Research and design are two sides of the same coin. I do interviews, run focus groups and workshops, have conversations with people (interviews), and conduct surveys. I co-design with people, collaborate with designers and developers, prototype (paper sketch and Adobe XD), and watch people use stuff so that I can figure out how to make stuff better. In my current role, design is primarily a way of learning about people and what they do. I design stuff to generate, synthesize, and communicate insights and ideas.
Generating insights involves designing something and then talking to someone about it. They’ll tell you what makes sense and what doesn’t and will share lots of details about their values, ideas, and practices that may not have come up otherwise.
Synthesizing insights involves creating new design elements (buttons, pages, filters, etc.) as an interpretation of qualitative data. I created Dive (fig. 1), a discovery app for dumpster divers, as a way of synthesizing insights from an analysis of dumpstermap.org.
Figure 1. Screenshots from Dive (Adobe XD).
Dive is a mobile application allowing divers to search for and add new dumpsters to an interactive map. It allows divers to sort dumpsters according to a set of high level categories, including: safety/accessibility, food content, social setting, and others.
Communicating insights involves leveraging designs in conversations or presentations to support the stories I tell about people. For the past year or so, we’ve been engaged in an ongoing participatory design project with local water quality stakeholders here in State College. We have hosted a handful of hackathons and workshops throughout 2018 during which we’ve used a prototype data platform, Stream, to communicate research insights and generate new ones.