Tom Hulme

Live like your customer -go through their daily experience. Focus groups don’t work. An experience is so much more meaningful than an excel spreadsheet. Recognize your users design paths, and serve their alterations.

Having a Human Experience

Erik Stolterman Teaching
Erik Stolterman, author of The Design Way, teaching our class. ©byHuber

What does it mean to have “an experience?” And how can we as interaction designers understand this phenomenon and design for it with intent? This was a major component of our philosophical and project based class: Experience Design.

To start, we need to explore what it means to be human. John Russon writes about the human experience as being structured on interpretation, synthesis, and temporality. The way we interpret our experiences says just as much about ourselves and our values, and like music, experiences are comprised of many elements that must be viewed as both their parts and the whole. (Russon)

In Technology as Experience, McCarthy & Wright say every experience is comprised of sensorial, emotional, compositional, and spatio-temporal qualities. This reflects Russon’s perspective but adds more physiological components. And in his book Flow, Csíkszentmihályi speaks of the optimal experience as a state of total immersion in which time seems to almost disappear and we temporarily suspend our reflective self-consciousness. These experiences can be intrinsically rewarding.

To design for these paradigms is a worthy feat for technologists. As digital interactions continue to evolve, we’re able to create more human-centered designs, leaving behind decades of “crappy UX.” Being able to identify the core emotions and aspirations of specific types people you’re designing for is critical as interaction designers and storytellers. This provides a clear context in which your design concept can emerge.

To me, one of the lessons I’ve learned most in this course is that it’s not enough to simply have a great design if the way you communicate it is insufficient, uninspiring, or difficult to follow. Because we’re dealing with emotions, abstractions, and interpretation, getting others to share your perspective and rationale is imperative.

McCarthy, J., & Wright, P. (2004). Technology as experience. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Artifacts – What They Reveal

In the 2007 issue of Artifact Volume 1 the authors, Akama et al, explore the roles artifacts can play in doing design research. They conclude that artifacts are an appropriate methodological tool. (Akama et al) Below are three of their statements about how artifacts can be used while interviewing participants, followed by my analysis interpretation:

1. Triggers for reflection and imagination

The authors make a distinction between indigenous and introduced artifacts. Indigenous artifacts are familiar and more meaningful to the participant and can help trigger the reflection the authors speak of. Introduced artifacts can serve as a conversation starter and spark the participants imagination. (Akama et al)

2. Tools for the articulation and communication of ideas and experience

Bringing in artifacts as playful triggers can give the participants new means of communicating their ideas and experience beyond words. This can help facilitate visualization, co-creating meaning, and helps communicate relationships and interactions. (Akama et al)

3. Facilitators for participation and generative meaning-making

The authors found that artifacts can help the participants engage more with the interview process. By playing with toys and other artifacts, the participants are able to make meaning of their context, scenarios, and thoughts. (Akama et al)

What kind of information can artifacts reveal? Provide at least one example with an explanation.

Artifacts can reveal behavior, cultural norms, historical influences, and much more. For example, someone who has a lot of athletic artifacts, sporting equipment, could presumably value an active lifestyle. Further investigation might reveal something else. Perhaps they no longer play those sports, or they are simply a fan of watching the sports and keep the items around as memorabilia.

Yoko Akama, Roslyn Cooper, Laurene Vaughan, and Stephen Viller. 2007. Show and Tell: Accessing and Communicating Implicit Knowledge Through Artefacts. In Artifact, Vol I, Issue 3. p 172–181.