I had another chance today to meet with some colleagues at Ergonomidesign. The meetings supported my interest in structures and process for the development and implementation of design methods, and reinforced the benefit of my connection to a professional design consultancy. First I met with Diana Africano Clark, an experienced design research and interaction designer who has worked extensively with co-creation and co-design in the front of design projects. During our discussion Diana mentioned the import role of “designing research” in the design process. When clients propose a project, they often have a specific perspective on what they want research to reveal and present that perspective to the researchers. In such a case, design researchers such as Diana often have to reframe the way the client sees the project. The narrow vision of the client may focus on only one aspect of a much more holistic issue.
For instance, targeting one family member in a journey or product that involves the entire family leaves out crucial information about responsibilities and perceptions that have a profound impact on the development of a product or service. Diana and other design researchers seem to find themselves negotiating for their place in the design process. This concept goes back to the importance of “problem framing” and how research plays a part in how a team approaches a problem. I showed Diana a really simple sketch I have been playing with as a way to explain where I want to focus my research. Designers often refer to the role research plays in the “fuzzy front end” of the design process, a place where design methods help reveal the behaviors, needs, wants, and dreams of people. The research in the fuzzy front end then informs the development of a new product or service. However, there has to be a prompt that initiates the design process. My question has been, is there a process to arrive at the prompt that initiates the design process? And if there is, what are the methods, structures, and resources to support it? My little sketch tries to articulate that there is a fuzzy front end of the process for choosing choosing the research and establishing the vision that leads to the design process. After a moment of reflection, this also aligns with my limited experience in writing research proposals.
Additionally we discussed the actual practice of design methods. Recently I have been describing my focus on the visual aspects of design methods and not necessarily the performance of them. However, in speaking with Diana, I realized that regardless whether someone is roleplaying or acting our an experience, or sorting images on a table, performance is a part of the activity. This also brings back the role of the person facilitating the performance. Whether or not it is the designer, in design methods it seems that part of the value may lie in how people perform an action in front of others. Externalization then, does not simply describe the final artifact of a given method, but also in the production and explanation of that artifact. I also had a productive meeting with another design research / design strategist, Marcus Gabrielsson, but I will post more on our discussion at a later date.