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04 MAY 2012

IDEO Method Cards: a thinking tool for understanding human factors

"IDEO Method Cards is a collection of 51 cards representing diverse ways that design teams can understand the people they are designing for. They are used to make a number of different methods accessible to all members of a design team, to explain how and when the methods are best used, and to demonstrate how they have been applied to real design projects.

IDEO's human factors specialists conceived the deck as a design research tool for its staff and clients, to be used by researchers, designers, and engineers to evaluate and select the empathic research methods that best inform specific design initiatives. The tool can be used in various ways – sorted, browsed, searched, spread out, pinned up – as both information and inspiration to human–centered design teams and individuals at various stages to support planning and execution of design programs.

Inspired by playing cards, the cards are classified as four suits – Ask, Watch, Learn, Try – that define the types of activities involved in using each method. Each approach is illustrated by a real–life example of how the method was applied to a specific project. As new methods are developed all the time, the deck will grow and evolve over time.

In its first year, the Method Cards appeared to have unexpected relevance to groups that are not necessarily engaged in design initiatives. Clients report using the tool to explore new approaches to problem–solving, gain perspective, inspire a team, turn a corner, try new approaches, and to adapt and develop their own methods."




2003ability to focus • asking • browsed • cards • conceptualisationcreativitycultural probesdecision making • deck of cards • design inspirationdesign methoddesign process • design research tool • design science • design teamdiscovery • empathic research • empathyengineersevaluate and selecthigh performance thinkinghuman factorshuman-centred designIDEOlearning • mental block • methodmethod cardsmethods for design practice • pinned up • playing cards • problem-solving • searched • sorted • spread out • thinking tooltooltools for thinking • trying • turn a corner • understandinguser perspectivewatchingways of thinking


Simon Perkins
01 APRIL 2012

Information Environments: Realising the geo/graphic landscape of the everyday

"Graphic design and typography give visual form to communication. For geographers this is the oft–ignored liminal space between landscape and its description, author and reader. For designers it is a crucial part of the communication process. This practice–led inquiry proposes that by developing a cross–disciplinary geo/graphic design process thus establishing the visualisation of space as a process itself, and not by the product of scientific investigation, designers will engage with place in a more proactive and productive way in terms of community, content and communication. Chosen for its complexity and its contrasting juxtapositions, the London Borough of Hackney will be used as the research and testing ground for the enquiry. Contrasting definitions of place will be used to underpin the project. [Doreen] Massey's notion of place as process and [Yi–Fu] Tuan's vision of place as pause will frame the study in such a way as to recognise place as a postmodern site of spontaneity and chance, but one that is shaped and known by events both past and present. An ethnographic methodology will be used to gather and analyse content. Methods of collection will include cultural probes, participant observation and interviews. This content will then be used to develop a series of print based design projects that will explore the problem of representation in a postmodern context, and lead to the articulation and testing of a geo/graphic design process."

(Alison Barnes, London College of Communication)



2011AHRC • Alison Barnes • Bachelor of Design • cultural geography • cultural probes • David Crow • Design Council (UK)design processdesign researcherDoreen Massey • Edinburgh University • Eric Laurier • everyday • geographic landscape • geographygraphic designerHackney • Information Environments (research centre) • interdisciplinary method • LCCliminal spaceLondon College of Communication (UAL) • Manchester Metropolitan University • participant observationPhDplacepractice and theory • re-presenting place • research student • researching • Teal Triggs • thesisUniversity of Western Sydneyvisual communication • Yi-Fu Tuan


Simon Perkins
13 JANUARY 2012

Designit: international strategic design consultancy

"Designit is Europe's largest and most international strategic design consultancy. We create products, services and experiences, across industry sectors and media. Our aim is to create strong and healthy business value through design.

Together, we're a zoo of talented creatives, effective communicators and accomplished business strategists, all working closely together to deliver meaningful design–driven solutions for people, planet and profit."




siness strategists • business value through design • commercial sector • creatives • cultural probesdesign consultancy • design-driven solutions • Designit • EPIC2008 • Europeanexperience design • media sector • products and servicessocial interaction • strategic design consultancy


Simon Perkins
13 JANUARY 2012

Sonic City @ Future Applications Lab

"In order to determine how people might use Sonic City in everyday life, we have conducted a short–term user study with a variety of people using the prototype in their own familiar environments. Focusing on considerations of musical performance, embodied interaction as well as engagement and control, this study helped us to understand how people approach Sonic City and interact musically with the city, revealing emerging urban behaviours and music creation processes integrated into everyday life.

Process: the study took place during winter of 2003–04. It consisted of observing how a set of participants used the prototype in their own everyday environment during a limited period of time, and in collecting their feedback about it.

The study participants had various backgrounds, activities, ages, music tastes, and perceptions of the city of Göteborg.

In order to gain insight into their everyday environments, the type of path they would take, and their perception of them, we started by giving them cultural probes (individual self–contained small packages handed–out to users in order to gather information about their everyday life) prior to the testings. This also helped determining where the test sessions would be conducted, as they had to take place in the users' everyday environments. Participant were each given a cultural probe for a few days, with instructions to only open it and proceed when taking a path they would have taken anyway. The probes contained the assignment of documenting a single everyday path with a digital still camera, taking pictures of obstacles, resources and what would catch their attention. Then, they would write down answers to both clear and ambiguous questions about their path, draw their own map of it, put stickers where the pictures had been taken, and locate themselves on a larger city map (see user pages – links below user pictures in results' part).

Eventually, we let each participant use the prototype in the documented area. The users were told how the system worked but not where to walk or how to behave. Each user was video–filmed in action and the music produced recorded on a MiniDisc. This enabled a close study of paths and behaviours during use. Each session was completed with in–depth interviews about the experience.

We then synchronised the videos with corresponding sounds for analysis purposes. This allowed us to get a deeper understanding of the details of interactions by linking interactions with musical results, and repeating playbacks. The videos were first watched together with each user in order to collect their own comments and analysis of the sessions, and followed by complementary interviews. By synchronising these comments with the videos, we could compare the users' feedback with an objective analysis of their behaviours, while avoiding misunderstandings about their intentions.

Results: the study showed that mobility could indeed become a musical interaction between a user and her urban environment, enhancing her perception of and engagement with these everyday settings.

The study also opened the question of how to improvise and adapt one's musical interaction when confronted to a lack of control due to unpredictable and uncontrollable factors encountered in urban environments. The city was perceived to be more in control of this interaction than the user. However, she was able to actively influence how the music was created through different tactics and through situated interventions, all of them related to how the system was designed, what it highlighted and thus how it encouraged her to act.

In terms of interaction, the users were engaged on the level of the global path and of local interactions. Both levels were managed in an ad hoc, rather improvised way. Paths were most often planned in advance by the users but were sometimes randomly or intentionally modified during the course of a session in order to look for more interesting contexts and test how they would sound (e.g. a noisy construction site for [A.S.], a dark corner next to an electricity chamber for [D.R.]). Participants looked around themselves to seek local interactions opportunities, which they also found by accident (e.g. metallic objects). Some had favourite inputs, such as human voices for [M.K.] or noisy traffic for [F.M.].

On a local level, the users actively directed sensors with their body. In order to produce input, they often got closer to fixed artefacts at hand such as metal or walls. They also turned their body and thus the sensors towards or against diffused sources of input in order to amplify respectively shadow them, thus modulating the city's input. [D.R.] turned his back on traffic to reduce the impact of the sound level for example. Paths could thus be considered as a score articulated by ad hoc local bodily interactions."

(Future Applications Lab)

6). Gaye, Lalya, Mazé, Ramia, Holmquist, Lars Erik (2003). Sonic City: The Urban Environment as a Musical Interface. In Proceedings of the 2003 International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME–03). Montreal, Canada: 109–115 [].

Sonic City is a collaboration between Future Applications Lab (Viktoria Institute) and PLAY Studio (Interactive Institute), in Göteborg, Sweden. Project members include: Lalya Gaye (FAL) – engineering, electroacoustics, Ramia Mazé (PLAY) – interaction design, architecture, Margot Jacobs (PLAY) – product & interaction design, Daniel Skoglund (ex–8Tunnel2) – sound–art. Lalya's supervisor at Future Applications Lab: Lars Erik Holmquist. Participating Master's students (IT–University Göteborg): Magnus Johansson (HCI / interaction design) + Sara Lerén (cognitive science). This project is funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) through the Mobile Services project, by the European Union IST program through the Smart–Its project, and by VINNOVA through the IT+Textiles project.






20032004applied researcharchitectural conjectureartistic practicecase studiesconjecturecultural probesdesign research project • European Union IST program • evaluationexperimental knowledgeexperimentationexploratory projects • Future Applications Lab • Goteborg • HCIinteraction design • IT+Textiles project • landscape futures • Mobile Services project • observationspractice-based researchresearch methodresearch project • Smart-Its project • Sonic City • speculative research • SSF • Sweden • Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research • urban speculationuser feedbackuser pathsvideo analysis • VINNOVA


Simon Perkins
08 NOVEMBER 2009

Artefacts for understanding: a research methodology

"To understand users needs and desires we are using a variety of research and development methods from cooperative design, CSCW (computer supported cooperative work), industrial design and ethnography. Some of the methods used are cultural probes (Gaver, B. & Pacenti, E. 1999), workshops (Westerlund et al, 2003), technology probes (Hutchinson, H. et al, 2002), observation and interviews.

The cultural probe method is an open–ended self–documentation activity that in our case involved taking photos and video as well as writing diaries. These would hopefully reveal more of the individuals' preferences, desires, context and needs. This would be done much with the users' own categorizations.

Technology probes were invented to collect information of how users would use, to them a not known shared communication artefact. The technology probes are based on well–known technology, they should be easy to use and open–ended. Technology probes combines the social science goal of collecting data about the technology use in a real–world setting, the engineering goal of field–testing technology and the design goal of inspiring users and designers.

The workshops themselves included several methods, like brainstorming, building scenarios, video–prototyping, low–tech prototyping, etc (interLiving, 2003). Instead of general descriptions that are reduced and without detail, we focus on actual descriptions of real situations that make sense to the family members. These descriptions should cover the whole context of the situation. We encouraged the group to think of communication situations that would have been problematic. From that they made scenarios, both written and drawn, but most importantly stage it and videotape it. Through videotaped scenario iterations they refined their design ideas."

(Sinna Lindquist & Bosse Westerlund, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden)

Lindquist, S. & B. Westerlund (2004). "Artefacts for understanding", Working Papers in Art and Design Vol 3 Retrieved from URL ISSN 1466–4917



Simon Perkins

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