Design Research and Methods

What have I Learned and How can I Use     it?

Although today, Thursday, December sixth 2018, is my final full – class period in design research and methods, and the conclusion of one of my favorite college classes so far, the amount of knowledge I have gained in the course is, without a doubt, irreplaceable.  The course offered me countless new and much appreciated ways in which to view design.  These viewpoints include the fact that a product in any design field, whether visual or otherwise, is created for the eventual user rather than for the creator themselves.  This piece of information, it seems, is one that will aid me in generating the best possible ideas and producing the most affective products possible, as the user’s needs will be considered before my own opinions.  Using the design thinking method, however, which is another point that was touched upon in the course, my perspectives can also be incorporated into every design I create. with the help of this tool, each product will, in my opinion, be created with the best design possible.

For the last class in which an activity was held, this past Tuesday, December fourth, 2018, my professor again showed my peers and I the vital role that design has in society.  To do this, she showed a video entitled “Design Disruptors”, in which significance of how a product is designed is stressed.  The various speakers, who are all designers themselves, discuss the ever – changing and rapidly growing role that design plays in society today, and how many designers have recently started their own companies.  They talk, also, about how “…It’s not about ‘does it have drop shadows?  Is it pretty?’.  It’s more about the connection I [the user] have to it”.  This quote from the video, in my opinion, is the summary of what the product is from a user’s standpoint, and summarizes the reason why the role of design continues to grow in our modern world.  Without it, many brands and companies in existence today would be unable to carry on.

 

Design for Good or for Bad?

What a threat!  Who would think I’d be designing a ransom note in design research and methods?!  Definitely not me!  I think the resulting product came out awesome, though!  The past week or two in class called for every student to first come ip with a “threat” like one that would appear on a real ransom note, and then sort through newspapers, magazines, and other printed materials to find the individual letters we needed to spell out our phrase.  With our letters chosen, we had to spell out the threat in an appealing approach to design that gave ransom notes and traditional design a new, and quite unfamiliar, feeling.

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Above is pictured my ransom note, in which I was excited to include the “Q” from the “Quinnipiac Chronicle” newspaper.

Uh – Oh!  Blackout!

For the past few design research and methods classes, my class has been working on “blackout poems”, or stories made out of random words in newspaper articles.  I think it’s a really cool concept, and was amazed at what could be created when I read between the lines!  The stories I had to create are pictured below, with pictures on each piece of paper to make them more visually appealing.

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Storyboards in Design

“Why would I want to make a storyboard?!”, I asked myself as my class was given our newest assignment.  “I’m pretty sure I’m not in film class or anything!  Right?”  After creating my four storyboards, though, I’ve come to realize that this type of format, which I used to think of as a way to plan out the individual scenes of a movie, can actually be used to design all kinds of products – including movies.  Storyboard layouts can be used, as they were in my class, as a way of organizing the process of occurrances at a specific event, like a fundraiser, or to depict an object from various points of view.

The first “storyboard project” my design research and methods class had to complete was actually three different storyboards that showed the multiple ways such a format can be used.  The initial storyboard was a set of pictures that was already created, as the images were included within a book owned by my professor.  To draw them, my class had to log onto her website and find the sequence of pictures she had taken of the book.

This storyboard was one of a character, more specifically a cowboy, which started as a far – away scene and ended as a close – up shot of the cowboy’s face very close to the viewer.  In drawing this, I was able to see how the “storyboard” layout helps in showing the transition of each picture to the next, as each differs slightly in perspective.  When every picture is added together, however, and looked at from a single standpoint, they “join together” to create one, single design that presents its viewer with a clear sequence of events.  In the drawings my class had to make, the pictures display the “frames” of movement encompassed within the process of the cowboy’s movements, which, in this case, showed him walking.

Cowboy Storyboard

Next, the same technique was used to draw an animal, or creature, of everyones’ personal choice.  For this undertaking, I picked to create a number of scenes showing a cat, which at first sat in one spot and grew gradually closer and closer to the viewer.  As the design for this storyboard was my own creation, I think it better allowed me to see for myself just how storyboarding is used in design.  While drawing my layout, it was up to me to decide what scenes were needed to show the next stage of the cat’s movements from its starting spot to where it ended up, at a close – up distance from the “camera”.

Cat Storyboard

The last part of this assignment saw everyone in class drawing a landscape from a different set of views.  For the first picture, which showed a mountainous scene from far – away, I searched pictures of “landscapes” on the internet as inspiration.  With this scene drawn, I was able to make all the following pictures, with each one depicting a closer view of the first perspective.

Lanscape storyboard

The final storyboard my class had to create was given out as group work, without our professor’s guidance, and so tested our knowledge of the entire storyboarding process and the role it plays in design.  For this project, my group chose to base our layout off of a made – up children’s hospital fundraiser in which grilled – cheese sandwiches were sold for a certain number of hours on the Quinnipiac University Quad in order to raise money for local hospitals.  This, I think, was the most affective activity given out by my professor, because it showed us all how real designers both create an event and then use their knowledge of the field as a means of planning out every step included in the process.

Grilled Cheese Storyboard 3

Grilled Cheese Storyboard 2

Grilled Cheese Storyboard 1

Last Thursday, my design research and methods class also made buttons!  These pins were based off of a cause each student is passionate about, including environmental issues, political views, and political involvement.

My professor began the class by showing us a video about voting, which made me wonder how she would connect back to the subject of design.  She then launched into the idea that young people, like myself and my classmates, do not have a significantly large turnout at elections, and asked how this process could be designed to be more interesting and appealing to my generation.

Using a list of topics provided by the professor, and choosing one that specifically appealed to us, the students in my class had to use our knowledge of storyboarding to draw a set of three different procedures, with every box in the storyboard showing a unique stage in one of the issues we picked to focus on.  We then, instead of cutting out our drawings with a scissors, used a button – making machine to make each step in the layout we created into professional – looking, wearable pins that showed off the day’s lesson and suggested ways in which to re – design voting to make it more attractive.

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The above image shows three of the pins I chose to design, which are all on the topic of environmental well – being and the affect that humans have on it.

The Game of Life

Over the course of the past few design research and methods classes, we have been looking into the idea of “Gamestorming”, or making the layout and creation of everything in life similar to a game for the user.  No, it does not make paying taxes like earning money in Monopoly, or turn someone’s car into a game piece that allows them to move around the “board” of the real world.  It does, however, make these processes, which can sometimes be a source of difficulty in daily life, more hassle – free.

To better understand what this concept is, and how it is being used in the world today, my class was given the reading called, “Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers”. The article, which suggests ways in which to re – design products that currently exist, can be applied to many different kinds of products, whether graphic design – based or other.  Although the reading focuses mainly upon business and industry to make its point, the other assignments my class was given stress the point that what we have learned so far in class can be used to improve the function of a multitude of products, experiences, and even majors!

One of the in – class projects my professor handed – out to us was a packet which featured the title “Cover Story” on the front of it.  The group undertaking, which, in my opinion, was one of the most interesting my class was given so far this semester, dealt with design in two ways.  Aside from the main point of the assignment, which was to create a new design for a much – loved social media platform like Facebook, each group was required to present our information in the format of a magazine article.  In doing so, we were all able to see what it is like being the graphic designer for today’s magazines, as we were given certain criteria were needed to include within the “magazine article”.  For example, the “Cover Story” packet the professor gave out to us stated that we needed to have headlines in our design, along with a cover layout for our magazine and images that would be incorporated inside the reading, along with other guidelines.

The actual re – design of the social media website provided me with the opportunity to see the work that goes into the creation of such products, as my group and I were given a chance to “be” the employees working to make the platform appeal to the public.  As we had all either used or seen the current setup of Facebook, my group knew exactly what we wanted to add to what could be on the actual site.  We also all contributed to the project differently, which allowed us to demonstrate our view on the assignment and its design.

After talking about the topic of “Gamestorming” with my class, I am more positive than ever before about my ambition to become a graphic designer.  Between in – class projects like “Cover Story” to homework assignments, such as”Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers”, I have acquired a new look at exactly what it means to be a designer, and have been able to see a sample of the various types of work they do every day.  While the social media design my group created was not actually a game, our layout was what we thought to be enjoyable, exciting, and game – like for our “users”.

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The pictures above show two of the activities featured in the “Cover Story” packet as completed by my group.

What do you Think?

“Testing”

After our apps were designed and created, and everyone in class had prototyped the designs to try out their own work, it was time to begin the “Testing” phase of the “Design Thinking” method in order to see how our apps performed against our peers.  This testing proved itself to be, in my opinion, extremely valuable, as I had developed a certain opinion as the designer of the software, and was given a more realistic point of view in the reviews I was given by both others in class and family members who I asked to use the finished version of my app.

In this testing, I was told that my “Choose Your Location” page, which I thought to be a creative, graphic designer – like approach to the mainstream layout of popular apps, did not provide realistic enough options for the user.  Although my professor emphasized the fact that what we created needed to be “wacky apps”, I realized, after having given my app to classmates, that it was actually too wacky!

Before making these changes, though, I wanted to find out what some of my family members had to say about my design.  They reviewed my app in ways that I predicted, telling me that it had “limited choices” for a town and “inappropriate” vehicle options.  As I tested the app with multiple family members, including both of my parents, my older cousin, my grandmother, and my uncle, I gained an understanding about how a difference in design features might change the way in which a specific user could react to the product they are presented with.  While my parents commented that “the title screen doesn’t tell you what the app does”, for example, my cousin reported that “the app gets hung on the “processing” screen”, which are both comments that demonstrate their need for a different type of product design.  My parents, who are older and more practical, are used to being given several choices, all of which are designed to fit the needs of their daily lives.  My cousin, though, is much younger than my parents, and expects both the technology and other products she uses to immediately work for her.

As a result of the many types of feedback I was given, the majority of which was negative, I saw how important this stage is in the process of creating a product that can be successfully used, along with being appreciated, by many types of users.  In order for the designs I use in daily life to appeal to me, I now understand, users from a variety of walks of life must test out the sample idea and suggest that the necessary changes be made.

In addition to this unexpected understanding of exactly what goes into the development of a new product, regardless of the type, I was again able to connect this in – class activity with my experiences from my internship at BigMouth, Inc. this past summer.  Without testing a design before it is released to the public, I now know, it may have many flaws that go unseen by the designer.

Creating my App

“Prototype”

Last week, my class was given the assignment of creating our own “wacky apps” after having brainstormed, in groups, to come up with what we considered to be the worst applications that we’d ever used.  The first step in doing this was to create eight different screens for the app, including the title screen, that the user would come into contact with.  After these screens were thought of, everyone in class was required to draw their ideas on a piece of scratch paper and show them to the professor in order to move on to the final paper.

 

After having been given this paper, all eight app screens were re – drawn to complete what would end up being the on – screen visuals once our app was finished.  We then had to take a picture of each of the “screens” in preparation for the actual design of our app.  To finalize what we had thought of in the “Ideate” stage of the “Design Thinking” process, the class was told to download the “Marvel” app and upload the pictures we had taken to make our apps.  I chose to design my application based on the concept of a “useless” transportation app that did not provide the user with enough information or options in order to end up where they wanted to be.

As I created my app, I thought back to the multiple class discussions my professor had led on the subject of the “Testing” stage of the “Design Thinking” process.  This allowed me to consider what someone might want while using an app like mine.  “What would make my app better?”, I thought to myself.  Or, “While testing, how might the user react to their experience?”  It is these questions that enabled me, as I believe they do real product designers, to create an app that is based fully on the user experience.

In my opinion, the homework readings, which were “Stage 4 in the Design Thinking Process: Prototype” and “Design Thinking: Get Started with Prototyping” were extremely valuable resources to have after my class discussions on this step in the “Design Thinking” process.  Reading these articles, for me, helped to solidify my understanding of how actual designers approach this step.  The second homework assignment given, which was “Design Thinking: Get Started with Prototyping”, states that “…prototypes do not need to be full products: you can prototype a part of a solution (like a proposed grip handle of a wheelchair) to test that specific part of your solution.”  When prototyping my app, both in class and for homework, I attempted to draw out all eight screens that the user would see, convinced that “prototyping” consists of thinking about the design of the entire product.  These readings, though, showed me that to create the best possible version of a product, only a certain part of it must be made in the “prototype” stage

I found this homework to be relatable not just to the class discussions on the subject, though.  During my summer internship at BigMouth Inc. in Glastonbury, Connecticut, I was given the opportunity to both watch and participate as the company’s design team used the “prototyping” stage of the “Design Thinking” method in order to successfully design their own products.  As a result, I was able to connect to the class discussions, activities, and homework on the subject.

Below is the link to my app:

https://marvelapp.com/7aiaf1b

Bad Apps

“Ideate”

In class today, we were given the chance to design our own apps!  The activity, which was held in – class only, was based off of the project from one of our previous classes in which we, in groups, drew out an “idea web” of our least – favorite phone applications.  Before beginning the assignment, we were told by the professor that we had to draw eight screens of the app we designed, including the initial, loading screen which is complete with the app’s logo and title.

While doing this, which was both relaxing and the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what I have learned in class so far, I was able to use the “Design Thinking” process to guide my drawings.  While drawing, I attempted to mentally follow the process, and asked myself, “What would a user not want in an app?”, and “What would I consider to be a poor user experience?”.  We had to draw every screen we wanted to include within our app on a scrap piece of paper first, and then, only after our ideas were clearly and precisely drawn on the sheet of rough paper and shown to the professor, could we move on to the final template page and draw our ideas there.

Although I did not finish the primary sketch of my app, and had to finish the final version of the drawing for homework, I found the activity to be unique, inspirational, and exciting.  Just as in other projects in class, I was given the opportunity to learn “hands – on” about how real – life designers operate and could then share what I learned at home as I finished the homework assignment.  Although we did not discuss the process of app design in class before starting our drawings, I definitely saw a connection between the discussions from earlier weeks about the “ideation” step of the “Design Thinking” method and how we used it as a format for our own app design.

I chose one of the ideas listed on my group’s “idea web” paper for my own creation – a transportation application that asks the user what country they are from, but only gives them limited options from which to choose.  After selecting a country from the choices given, the user is brought to a page that asks what region in the country they are from.  Following the screen where the user must “pick an area”, they  are told that the transportation company does not operate in that part of the country, thereby giving the app another useless or worthless quality.

In the layout of my application, even though it is only a rough, first draft, I included pages I thought to be necessary, like a title screen, and those that I I considered useless, like a “Select Your Vehicle” page.  The vehicle choices include an airplane, a hot – air balloon, and submarine, which are all (obviously) impractical modes of transportation for the average user of my app, again making it useless.  I added a title screen to the app to make it seem that much more realistic, but made a “Select Your Vehicle” section to follow the instructions for the project and make it seem completely ridiculous.

What Would Designers Change?

“Defining the Problem”

During class today, we talked about the design of apps and various other types of media, along with houses, and analyzed them from a designer’s point of view.  Using this angle, we asked the question, “What would we change?”  First, our professor showed us a video in which the speaker said: The thought of being in the “dog house” receives a bad rap.  If we were living in a “dog house”, she asked, instead of being put into time out there, what luxuries would we want to enjoy to make the experience a more positive one?  Based on this prompt, the class was separated into multiple groups, in which we came up with a list of features, drew pictures to illustrate our ideas, or both in an effort to communicate ways that the traditional “dog house” could be changed to be not only more exciting, but actually enjoyable and high – class.  This activity was a way to increase creativity among the students, and made us all think about this seemingly basic question from a design perspective.

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The image above shows the work my team completed as we thought through the project.  While many good ideas were thought of, after some discussion between the group members, not all of them made the final cut.  The items that we considered to be viable received a “check mark”, while those that seemed to be impractical were marked with an “X”.  As is evident from the image, the team did a great job working together and the assisgnment proved to be very thought – provoking.  To me, this project proved to be not only valuable due to the way in which it forced everyone in class to think like a professional designer or the creativity it stimulated, but also for the opportunity to work among friends, the multiple benefits of working in teams that each of us saw, and the ability and benefits of “bouncing” ideas off of one another.

After the initial “doghouse” activity, we stayed in our groups to brainstorm lists of phone apps we considered to be bad or worthless.  As each group member thought of these ideas, we wrote them down in the form of an “idea web”, as shown in the image below.  We were all surprised by the number of applications we were able to quickly come up with that we all agreed were not designed well.  As with the earlier assignment, working through the steps and process with the team was a worthwhile exercise, as it reinforced the idea of “Defining the Problem”.  The team touched upon many of the factors and “problems” in all of the applications that we came up with, which is how we were able to agree so quickly on which made the list and which did not.

DRM 9:25

To follow up on the in – class activity, my class was given the link to two articles called “Introduction to design thinking” and “Design Thinking…What is That?” for homework.  The articles, in my opinion, cemented the ideas that we covered in class, reinforcing the concept that “Design Thinking” consists of multiple steps, and what every one of these stages is made up of.  This class, and the homework given at the end of the day, has thus far proved to be the perfect “path” to becoming a graphic designer.

How Might We…?

“Empathy in Human-Centered Design”

It is my third week in college, and today might have been my favorite design research and methods class yet.  In class, we applied the process of design thinking that we had discussed earlier in the year in order to brainstorm solutions to problems similar to those that society faces today along with those that we had to overcome in the past.  Before beginning our activity, we were all given a formula – “User + Need = Insight”.  Each table in the room was then given a small stack of Post – Its, and the class was told that every group was required to produce five questions, with one question per sticky note.  After all of our questions were written, the groups rotated counter – clockwise to sit at another table and look at the questions that the original students at that table had come up with.  This, for me, is where our class discussions came into play.

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As shown by the picture above, when one group sat at another team’s original table, we had to answer the questions that were written on the pink sticky notes in a different way than the previous occupants of the table.  The picture is an example of the questions my partner and I came up with, on the pink sticky notes, along with some possible solutions for each one, which the other groups supplied, written on the blue sticky notes.

From our class discussions, we all knew the importance of starting the design thinking process with a question to better understand the feelings and needs of the design’s user.  Additionally, we all knew that the more answers provided for one question, no matter how simple it was, the more possible ways of solving the problem.  This activity, though, gave my class the chance to role play, as we were able to ask the questions that a designer’s client asks, and also to provide the solutions that are typical of a designer.  Based on today’s class, I am even more inspired to become a successful graphic designer and aid in supplying solutions to those who face problems that, without design thinking, could clearly not be solved.

The Design Thinking Process in Real Life

“Systems and Processes”

Last week in class, we watched an episode of the show “Undercover Boss” as a class and related it to the process of “Design Thinking”.  As the first step to create an impactful and productive design is understanding the feelings of the user, and why it is they feel that way, we analyzed the boss’ feelings, and saw how events that occurred both at home and at work changed the way he felt.  To better understand him, we each filled out a chart with several sections in which we wrote what he “heard”, “saw”, thought”, “felt” and around him.  This chart allowed us to see his needs in front of us, and discuss as a class the design we might make in order to quench them.

Also, in an effort to better understand the feelings and needs that all people have experienced, and that fuel the design that is created for them, my class has been looking into the idea of “empathy”, and the role it plays in daily life.  The reading we received on the subject, entitled the “Empathy Field Guide”, claims that “…by deeply understanding people we are better able to design for them”.  From this article, I gained a new, hands – on sense to not only the feeling of empathy, but all feelings in general, and how they mold and shape the process that designers undergo and the final product made for the user.  Without understanding who a designer’s client is and what kind of product they require to satisfy their needs, I now realize, the concept they make would not be nearly as important or affective.

Finally, we were all handed a paper with two sections on it.  On the top of the paper is an area with the heading “Feelings”, while on the bottom is one that says “Needs” above it.  The class was told that this handout is a “great communication tool”, and after reading it could, in my opinion, see for the first time just why the role that design thinking and design as a whole have on all people, regardless of the issues they have faced.  Everyone has certain requirements, and without designers, solutions could not be provided in the same, useful manner that they are now.  This handout makes clear that understanding what people feel before a design idea is provided is the key to the process, as that way the perfect design can be made specifically for a certain customer

The study of feelings was continued, even though class was unfortunately canceled today, online, with an article called “Defining the Problem”.  As I mentioned above, we talked about the fact that analyzing the emotions of the person who has the problem will, ultimately, prove the first step in the design thinking process.  As a result, this article helped to show me the ways in which designers can, and do, define the problems of their clients in order to produce products that solve the problems they might face.  In short, I found this article, along with the classwork and the assigned homework, to be very helpful from a design point of view.

“Design Thinking” and the Design Process”

This is a link to my essay on the subject of design thinking.

DRM Week 1 – essay

 

 

“What’s in my Bag?”

This is my latest assignment from my design research and methods class that is meant to represent me.  The title of the project indicates that the “bag” each person carries holds items that are important to them.  When viewing my picture, be on the lookout for anything important to me, including movie tickets, models, and toys from my childhood.  Take a close look at the screen of my iPad, and you just might catch a glimpse of my website!

What's in my Bag?

 

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