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.

empty diagram

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

Afterthought.

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.

 

 

 

 

*Readings:

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