposed solutions. In the course of these amoebic changes, a complex problem often merges boundaries with neighbouring problems, so that the systems surrounding each become messily entangled. And in a world of globalized systems, such shifting, tangled problems quickly expand their reach to a scope previously unimaginable.

Imagine trying to solve such a big, messy, shifting problem. What does it take? For Simon, it simply requires enough information from long-term memory (experience), instructions (strategy), and the external world (context), in order to create a well-structured problem out of one aspect of a larger ill-structured problem. What this computational theory fails to account for, however, is the ability to then make the connection from one well-structured aspect to another. How does the problem-solver move from one stepping stone to the next when, in a complex problem, the shape and position of each step is fluid and changing? In the context of design as a problem-solving activity, the ability to make such leaps comes from creative insight.

Philip Johnson-Laird in his essay “The Structure of Problems” begins from the Gestalt definition of insight as “a creative process… that depends on a sudden restructuring (UmstruktuierWlg) or recentring (Umzentrierung) of the perceptual field” (4). Note that he calls it a process; insight is not just the “Eureka!” moment, it also includes the strategic process that enables that sudden flash of understanding. By undertaking this process, which according to Johnson-Laird consists of mechanisms that form tactics, that in turn form strategies, one can develop the range of experience that informs and enables a sudden restructuring of perception, that is, insight. That insight can then become a mechanism in the next cycle of the process, eventually fuelling further insights. Carrying out a cyclical strategy of creative thinking should then enable problem-solvers to make the connections between different aspects of a complex problem, thereby moving towards a solution. So why, then, are complex problems still unsolvable?

The answer to this question lies in a simple matter of practical limitations. Both Simon’s process for structuring ill-structured problems and Johnson-Laird’s development of a strategy for creative thinking rely on accumulating a wealth of experience to be applied and evaluated in the real-world context of a problem. That accumulation, application, and evaluation takes time—much more time than any single person, or even any one organization, can put in before the problem placement (in Buchanan’s terms, the tools “from which the designer fashions a working hypothesis suited to special circumstances” (18)) evolves beyond the current scope of the problem-solver. In short, there are not enough people working on these problems; we need more problem-solvers—more designers.

The problem of getting more designers may seem apparently simple—just train more designers—but it is itself a complex problem. In order to train more designers, there must be a three-part shift across society in the way that design is perceived and understood.

  1. A shift in design literacy. Chris Pacione, in his article “Evolution of the Mind: A Case for Design Literacy,” calls for a widespread increase in design literacy. He believes that ubiquitous design literacy will usher in a new age of innovative problem-solving, and makes reference more than once to the idea that ‘everyone can design’. A more precise statement is that everyone can understand design, or should be able to; everyone should learn the basic skill sets of design thinking, as they do the basic skill sets of scientific or mathematical thinking. By incorporating the skills of design literacy—creativity, empathy, abductive logic, and so forth—into our education system, everyone would have a stronger base of problem-solving skills, and more people would have the opportunity to pursue those skills to the level of rigor and expertise that defines a designer.
  2. A shift in design as a discipline. Before such utopic notions of widespread design literacy can find a grounding in reality, however, there must first be a shift in the perception of design’s role in our society. Educators and policy-makers will not see the value in incorporating design literacy into their curricula until it is accorded an equal value to the core disciplines of the arts and sciences. Buchanan claims that design is a new liberal art, an art of experimental thinking. As such, it belongs neither as a subset to the traditional liberal arts, nor to the sciences, but is a discipline of its own, on par with each. In order to facilitate design literacy as a tenet of education, design must first solidify its own legitimacy as a discipline and as a profession.
  3. A shift in what it means to be a designer. The first step in achieving this legitimacy is for designers in their own practices to define and accept the responsibility that accompanies the role of designer. Until designers consistently practice their craft with integrity—a recognition of the consequences of their work, and a sense of responsibility for those consequences—design will not be respected as a discipline. Designers, on an individual level as well as collectively, must approach their work with serious intention before design will be taken seriously outside of the profession. Designers must imbue design with substance, and value that substance as much as its trappings of cleverness and aesthetics, before design will be seen as substantial and accorded value in the wider world.

 

Posted in Classes, Design Education, Theory | 1 Comment

Universal education in design thinking is essential for effectively tackling wicked problems

Complex problems facing us today come in all shapes and forms. Herb Simon provided a powerful framework of dividing these problems into well structured (WSP) and ill structured (ISP) problems. We will proceed to think about complex problems with the help of illustrations to understand better challenges that face us while trying to solve complex problems. For example, mapping the Human Genome is a WSP while designing the road network of a city is an ISP.

Criterion of a Well Structured Problem Human Genome Project Designing Road Network of a city
Definite Criterion for testing any proposed solution
The problem state, the goal state and transient states
“Legal moves” can be defined
Knowledge acquired can be represented
Solution moves take into account real world constraints
Solution requires practicable amounts of problem-solving ability

The biggest problems facing humanity today like health, energy, food security, waste management etc, are special forms of ISPs which Horst Rittel has termed as Wicked Problems (WPs). WPs are different from standard ISPs in that they also have added dimensions of conflicting stake holder intentions/value systems and dynamic dimensions, constraints and success criteria. As an example, the problem of primary education in poorer communities has no definitive criteria for testing the effectiveness of the proposed solutions. The issue is further confounded by the varied and potentially conflicting goals and values of parents, students, teachers and state officials.

As a society we have been focused on building professionals like lawyers, engineers, accountants, doctors, designers, teachers etc with their formative universal education comprising purely science and arts. Such professionals are what Pacione defines as masters who are production literate, good at execution, proof-based deductive thinking and perfecting algorithms. They are very well equipped to take on WSPs which as expressed by Simon can generally be “automatically” solved by brute-force approaches or through more optimized problem solving approaches like search, sort and other algorithmic methods. However, wicked problems are elusive with numerous possible approaches and require understanding of qualitative, subjective and often changing criterion of success. When faced with indeterminate problems like this, our traditional way of creating professionals sets us up for failure.

As rightly observed by Buchanan, design thinking tends to be universal in scope and it can be applied to any area of human experience. But in the process of application, one must discover or invent a particular subject out of the problems and issues of specific circumstances. This sharply contrasts with disciplines of science which are concerned with understanding the principles, laws, rules or structures that are necessarily embodied in existing problems that are more fully determinate. Thus we believe when design thinking is incorporated into universal education with other subjects like maths, science, history, language, literature and philosophy rather than just being specialized professional training at varsity levels as it exists right now, we will empower the professionals we create as a society with much better capacity to tackle wicked problems facing us.
For example, traditional methods of education used in lower income communities have resulted in very low enrolment, high dropout rates, limited literacy and large populations of unskilled labour. In more recent years, private individuals who are not traditional educators have made significant inroads into delivery of education to the ones who need it the most. These include Ben Dublin-Thaler who designed a carbon-neutral BioBus which brings science lessons to communities that do not have the proper equipment to teach the subject matter, The Khan Academy which has delivered 81 million lessons covering multiple areas of focus and is now supported by Bill Gates, and Savera which provides classes tailored for the working children in the slums of Ahmedabad, India. Such approaches would not have been possible without the application of design thinking.

Success achieved by these non-educators in the field of education points to the value of Including design thinking as an essential component of universal education which will enable our society to tackle complex problems with greater competence. This resonates Paciione’s feelings on design being too important to be just left to just designers as practitioners.

- Written by Samir and Ben

Complex problems facing us today come in all shapes and forms. Herb Simon provided a powerful framework of dividing these problems into well structured (WSP) and ill structured (ISP) problems. We will proceed to think about complex problems with the help of illustrations to understand better challenges that face us while trying to solve complex problems. For example, mapping the Human Genome is a WSP while designing the road network of a city is an ISP.

Criterion of a Well Structured Problem Human Genome Project Designing Road Network of a city
Definite Criterion for testing any proposed solution
The problem state, the goal state and transient states
“Legal moves” can be defined
Knowledge acquired can be represented
Solution moves take into account real world constraints
Solution requires practicable amounts of problem-solving ability

The biggest problems facing humanity today like health, energy, food security, waste management etc, are special forms of ISPs which Horst Rittel has termed as Wicked Problems (WPs). WPs are different from standard ISPs in that they also have added dimensions of conflicting stake holder intentions/value systems and dynamic dimensions, constraints and success criteria. As an example, the problem of primary education in poorer communities has no definitive criteria for testing the effectiveness of the proposed solutions. The issue is further confounded by the varied and potentially conflicting goals and values of parents, students, teachers and state officials.

As a society we have been focused on building professionals like lawyers, engineers, accountants, doctors, designers, teachers etc with their formative universal education comprising purely science and arts. Such professionals are what Pacione defines as masters who are production literate, good at execution, proof-based deductive thinking and perfecting algorithms. They are very well equipped to take on WSPs which as expressed by Simon can generally be “automatically” solved by brute-force approaches or through more optimized problem solving approaches like search, sort and other algorithmic methods. However, wicked problems are elusive with numerous possible approaches and require understanding of qualitative, subjective and often changing criterion of success. When faced with indeterminate problems like this, our traditional way of creating professionals sets us up for failure.

As rightly observed by Buchanan, design thinking tends to be universal in scope and it can be applied to any area of human experience. But in the process of application, one must discover or invent a particular subject out of the problems and issues of specific circumstances. This sharply contrasts with disciplines of science which are concerned with understanding the principles, laws, rules or structures that are necessarily embodied in existing problems that are more fully determinate. Thus we believe when design thinking is incorporated into universal education with other subjects like maths, science, history, language, literature and philosophy rather than just being specialized professional training at varsity levels as it exists right now, we will empower the professionals we create as a society with much better capacity to tackle wicked problems facing us.

For example, traditional methods of education used in lower income communities have resulted in very low enrolment, high dropout rates, limited literacy and large populations of unskilled labour. In more recent years, private individuals who are not traditional educators have made significant inroads into delivery of education to the ones who need it the most. These include Ben Dublin-Thaler who designed a carbon-neutral BioBus which brings science lessons to communities that do not have the proper equipment to teach the subject matter, The Khan Academy which has delivered 81 million lessons covering multiple areas of focus and is now supported by Bill Gates, and Savera which provides classes tailored for the working children in the slums of Ahmedabad, India. Such approaches would not have been possible without the application of design thinking.

Success achieved by these non-educators in the field of education points to the value of Including design thinking as an essential component of universal education which will enable our society to tackle complex problems with greater competence. This resonates Paciione’s feelings on design being too important to be just left to just designers as practitioners.

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Marketing for DinnerShare

This week I’ve been creating marketing collateral for DinnerShare…

If you’re interested in getting updates or participating in some preliminary test dinners
Subscribe to the DinnerShare newsletter

Website – www.dinnershare.us
Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/DinnerShare/296299743714228
Twitter – @Dinner_Share
And finally the Banner Ads and Email Campaign Template.

Enjoy!
<3 cheyenne




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Marketing the CSA Cooks’ “Fresh Ideas Exchange” App

Fresh Ideas Exchange website

 

Check out the landing page for the “Fresh Ideas Exchange” app.

It’s also got:


facebook ad

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Studio Week 8…The Fear of Making

Early in my education experience, I became painfully aware of the fact that the visual things I made were “different” from the other students. I dreaded the times when my teachers would come around and look at our individual pieces of art, smile and say what she thought they looked like. With other students, the teacher could guess whether they had drawn their family, or a monster, or a baseball player. When the teacher came to my drawing they had no idea what my haphazard collection of lines and dots were supposed to be. I always had to tell them. My teacher would then write what I drew at the top left corner of the page so other adults, namely my parents, would not be as confused. One time when I was in fourth grade one of my paintings mistakenly made it into a first grade art show…I didn’t win. I’ve avoided making visual things since elementary school.

This week, I made something…Granted, at some points I modified something that already existed (like my mobile app website), but I modified it in a way that did not involve clicking to plug something into a template. I actually did some coding! I also choose color palettes, and watched tutorials for the Adobe suite and used Photoshop and Illustrator to create a logo and a mock up of the opening screen. It’s a pretty basic website (with very limited functionality), but I feel like I actually created something that did not exist before, which feels pretty good.

http://goodchef.tumblr.com/

Some Jonathan Lewis originals below. The title written by my teacher at the top of the page on the left is, “Once upon a time, there were Cowboys and Indians.”

 

 

 

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Fresh Finds hits the world wide web

A marketing kit for the Fresh Finds app was the next order of business for this week’s rapid ideation class. What’s in my kit? Social media campaigns with Twitter and Facebook, a Facebook ad, email newsletter template using Mail Chimp, and a landing page for downloading the app on a domain.

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Facebook ad preview
  4. Email newsletter template
  5. freshfindsapp.com (a work in progress)
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Sharing FreshSpotter with the world

This week I focused on crafting the messages surrounding my smartphone app, FreshSpotter, to share with the broader online community. Was I successful? I’ll let you be the judge. Email any questions or ideas for improvement to benjamin.franck@austincenterfordesign.com.

Official web site
Facebook fan page
Twitter page
Email newsletter preview
Facebook ad campaign preview

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Capturing More Than the “What”: A Reflection on Participatory Interviews

Last week Diana and I connected with CSA members to learn about how they made decisions when preparing food. Our method of research was called a participatory interview. This method involved discussing the topic with the participant and leading them through a creative activity called an Experience Canvas. During this exercise the participants chose word and image stimuli from a collection we provided in order to reflect upon their ideal experience.

There were many aspects of the interviews that went extremely well. The scheduling with the participants was straightforward and we easily found times that worked for everyone involved. We were also very successful in clearly communicating the intent and procedure to our participants as indicated by their ease of understanding the different stages of the interview. The participants themselves were excellent to work with as they were very friendly and agreeable. They both were very willing to discuss and reflect aloud which resulted in an interview that proceeded efficiently and within the optimal range of interview time.

The canvasing activity was enjoyable for all involved. In fact, the participants indicated that they found the activity to be very useful in helping them crystallize their thoughts around the topic. One participant even indicated that he might want to use the activity as a tool for future thought processing. The participants chose stimuli with confidence and could coherently articulate why they selected them. We had to artificially speed up one interview mainly because the participant could relate almost every piece of stimuli to his beliefs in a meaningful way.

However, there were many aspects of the interviews that could be improved upon. As note taker, I believed I was capturing sufficient notes during the interviews. However, I later discovered that my notes were extremely vague and failed to provide complete thoughts and references to the context of certain ideas. Many times I wrote down the “what” while failing to record the “why”. Also, there were several instances where I failed to identify the specific stimuli that the participant was discussing which lead to confusion and frustration during the later synthesis process.

Diana also saw several things she would do differently as the discussion facilitator. The participants were enthusiastic enough on their own that she let them take the lead too often, sometimes forgetting, in her enjoyment of the conversations, to do the actual work of moderating. To avoid this problem in future she would ask more probing questions that would explore the “why” behind the participants beliefs and values. She would also be more assertive in asking to see mentioned artifacts, and being sure to document them. During the canvas activity, she would lead her participants to elaborate further or clarify their stimuli selections by encouraging them to write directly on the canvas.

Upon reflection, we both realized that the main component missing from our interviews was a sincere curiosity about our participant’s choices and values. We identified closely enough with our participants that we took too many things for granted and would constantly assume that we knew what the participant was talking about without requesting clarification or asking for an applicable story. For example, one participant stated that he he did not appreciate his food being bland and predictable. We recorded the idea and moved on with the interview without even bothering to ask why he thought these things, or what bland and predictable meant to him. The lack of understanding behind these beliefs resulted in the data being essentially useless to our later synthesis.

Overall, we managed the structure of the interview fairly well but missed the frequent opportunities to reach a deeper level of inquiry. As our confidence in our research abilities improve we hope to become more aware of those opportunities for insight and develop the skills we need to capture them.

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