Design

Getting to Insight: The Little Things Mean a Lot

For the last two weeks of November, during Thursdays at lunch time, I sprinted up to Toronto General Hospital to visit my grandfather. Four weeks ago, we discovered he had stage four lung cancer. Two weeks ago, he passed away.

I spent considerable time in the hospital with my grandfather and our family during this time. Before this, I never really had much exposure to the worlds of healthcare, illness, palliative services, or the experience of death. But my time with my grandfather, paired with an emerging perspective on human-centred design research, was an eye opener to just how much opportunity for change is out there. Continue reading

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Design

Design Research: Thoughts on Problem Finding & Problem Framing

For the past few months, our amazing OCAD U MDes SFI team has been working towards the design of new solutions for early childhood learning in urban slums. The first part of our project focused on design research: stakeholder analysis, developing empathy for stakeholders, building personas, journey mapping, and identifying areas for innovation.

Some of our work is shown below (licensed via Creative Commons), including a video piece we put together talking about the human-centred design process and how it impacted our framing of the early childhood learning challenge.

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Design, Research

Shifting the Diversity Curve: Thoughts on Group Dynamics, Creative Resilience, and Designing the Design Team

Conducting a design research project alone was difficult. While ambiguity and complexity were certainly factors in this, I found the most challenging aspect of the project was going through it alone. Without a team, it was difficult to ‘check my back swing’.

And while group work comes with its own set of challenges, it also presents an entirely new set of advantages stemming from the diverse backgrounds and experiences of team members. The group benefits from this particularly in the ‘performing’ stages of team formation. A major factor in team performance, this leaves me curious about the role that diversity plays in projects, teams, and organizations as they evolve, and what that means for design.

One of the most difficult parts of working alone on a project as important as basic user research was the absence of real-time feedback, constructive criticism, and collective inquiry in challenging my own findings. While the pace of individual work can be liberating – ebbing and flowing through work uninterrupted and without the need to slow down to convey meaning – the benefits of having a sounding board and multiple perspectives are lost, and surely felt.

Now, several weeks into a new design project, this time with a group, our team is beginning to perform. Polite reminders and gentle nudges are gradually being traded in for probing inquiry and penetrating questions – and this is great. We are critically thinking not only about our own independent work in between team meetings, but about the quality of research we put forth, the meaning of our findings, and the methodologies by which we will drive forward through the project.

This is a delicate, but important balance. It represents the power of diversity within groups consisting of talented individuals, especially those who are tasked with uncovering new insights and generating unexpected solutions to wicked problems.

In thinking about the relationships between these concepts – diversity, quality of insights, and team dynamics – I found myself thinking about the possible following tensions.

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Design, Research

Slow, Complex, Hard: Finding Opportunities amongst Ambiguity & Change

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been developing stakeholder research related to two wicked problems. Here is a clipping from a piece I recently authored on the intersection of human-centred design research and stakeholder analysis when defining problem direction, generating insight, identifying unmet needs, and finding innovation opportunities:

The concept of creating lasting, systemic change is an important one. All too often it is dismissed in the name of quick fixes, tight deadlines, rigid assumptions, and using surface-level information to (mis)diagnose complex challenges. Society rewards those who are quick to think and quicker to act, yet there is immense value in the ‘slow, complex, and hard’. In this piece, I wish to explore human-centred design research as a methodology for solving problems that matter through empathy, relational understanding, and pattern- finding. That is, affording the time to develop the deepest possible understanding of a problem through the intricate and connected lens of those affected.

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