Understanding the interaction between people and a design is a very complex process, which always has to be designed in relation to the specific context by picking the right tools. Otherwise, you will just get the same results as yesterday, and that’s not how you create the design of the future – or just a better design.
The work I do is based on a psychological and innovative approach to people and design. This essentially means that my focus is on how an individual, as well as individuals in groups, relates to a material or immaterial design: how they use it, how they experience it, how they feel about it, and what options for action they have. All in all, the full interaction between the individual’s biology and psychology, the social group, the culture and a material design (architecture, urban environment or product) or immaterial design (service, experience, safety precaution, learning and work process).
My method, understood as the use and number of tools, vary depending on the project. The list below shows a general list of tools used:
Desk research: Most projects starts out with studies of research and best practice literature. These reviews are used to uncover and identify the newest and most relevant knowledge to the project, and create a foundation from which to take evidence-based decisions on which approach, method and direction the project is in need of.
Ethnographic observations: Observing people’s behaviour and use of a product, architecture or service by either being part of the context, or observing people in the context gives an invaluable knowledge about their unacknowledged needs and behaviour.
Quantitative approach: Using quantitative research methods – for an example indoor GPS technology – provides a large number of data, which is being used to create key information about people’s work processes, activities, behaviour and use of space, design and architecture.
Interviews: Asking people what they themselves think and feel about the context. This is a much more complex process than one might think and strong psychological skills is needed to create a situation of empathy and trust. Knowing when to ask the right question at the right time ensure that you meet the informants wherever they are and bring back home solid and valid data of acknowledged needs and behaviour.
Going digital: Mobile ethnography is being used to engage and uncover a huge amount of people’s situated and acknowledged problems in everyday life – by themselves, but within a well-designed protocol and analysed professionally. This is where qualitative data becomes quantitative data. Unacknowledged behaviour, on the other hand, can be measured by the activity of the eyes and brain (EEG).
Cultural probes: A visual research approach to understanding people by letting themselves create a box of stuff and pictures – both related and unrelated to the context in which the project takes place. This contributes to a situation in which the informants can share a knowledge that would otherwise be in danger of being overlooked, as well as it gives a broad overview of the informants’ personal interests and references.
Workshops: User-involving and co-creation workshops provide a great opportunity to both validate the research findings and get a closer understanding of the needs of the users, as well as to develop the users’ perspective of their needs. Therefore, workshops are being used for both developments of material and immaterial design and change management processes.
Design of behaviour: Using research findings to design the behaviour of people. Behavioural design is an attempt to influence people’s choices and behaviour in a way that is predictable and corresponds with their reflected preferences without limiting their options or substantially altering the costs of the alternatives. Costs is to be conceived as economy, time, inconvenience, social sanctions, and similar.
Lectures, presentations and articles: Getting people’s attention is the first and foremost important thing. Otherwise, what’s all the fuss about? This is carefully done by using both the spoken and written word as well as simple graphic design and presentation techniques, that all in all gets people to stop, listen, understand and learn.