WEEK 3: I Really Like Design Research

Okay, just to back up a second, I want to make sure I’m doing this right. Not that I really believe there is a wrong way to reflect, but I do come from a world where journaling is a process of just getting that stuff out and that reflection comes in the form of editing or rereading at later date to see what worked and what didn’t. So the very act of writing as the reflection might be tripping me up, and I want to make sure I’m covering my bases.

This is from our syllabus…thoughts we should consider when writing personal reflections:

Meta-cognitive knowledge entails three kinds of knowledge:

  • declarative knowledge (know-what; e.g., can articulate knowledge within a domain)
  • procedural knowledge (know-how; e.g., can articulate processes within a domain)
  • conditional knowledge (know when; e.g., when to apply knowledge and procedures).

Meta-cognitive regulation involves three skills:

  • planning and strategy (what is your plan, what are the milestones, how are you implementing it?).
  • monitoring performance (how are you doing?)
  • evaluating the products and efficiency of a task (how effective was your design, how efficient was your process?).

Meta-cognitive experiences regard three aspects:

  • maintaining motivation (how motivated were you throughout the project? how did you keep yourself motivated through difficult moments).
  • monitoring both internal and external distractions (what internal distractions did you battle? What external distractions did you face?)
  • sustaining effort over time (how did you sustain effort over time? what strategies and tactics were most effective for you?).

Okay, so now that that’s out of the way, I want to talk about how much I like design research. At least this week, anyway. My affinities toward different parts of design do ebb and flow. Some days I only want to make, and others I only want to think and theorize, and still others I just want to think about what others or myself are doing right or wrong. But this week, I really like design research, probably because I’m getting chances to feel like I’m good at it.

The interesting thing about research methods is that there is this whole trove of them, but as useful as they all are, they only work as well as you can manage to modify them to your research questions. Being in school, I want to feel free to try these things out without such high stakes and at smaller scales, which is one reason why the “observe and research public bathrooms” activity that Lisa and Tracy ran us through was so important, I think. At first, I was hesitant, because I don’t like the idea of looking for problems. It’s something that I think is much too easy to do as a designer, to give into that impulse to find something to fix. But once I got over that, I began to see that we didn’t necessarily have to problematize the bathrooms. We could just find ways to gather information, define some kind of territory to look at and a research question and hypothesis, and then figure out what the next steps might be, what sorts of research methods we would devise to get at an answer.

Interviews and “observations”

From our research visiting bathrooms and speaking to bathroom…users, we concluded that not all bathrooms are created equal. So…why? And what design solutions could be created to bring some equality up in here? We hypothesized that it might have something to do with the populations of who was using these bathrooms. To find out if that’s correct, we imagined we might put up some sort of probe in the bathroom itself, whereby users put stickers up on a graph, assessing the comfort of the bathroom, the sticker itself identifying the user’s role at the university: faculty, staff, graduate student, undergraduate student, or other.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.