Communicating Design Research: Framing Techniques

Celeste Roschuni and Alice Agogino
Berkeley Institute of Design & Mechanical Engineering
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720

This abstract and accompanying poster explore current techniques in communicating user-focused design research to stakeholders outside the research group, and aims to be a resource for teaching design students about the communication techniques available to them. Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach to innovation in which the designer is driven by an understanding of the needs of potential end users in order to make products that better meet those needs. Other approaches to innovation may include technology push [1], where the designer takes a new technology and tries to apply it to different areas, or biomimicry [2] where the designer looks to nature for inspiration. The key difference in HCD is driving innovation from user needs. Thus, the key to teaching HCD is to teach students how to learn from their users and how to communicate what they learn to others. HCD methods may be taught through project- based courses where students conduct primary research (e.g., interviews, usability tests, etc.) and use the research findings to design and develop a product [3]. However, communication techniques are not often explicitly covered.
Newman and Lieu [4] identify four factors in communicating design information: message, audience, author, and medium. Each factor should be considered as students design their communications. First, students should identify the goal of their message: Provoke thought? Inform? Inspire design ideas? Create empathy for users? Second, students should consider the needs and viewpoints of their audience, as they previously did with their users. Third, the students should consider their ability to craft the message in different media. Finally, students can choose appropriate media based on their goals, their understanding of their audience, and their own strengths. Media may include paper and digital reports; blogs and other websites; informal verbal conversations; educational workshops; and custom designed artifacts, such as card decks and posters, among others.
Different techniques combine these factors to create particular effects. In reviewing the literature on techniques for conveying user insights, several dimensions start to emerge: presentational vs. experiential, tangible vs. virtual, prescriptive vs. descriptive, high vs. low fidelity.


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