I made it! The first day of Midwest UX is a wrap. I only went to one workshop but I got a few things out of it already. The workshop I attended was called “Design Studio for Context Aware Products.” It started with a short lecture on what is meant by the term ‘context aware’ and how we as humans are constantly using context to create meaning and navigate our lives. Once we talked about the ways in which we derive context through experience we moved along to discussing how we bring awareness to what happens to us (ie. language, situations, emotion, environment and cognition) and how that partners with problem solving like mobile apps, signs, wayfinding etc. Ideally, these tools would work in such a way that the process seems invisible. Getting from point A to point B seems to take very little effort when the right tools are in place. How do we come up with this path? Through a group practice called Design Studio.
I’ll admit, that the term ‘Design Studio’ is pretty vague for what I think of as collaborative problem solving, but there is a sense of empowerment when the name encourages a group of people to be creative together. How this workshop starts is by first, finding a Persona (audience) you would like to help, second, finding out what they need help with. Next you are broken up into groups. Then, individually you storyboard what the experience is currently like for whom you are trying to help, come back as a group and find what areas need help. From there (I know this is getting wordy) you work independently to find a solution, then work together to create a solution. Between working individually and as a group we are to critique ideas and refine the plan. At the end, the small groups come together to share each idea with everyone in a presentation. This is a rather fast process. Each interval is only 5 minutes so following your intuition is encouraged.
In our scenario, we helped Rob, a frequent traveler. Our challenge was to design a system that accounts for his current context to deliver the right information at the right time. The time we chose to focus on specifically was the time between when the plane has landed and when you can actually leave your seat (which can take a while sometimes), because this is mostly dead time, we put it to work by offering a way to look up how much time you have until your next stop or flight, where the next gate is, if you have time to use the restroom…etc.
The big takeaway I got from this workshop wasn’t the work itself, (I have done group exercises similar to this in design school) but it was realizing that this is a great tool to bring to clients who are trying to better understand their audience. Giving non-creatives a chance to be creative and facilitating a dialogue that is design and user focused could bring a new sense of clarity on what path to take in business strategy. Also, it means you can use really colorful markers (who doesn’t like that?)
I am looking forward to finding a use for this way of group strategizing in the soon future.