The meat of the conference were eight presentations given by various design professionals. Unfortunately, there were only two time slots, which means four talks took place concurrently. Choosing was not easy.
The first session I went to was lead by Vijay Kumar, a professor at ID. I went because all of the ID students I met love him. They say he’s a great, fun, smart, friendly teacher. From what I saw, I concur.
The other thing to know about Vijay is that he resides in a world of frameworks. He loves models. It seems he has not met a matrix he didn’t like.
His talk, Insights to Innovations (not yet online), addressed the steps designers take to get from insights derived from research, to concepts that drive new product ideas. Vijay has a delightfully simple two-by-two that represents the steps in a design process:
You start in the lower left-hand corner, getting to “know” the “real” – users and their contexts. Then you move up, abstracting from that knowledge to frame insights. Then you progress from knowing to making abstractions — concepts and plans. And then you end up by producing something tangible. In a more standard framework, the quadrants would read, clockwise from lower left, Research, Analysis, Synthesis, and Implement.
I don’t know how useful this framework is, but I’m a fan of it. A smart encapsulation of what we go through.
The bulk of Vijay’s talk was about how we cross the threshold from insights to concepts. From analysis to synthesis. He claimed there are four modes for bridging this gap:
Criteria can be thought of simple noun phrases that emerge from an insight process. The classic example of this (and one which you’ll hear ad nauseum if you spend any time at ID), are Oxo Good Grips. You can think of the Good Grips line as a series of physical properties — large handles, rubber handles, ovoid shape (so they don’t rotate in your hand), large clear type, etc. etc.– that support ease of use for people with motor or perceptual challenges.
Principles are verb phrases that address are like sentences in a mission statement for the product. The example used came from a student project for a museum (the Museum of Science and Industry, I believe). From the research, the museum developed a set of principles: 1) Provide real and tailored visitor experiences, 2) Extend access to the museum experiences, 3) Foster a culture of innovation.
Frameworks are a bit more complex. They tend to be grids, matrices, any kind of system that identifies key attributes and highlights opportunities. One framework currently under development at ID is the Concept Matrix:
The Concept Matrix is known for it’s POEMS mnemonic across the top. Down the left side are five factors of people. The matrix can be helpful to companies identify opportunities…
(Vijay had more stuff in boxes, but I didn’t get it all down… I’m still not quite sure I buy the Concept Matrix…)
The last are scenarios, which might be the most basic. What stories can we tell, based on what we know about users and their contexts, that suggest ways of addressing their needs and desires? What are people’s key factors and driving forces? What makes sense in terms of supporting those factors and forces? (I love the idea of writing as design method, and I just need to remember to do it more often.)
What I liked about Vijay’s talk is it presented a series of ideas in a cogent fashion that allows someone like me to see “where I fit”, and to consider, “Where could I go? What am I not taking advantage of?”