Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Design Empathy and Performance Testing with DFA'11

DD+D had the pleasure of returning to Northwestern University's Design for America this summer. Byron conducted three interactive theater-based workshops with the design teams and leadership.
Two Design Empathy workshops (one for DFA Leadership) and another titled Performance Testing. Our Design Empathy contribution has been added to the DFA Starter Kit Manual.

Here are brief overviews of the sessions and feedback from participants.

Design Empathy - diversity and inclusion training for designers

“Social design education helps develop character, empathy, cultural awareness and flexibility.”
Mariana Amatullo VP of Designmatters Social Design Art Center College of Design

One of the goals of DFA Team Captains is to create an environment that values empathy and inclusion and leverages them to promote effective team communication and community collaborations.

Here are 3 key areas of focus and sample exercises to use with your teams to get you started. Remember, it is a Journey.

DFA Team Captains can help team members to:

Connect their own interest and objectives with project issues and partner organizations, helping members to discover and develop their individual voices as socially responsible designers. (Self)

Create interdisciplinary and culturally diverse teams to bring new perspectives to a problem: creating an environment that allows members to work collaboratively with different disciplines, knowledge bases and points of view is critical. Strive to include team members that reflect the diversity of the community you will be working in. (Teams)

Explore the cultural, social, political, and economic factors and assumptions that will inform their working collaborations and provide members with awareness of and skills in cultural diversity and the value of inclusion. (Community)

Performance Testing
(adapted from Design Improv, Nathan Waterhouse)
Acting + Evaluating:

Improv can be a fun informative way to work out ideas, visualize concepts, and communicate solutions. It allows teams to empathize, by stepping into the shoes of users. It can reveal how people interact with services, products, and each other on a physical, emotional and intuitive level.

Here are 3 stages of the design process where performance/theater can be useful in the development of interactive systems:

  • Supporting the exploration of new ideas.
  • Helping to communicate concepts.
  • Supporting testing of ideas.
Here is an example of how to use theater/improvisation with your teams.

Performance Testing
Flow: Using an existing scenario test how users interact with products or services. Set the stage/location, decide where everything should be. Assign roles and relationships based on personas and research. If you are testing a scenario, take it in slices. As soon as it starts to break down, the audience must call bug! Iterate the scene, changing the variables as you do. Change relationships the Who, Where, and Why.

Suggestions: Use this with potential users to test the experience of a device or service. Assess and record findings. Performance Testing can be done on the road ,or in the studio. Film the process/performance to capture and evaluate.

Here is some of the feedback we received:

Design Empathy Workshop:
" The workshop illuminated a critical part of the DFA experience and process-the idea of empathy, inclusion, and connection. These concepts are crucial and complex and are often unarticulated. Today's session successfully got us thinking about connection and social dynamics in the way we work in our studio on campus and in communities."

"The exercises were great! I can't wait to do the activities I learned today with fellow DfA members this fall."

"The activities we did today will help our studio respectfully and effectively seek out resources in our community to make projects that solve real human issues

Performance Testing Workshop:
"The workshop helped us visualize the scenarios from the perspective of the potential users and stakeholders."

"Forcing us to step into the simulation of our project showed some of inefficiencies in our designs."

"The persona exercise helped us delve into the spoken and unspoken mindset of our users: their needs,motives and their environments. It was easier to pull back the layers of certain stakeholders. Could more easily get to the core of what they were saying...what they mean."