UCD Charette

A New Experience

I came into my first studio not knowing what to expect from this alien term — “charette.” Having no experience in any charette previously, I was not sure what to expect. The instructors were informative on the term and we began with the extremely fast paced activity.

We began with an introduction to the studio section overall, defining key topics that we will cover such as interaction design, and ideation/sketching. Following that was a brief introduction to the studio instructors. Then, defining terms vital to the following activity:

User centered design: A process of designing something — a tool, a website, an application’s user interface, an event — from the perspective of how it will be understood and used by a human user.
Charette: An intense period of design activity

After this, we began the charette. We got into groups of four to start the design process.

The first step was to define what we were designing — we had four images of different car interfaces to introduce us to the variety of systems available currently. We began the actual design process by taking three minutes to brainstorm different users of a smart car interface. From “parents” to “Indiana Jones” this step generated tons of different users we could design for. The next three minutes were used for brainstorming vehicles these generated users would most likely use. We then categorized these users into user groups.

Consolidating user groups

Then, each of our groups were assigned one user to design for. My group got a user who was a parent with a child younger than 3 years old. The next step in the process was to brainstorm user needs — what our assigned user might need a smart car interface for. For example, we said that our parent could use the interface to find the nearest restroom if the baby is fussing.

Taking one need, we illustrated a scenario in which this need would come about, and how they would use the interface to fix their problem. Our scenario was having a mom driving, but her child started to cry, so she used the interface to find the nearest gas station to park.

The next step was what I believe was the most important — the interaction flow. In this step, we specified a specific order in which a user will go through the screens of our interface. Then we actually illustrated the screens of the interface the user might see when doing the activities in the interaction flow.

This shows our interaction flow (top right) and the screens that we generated for our interface relating to the interaction flow (bottom half).

After this, we presented our idea in a quick 1 minute presentation to the class.

What did I think of it?

This experience has taught me how to think outside the box in a short amount of time. I think this fast paced design process really allows you to consider only the most important aspects of a design, but also design for a wide variety of situations. Although the time did not allow for more in depth analysis, this activity gave a good run down of the design process.

It really made me think about all aspects of a design. Originally, if I were designing something I would only look at aspects such as what one user would do and need, but not necessarily different users and their needs. This allowed me to be more considerate with my design and think about issues that would arise related to accessibility and other things like that.

Can I take these skills with me?

The skills that I learned include teamwork and collaboration, creative thinking, and user-focused designing. Teamwork and collaboration are skills that I’ve used in the past; however, in this pressured environment, learning how to work with my team to sort through ideas and come up with an outcome is difficult. I also learned what was the main goal of this activity — user centered design. This taught me how to look a a user, their activities, and tailor a product to fit their needs.

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