Design Methodology Theory

VIAD Sem 02


While talking about what interaction design means, we stumbled upon a fitting video which sums it up pretty well. “the power of 10” from Eames for IBM showcases the different scales of things that make up our universe. Interaction design is found in each and every level of them. Designers in this field work in both analogue and digital settings for example H-H, H-C, C-C, H-N et cetera.

An Interaction Designer connects skills, fields, cultures and people. Creating experiences for others also bears a great responsibility one must be aware of. The power to influence and effect users and surroundings, makes one have to ask the question which kind of experience one wants to create. As soon as tech is made available to the public, it’s only a matter of time until it gets repurposed and used in another unintended way. Keep in mind that technology is two sided, no matter how pure the orginial intention was.

Another important part of good design is to create effective solutions and not problems. Avoiding blackbox like technologies is also crutial to bringing knowledge of tech to the users.

To change the world a designer must first understand what that world really is. Only if he can see past his own bias and subjective mindsets, and see the world for what it really is, he can have a lasting impact and change it.

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Sketchbook Notes 01
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Do we only have to improve things or do we have to change some fundamental structures?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fKBhvDjuy0 . (Powers of ten, Eames)


“How do you want to change the world?” That was one of the opening questions the lecturers wanted to know. This invited us to think about the fields we’d like to see ourselves in. Additionally we also thought about the types of people we’d like to work with and to answer the question of which roles a designer has in our society. For me personally it was a good exercise to think about these kind of topics, because as an interaction designer there are so many different possibilities to pursue. I came to the conclusion, that i could only name broad fields and personas, because i simply don’t know yet where to see myself in the future.

Another part of the lecture was to think about topics we’d like to work on. We wrote a more or less concrete idea on a “Post-It” and they were sticked to a wall and categorized. That’s how our UXA group was created. We were grouped together to analyse the use of data which was an essential key component of our interests.

We decided to continue documenting our practice module with our group-blog found here: https://captainuxa.tumblr.com/

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Sketchbook Notes 03
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Sketchbook Notes 04


The acronyms AEIOU stand for Activity, Environment, Interaction, Object and User. These aspects are an heuristic to interpret ethnography for designs. Another method used by designers is called “Iterative Prototyping”. It basically means that one works in iterations and thus simultaneously tests collects and redesigns prototypes at the same time.

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Permaculture is a design philosophy created in Australia in the 1970’s by Bill Morison and David Holmgren. It focuses on creating sustainable human habitats in a context of design. The original idea was based on changing agriculture into sustainable and eco-friendly solutions on a global scale.

The philosophy is based on 3 ethics:

  • People care (beneficial to humans)
  • Earth care (beneficial to ecosystem)
  • Fair share (equal distribution)

Next to the ethics permaculture is found on 12 sets of design rules.

  • observe and interact
  • catch and store energy
  • obtain a yield (everything must be useful)
  • apply self-regulation and feedback
  • recycle resources and value them
  • produce no waste
  • design from pattern to detail (from broad to narrow)
  • integrate rather than segregate (polyculture)
  • use small and slow solutions (keep it simple)
  • use and value diversity
  • use edges and value marginal
  • creatively use and respond to change
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Design inspired by everyday life is based on the current situation of things and has no concret goal behind it. It’s characteristics can be listed up in an open list as following:

  • incomplete discription (of problem)
  • unclear possible steps (what step?)
  • unknown goal
  • trade offs (interlinked and elements)
  • need of different skills
  • great impact on human activities

An important aspect of design is the fluidity of technology. This means there are different aspects of impact of the object one creates. An example introduced to us was the fluidity of the zimbabwean bush pump. This means first of all there’s the function of object, but there’s also the social impact of a pump in a village.

Fluidity of a pen:

  • mobility
  • transfer of emotions (being able to write)
  • measurement (scaling)
  • sharing ideas
  • social status (value of the pen)

Diegetic prototyping

This form of prototyping is used to show possible future scenarios and technologies to people and public. It fluctuates between present and future, which means it plays with the current and future possibilities of technologies. Mostly inspiration is drawn through pop-culture and literature, this inspires the designers, who in other hand inspire pop-culture again. Frankly speaking it’s an ongoing symbiosis of inspiration between reality and fiction. Great examples are the tv series Star Trek and Twilight Zone. They portray different views of future scenarios man kind used in the 60’s to escape the pain and helplessness of the repercussions of WWII and the Vietnam War.


One of the best friends of interaction designers, etymology is the term for the root of a word. This knowledge can be used to better understand notions and patterns of human. Interaction design is deeply intertwined with history. Meaning that knowing the past can benefit shaping the future.

Design for domestic environment

Ethnography is used in field research to investigate people in their natural habitats. This allows the observer to see how interactions and patterns occur in every day scenarios. It brings the possibility to test subjects in very specific situations, to better understand the key elements, that make social surroundings work the way they do.

Another interesting aspect of domestic design is repurposing already existing things. Prominent terms like the indian “Jugaad” or the british “Hack” movement, show how people tend to reuse object in unintended ways when their surroundings force them to.


Quirky designs for development and social change

These types of designs are based on the notion of asking the question of how to better handle development and social change in society. A few key-points of this methodology are:

  • Creative work, changing minds and society
  • Raise awareness, activism / utopia
  • Problem solving

We looked at four different projects, all showing connections to designs for development and social change.

  1. Utopian design by state

In this example Folkhemmet in Sweden was portrayed. In this project the state commissioned designers to design optimized living conditions of suburban areas, by analyzing massive magnitude of aspects. Ranging from the macroscale of implementing ratios of 33% living, 33% business and 33% green areas, down to the amount of sunlight in single apartments.

2. Critical design

This methodology is based on the notion of asking the question “why not?”. Projects in this category nudge users into critical questioning of why things are done the way they’re done.

  • Dunne and Raby’s “Radio Waves”
  • Nathalie Jeremijenkos “BIT Radio”
  • Kirstin o’Friel’s “Breathless Corset”
  • The Yes Men’s “Endurasphere”

3. Design experiments in alternative lifestyles

Christoph Wodishko’s “Home for the homeless” explore the possibilities of introducing change to topics that are going on in our society. His prime motivation is to change things that grind his gear. One must always also think of the possible consequences of working with people in vulnerable situation, like the homeless.

4. Design for development through accessibility

The “Playpump” project of Ronnie Stuiver shows us that even ideas based on good intentions, can lead to create failing designs. The very unpractical, child labory functionality and the general assumption that the idea would work in real life, shows us that disregarding thorough analysis can prove fatal to a design.

A good example of how a design can make life easier for people in developing countries, is the “Hippo Water Roller” project from Pettie Petzer. It shows us that using objects and patterns familiar to the local population is way more effective than trying to force new ideas onto them. Good observation is key to great projects.

This shows the necessity of decolonizing design and the own subjective way of thinking as designers. Just because one might have been raised with say European values and beliefs, doesn’t mean set values are the best solution somewhere else on the world.


Culture probes and H-C Interaction

The Presence Project focuses on the elderly and was based on an analysis of the neighborhood with probe packages. These probes allowed the users to document their surroundings and daily life. The collected samples managed to give extended insights and facts to the designers and also the elders involved. The usability of objects is greatly improved by pleasing aesthetics. Culture probes are an effective way to gather a lot of information of demographics in a playful way. Most importantly is the fact that they’re adaptable to user profiles. The establishment of a connection to the people surveyed, is greatly benefits by the use of physical materials.

Participatory Design, Co-Creation and Co-Design

Co- Design invites all stakeholders to the act of designing and creating a project. This way of working allows direct feedback loops and thus seamless integration of improvement.

Participatory design is basically the same thing, but it has somewhat of a different starting point. First used in Scandinavia, this methodology was born by political motives. The involvement of labor parties and academia, aimed to better integrate stakeholder and thus optimizing working conditions for the involved.

Both methodologies focus on the same goal to involve everyone to create.

Co-Creation is based on an object that is already finished. The user has the opportunity to change certain aspects of the design, like colors and materials, but the product doesn’t change. An example are all kinds of customization on the web like Pumas Mongolian BBQ and the Nike ID platform.

Co- Design is not Co- Creation. The key difference lays in the active and passive participation of the design.

Information Visualization

One of the first people to use the art of data visualization was Scottish engineer William Playfair. He was fundamental for the development of pie charts and graphs. Probably one of the most famous uses was the London Metro Plan introduced by Harry Becks. Simplifying complex information for quick and easy reading, greatly improve the practicality in every day use. It’s essential to always double check who made the data and how it’s displayed. Often people produce data that misinform others

John Cage was a very influential individual in the 20th century. Associated as a pioneer to combine technology and art, he shaped the scene as a composer and artist.


Bodystorming is based on the notion of using acting to represent the concept of a design. This means that designers and test users reenact situations that the prototype will later be used in. Bodystorming in context is an example that puts people in to roles and then makes them act out interactions with the imaginary object. It allows for improved informing and can be used to better spot problematical situations.



Ever since the dawn of humanity, stories have been an essential component of our existence. The earliest documentations found in cave paintings in Lasceaux, France, dating to 30'000 bc, show that drawings and tales have been used for entertainment and education long before the first civilizations emerged. In general stories can either be used to describe situations, problems, teach, share experiences or illustrate problems. The list goes on, but it shows that there’s a wide variety for possible application. In a design context we use stories to open debates, explore new concepts, for project analysis and to evoke emotions to sell products.

The influence of research labs and the culture of demos

The impact research labs had on society in the last decades has shown how important it is to invest resources into research. Allowing the implementation of new technology in everyday life greatly improved living standards and life duration.

Live demonstrations are a very effective way to portray ideas and technologies to the public. Often they’re in form of immersive experiences to indulge the audience on a sensory and emotional level. Being able to overcome oddness of new ideas and concepts through an aesthetic experience is a great way to explain ideas. It allows designers to better underline arguments and key points to the users.

Design Fiction is a practice aiming to explore and criticize possible futures and scenarios. According to Bruce Sterling an author focusing on science fiction design fiction is explained as following:

“It’s the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. That’s the best definition we’ve come up with. The important word there is diegetic. It means you’re thinking very seriously about potential objects and services and trying to get people to concentrate on those rather than entire worlds or political trends or geopolitical strategies. It’s not a kind of fiction. It’s a kind of design. It tells worlds rather than stories.” — Bruce Sterling (2012)


Cybernetics is the term used for communications and auto control systems of humans and animals. In other words its about getting from A to B in an automated manner. The notion of cybernetics also describes the use of loops of self-correction. A cybernetic loop is simply defined as following:

  • acting, sensing, comparing, analysis, correcting

With these points it’s possible for a system to automatically function and correct mistakes by itself. A good example is a sailboat that adapts the wind, to external feedback. There are two types of orders in cybernetic, the first and second order. The first order is based on the positive, (confirmation) and the negative feedback loops (self correction). The second order persists of feedback systems which are loops nested inside of loops, aka cybernetics of cybernetics. This methodology can also be utilized in design processes.

Physical computing started out back when computers were introduced to the broad masses. Evolving from the rest of us to the rest of you, it literally found it’s way on to the body of humans. There are basic guidelines that define physical computing.

  1. describe what happens, environment/experience
  2. break the story down, input/output/processing
  3. identify the activity, digital/analog
  4. describe sequences, parallel/serial
  5. level of abstraction, Hi-level/Low-level


The History and evolution of technology is a tale dating back to the earliest days of prehistoric mankind. The word technology derives from the greek words techne, which means art or skill and logia, which means expantion. Technology is the foundation of all civilizations and enabled to better survive nature and to develop complex societies. Technology is not just based on computers or complex engineering, it is also definition of simple thing, like sharpening stones to make knives or to use fire to cook meals. There are a variety of different eras mankind lived through, all contributing to the body of knowledge by exploring, analysing and inventing new things to use.

The question of what technology is and what that means in the context to mankind was brought into philosophy by German philosopher Heidegger. It makes one question the line between natural and artificial creation.

Inventions are always built on the foundation of previous accomplishments. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s always a time between invention and adaptation of the technology in society. Technology reveals the hopes and fears of the population. As a designer it’s essential that this is taken serious and thus used responsibly.

Written by

Interaction design student ZHdK

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