After being greeted by the welcoming committee, checking in, exchanging my Polaroid photo for my nametag and taking in the introductory conference experience I chugged my morning cup of coffee and headed into the theater for this year's IIT Design Research Conference at the Spertus Institute in Chicago.
This year, the two-day schedule of the conference consisted of 25-35 minute talks from designers and non-designers presenting on Understanding Data, Story Making, Human Behavior, and the Adjacent Possible. Within these topic categories, Interactive Sessions were introduced in place of a day of workshops. There were two interactive sessions in particular, one given by Elliott Hedman on Understanding Data, and the other presented by George and Sara Aye on Human Behavior, which were both informative, engaging and helpful in that the attendees could test their skills as design researchers while experiencing the benefits of a more traditional presentation.
Elliott Hedman is a PhD User Experience Research Candidate at MIT Media Lab, currently applying his research methods to projects at IDEO. Hedman develops technology to measure a person's emotional response to specific activity or scenarios with the intent to apply his findings, research and knowledge to designing a better experience for the user.
Hedman believes that if we build empathy, then we can build a better experience. His energy was contagious throughout his presentation. He started his talk by having attendees stand up and display how excited they were, by holding up their fingers to show on a scale of 1 to 10 their excitement. His presentation touched on measuring emotional responses in customer experience scenarios, audience response to Blue Man Group performances, and measuring anxiety levels of a child with autism during therapy. After giving an overview of his research, Hedman had attendees put their skills to the test by asking them to watch a video of a mother and her children playing a board game and discuss the possible cause for spikes in the mother's emotional response to interaction during the game play experience. Watch the video and put your observational research skills to the test... what do you think caused the spikes in the mother's emotional response?
George and Sara Aye, founders of Greater Good Studio here in Chicago, had a similar interactive session with attendee participation and discussion. At Greater Good Studio, George and Sarah use design methods to solve social problems and hold the following studio beliefs: "research changes design, design changes behavior, and behavior changes the world."
During their presentation George and Sara talked about a project they worked on to design a solution for a better eating experience in school cafeterias. Their presentation included photos and video footage from their observational research as well as footage from kids-eye view cameras to understand the experience from the kid's perspective. The findings from their research resulted in replacing cafeteria trays with bowls that would allow for a more traditional dinning experience with staged courses of the kid's meal.
After sharing the project overview George and Sara had another treat in store for the attendees. They shared a great video of a parent and their child wearing cameras on their head in a grocery store so they could learn how the two perspectives differ while grocery shopping. The attendees watched segments of the video, discussed with their neighbor and shouted out answers when George and Sara asked the attendees for feedback. To wrap up the participatory experience, George and Sara asked attendees to ideate ways the grocery shopping experience could be better for kids. Watch the short video and share your thoughts on how the grocery shopping experience could be better for kids:
George and Sara Aye and Elliott Hedman both shared interesting research and insights while creating an engaging and interactive experience for the Design Research Conference attendees. Hopefully you will find the videos engaging and be able to articulate and discuss with a friend or your team at work.
Ciara studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received a BFA with an emphasis in Designed Objects. She is a conceptual designer whose interests include user interaction and social behavior in online gaming, and how they can inform the physical world and the design of tangible objects. Her work focuses on identity, human interaction, and virtual environments, exploring the relationship that people develop with the real world and the virtual.