Insights from the Castle

For anyone who has been following Jen and I on our design research journey with Castle Hill Fitness, you know that we last posted about mapping concepts and interactions we found in the data and called them service slices. Since then, we’ve been working on developing insights.

Insights were presented to us as being provocative statements of truth about human behavior,  inferences, and bridges between research and design. They are built off of the previous work we’ve done creating themes, and service slices. To do this, we first re-phrased all of our themes into why questions. Next we went through all the data we’d grouped to create that theme to answer the why question. Finally, we extrapolated a direction to move in or a kind of recommendation. What this looked like for us was timed 15 minute rounds of silent individual insight development followed by walking each other through what we’d developed and giving feedback.

We also invited our client into the studio to participate in insight creation as well. This was really fun, and helpful. Not only was this a great learning opportunity for us to practice explaining the process to someone, but she was able to see firsthand what we’re up to, provide feedback, and give us direction and additional knowledge as someone who knows the ins and outs of Castle Hill Fitness. When she arrived we gave her the lay of the land by walking around the workspace and explaining what things were, and then we all took some time to just read and process some of the data individually. Then we set to work insighting together.

Once we had developed all our insights it was time to figure out how we would present them, and create a problem statement. We learned a problem statement is a succinct description of the issue or latent need that’s worth solving. When we thought about creating a problem statement we were initially drawn to two areas of our research. The first was the theme and insight regarding the new member onboarding process at Castle Hill Fitness. If you remember back to the start of this project the onboarding process was what we were seeking to gain more understanding around.

The second thing that stood out to us was the idea of community. The concept of community kept popping up in our interviews, data, themes, and insights. So we took small post-its marked with the letter ‘C’ and placed them on all the insights that touched on community. This gave us a visual reference on the wall for how prevalent it was in our data, and allowed us to navigate the relevant insights dealing with community to choose ones that stood out to us further.

'C' stickies denoting community related themes and insights.
‘C’ stickies denoting community related themes and insights.

Since both ideas stood out strongly in the data and in our minds as relevant we decided to move forward with creating problem statements for both the onboarding process and creating community at Castle Hill Fitness. The plan was that through this process it would become clear to us which one was the real winner. What ended up happening though was that they came together to create a problem statement that felt even more robust than if they’d stood alone.

Castle Hill Fitness needs to create a more consistent member experience through onboarding to build community and set themselves apart from other gyms.

Next we chose insights that played into and supported this problem statement. This was relatively straightforward as we’d been using the insights and themes to inform the problem in the first place. However, we did need to pare them down a bit so we were only presenting the ones we thought would be most impactful and relevant for our client.  

Below are three key insights that came out of this process.

Insight #1

Friends are a key motivator to working out because they are a safety net of trust and emotional support. Castle Hill Fitness should encourage more gym visits with friends (accountabilibuddies).

Insight #2

The issue of onboarding (what is it? how long does it take?) is a result of a lack of leadership and a product of staff turnover. Castle Hill Fitness should define what it means, create a process and train the sales team to get to that goal.

Insight #3

Some employees’ work flows have made them into silos and they have to work extra hard to achieve transparency. Castle Hill Fitness should find a way to build this into the infrastructure.

Client Feedback:

She was super excited to see our insight about how friends are a key motivator for working out because as the Marketing Director she’s starting 4 new promotions around inviting your friends to work out.

She also mentioned that some of the issues had been fixed, like Avery’s silo. She mentioned that they use a forum now so it’s more transparent than it used to be.

She said that having all this data, all these quotes, from a third party was so valuable and she’s generally really excited about our research.

One thing that she suggested would have been helpful is that she doesn’t remember who all of our participants are so the names don’t help her. She would rather they say “Employee,” “Manager” or “Member.”


In class we learned that insights should be provocative, and when we relayed this to our client as we were creating insights together she understandably asked why? Oddly enough, I hadn’t asked myself that question. I think, I’d been caught up in just trying to trust the process and do the work that I hadn’t taken the time to really reflect and question why we were trying to be so provocative. This might also be related to how consistently the use of emotion and personality in storytelling has been stressed to us. To be honest, at first, I just thought of course it’s supposed to be provocative, because the design process is being dramatic, extra, and emotional to differentiate itself and be over the top. And maybe that is true sometimes, but after discussing provocation more, I realized it’s more about bridging the gap between what is and what could be. By creating reactions we are able to push the boundaries and question how things currently are which creates space to imagine how things could be. So I’m imagining all our little provocative insights as these focused little tools to help push us to know what we don’t know. Which is pretty awesome.

Another obvious realization we had was about the problem statement. Once we had a problem statement drafted we were feeling pretty good. Until we realized that wording is pretty important, especially if you’re trying to deliver a clear, succinct, and impactful description of a problem. So what happened is we went back into the weeds and began iterating on our problem statement and came up with 23984321 statements basically all saying the same thing, but in slightly different ways. This was pretty maddening, and something I hope we just get better at with time and experience. Not sure if we came to one that we thought was the absolute perfect problem statement, but we generated a bunch that we felt good about and chose one. So, win.

Service Slices from the Castle

It’s the start of the second quarter for us at AC4D, but Jen and I were busy working over the break on the next step in the process for our Castle Hill Fitness project. For this portion we learned about and created service slices. Creating these allowed us to examine the behavior we observed in person by drawing it out visually from a few different perspectives. To do this, we began by finding portions of our transcribed data that had a lot of action and behavior happening in them.

We used the following sections:

  • an employee showing us different tools that they use to train clients
  • two employees performing their roles communicating with and assisting clients
  • an employee moving through the workflow of connecting clients with trainers

After we chose these transcript portions we combined them into a single document, numbered the lines, and printed it out. We then worked through each line to document what was happening through four different lenses:

  • Behavior and information exchange – the physical activity or exchange that was taking place or what was actually said or happened.
  • Power, policy, influence, and emotion – the feelings or driving force behind the activity, or exchange.
  • Artifacts – the physical objects that were involved.
  • Environment – the space where this the action is happening.

To do this, we pinned four large pieces of butcher paper to the walls of our work space, and after reading each line we’d draw the relevant information on that paper panel. Below is what we came up with over the course of three days.


The next step was to digitize this data into something that we could present to the client. Before doing this we took some time to look at what we’d made. We picked out portions we thought would be most interesting for the client to hear about. In the behavior and information exchange section we chose processes that seemed a little scattered, and repetitive or tedious. For example an employee showed us the process of documenting membership changes. As you can see below something that sounds very straightforward is actually a multistep process that takes a lot of time and effort.


While that last process mainly happened in the virtual space, we also followed an employee as they assisted a client who called looking for a lost wallet.



Again, this process involved a lot more effort than one would think, and the client never received a response, and so had no idea about what was involved and if the employee even went through the act of searching. This lack of response was intentional on the employee’s part which is why we decided to symbolize it with a dotted line to show an intentional inaction. They went on to explain saying,

“I try to minimize chains of communication like that – it can go on forever so I’ll usually tell people if we find it or if I can get that rescheduled I’ll call you, but if not then I won’t say anything.”

(line 81)

This was interesting to us, because it sounds like minimizing chains of communication is being down for efficiency, but there are other steps in the process where efficiency might have a greater impact.

An interesting area that came up in the power, policy, influence, and emotion service slice was around the process used to match clients with trainers.


At the top we see Avery has power and influence over both the training team and the training leads (clients who have requested personal training). She is in charge of pairing clients with a personal trainer and likes to handle these thoughtfully and strategically through a color coded organizational system. After she pairs the clients to members of the training team she expects the trainers to follow up with them and schedule their training sessions on their own. However, despite this expectation we saw her check to see if leads were being followed up with. We mapped this as a feeling of mistrust, but it could also be a feeling of responsibility or policy at play that she make sure a follow up occurred. At the bottom of the diagram we see that the training team also displays some emotions around trust in valuing transparency in how leads are assigned, taking on the responsibility of following up on assigned leads, and meeting Avery’s expectations.

When we look at how this process played out on the behavior and information exchange service slice diagram we can get a better idea of how participant actions might feed these emotions and policies, or vice versa how the emotions and policies have shaped participant actions. For example we can see that other participant actions and processes often feed into MindBody which is the enterprise software Castle Hill Fitness uses. However, the training lead process is more isolated with Avery only shown using MindBody to check the schedule. With most of the actions in the process being direct or siloed, it’s not difficult to see how trust would play a large role.


Client Feedback:

Overall the reaction was positive and it made them think about some of their processes and potential areas of improvement.

We also received some helpful feedback that we can use moving forward in future presentations. For example, we included slides showing where we were in the overall project. The client said they liked this and it gave helpful context of what we’d previously done and where we were going.

We also included images of the hand drawn versions of our service slice diagrams on the large pieces of butcher paper. We used these to show them in their entirety before focusing in on selected portions. The client really appreciated this and wished that the images had been bigger to provide more context and allow them to examine them. They also suggested titles on the slides for the diagrams to help remind any wandering minds what was being shown.


Here’s what we realized worked and didn’t work for us when we were creating our service slices.

Next time we conduct our research we need to create more opportunities for observing actions and behavior. For example, our research was focused on understanding a new member’s experience at the gym, but when we began looking for observed actions in our transcripts we did not have much that fit this requirement from the customer side. We have plenty of data around participants explaining things and telling us how they feel, but not a lot that’s verifiable activity that we witnessed. Which is exactly what we need to do service slices.

The first day of going through the transcript data that we’d combined to create these service slices together was slow. When we left we decided to go take some time to individually go through the transcripts and highlight what we saw as the key things for each item that could be applied to the different slices. Then when we met again we were able to move much quicker through the process. It helped that we’d already done a portion of the work by building our own opinions and understanding around each line. This also made it easier for us to discuss and see things from different perspectives as sometimes we came to different conclusions or interpretations.

Next up we will be working on creating insights from the themes that we previously created. We are also really excited that our client will be participating by joining us as we do this.

Diving into design thinking

For our last assignment in our design theory class we read and discussed articles about design thinking. Each seemed to be pretty similar to me in their enthusiasm for creative thinking and how this can be applied to problem solving. As someone who is new to design it can be difficult for me to understand some author’s views of design as this thing that’s going to change the world and is better than apparently everything else that ever was. However, when I reframe design thinking in my head as creative problem solving or something similar then it starts to make more sense. This is something that I don’t think is new to our society or humanity, as some authors hint at, but I can get behind the idea that it is growing in popularity and acceptance as a desired skill/profession.

Our assignment was to create a comic strip style story illustrating how viewpoints from each of the author’s articles. Sitting in class a few days ago and discussing Rittle’s article I read a sentence of his with the word “ripple” and got my idea for this comic. A diving competition with some of the author’s as the participants. It seemed only natural that Rittle be front and center as the announcer since he sparked the idea. As you’ll see in the story each of the authors will display a viewpoint from an article, and at the end the dive competition being aired will be turned off and the strip zooms out to reveal that an instructor was showing it to me, (Laura), a dive student. The student is then asked to try a dive. This is the point in the story where I get to reveal my viewpoint through the student. The dive I choose is based around the author’s who stuck with me the most initially. As I continue going through the program I hope to expand my dive to include additional viewpoints and execution, but right now, I’m just experimenting with design thinking and trying to enjoy myself along the way.

Diving into Design Story

Themes from the Castle

Since our last post about our project with Castle Hill Fitness, Jen and I have transcribed all the interviews we did, and added thousands of pieces of data to the walls of our workspace. This data consists of broken down utterances from participant interviews. From there we attempted to group similar data together based on connections that weren’t obvious or straight forward. These links were made from us inferring what the underlying meaning or behavior was behind each utterance. After working through all the data we chose a few themes that stood out to us as having an influence on a new member’s experience at Castle Hill Fitness.

When looking at the patterns we saw in the data we identified some themes that support the goals and values on which Castle Hill Fitness prides itself. For example, it seems like people are drawn to Castle Hill Fitness because it is doing its part to keep Austin weird.  What we mean by this is that the data points to people noticing aspects of the gym that they associate with things they like about Austin in general, and that they think make it unique. Participants like that Castle Hill is a local business as opposed to a corporate gym.

“It feels more laid-back. They don’t want the hoity-toityness of some gyms.”

Claire (line 11)

Being local they identified it as feeling more laid back, a business that supports a diverse group of staff and clientele, and has shared values with the larger Austin community.

“I look for inspiration anywhere… I feel like it’s bad because it’s from Equinox.”

Miles (line 32)

“We’re doing what Lifetime and all the other big box gyms can’t do and that’s making it a personal, kind of family experience.”

Cedric (line 32)

As shown in the quote above, being a local gym also allows Castle Hill Fitness to personalize their experience in ways that other corporate gyms may not be able or want to. This leads right into the next theme we saw as a pattern in the data which is that Castle Hill Fitness places an emphasis on providing a personalized experience for their members.

This begins right from the start when someone enters the building. The front desk prides itself on greeting members by name and building rapport. Castle Hill Fitness makes conscious efforts to build relationships between employees and members by keeping standard schedules so you always see the same people. They focus on promoting from within to reduce turnover so that those relationships can grow and the staff can continue to invest in members. Staff will even offer to go to classes with new members and introduce them to existing members to help them feel more comfortable and start creating relationships in the gym community.

Another way that Castle Hill Fitness emphasizes a personalized experience is through their new member emails. An employee will review the history of new members and email them personalized recommendations of things they might enjoy trying.  Lastly, we saw a pattern in the data that employees create personalized experiences for members based around specific health issues.

“He happened to have polio when he was a baby and so he came in… he was just ready to go and it was just fun creating that experience for him.”

Avery (lines 66-67)

In addition to finding themes in the data which give evidence to Castle Hill’s values and goals, we saw themes which reflect potential points of tension within the business. The first of these are that employees have a complicated relationship with new members. For example, some employees feel like working with new members is fun and exciting because they represent a new opportunity to share all of the services that Castle Hill offers.

“It’s exciting. I like working with new members… I’m excited for them to see something different.”

Angelica (line 129)

While some employees talked about how they were more comfortable working with existing members because they know how things work, and they’ve already built rapport. These differences in comfort level working with new and existing members could lead to an inconsistent delivery of services.

“I’m definitely more comfortable with existing members because I know them and they know me and we chit chat.”

Cedric (line 158)

Also in speaking to employees about their jobs at Castle Hill fitness we noticed a pattern in the data that employees have different interpretations of what their role is at Castle Hill Fitness. Because people view their roles differently they feel empowered to take different approaches with their jobs and with members which could make for a disjointed experience for new members.  

For example, one participant when talking about how they handle certain situations said “I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but we feel justified in what we do.” Another mentioned that they have a lot of flexibility in their role to handle things in different ways because “we don’t have huge rules.”

This theme was really interesting when we looked at the different ways that employees with similar jobs thought about their roles. One manager said, “I mean, technically I’m called the [department] manager, but I definitely don’t manage people.” While another manager said, “A lot of what I do is really just being a messenger for all the other departments.” While a third manager said, “I’m responsible for making sure this club operates the way it’s supposed to.” As you can see these are all very different interpretations of the role a manager fills at Castle Hill Fitness. While these may all be effective styles that work for the managers and their teams the lack of standardization could lead to varying outcomes.

Finally, the last theme we found in the data that reflects a point of tension was very central to our focus on the new member onboarding process. We found that employees have no clear definition of when a member is fully onboarded. Some said it was time based and after a certain amount of time they would consider a member onboarded. Others said it was when someone was coming into the gym consistently, or using more than one service. Still others felt like a new member wasn’t fully onboarded until they found a connection such as to a person or routine. With no clear definition or goal for what a fully on-boarded member looks like it seems unlikely that a clear system or procedure can be used to accomplish this.


Working through the data to create themes was a brand new process for us and really gave us an appreciation for how important the first step of research and data collection is to the process. When we reflected on our experience up to this point in the project here are a few things we’ve learned about what worked and didn’t work.

If we were doing this research again we would try to get a better understanding of the member’s perspective of being fully on-boarded. We ended up with a good understanding of how the employee participants feel about the onboarding process, but don’t have the same understanding from the member perspective. In hindsight, this would have been interesting to learn. Ideas we had would be to ask them about when they felt like they were fully part of the Castle Hill Fitness community and what that meant to them, or even more broadly how and when they felt like they were a part of any organization or community.

If we were doing this over again, we also would have broken our transcriptions up into shorter utterances initially. We realized our utterances were far too large a good while into the time when we should have been focused on themeing and had to review, reformat, print, cut, and add the shortened data back on the walls.

Once we began working on themes, we got off to a slow start because we we’d never done it before, and kept worrying about if we were doing it correctly. Next time I think we will just jump in and do it. We realized we just need to see what we get and then can always re-adjust from there.

When we were in the thick of looking for themes in the data we found that time boxing to create intervals in how we approached the data helped. For example, we’d spend 30 minutes looking through unthemed data to create new themes and then switch to breaking apart themes that had gotten too large for the next 30 minutes. This helped keep us moving quickly through the process.

Some of our themes which we found to be most interesting centered around areas of disparity in the data. We struggled working with these sometimes, because what we found to be the significant connection between them was that they were so different. We’re interested to find out more around this type of data grouping going forward.

Lastly, when we realized we needed to stop theming and work on our presentation we found it helped to flip the boards (walls) over. This newly created blank workspace on our walls gave us space, mentally and physically, to focus on specific themes that we wanted to present.

Here's an image one of our classmates captured of us enjoying our newly expanded wall space for themes.
Here’s an image one of our classmates captured of us enjoying our newly expanded wall space for themes.

Sketch Library

This last week in our applications class we broke into three teams and brainstormed interaction ideas based on our team’s category. My team focused on home and leisure interactions. After we came up with a long list of things people do in the home and leisure realm we chose a few of the interactions to quickly sketched. We then iterated on these throughout the week and compiled them all in a sketch library for us to reference later when needed. Here are a few of my interaction sketches.







A semi fictional story involving a dog

In theory class we’re still reading articles, and thinking of creative ways to process how we interpret and feel about them. The last set we read left us thinking about poverty and what the author’s viewpoints and our own were about poverty and design. We then created a story to showcase these.

I like many others am a member of my local neighborhood website community where I will occasionally browse the posts and check for deals on used home goods. During one such browsing session I came across a post about a dog that had many neighbors up in arms. Someone had posted about a dog that seemed to always be left out in the yard, with a dog house that was in disrepair and in their opinion not so great living conditions.


There were tons of comments from other worried animal lovers and the whole thing escalated quickly. I’ve used this scenario to showcase some of the author’s viewpoints on how they would approach this situation and what they might comment on the forum.



The end of this story may be viewed as happy for some, and an outrage to others. The owner becomes upset after much well meaning, but intrusive, and likely judgmental pestering from multiple neighbors and stops interacting with them. After which the dog is stolen from his yard by some vigilante in the night, and the thread disappears.

After thinking about this situation and all the readings from class I think any approach to addressing poverty and other wicked problems must first attempt to understand the people and specific factors involved. Similar to Hobbes and Pilloton’s viewpoints I think a certain degree of specific scope needs to be applied instead of creating large scale one size fits all approaches. Research, familiarity, and community involvement should be present in the design of any solution to prevent doing more harm than good for those involved as well as the environment on the global level. For me this all kind of boils down to this feeling that respect is one of the most important things to keep in mind as we go through each step of the design process. Respecting ourselves, others, and the world we all live in.

Stories from the Castle

Over the last few weeks, Jen and I have been conducting design research for our project with Castle Hill Fitness. At the beginning of this assignment we created a research plan on our own which focused on the green initiatives that the gym utilizes. The goal was to learn about the impact these may have on members and employees. After meeting with Castle Hill Fitness we updated our research plan to better reflect their interest in learning more about the new member on boarding process.

Focus Statement: We plan to learn how new members feel about and become familiarized with the products and services offered by Castle Hill Fitness.

Next we began conducting interviews. We have met with 15 participants including employees, former members, current members (new and old), and potential future members to learn about their gym experiences. From these interviews we’ve collected many hours of audio which we’re in the process of transcribing, and over 800 photos. We’re midway through adding all this data to our work space walls in preparation for the next steps of affinity diagramming, which we will use to group the data into themes based on inferences. We will explain more about this grouping process in a later post once we’ve done it.

Research data on the walls of our work space.

At this stage of the process we’d like to share some stories that came out of our research. These stories are not formalized themes, but give a general picture of what we heard in our time with participants, and may help convey a sense of the emotions and overall feelings that people had regarding Castle Hill Fitness and new gym membership.

One story we heard was how community is a big part of what people like about Castle Hill Fitness. Many of the participants we spoke to mentioned how Castle Hill Fitness has a family and community vibe to it, and that’s important to both the staff and members.

“When I turned 50 some of the people that are in Recess that I’ve been jumping rope with for 20 years, we went out to dinner in honor of my birthday. And it’s not about me, right? It’s about the connections that those people have with each other. And I was just the catalyst.”

We also heard the experience of a potential new member. We spoke to Renata, who’s looking to get back into fitness after recovering from some serious injuries. A friend had recommended Castle Hill Fitness so she went to check it out. When we spoke to her she’d done a 3 day free trial, but had not yet joined as a member.

“I loved the class and I was, like, glowing and I was so excited to keep doing Pilates. And the next morning I woke up so sore that I didn’t go back to Castle Hill, I didn’t go to my yoga class that I go to every Saturday. I’m an athletic person and I just felt wrecked. I think I was wrecked for like a week! So I didn’t use the rest of my trial in any sort of way.”

We heard from various gym employees about what it’s like working with new members. For example, Avery told us why she enjoys working with new members saying,

“I find new members exciting. Specifically, I really enjoy getting a new client and kind of starting to—I can’t find a more positive word—but starting to brainwash them. Kind of shedding all that stuff that they know about working out, what they know about gyms and their body … getting them into a deeper internal motivation based on how they’re feeling and how they’re moving.”

Lastly we spoke with a former Castle Hill Fitness member, Jane. She has recently decided to join the Townlake YMCA so we were able to hear about her experience as a new member at the Y and compare it to her time at Castle Hill Fitness.

“I know at Castle Hill they send a lot of emails to members, like ‘oh as a new member you get a free 15 min session with your personal trainer or da da da.’ Those are very helpful. I appreciate those, because I don’t know what’s going on. If you send me an email, I will read it, and be looking and researching what this gym has. If you tell me what you have, and that 15 minute thing or whatever then I’m more likely to act upon it than me wanting to ask what you have offered. At the Y, no emails yet.”

When choosing what to include in our presentation to Castle Hill we tried to select stories that would be interesting for the client to hear. We did this by using quotes and examples that might reveal something new, or convey the emotional impact/personality of the participant. In presenting personal stories from the research we hope to humanize the data and make it more relatable.


Reflecting on week 4

Our fourth week at AC4D was just as busy as the previous ones. In theory class I presented the diagram I made showing 8 author’s viewpoints on design research, and my own interpretation of what design research should and should not be. I think this went well, and I received a lot of positive feedback. Similarly, in our Application class where we’ve been learning and practicing sketching, I got feedback that I’ve improved a lot in my daily object sketches. I’m feeling so relieved and proud of the progress I’ve made, but I’m also tired. I’m finding that at AC4D you will learn, but it will be hard. You will improve, but it will be through many hours of sustained effort, and time is a precious commodity.

Tomorrow my team will be presenting our stories from the field to both the client, and the IDSE101 class. Today we originally planned on working 11-3, but completely changed up our presentation shortly before 3pm, and ended up working much later. I’m feeling good about the changes we made, and think the presentation will be much more impactful because of them, but I can’t help looking forward to some magical time in the future where I feel confident that I know what I’m doing from the start, and it takes me a much shorter amount of time to accomplish a similar quality product.

Day 11 of sketching the same object daily.
Day 11 of sketching the same object daily.

Fewer words more pictures

Last Saturday we learned some techniques for sketching people and faces. Specifically about how to place body parts and make things look proportional. For our assignments we practiced drawing figures in different positions as well as adding them into a scene. This allowed us to practice perspective sketching and drawing people. Here are some of my efforts that show how I progressed through making these.

A few iterations of a museum scene.
A few iterations of a museum scene.
Iterations of a tunnel scene
Iterations of a tunnel scene

Design Research in Space

In our theory class the last couple weeks we’ve read articles from eight different authors and discussed their views on the role of design research. From this we were to create a diagram with an x and y axis to plot these different positions. The x axis of the graph was to show the range between “designing with” and “designing for”, and we were to create our own range for the y axis.

First, for the x axis I decided that I would interpret “designing with” as research where the involved participants were aware of the purpose and engaged in multiple steps of the design process making it more a relationship of back and forth. On the opposite end I interpreted “designing for” as research where participants may or may not be involved, but they weren’t fully aware of the purpose and were more subjects of the study than interacting with the researchers.

Second, for the y axis I decided to follow a common thread I found in the author’s approaches to design research of if they start broad, or narrow. On one end I listed “specific needs” for research that began with a clear problem or focus in mind. On the other end, I listed “broad culture” for research approaches that began by learning about broad themes such as culture, values, or identity before narrowing down to a more narrow focus of a problem, or product.

After plotting these on the diagram I ended up with a relatively even spread of about 2 authors in each quadrant. Please see the diagram below followed by the individual reasons for placing each author where I did, and an exemplifying quote from the reading.



  • Give participants tools to drive research with co-creation.

  • Research informs what should or should not be designed.

  • “The goal of this exploration is to define the fundamental problems and opportunities and to determine what is to be, or should not be designed and manufactured.”

Fulton Suri

  • Aware of business needs, but focused on human culture.

  • Mutual benefit comes from engagement between business and users.

  • “These efforts must go deeper in terms of helping companies understand what is truly meaningful in relation to complex human issues of culture, identity, lifestyle, and values- hence our emphasis on ways to achieve profound insight and non-linear interpretation.”



  • People > technology or business.

  • Learn from people to identify problem, but may not engage further.

  • “Whether the research is pragmatic – as in looking for usability enhancements – or conceptual – as it was for Chipchase – the philosophy of design research is the same: to learn from people and to emphasize people, rather than technology or business.”


  • Research is very broadly focused on gaining cultural insights.

  • Don’t inform participants of reasons for research, and data is interpreted by designer without input from participants.

  • “This tension creates exactly the situation we believe is valuable for design, providing new perspectives that can constrain and open design ideas, while explicitly maintaining room for our own interests, understandings, and preferences.”



  • Users as active participants.

  • Applies context to a specific use.

  • “Accordingly, the focus of design is not simply “how can people get their work done,” but “how can people create their own meanings and uses for the system in use”; and in turn, this suggests an open approach in which users are active participants in the emergence of ways of working.”

Le Dantec

  • Research is participatory.
  • Evaluates the needs of multiple publics.

  • “By presenting this work we hope to extend our understanding of how framing design around the notion of publics, combined with a participatory design process, foregrounds not just the needs of a particular public, but also the design opportunities at the boundaries of that public. “



  • Focused on a participant’s interaction with an object. The framework informs the research so participants may not always be involved.

  • Select research methods based on the design problem.

  • “By using a framework to select design methods, designers can avoid prescriptive design processes and choose research methods that best discover information about the relationship between phenomena constituting the design problem.”


  • Focused on the specific needs of the technology.

  • Focus on enhancing and improving technology for the user not necessarily with.

  • “Once a product direction has been established, research with customers can enhance and improve it. Beforehand? Leave it to the technologists.”

After reading these articles I have started to develop my own view on design research. Because the plotted points made me think of stars I used their locations to create constellations to point me in the direction of what role I think design research should, or should not play. I’m sure this will continue to develop over time as I add more stars to the design research night sky, but after these readings it’s a little less dark up there.