This past week was KoDW in Hong Kong, a 5-day conference with this year's theme of "Designing Change for Better Living". The conference took place at Hotel Icon, which is operated by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. I attended one of the workshops titled "Business of Design: A people-centered approach" hosted by Rama Gheerawo, Onny Eikhaug, Sean Donahue, and Keiji Kawahara.
Breaking out into the small workshop, of about 50-people, gave attendees a chance to more intimately interact with each other and work together. When surveying the room, the majority of the participants were designers, with a few business and public sector professionals scattered about.
Business of Design: A people-centered approach
This 3-hour workshop took a step-by-step approach to walk participants through the 'need-finding' and 'research' aspect of the design process broken down into 4-steps: Explore, Focus, Develop, and Deliver. The aim was to illustrate the importance of focusing on the users to create valid solutions, rather than making assumptions. For those who are deeply familiar with the process of Industrial Design, the workshop would seem to be rather elementary. (The organizers should have mentioned this in the workshop title. For instance, "An intro to a people-centered approach"). Nonetheless, the 3-hour workshop was a nice recap and reinforcement of design research and importance of ethnographic methods as a compliment to market research. Some of the techniques mentioned and explained included:
The workshop further emphasized the importance of observing and researching 'in context' as a way to gain insight, inspiration, and develop meaningful solutions that are a result of the real-world situation.
The overall format involved the speakers providing introductions, backgrounds, and case study examples to 1-step of the process and then having participants break into small groups (2-3 per table) to practice those particular methods. After breaking out for 3-10 minutes at a time, participants would then regroup and share their findings with the audience before the moderators moved onto the next phase.
It proved to be an interesting and engaging method to perform a workshop, since participants weren't able to truly interview lead-users (people who may not be the end-user, but someone who would provide particularly interesting insight into the problem, environment, or situation) or make a visit to someone's home. Photographs provided by the moderators, group-curated personas (a character developed based on real-world interviews), understanding the emotional journey (a graph of emotional ups and downs during a particular activity) of a wheelchair user helped in providing context and generating a story for the end result of a 'design solution'. A lot of information, techniques, and examples were shared in such a short period of time. As an introductory workshop, it provided the importance of user-research to facilitate story-telling, which in turn informs designers to create a engaging user-experiences manifested as a product, service, or system.
I later found out that this particular workshop was a condensed version of one presented in Norway by Rama and Onny a few weeks earlier as a 2-day training. You can learn more about the training provided by the Norwegian Design Council in conjunction with Helen Haymlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art. I would encourage you to explore the site and watch some of the videos. In addition, they have jointly published the book "Innovating with People".
Photos: Courtesy of Knowledge of Design Week, Hong Kong Design Centre