The Johari Window as a part of the design process

The Johari Window is a model for mapping interpersonal awareness. It helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others. In this article I will outline how the Johari Window can be applied to the design process, and what kind of opportunities it reveals in the relationship between an object of our design and its users.

The original concept

The Johari Window has been widely used to improve communication and gain trust within a group. This affects, for instance, the group’s potential to handle and carry out complex tasks.

According to this model our personality can be represented with a four-quadrant grid:

The Johari Window originated in a 1955 paper by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, “The Johari window, a graphic model of interpersonal awareness
  • The Arena consists of what I know about myself and what others know about me. This includes characteristics of our personality that we more likely choose to be open about.
  • The Blind area represents what I don’t know about myself but others know about me. Something that others see in us that we’re not aware of.
  • The Hidden area represents what I know about myself but others don’t know. Things that we choose to hide from others or to communicate when we feel safe enough.
  • The Unknown area contains things that nobody knows about me not even myself. This may be because we’ve never exposed those aspects of our personality, or because they’re concealed in the subconscious.

The ultimate goal of the Johari Window is to expand the Arena without disclosing information that is too personal. The more people know about each other, the more open and trusting their relationship becomes. They’ll be more productive, cooperative, and effective when working together in a team.

There are several ways we can enlarge the Arena:

  • We decrease the Blind area by asking other people to give us feedback on our behaviors and attitudes. Every response, verbal and nonverbal, is data about our personality.
  • We decrease the Hidden area by disclosing ourself. We share our fantasies, perceptions and behaviors with others.
  • We discover ourself and, as a result, decrease the Unknown. We intentionally do things that we haven’t done before, we use untapped skills and resources we have, and we pay attention to our feelings and what stimulates them.

A new way to use the Johari Window

Because it was devised by two scientists while researching group dynamics, the Johari Window has been considered as a tool for psychologists, sociologists, group facilitators, and so on. A person and a group were always the objects of the model. But what if we apply the Johari Window to the design process?

Interestingly enough, the same model is relevant for any organization, brand, product or service. It can be used by many professionals, including, but not limited to, user researchers, strategists, product and service designers, and PR-managers. Here are a few examples:

  • To see the difference between an organization’s self-awareness and its partners’ perceptions, and create a refined communication strategy.
  • To map brand awareness and discover any gaps between the brand promise and customer expectations.
  • To illustrate a relationship between a product and its users, and find touch-points where value can be added.

How to apply

Any design process starts with research. Research is usually composed of two parts. During the first part information is collected internally from stakeholders, employees and so forth — it’s mainly a subjective perspective. During the second part data is collected externally from customers and independent agencies — it’s less likely to be biased.

Then if we look at the collected data and sort the discovered characteristics into the four quadrants of the Johari Window, we’ll get a clear picture of the relationship between the objects of our research.

Fredrik Wikholm, Creative Director and Founding partner of Uniforms for the Dedicated, shares his thoughts about the brand using the Johari Window model

The resulting grid content can be interpreted in this way:

  • The Arena will consist of characteristics, behaviors, emotions, and so on that express the current public identity of the brand, in both positive and negative ways. We’ll be able to reflect on it and think about what we can do to remove the negative traits and shape a desirable perception of the brand.
  • The content of the Blind area will help us to hear customers’ feelings and needs that haven’t been heard yet. It might be something minor or something eye-opening, a criticism or an appreciation. Or it might be an alternative way of using the product or service. We’ll use that information to tweak the brand identity or add value.
  • In the Hidden area we will find aspects of the brand that customers cannot see, both positive and negative. Here we’ll be able to find something that might be disclosed or emphasizedsomething that is aligned with a desirable brand identity and valuable for customers, but hasn’t been communicated enough.
  • The Unknown area might include something that the company or organization could possibly do in the future. That could be the launch of a completely new product line, the start of a charitable program, or the beginning of a new social or environmental activity — something that hasn’t been done before but would align with the brand identity.

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The Johari Window is a simple and useful tool that guides the research phase of the design process. I invite everyone to use this tool and encourage you to explore its potential. I would greatly appreciate you sharing any additional thoughts and related ideas — just leave a comment here or drop me a line: valentin@loschinin.com

Digital Experience Design

Thoughts, ideas and visions of Experience Design fanatics from @Hyperisland and industry friends

Valentin Loschinin

Written by

An interaction designer who is passionate about exploring people’s behavior, adding value and enriching lives. Portfolio: http://valentinloschinin.com

Digital Experience Design

Thoughts, ideas and visions of Experience Design fanatics from @Hyperisland and industry friends