User Centered Design Charrette


SHəˈret/ noun — An intense period of design or planning activity

Our team brainstorming user needs

The Process

In our first Human Centered Design Engineering studio, we were to tackle the issue of smart vehicle interfacing for a specific user. In our group of three, we selected a pregnant woman as the user we would design for. Using sticky-notes, we brainstormed many of the needs of a pregnant woman, including frequent use of the bathroom, quick access to medical care, and foods to satisfy cravings. In order to cater to these needs, we wanted to design a clean interface that could provide fast, relevant help at the touch of a button. We sketched out a scenario in which a pregnant lady, Margaret, is driving her car and suddenly feels very ill and needs immediate medical attention. She is able to press the “Help” button on her smart car’s interface, which then lists multiple options relevant to her, including “Nearest Hospital.” She selects this button and views the map of directions. The car then offers to self-drive to the hospital, and Margaret is able to reach the ER in time. We then created a sketch of the design architecture and a navigation flow-chart.

Our team’s car interface design for pregnant women


From my first design charrette experience, I was able to see a glimpse of the many components that come into play in designing a product. Because we were not able to conduct user research due to time constraints, I am interested to learn more about the research phase in order to create a more informed, truly user-centered product. During the process, my group encountered some obstacles when we were trying to organize our ideas on paper. The most difficult part was creating a definitive flowchart for the application. For me, I often have trouble coming up with ideas because I become worried about the execution or plausibility. However, the fast brainstorming that we did in this charrette was a really helpful technique that helped me avoid designer’s block. I really enjoyed the teamwork aspect of this project, as we were able to combine a multitude of our ideas to create a better product design. I enjoyed creating each specific application page and would love to spend more time on the graphics and surface design of a product as well.

I enjoyed working with my team during the charrette process

In the Future

I could see myself using the charrette technique again in the beginning stages of a future design project to brainstorm ideas and create a solid concept design. This method would be very useful in creating mobile applications or other accessible technologies. The architecture and navigation flow charts are especially applicable when designing in these situations. However, a charrette may not be very useful in the later stages of a project, as it places focus on the ideation stage. Perhaps designing a larger, more complicated project would not be very compatible with a charrette. Designing the organization for a business, for example, is a huge process that encompasses many aspects. Designing a system has a much larger scope than designing a single product. The fast-design format of a charrette would not allow one to delve into the amount of detail and deep thought that designing a business requires. In the case of lower-order design, I find the fast, intensive design process of a charrette to be very useful for generating many ideas and I will carry these new techniques with me into future projects.

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