Exploring Ownership of Park Spaces in Austin

Let me ask you a question: what’s your park? Is it the pocket park at the end of your block? Is it a splash pad that your kids frequent on Saturday mornings? Is it the trail on the edge of town where you recharge from the city? No matter your preference, you’ve likely found your place – – your park that feels like home.

For the past month, we’ve been working with Austin Parks Foundation exploring how Austinites develop this feeling of ownership towards park and more interestingly, how those feelings of ownership affect their actions.

Austin Parks Foundation (APF) is a non-profit dedicated to developing and maintaining outdoor spaces in Austin. For a city with a culture so devoted to fitness and green spaces, Austin parks are surprisingly underfunded. APF attempts to bridge the gap between what park users need and what the city is able to provide through fundraising, volunteering, and events.

Our ultimate goal as designers is to present APF with a new understanding of their stakeholders and identify problem areas that they may not be aware of. To achieve this, we are starting with 30 hours of contextual inquiry, interviews, and activities, with 19 Austinites in the park they call home.

With our focus on ownership, we wanted to find folks that have a strong connection to parks, so we posted on NextDoor, Craigslist, Facebook, asked PARD and APF, and ultimately found participants that fell into 3 groups:

  1. People who have limited access to green spaces and come to parks to commune with nature or do outdoor activities;
  2. People who take action to improve public green spaces; and
  3. People who use public space to participate in organized activities.

We interviewed a forager who uses parks as a source for herbs for medicine, a frisbee coach who uses parks to train his athletes, park adopters who dedicate hours of their week to improving their park, and much more. Below is a peek of five of the 19 stories we uncovered — all names and identifying information have been changed to keep our sources anonymous. 

Meet our park goers



Robert is an artist whose home studio looks out at his neighborhood park. From this vantage point, he has a clear view of the day-to-day activities of park-goers. However, he doesn’t just observe the park from afar, he’s frequently in the park connecting with other park users and just as often out and about in his neighborhood chatting about local issues.

He has collaborated with several local agencies to fund and park improvement projects and has a few more improvements in mind for the future. In several years of living next to his park and advocating for his neighborhood, he’s learned to navigate overlapping civic and non-profit organizations with the help of more experienced mentors.

He told us about his vision for the park. “We planned on cutting through the bamboo to make it a trail for dog walkers and cyclists… You can walk to the side of the pond, but you can’t do a full circle. So we were talking about putting a bridge across and creating a nice path through the trees.”

As we toured his park with him, Robert pointed out areas for potential improvements and also discussed the complications of balancing the needs of neighbors experiencing homelessness who have at times sheltered in the park with the concerns of neighbors who are worried about impacts on the park and the neighborhood.



Madeline moved to Austin 9 years ago and found the core of her community by connecting with others in parks. She joined a local community garden and established friendships through time spent in the gardens and creating other opportunities to come together with events like potlucks. 

“A community garden can be like a microcosm of like everything else going on. You have different political affiliations, you have different genders, all different kinds of people coming together. So it’s a microcosm of your community, which is a good thing.”

Now, Madeline is more likely to spend time in parks with her husband and young son. They visit splash pads and playgrounds or just get some fresh air on an evening walk after work. She’s more likely to schedule time in parks around existing friends and family than to meet new people. 

She still highly values parks and their potential to turn strangers into neighbors and friends. Madeline thinks Austin should invest in parks and gardens as spaces for people from all walks of life to come together, learn from each other and share with each other while reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.



Bryan is a native Austinite who has been planning cyclocross events in Austin parks for seven years. A father of two daughters, he wants his cycling events to be more than just a competition — he wants to create a community where attendees can bring their families, friends, and hang out all day.

“I wanted this to be like a Roman Colosseum. [. . .] Music, announcing, basically everything is right here, just going around you. [. . .] I wanted people to be here, and feel no need to go somewhere else.”

To achieve this, he’s put a lot of effort into his events. From hand-cutting ragweed with a machete to booking food trucks and beer sponsors, he’s 100% hand-on. He’s developed a strong relationship with Travis County Parks, too, something he could not do with Austin Parks & Recreation (PARD).

“It’s very refreshing working with them. Travis County Parks has a ‘can do’ attitude. My partners in the parks […] understand that I’m responsible, that I’m willing to go the extra mile when it needs.”

While Travis County is a great partner, their parks are unfortunately on the outskirts of town. He understands the limits PARD faces, but still wishes that he could plan events that are more central. But for now, he’s counting on Travis County expanding their parks instead of trying to work with PARD.

“I’ve gone the path of least resistance with Austin PARD.” — and for Bryan, that means not working with them at all. 



Wes is a 24-year-old software engineer who resides on Austin’s East Side. His park experiences are focused around playing basketball whenever and wherever he can. He recently started looking at purchasing a house and told us he was scouting out the neighborhood on Google Earth to see what parks would be in walking distance to any new properties. When we asked him to draw us a map of his park ecosystem, it was no surprise that almost all the parks had a basketball court. He adamantly proclaimed

“It’s a staple of an American Park to have a basketball court.”

He plays multiple times a week, sometimes with friends or at pick up games, but also sometimes just to clear his head. In the past, he and his friends would walk 25 minutes in the summer heat to get to a court where they could play a full-court game. This was because the closest court to his then residence was missing a backboard. This isn’t the only issue he has taken up with the facilities around town. At his now local court on the eastside, he told us…

“One issue with this side is the tree is hanging over the court, you can’t really do a fair, full-court game. Like someone’s going to be a disadvantage on that side.”

When we asked him about reaching out to the city to get some of the issues fixed, he said he had thought about it before, but never actually reached out. He was telling us that he would not be opposed to donating to help improve his local park too, but he wasn’t sure if he would ever see the results.

“I really want to know, how can I make a difference? [. . .] Is it really going to make a difference where I want it to? Is that me being selfish by wanting to improve one park that’s close to me versus improving the parks in Austin as a whole? ”



Summer and her partner Jake have been hosting an electric circus in Zilker Park going on their 10th year. They are old school Austinites who embody the “Keep it weird” motto every day. When we were gathering some basic demographic info about them like getting their age, we got the quirky response of

“I’m 14 going on 52.” from Jake, and “I’m 736, but in this life.” from Summer.

They are both really proud of the community that they have built through their park festival which showcases people experimenting with flow arts, like hoola-hoops and rolla-bollas, where the tagline of the party is where you are the star

“That’s how you get to grow the community. You show it to new people. Basically the park is an audience. They don’t know they are the audience, they don’t know they are going to be the participants either.”

They love to share their experiences with anyone who is interested, and use the festival as an opportunity to lead by example. They do a roll call before dusk to get all festival-goers to clean up the site so they can leave the park better than they found it. They also like to leave an emotional imprint on people as well. At another public festival called  The Fairy Trail, Summer told us a story about a mom and her daughter had been coming to see her for multiple years in a row. The little girl came up to Summer and wanted to thank her for giving her fairy blessings every year, so the girl said it was her turn to give Summer a blessing.

“I knelt down there and the little girl gave me a blessing and blew glitter on me and I started crying. It was the cutest thing ever.”

Next Steps

With our research wrapped, we are now focused on finding themes among our participants. With a desire to design with — and not for — our participants, we invited a few into the studio to help us interpret our research. Stay tuned in two weeks as we present our findings.

Stories from the Field: PeopleFund

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For the past three weeks, my classmates Zina, Vickie, and I have been working with a nonprofit called PeopleFund. PeopleFund is a nonprofit that creates economic opportunity and financial stability for underserved people by providing access to capital, education and resources to build healthy small businesses. Inspired by their mission statement, we wanted to learn more about how they are helping entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed.

Through contextual inquiry, we learned about the experiences of both PeopleFund’s clients and the employees of their Education team. Through interviews ranging from one to two hours, we learned about what brought them to PeopleFund and their experiences working there. These interviews helped shape our research focus: to understand how PeopleFund guides and educates entrepreneurs who are looking to start their businesses. Our goals were to 

  • understand how PeopleFund’s culture supports entrepreneurs’ growth,
  • understand how PeopleFund helps entrepreneurs make sense of and navigate the business landscape, and
  • understand clients’ expectations and how the service aligns, challenges, and influences them.

We spoke with six PeopleFund employees and four users. Our users ranged from Jonas, a software developer and IT expert who is launching his own franchise, to Agnes, a UX designer working to help low-income populations eat healthier. Each user was unique, and sought out PeopleFund for different reasons, but all made use of PeopleFund’s Bloom Lab, which is one of the cheapest co-working spaces in Austin.


Jonas is one entrepreneur who works with People Fund. They have helped him prepare for the grand opening of his business, sending out marketing emails and promoting on social media. They even designed his flyer. He is glad they can help him in these areas, because, as a self-proclaimed introvert, he knows that networking and connecting with people will be his biggest challenge.

Jonas works regularly out of the Bloom Lab space. “When I come in and start working, I am able to get my things done, no problems. Facilities are pretty good, so I never have problems with coffee or microwave, water or anything,” he told us. And the staff is very responsive. “It’s very easy to access them,” he says. “If they’re not here physically, they respond very well to emails pretty quickly… I get responses right away.” Granted, the space isn’t perfect—he laments the lack of privacy for phone calls or one-on-one meetings. This is a complaint that we heard from many users. In addition, he often wishes he could enter the building outside its 9:00-6:00, Monday-Friday hours. He finds that he often wants to work on weekends—a common attitude among the entrepreneurs we spoke with.

“I was like, oh my god, dear god, people show up,” Brandi told us, recalling in fear. “I don’t know if we had any workshops that had zero people, but we definitely had some that had like, two or three.”

Although the space is only open during those hours, many PeopleFund employees work long after the doors close. “If I could have my cats here, and a slightly less formal dress code, I would just live here” an employee named Gina commented. Work-life balance, like at many nonprofits, can be a struggle, but there is a genuine desire to help people, no matter the costs. “I care about that [these] people,” said another employee, Lena. “So if they want to stick with it, and they’re willing to work, and they don’t make themselves really unpleasant to work with along the way, heck, I’ll stick with them forever.” Many entrepreneurs are referred to the organization by the city of Austin, and PeopleFund provides them with six hours of free business coaching. However, if a client is making progress, they can provide more hours, and they often do. “They typically can’t go over the six hours, but we might still work with them anyway. And for some people, we’ll just ask and vouch and say they’re still making progress,” another employee tells us. “We still want to meet with them.”

In addition to one-on-one advising services, PeopleFund hosts workshops across the state. They offer various educational curricula, and they frequently partner with banks to promote financial literacy and help small businesses get off the ground. Running these workshops can be challenging, as there is often limited lead time, and conflicting priorities sometimes lead to what one employee described as “oversaturation” of workshops. This, combined with limited time for promotion, sometimes leads to poor attendance.


“I was like, oh my god, dear god, people show up,” Brandi told us, recalling in fear. “I don’t know if we had any workshops that had zero people, but we definitely had some that had like, two or three.”

Balancing between the demands of events and clients’ individual needs can be tough. We learned that city of Austin clients are asked to rate PeopleFund’s services, which leads to a culture of fear and makes it difficult for staff to prioritize their time. “If I’m not as responsive as they’d like me to be, they can rate me a 2 versus a 10,” Marcia informed us. “So it’s like, you have to really be on it at all times.”

As at many nonprofits, responsibilities blur, work hours can be long, and limited finances add stress. Space is limited at the Bloom Lab, and this causes scheduling difficulties for both clients and employees. However, these pains are common for organizations that have seen such rapid growth. As Gina remarked, “When I started here, we all worked downstairs in the bottom corner of one building. We didn’t even heat or air condition parts of our building, because we were so small. And to see what this has become…” Her pride was unmistakeable.

We presented our finding to PeopleFund this morning. Many of the insights were not surprising to them, but they were pleased to see their users were happy with the facilities and the services they receive. They acknowledged a potential need to be more proactive with clients in offering services, but the difficulty of balancing that with their other demands is a challenge that will need more nuanced consideration. They also acknowledged the space constraints, and hoped we might be able to provide some insights at a later date to better address the situation.

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Most of all, they were pleased to hear the stories of their users. When we told them how Jonas had started his business as a way of giving back, they nodded in agreement. PeopleFund provides critical services for those looking to start small businesses, but its ethos and culture fosters a particular audience: one that aims to help the underserved. PeopleFund supports those who don’t otherwise qualify for lending from major banks, helping all who are interested in pursuing the “American Dream,” no matter their financial background. Many of the employees who work there have seen business failure firsthand and felt the effects of failed businesses on their parents and families. And many, like Jonas, have come from modest beginnings and now have the ability to start businesses that aim to help others.

PeopleFund’s Education team is critical for providing the information necessary to find business success. “You know, a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, I could do business,’ because that’s like the American Dream, right?” Marcia told us. “I can own a business. It’s so easy,” she said, explaining a typical client’s rationale. “But I don’t think people realize the maintenance that you [have to] have on how to sustain yourself.”

More information on our interviewees can be found here.

A Story of HOPE at East Austin’s Only Farmers Market

A Story Of HOPE at East Austin’s Only Farmers’ Market

We’re a small team of designers on the beginning of our path to understanding interaction design and applying it in real world context. We’ve been conducting research for the past several weeks at a small farmers market in East Austin, Texas. The goal of our project is not to pick out problems or successes within the market but to observe and analyze the way this grassroots operation at Plaza Saltillo in East Austin functions as a whole. Myself and my team-mates, Lauren and Leah have visited the market weekend after weekend to better understand and embed ourselves in this ecosystem. We’ve spoken with the directors of the market, it’s vendors, and its customers. We have learned a wide variety of information from these parties and are reading into each piece with equal value to really get a feel for what it’s like to participate in this market.

As Austin grows in population day by day so do the dynamics of the city. East Austin’s number of multi-level apartments have started to cast a shadow on this once sleepy, sun-soaked market square on Sunday Mornings. As we’ve watched and documented the set-up of the market through tear down in the afternoon, we have seen that the clientele is just as diverse as the vendors themselves. Few farmers markets in the city offer the use of EBT and SNAP benefits like HOPE does. While some come to the market to utilize their SNAP and EBT benefits, others stroll through to purchase CBD products, juice elixirs and listen to eclectic tunes. There’s something special about HOPE that sets it apart from the rest of the farmers markets in Austin.

Through in depth one-on-one conversations with organizers, vendors and customers we’ve gained invaluable information into the happenings of the market. We are at a point where we are putting these people’s stories forward to paint a better picture of what HOPE Farmers Market really is.


Melissa – “What the f*** is turmeric?!” shared this first-time market goer. Melissa and her dog Sunny sat with us for an interview on a balmy 100 degree afternoon. Melissa had googled things to do on Sundays the night before and ended up on a bench in the shade at HOPE. She sat down with us on a bench under the veranda and shared a bit about who she is and how she ended up at the farmers market that day. Melissa credits her sister as being the “farmer’s market person” in the family. She explained to us that she had trouble understanding how to “work a farmers market”, and that she didn’t intend on buying anything that day. She also explained that she usually shops by color. Once she became more comfortable throughout the conversation she openly admitted she was intimidated by the farmers market experience, but that she enjoyed the relaxed vibe of HOPE. She hopes to return once she understands the flow of the market a bit better. To her, HOPE felt laid back and actually appeared to be more of an artist’s market than a true farmers market. She also was interested in finding out more about the dog related products that the vendors had to offer because she leads a “dog-centric lifestyle”.

melissa photo

Lindsay – We spoke with a cyclist passing through the market on her way to Barton springs. She came to visit the kombucha dealer of the market but her voyage was to no avail. She was perplexed at there only being one cold drink vendor on this toasty Austin summer afternoon. She recounted with us the early days of the market and how it has changed from an eclectic warehouse spot to Saltillo Plaza over time. She explained that she usually makes an effort to stop by HOPE. She’s usually just passing through or meeting someone for coffee, but she elaborated that she finds HOPE to be a valuable asset to the community and hopes that it doesn’t die. When we went through her bag with her to see what she brought with her that day, she realized that she had brought a lunch with her to the market. She didn’t plan on buying any food there.

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Bertha – The third customer we spoke with came to the market with intense direction. A resident of the neighborhood for twenty years, Bertha walked through with her sickle in one hand and her son’s hand in the other. Bertha shared that she was coming by to shop for groceries and also to get her sickle sharpened at the knife sharpening stand. She uses her sickle to cut her front lawn and “threaten her neighbors”. Bertha made a few quick comments about the high-rise complexes in the area and her fear of drones delivering groceries to nearby apartment patios. She said that she generally didn’t feel like a part of what was going on in the neighborhood anymore and she generally kept to her own corner. That being the market and her front yard…

Our stories from the field continue with a glimpse into the lives of vendors of the market;
Jessie – We were fortunate enough to meet Jessie, an entrepreneur and immigrant with a personality as sweet as her products. We were able to visit Jessie in her place of preparation at a nearby commissary kitchen to watch her prepare the goods she brings to the market. Jessie shared her heartwarming story of why she uses the ingredients she does to provide a sweet yet health conscious treat to those who seek it.

Jeff welcomed us into his home, which also functions as his lab space, stock room and partner’s art studio. Operating out of a tiny apartment near downtown Jeff, an engineer by trade, shared his real reason for making quality CBD products. He and his mother have sensitive skin, and have always struggled to find products that they could use. He first tests all of his products on his own body. If he is personally happy with the product, only then will he sell it at a market. While he has plans to scale the company, and sell both white-label and wholesale, he says he will never leave the farmers markets behind. He’s in this business for the positive effects he can have on others, and nothing compares to being able to see that pleasure on his customer’s faces. He explained how much he has learned about the CBD industry as well as his excitement for a booming new industry. It’s a time for CBD, he explained, that is very similar to the days of the wild west.

Lastly, we spoke with an employee of the market, Amber. Amber is a roaring ball of energy who openly shared many details of the market, her love of farmers markets in general, and her personal motivation for showing up every Sunday, even in the heat. She and her family come in from their own farm out of town to run the show. Amber brings her shining personality and passion for humans weekend in and out. She sees to it that the front and back end of things are taken care of, so that vendors have the ability to focus on their products. She sees her role in the market as an opportunity to let others flourish.

Through these deep conversations we were able to learn much more about what motivates humans to return to this tiny farmers market on the east side. We shared a few of these stories with our client and we were met with a positive response. The staff of the market works tirelessly, and doesn’t often have time to step back and evaluate. They loved hearing vendor and customer feedback. As we work towards synthesizing the data included here along with 12 other interviews, we hope to find threads and patterns that will generate insight into what the market can do to evolve.

Adventures in Sketching

When we first started sketching classes at ac4d I thought I would quickly feel successful at representing my ideas visually. I often think in visual metaphors rather than words. And I spent tons of time in elementary school, middle school and high school (and maybe even college) doodling all over every available scrap of paper. In college, I was conducting interviews for an on-campus job, and one of the people we hired, Mei, ended up becoming a good friend of mine. Years later she told me she’d never forget my intent notetaking during the interview and how nervous it made her. But as we were concluding the interview, I set my clipboard down on the desk revealing it was actually covered in drawings, not scathing critiques. 😳

Getting back into sketching I fell back onto some old habits of using stick figures and symbols. In the first week, I hated the stuff I made so much that I didn’t save any of it. (I now regret that.) But even my stick figures have been tuned up since starting this class. The stick figures below have little detailing that allows you to position their heads more intentionally, direct their gaze or change their body language. Adding circles for hands and feet makes them feel more finished. But in a semester-long sketching class, I knew we weren’t going to stop at rendering humans as stick figures.


Our first figure drawing class had us drawing people breaking them down into heads, shoulders, hips, and feet connected by a centerline. A not so secret trick that felt like a revelation. With a few small shifts in the hips and shoulders, I could create different versions of people that conveyed body language differently. These are a few early attempts. Not quite nailing it yet.


Next, we added fleshy body features and clothes. This next image is about halfway to a having real body.


I loved the way that building the frame of the body first could free me up to sketch different body positions easily without as much guess and check work (drawing it a little wonky and then starting over from the beginning). These quick outlines are both very expressive on their own and an essential foundation for fleshing out a person more fully in a way that feels anatomically accurate.

In the images below you can see faint pencil marks from my first attempts. In the first of the sequence, my first lines put the head and torso more directly over the hips, but looking at my finished product, I realized that with the leg extended so far, the torso and head needed to be further away from the leg for a realistic balance. In the second drawing, the hands and foot were too close together, so I redrew them further apart. I also noticed that drawing the shoulders and arms in perspective was challenging. Which should appear closer? How to make them look the same size and length? How to draw the shoulders? I tried to find reference photos of yogis doing this pose, but most were just perfectly 90 degrees to the camera/illustrator. I wanted to be able to illustrate this on a different plane.


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I also found it interesting to try to illustrate bodies in ways that pushed the limits of the linear structure. I drew several figures in different versions of child’s pose. I was also experimenting with different ways of doing the mouth, eyes and nose. I used the linear framing for the first (bottom) and my later attempts were modifications of the first figure with less use of the body framing.


After drawing these side angled and asymetrical figures, I returned to the straight on, symetrical forms and drew a few more people. Hands, wrists, ankles and feet are still areas I’d like to improve on, but I was pretty happy with how these turned out overall.


I’m enjoying experimenting with different ways fo drawing hair, facial features, and altering proportions (bigger heads, wider set eyes, different musculature). I also am enjoying drawing figures with less clothing or no clothing, so I can focus on the bodies rather than how clothes drape on the body.


As much as I enjoyed sketching forms and objects the last couple of weeks, drawing humans has been really fun. I love seeing a person come alive on the page with a personality and back story that I might not have imagined when I first put pen to paper.

your design personality: what kind of cereal are you?

We have all taken a personality test once or twice in our lives. Perhaps it was to satiate a fleeting attention span in the pursuit of finding out what kind of cereal we are. Maybe we sought to find out what divine four letters Myers-Briggs would bestow upon us. Whatever the reason and whatever their validity, personality tests are an exercise in making sense of who we are or who we hope to be.

In our theory class, we explored the role of design research and accordingly, the role of the design researcher. As we read through the perspectives of eight authors, I began to consider personality types in the context of research. What personality must we adopt as researchers to create meaningful design? Does our research personality align with our own?

For the sake of this blog post, let’s suspend scientific opinion and suggest, personality tests are accurate. So if personality tests indicate how people perceive the world around them and make decisions, how can they measure the ways in which we conduct design research?

And without further ado… My Myers-Briggs personality is ENFP: extroverted, intuitive, thinking, and prospecting. I’m a Campaigner and have been so for a while now (after taking this test in high school psych.) According to 16personalities.com, “Campaigners are fiercely independent, and much more than stability and security, crave creativity and freedom”.

If this is who I am outside of design research, then who am I within this new context of design? Is it even possible for those two people to be different? As I read through the works of eight authors* in design theory, I embarked on finding out.

In an attempt to measure personality, I took to a diagram. Each axis would serve as a metric for quantifying the unique characteristics of the design researcher personality.

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Considering the x-axis, I hoped to measure how designers conduct research: For or with users.

This metric evaluated how designer’s treat user participation in research. If the actors are users and designers, and design research sets the stage, when is the designer the lead, a supporting actor, or a passive audience? When is the user fulfilling these roles?

As the readings exposed the ways in which designers treat user participation, I proposed questions to better understand where each author fell on this axis while employing different research methods.

  • Is user participation passive or active?
    • Forlizzi. product ecology
    • Suri. corporate ethnography
  • How creative can users be in their participation? Can they build things?
    • Gaver. cultural probes
    • Sanders. co-creation
  • In what design stage does participation occur?
    • Sanders. co-creation
    • Le Dantec. participatory design (publics)
  • Where does research happen?
    • Kolko. contextual inquiry
  • Do users engage with prototypes?
    • Forlizzi: product ecology
    • Suri: experience prototyping
  • To what degree are users invested in the design goal? I
    • Le Dantec: participatory design (publics)

Considering the y-axis, I hoped to understand how designers view their own bias during design research. Do designers view their bias as: integral or inconsequential.

Whether intentionally or not, designers project their bias into design research. This affects the ways we work with users and shapes the outcomes of our designs. There are also ethical and creative implications in the levels to which we channel our world views into our research.

I asked questions throughout the readings to better identify where each author fell on this axis as they introduced different research theories.

How is the designer’s bias viewed?

  • It is indivisible from the research itself
    • Dourish: phenomenological theory
  • It should be embraced; Subjective interpretation should be reinforced
    • Gaver: design for every day pleasure
  • It should addressed with intention of minimizing its influence
    • Suri: designers immersed in others’ subjectivities
  • It can be ignored entirely
    • Dourish: positivist theory
  • It does not matter
    • Norman: incremental innovation

In comparing user participation with designer bias, I have provided the Myers-Britt design researcher personality test. You’re welcome for the compelling pun.

personality diagram

Four personality types emerge: the Protagonist, the Advocate, the Adventurer, the Architect. The following descriptions are in part derived from 16personalities.com

ENFJ: The Protagonist

(Team Vision) Protagonists easily see people’s motivations and seemingly disconnected events, and are able to bring these ideas together and communicate them as a common goal eloquently. They take a great deal of pride in guiding others to work together to improve themselves and their community.

INFJ: The Advocate

(User’s Vision)  Advocates will act with creativity, imagination, conviction, and sensitivity not to create an advantage, but to create balance. Nothing lights up Advocates like creating a solution that changes people’s lives.

ISFP: The Adventurer

(Designer’s Vision) Adventurers live in a colorful world, inspired by connections with people and ideas. These personalities take joy in reinterpreting these connections, reinventing and experimenting with both themselves and new perspectives.

INTJ: The Architect

(System’s Vision) Architects are self-confident in the skills and ideas they focus on. Using their insights and logic, they push innovation through by sheer willpower. It may seem that Architects constantly deconstruct and rebuild every idea and system they encounter.

Through these readings, I took this personality test for each author as seen in the diagram below.

diagram authors test1


In seeking innovation, designers should explore how each personality informs their designs. We ask, in what situations do we limit or lean into our own subjectivity? We examine which scenarios receive the most or least value from increased user participation. Conditions shift and requirements change, so why don’t we? Unlike the personality tests we know best, I suggest we no longer limit ourselves to one type.

As designers, the problems we face will inevitably vary in complexity, but we must continually question what personality is best suited for the one set out before us.






Designs on Dignity: Perceptions of Technology Among the Homeless – Christopher A. Le Dantec, W. Keith Edwards

A Tale of Two Publics: Democratizing Design at the Margins – Christopher A. Le Dantec, et al

The Product Ecology: Understanding Social Product Use and Supporting Design Culture – Jodi Forlizzi

What we talk about when we talk about context – Paul Dourish

Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty – William Gaver, et al

A Social Vision for Value Co-creation in Design – Liz Sanders & George Simons

Going Deeper, Seeing Further: Enhancing Ethnographic Interpretations to Reveal More Meaningful Opportunities for Design – Jane Fulton Suri & Suzanne Gibbs Howard

Experience Prototyping – Marion Buchenau & Jane Fulton Suri

Technology First, Needs Last: The Research-Product Gulf – Don Norman

The Value of Synthesis in Driving Innovation – Jon Kolko

To believe or not to believe….

The value of design synthesis lies in the space between concrete human needs and squishy human desires and dreams. It is the ability to reconcile these two very real modes of the human experience that makes the designer special. It is what makes them valuable to any process, because processes are a human creation in their own right. A human way of coping with reality.

I worked through these readings feeling that each author was grasping at a way of reckoning with their own human limitations. Defining those limitations is difficult for everybody, but especially for those who’s responsibility it is to understand other people and change their lives for the better based on that understanding. There are other careers that immediately address improving, or even saving, other people’s lives. We place a lot of trust in our counselors, doctors, and lawyers, for example. We hire them with the expectation that they understand the human condition, they are trained and have special skillsets that will help us. We imagine that prospective doctors, lawyers, or counselors have natural and accelerated skills working with and understanding people that we may not possess ourselves.

Based on our readings from the past two weeks, I believe that we should take a designer’s role in our lives as seriously as we might one of these other widely respected professions. This round of readings largely paints a picture of a designer as being a person who is meant to think holistically. We sit with that ambiguous space between logic and emotion. We can integrate the implicit knowledge and intuitional judgement that we possess with the expressions of others to attack problems from an elevated level.  Regardless of human’s ability to know one’s self, there are limitations of our languages to describe the essences of our needs and feelings. It is the designers job to extract those essences, synthesize many types of qualitative information, and tell those stories to others so we can all have a better understanding of our world.

Working through these readings, I found that most to all of these authors used the concept of context as a way of describing this holistic approach to problem solving, however they all addressed this from very different angels.

My X axis lays these authors out on a framework of “designing with” and “designing for”. This with and for changes meaning slightly across authors, fluctuating between ‘with end users’ and ‘with other designers’ and ‘with other people in the system’. Essentially this axis refers to how much the designer is considering other perspectives as a part of their process.

My other axis relates to this idea of human essence. Some authors ask us to dive deeply into the lives of others and to suspend our own life experience to better understand theirs. Others place less value on this idea, and ask us to consider it when thinking about the value of context, but to remain ultimately distanced from the emotional experience of the end user or other player. Finally there are those who place less value on the role of the designer as a whole, and therefore do not see our holistic approaches to work relevant at all.

This type of empathy, the toeing of the line between emotional immersion into a narrative & keeping a safe distance sounds daunting to us as budding designers. However we practice this much more often than we realize. Think of reading your favorite novel or going to the theater. We all have the ability to (and very often enjoy to) jump fully into a narrative that is not our own. But when we read a novel, we also have no problem maintaining maintaining a sense of self, and while still feeling the feelings of the characters for the time, we can still think critically about the plot without losing our grounding in reality. This experience can be framed as the suspension of disbelief. We can, for a time, give up our own critical faculties to believe something outside of our experience or logic.

For the purposes of this project, I selected the authors that resonated with me most within this framework to discuss in further detail.

My Y axis has one end labeled “suspending disbelief”, referring to how much importance the authors place on on the ability and willingness to suspend disbelief as a part of their design process. The other end of the axis is labeled “resistance to suspension of disbelief”, referring to how the authors consider the importance of remaining grounded in their methods during their process.


The Evolving Role of Design Research

As we move forward from reading foundational theorists to more modern practitioners, we have seen designers grapple with competing incentives and motivations in their work as designers. One perspective to take in understanding some of these oppositional forces is thinking in terms of the locus of control within the designer’s work. Or in other words, as designers, are we “designing with” or “designing for”?

In many ways ‘designing for’ is a given. When I first studied cartography we learned that the difference between graphic design and art is that graphic design must have a purpose or goal. Because of this constraint, you can’t start making a map without first knowing who your users are and how they are going to use it. What language do they speak? Are they walking or driving? Do they know the area or are they first-time visitors? There is a goal to be achieved and that goal can be evaluated in clear terms. Did my map help you get to the Palacio de Bellas Artes? Then it worked. The art contained within the Palacio isn’t subject to the same type of scrutiny. Unlike design, art doesn’t have to solve a problem. It can provoke, soothe, delight, confuse. It is emotional, rather than functional.


If design by definition is always “for” someone, how can we put it on a continuum contrasting it with something else? The two models I propose are the subject model of the user and the object model of the user. Is the user at a remove? Someone we view through a two-way mirror? Who can be observed, but cannot give input. This is the user as an object. In the act of scrutinizing them, we have objectified them. The locus of control is entirely with the designer. As my classmates and I discussed our experiences as logo designers or non-profit consultants, we realized that this framing was typically the default framing. We asked our clients (and by extension, our users) to step aside to let the professionals do their work. “After all, it’s what you hired me to do.”

A subject model recognizes the agency of the user. It finds ways to include them in the process or even provides opportunities for them to direct aspects of the process. Defining the user as a subject allows the designer to be in conversation with the people she is researching in a more profound way. Liz Sanders describes the utility of co-creation that involves the users and other stakeholders extensively in the design process. “Co-creation of this type involves the integration of experts and everyday people working closely together…with direct personal involvement.” She cites the capacity for all people to be creative and the ameliorative potential of including diverse voices in co-creation when the design team itself does not effectively represent the beneficiaries of their work. Sanders also recognizes the barriers to co-creation. “The shift for companies in seeing their objective change from designing for people to co-creation is profound. It takes many years for the mindset and practices of co-creation between companies and people to permeate and change an organization.”


Extending this observation about the challenges inherent in adopting an approach that maintains the locus of control with the user, John Kolko discusses the evolution of the role of the designer in organizations that are attempting to adopt a more user-centric and pervasive approach to incorporating design research into strategic decisions. The designer needs to be engaged in thoughtful, two-way communication with the users so that she can thoroughly “understand the experiential, emotional, and personal aspects of culture.” And she also needs to be able to meaningfully convey that understanding to individuals throughout the organization. The designer becomes an advocate for the user and conduit for the insights gleaned from the research process. Her role is as a facilitator of the design process and an articulator of the outcomes.

Given the awareness that Kolko and Sanders have of the organizational ecosystems that designers exist in, the object model of design that keeps the participants at a distance might seem untenable. Yet, many counterexamples exist and even dominate the culture of design.

We read Bill Gaver’s description of his development of Cultural Probes for use in design research. One example Gaver describes is capturing 10-second audio snippets of dreams that participants recorded and then sent to him on a device that didn’t allow editing or erasing. For him, these weird, irrational windows into other people’s cognition are exactly what a designer needs to spur creativity. His unique methodology has been adopted by other researchers, but they are attempting to deploy Gaver’s whimsical methodology in more sober ways. He conveys his disappointment at seeing Cultural Probes being misappropriated by more pragmatic researchers. They “design theirs to ask specific questions and produce comprehensible results. They summarize the results, analyze them, even use them to produce requirements analyses.”

Gaver’s probes are completely one-sided; they intentionally do not allow for interaction or conversation between participants and designers. The artifacts do not allow for context or explanation. The locus of control is firmly with the designer. The work of the designer is to bring new creations into the world using these snippets as muses. Those who would try to standardize or rationalize the process are missing the point. He says, “Whereas most research techniques seek to minimize or disguise the subjectivity of this process through controlled procedures or the appearance of impersonality, the Probes purposely seek to embrace it.” Despite the squishiness of information he gleans from Cultural Probes, he trusts them to effectively guided his process, saying, “the Probe returns have allowed us to predict with confidence which system our volunteers might prefer, just as we might predict which item in a shop our friends might like.” Gaver wants to use his probes to intuit what gift to buy, rather than have his participants tell him what is on their wishlist.

As significant a departure as Gaver’s approach is to the Sanders/Kolko framing, the three have a commonality; all are hoping to create a design environment that can incubate innovation. The creation of new things that have never existed before. New companies, new products, new systems, new environments, new services. The idea that a designer’s work is to create new things is culturally prominent, however, creation is not always the intention of design research. Often designer’s talents are applied to iteration, optimization, and customization, rather than innovation. Donald Norman argues that design research is only effective as a means of iterating on existing objects. He feels that design research in the service of creating new breakthroughs is unrealistic. His argument lacks a body of evidence to support it and was fiercely opposed when it was published, yet one cannot deny that many if not most professional designers are engaging in work that improves existing ideas rather than creating fully new technology.


An analogous framework for considering these two opposing views is the debate amongst evolutionary biologists of how to best model genetic change over time, gradualism or punctuated equilibrium. Gradualism suggests that species gradually evolve over time, while punctuated equilibrium suggests that species exist for long stretches of time with no genetic changes until a beneficial mutation or change in context confers an evolutionary advantage that spreads rapidly through the population. While gradualism was the mechanism that Charles Darwin advanced in the Origin of Species, the theory of punctuated equilibrium is meant to explain patterns observed by paleontologists in the fossil record.


Those who advance an innovator’s view of design believe in a world where new breakthroughs can burst onto the scene and change the way we live. The gradualist view suggests that there really are no new ideas, just a vast ecosystem in which small optimizations can give a product or service enough of an advantage to outperform its competitors. Norman believes in a world in which both gradual change and radical breakthroughs exists, but that design research is only effective in advancing gradual change.

Although biologists have theories about what types of selection pressures and environments might favor incremental change or breakthroughs, Norman does not consider what conditions would be favorable to more dramatic breakthroughs. A place to look to answer that question would be Jodi Forlizzi’s description of a product ecosystem. She details the changes in HCI from considering a single user and a single interface to considering the entire ecosystem in which a product exists, an ecosystem that includes other users and other products.

An example of a product in my lifetime that felt like a breakthrough was the iPod. Carrying around your entire music library on a device the size of a deck of cards felt amazing after spending most of my adolescence lugging around easily damaged, over-priced CDs in bulky disc carriers so that I could play them on my battery-powered Discman that was prone to skipping and always needed new batteries. This product wasn’t produced in a vacuum. At the time the iPod was introduced I already had tons of music on my computer thanks to Napster and tons of burned copies of albums or mix CDs that my friends had shared with me thanks to the ubiquity of PCs with CD drives that could burn music onto discs incredibly cheaply. The iPod emerged into a product ecosystem of friends and strangers that were sharing huge quantities of music, with several other substitute technologies that were inferior in ease of use and quality.

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While Norman would argue that the iPod was a technological breakthrough of scientists working without input from design research. Forlizzi would suggest that comprehensive, incremental design research focused on understanding that product ecosystem was responsible for the success of products like the iPod. Similarly, Jane Fulton Suri advances a theory of design research and synthesis that can be applied to experience design, rather than product design, to drive incremental changes. Both rely on studying interactions with existing products and prototypes to create optimized versions of these existing products and services.

Taking this research from the incremental and designer-driven to the incremental and user-oriented is the work of Paul Dourish. He analyzes the complexity of context when we consider designing objects that have contextual awareness. Whether it’s a smart home that adjusts to your presence to turn on lights or a customer service bot that responds to open-ended inquiries, technology is increasingly being designed to leverage an understanding of the user’s context. When successful our products feel seamlessly integrated into our lives, however, Dourish details the ways in which a shallow understanding of subjective context or a misreading of objective context creates experiences that are frustrating and eye-roll inducing. It’s your HDR recording something you would never watch in a million years, or automated hand-dryer that refuses to see you. Dourish theorizes that a thorough understanding of context is essential for the current generation of designers.


Understanding these various vantage points in terms of locus and control as well as purpose allows for reflection on the methodologies and focuses that one might choose when engaging in a new research project. Will I look to Gaver for whimsical methods that cherish the creativity and perspective of the designer? Or to Dourish for the possibilities afforded by an intricate understanding of context? Or will I attempt to find a middle ground? One researcher/practitioner that attempts to sample a little from each is Chris LeDantec. He shares stories from his research into developing technology for use by people experiencing homelessness and their caseworkers. His techniques borrow from Gaver’s cultural probes, but are also rooted in process intended to develop a deep understanding of the user’s context. He integrates aspects of Sanders-esque co-creation when he brings caseworkers into stages of the design process. His design is ultimately in the style of Forlizzi, an incremental application of existing technologies, optimized for a particular use case.

As I continue to have more experiences in choosing design research methods, I am curious to see how the different approaches yield different results. I am also curious how each of these might feel as a designer. Is it more rewarding to design in a collaborative way? Is to more palatable to design for incremental change? Or will I enjoy moments of being a mad scientist in the vein of Gaver?

to design for, or to design with, that is the question




Our theory class covered eight authors this section. They were both thick and thin, at times a chore to get through, but equally interesting. I struggled with finding my own two cents on understanding each author initially, but our assignment really made my understanding rather linear (heh heh). We were tasked to place these authors on a design with and design for x, y axis. We were granted the freedom to create our own z axis, I chose scalability going up, and implosive going down…

Chris Ledantec wrote our first reading and he interacted a great deal with persons who were homeless. He approached his research with input from counselors in the community to better establish trust with his participants. Ledantec used the community he aimed to learn more about to extract user created data.

Jodi Forlizzi claimed high importance on the product ecology framework broadens the view of what a product is, she claims many products are much more than functional objects of use. The objects of use’s meaning changes with time. Jodi also elaborates on the importance of frameworks which I found extremely helpful.

Paul Dourish lays out many important yet complex pieces of information that delve into the importance of context. He also delves into how easily context can disappear when you try to define it… Paul goes into the importance of context being developed in a person through everyday “mundane” life. Although his grandiose explanation was hard to get through, Dourish’s adherence to human experience let me to think he’s with them.

William Gaver’s research and writing was my most favorite of the eight. His seemingly positive approach to the peculiar was refreshing. He highlights early on that probes provided him with insights unlike any other in the development of products. He placed creativity in the hands of non-designers, how it should be, if you ask me. Gaver also acknowledges averaging results filters out the peculiar, those of which could be most exciting.

Liz Sanders does not speak much to her own personal research or experiences, however it felt clear that her enthusiasm and references to the human centered approach place her in the design with realm. Sander’s mentions things like “Empathy for the people who will be affected by change is key” She shares her value for co-creation. It puts tools for communication and creativity in the hands of the people who will benefit directly from the research.

Jane Fulton Suri, like Sanders makes important points on .a human centered approach but shares more ideas and theories surrounding it. Suri acknowledges the importance of anomalies and teams developing a common vision of what they’re trying to bring into the world. A sort of hive mentality for designers.

Don Norman, the black sheep, eye-ore type of all these readings was rather provocative, as he intended it to be. Norman seems to be wagging his finger at designers with a harsh reminder that they’re subject to societal parameters as well. From Norman’s point of view innovation is not linear with culture. It can become stagnant and incremental innovations are now the commonplace of new technologies.

Finally, we read a chapter of Jon Kolko’s writing. Jon acknowledges that design problems are had and dealt with by the powers that be…not users. The idea of design synthesis becomes more clear throughout his reading. He highlights synthesis is a sense-making process that helps the designer move from data, to information, and from information to knowledge. Not all can be solved by design research, but more opportunity for new ideas or innovative concepts.

Considering Time When Designing With or Designing For

AC4D is a ‘practice what you preach’ program — if you haven’t already figured that out. This week, we are knee-deep in design research for our clients, so of course, we are also discussing ethical research methods and the power of designing with– not for– our users.

For me, these readings felt really serendipitous (though I’m sure they are meticulously planned). As we grappled with the implications of interviewing folks suffering from homelessness, our first reading by La Dantec explored the same issue and showed us what a thoughtful, ethical research approach looks like. He also inspired us to avoid ‘cultural safari’ territory, and ultimately, we decided against seeking homeless participants.

As we wrap up our interview phase, these readings also helped me think about what it truly means designing for versus designing with users.

What does it mean to design with?

Our most provocative reading was by Donald Norman, the writer of Psychology of Everyday Things and an advocate for ‘just-noticeable differences’.  He asserts that design research cannot be used to make innovative changes — only inventors can do that. Design research, he argues, is most effective when used for incremental change.

Because this is seen as such a controversial statement, this helped me to understand one key thing: we are moving towards a trend of designers and companies thinking the gold-standard is to design with their users. But it seems they rarely do because inventors, egos, market research, and/or budgets stand in the way. 

As we’ve learned from Kolko, design research is an investment– in time, money, and resources. It’s an investment in understanding nuance and culture, and leads you towards more creative, future-thinking ideas. His approach feels rooted in long-term strategy — in contrast to Norman who seeks to only use design research to make better buttons. So with Kolko in one corner, and Norman in the opposite — we start to see quadrants emerge:

Assignment 2 Laura Carroll

Designing for short term vs long term

Designing for the short term is purposefully vague here — I applied it to mean either small iterations (like Norman suggests), design intended to please quarterly earnings reports, and design that seeks to capitalize on fast trends.  To me, designing for the short term tends to be motivated by profits.

On the other end of the spectrum is designing for the long term — cultural shifts, social changes, and slow-moving endeavors.  In general, I assume that if you are designing for the long term, you (hopefully) have more time to integrate true collaborative research. The short-term, however, changes so quickly that collaborative research in all processes may prove to be inefficient or too expensive. 

Le Dantec, Kolko, and Sanders all discuss highly-collaborative — and rigorous methods — that both strive for social impact and intimately involve the end-user. 

Gaver and Forlizzi, on the other hand, involve users less. Gaver, as an artist-researcher, leaves a lot of interpretation in the designer’s hand but does seek to understand key cultural insights. Forlizzi seeks to build methods that give power to the designer to look at the effect of products over time — which is why she lands closer to the “long-term” strategy point. 

Norman, as we’ve already discussed, only recommends design research for iterations. Fulton Suri, on the other hand, as a business leader at frog falls more towards the middle — choosing research methodologies for the projects at hand. 

And finally, we have Dourish in a corner alone. His complex focus on context could be applied for both short and long-term, but I placed him more towards the short term because context is ever-changing. He most definitely seeks to involve the end-user, because only they can truly understand their own context.

As I was trying to “brand” each quadrant, I wrote out short sayings (like ‘we’re better together’) that ultimately reminded me of presidential slogans. So, for some fun extra context, here are the quadrants explained with presidential slogans throughout history. 

Bush Corner 2

For reference, here’s the full list of readings: 

  • Designs on Dignity by Christopher A. Le Dantec, W. Keith Edwards
  • A Tale of Two Publics  by Christopher A. Le Dantec
  • What we talk about when we talk about context by Paul Dourish
  • The Product Ecology by Jodi Forlizzi
  • Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty by William Gaver
  • The Value of Synthesis in Driving Innovation by Jon Kolko
  • Technology First, Needs Last by Don Norman
  • A Social Vision for Value Co-creation in Design by Liz Sanders and George Simons
  • Going Deeper, Seeing Further by Jane Fulton Suri and Suzanne Gibbs Howard
  • Experience Prototyping by Jane Fulton Suri and Marion Buchenau

Synthesizing the value of design research

Through the first few weeks of design theory class, we have read a multitude of papers and excerpts from various authors that I have been trying to connect to my personal life experience. Most recently,  we had a series of readings about the role of design research highlighting various ways to prototype, probe, and conduct research. Mixed into the reading was a stressed importance on synthesis – or the ability to take the information and turn it into knowledge. As this course is focused on design research, and the author of one such article was Jon Kolko the co-founder of AC4D, I thought it would be compelling to synthesize the readings into a valid argument for the value of design research, for my own understanding as much as for the class assignment. It has been muttered on multiple occasions to learn how to explain “the unique value of design research”, so that is what I am attempting to do.

AC4D_IDSE102_value of research_08

The x-axis of this graph was assigned to us as “designing for” and “designing with”, while the y-axis was up to our own interpretation. After scribbling through various versions, I found the most compelling y-axis to be “problem seeking” vs “problem solving”.  The issue of problems was a common theme through all the authors, as problems are inherent to life much less design, but the approach taken be each author was unique.

To better explain the position of each author, I have highlighted a quote from their reading and will use it to justify their location.

Once a product direction has been established, research with customers can enhance and improve it. – Don Norman

Norman is not opposed to design research, but he made it very clear he thinks it is best used to find incremental gains from existing products. His problem space has already been defined, and his thought that technology comes first, and need comes second leads me in the direction that he is not designing with the consumer, but for them.

Context is a central issue for HCI design and for interactive systems more broadly. The goal of the work described here is to find the right scope of the problem. – Paul Dourish

Dourish was an interesting read, and was one of the hardest to locate on the graph. The problem he refers to in the quote relates to the fluid nature of “context”, and that we can not design for a specific context but rather design a system that allows for flexibility. Ultimately, I believe that he is designing for users because he notes that the user, not designers will dictate the way technology is used by how they incorporate it into practice, without mention of consulting with users. He has already defined his problem space as being the inability to design for context.

This paper has presented the Product Ecology, a theoretical framework and an approach for conducting qualitative design research with the goal of understanding the complex context of use around a product. – Jodi Forlizzi

Forlizzi wrote extensively about how to utilize the proper research technique, and laid forth a framework for determining which application to use. Throughout, she spoke of observing products and conducting research to improve upon them, which put her on the problem solving end of the spectrum, while also observing the users more than interacting with them in the research.

There is no simple answer, but the analysis we have done shows that challenging some of the implicit assumptions held in the HCI community is necessary when considering technology…  – Christopher La Dantec

When reading La Dantec is was very clear that he wanted to design with the user. Their research project involved getting behaviors and insights directly from the homeless population he was looking to serve. They also tried to remove assumptions when entering the problem space, which moved him higher up the problem seeking scale. The big hold-back for his research not being higher in the problem seeking graph was that he defined his user base to narrowly, as only the homeless and their case workers, when the research had the possibility to effect other populations with similar behaviors (transient, socially disconnected could also serve our military).

What is the point of deliberately confusing our volunteers and ourselves? Most fundamentally, it is to prevent ourselves from believing that we can look into their heads. – Bill Gaver

Gaver had an interesting research experiment called “probology” which gave very ambiguous directions to the user for capturing information. He argued that the uncertainty of knowing what type of information will be returned required the designer to be subjective, and to not enter the problem space with any pre-conceived notions.

In the fuzzy front end, it is often not known whether the deliverable of the design process will be a product, a service, an interface, or something else. 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. – Liz Sanders

Sanders was a staunch supporter of designing with. She felt that adding perspectives from non-designers and bringing the user into the mix was the best way of co-creation. By spreading a wide net at the beginning of the process, it allowed for various possibilities of what the end result might be.

Rather than dive right in to tackle the brief at face value, we find it helpful to back up and understand the larger context. By zooming out, we can illuminate deeper layers of significance. – Jane Fulton Suri

Jane had a very holistic view of design, spread across two readings. The overarching theme that I took away was that the best results from design research happen when you enter the problem space without any assumptions. By involving the users we get a better understanding of what the problem might be, build empathy, and we can then synthesize to build a better product.

A designer attempting to produce an innovative design will conduct research focusing on the experiential, emotional, and personal aspects of culture. This research will describe an opportunity — design research acts as problem finding. – Jon Kolko

Jon’s reading hammered home what I believe is the point of our curriculum. By incorporating the user and making the process human-centered over design-centered, we are more likely to find valuable insights into their behavior. Jon also talks about synthesis being the most important role of a designer, that it is the bridge between information and understanding, and that putting people at the center of the research and removing assumptions, we are more likely to make meaningful impacts on society.

Design synthesis is the link between the type of behavioral research described earlier — the potential for the future state — and the creation of something new. It is the most critical part of the creative process of design. Jon Kolko

While testing the graphs, I also noticed a correlation between the axis’. The more human centered “design with” way we approach the research, the more likely we are to make revolutionary innovation as well. The idea of seeking out a problem is more fruitful than assuming a problem and will afford us the best possibility to make an impact.

AC4D_IDSE102_value of research_human v design innovation

I believe that the value of human-centered design research is articulated here by showing the methods of research we use can directly relate to the magnitude of innovation we can create for society.