The Next Big Thing in Design — IDEO Stories — Medium

The Next Big Thing in Design — IDEO Stories — Medium

You may have heard that IDEO has joined the kyu collective (a unit of Tokyo-based Hakuhodo DY Holdings). kyu was formed by a group of diverse companies including SYPartners, Sid Lee, Digital Kitchen, C2, and Red Peak Group. It’s an exciting moment for us, and we wanted to explain why.

Since IDEO started over 30 years ago, we’ve walked the gangway from industrial products to digital experiences (which we started working on in 1985, when co-founder Bill Moggridge coined the term “interaction design” — a considerable improvement over soft-face, which he had come up with the year before to describe the application of industrial design to software products) to our current interest in designing complex systems. The rate of change has been dizzying, and today’s advanced technologies — AI, genomics, robotics, data science, the Internet of Things — have so outpaced our industrial-era organizations and infrastructure, they end up hitting institutional cul-de-sacs. The technologies don’t come to a halt, of course, they simply move on, seeking out other places where they race ahead. If our institutions are to survive, they’ll have to create new roadways.

That’s a design problem — one that requires new rules of engagement with a broad set of collaborators. We’re excited to have found those collaborators in a few like-minded design firms. Now we’re joining forces to form a creative collective called kyu.

Why now? Is it because we’re caught in the much ballyhooed death spiral of the independent design firm? Not so much. But we have learned a few things about what it takes to tackle today’s toughest systems challenges. Namely, that bringing human-centered design to education, government, healthcare — the sectors that need it most — requires a few important culture shifts:

1. We need to bust out of siloed design practices.

2. We need to develop ever-broader capacities, taking an interdisciplinary, deeply collaborative approach.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History: Design Observer

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History: Design Observer

From the packaging of our belongings to the presentation of our surroundings, most of us recognize that design has, over the course of the past century, become a ubiquitous component in everyday life. Design is signage and graffiti and labels and lace, posters and propaganda and toothbrushes and teapots: objects and artefacts that captivate and delight us, frustrate or provoke us, but why?

This is where design historians come in.

Design history is, after all, social history: it’s an evolutionary (and somewhat cautionary) tale of use and abuse, of innovation and migration, of the inevitable tide of obsolescence that puzzles some of us to such a vexing degree that we simply have no other choice but to become design historians to start making sense of things.

And we begin, like all historians, by doing research.

We Don’t Need More Designers Who Can Code

via We Don’t Need More Designers Who Can Code

What we should be saying is that we need more designers who know about code.

The reason designers should know about code, is the same reason developers should know about design. Not to become designers, but to empathize with them. To be able to speak their language, and to understand design considerations and thought processes. To know just enough to be dangerous, as they say.

This is the sort of thing that breaks down silos, opens up conversations and leads to great work. But the key is that it also does not impede the ability of people to become true experts in their area of focus.

When someone says they want “designers who can code”, what I hear them saying is that they want a Swiss Army knife. The screwdriver, scissors, knife, toothpick and saw. The problem is that a Swiss Army knife doesn’t do anything particularly well. You aren’t going to see a carpenter driving screws with that little nub of a screwdriver, or a seamstress using those tiny scissors to cut fabric. The Swiss Army knife has tools that work on the most basic level, but they would never be considered replacements for the real thing. Worse still, because it tries to do so much, it’s not even that great at being a knife.

Professionals need specialized tools. Likewise, professional teams need specialized team members.

Complete Beginner’s Guide to Design Research – UX Booth | UX Booth

via Complete Beginner’s Guide to Design Research – UX Booth | UX Booth.

Research actually begins the moment we learn about a project, whether we acknowledge it or not. As user experience designers we aren’t content simply designing to specification. Instead, we ask questions. We take notes. We learn everything we can about our client and their audience—and that’s before we even begin! In this article, we explore the (purported) method to this (seeming) madness, appropriately known as design research.


Design research is an integral part of the oft–misunderstood user–centered design process. This process, employed by user experience designers, is both iterative and cyclical. Its outputs serve as its inputs. Initially, solutions are proposed based on embodied, observable phenomena related to the problem space. Next, a design solution is agreed upon and then prototyped. Eventually, it’s tested against its target audience. Finally, the process repeats itself.

Design research, as described in this article, assumes the reader follows a user–centered design process.

What is design research?

Design research describes any number of investigative techniques used to add context and insight to the design process. Although this article discusses research in the context of contemporary UX/Interaction Design for websites, Design Research has been practiced for decades (since the 1960s) in the architectural, industrial, and academic communities. For a deeper look into this industry, check out publications like Design Research Quarterly, or consider attending the Design Research Conference.

Design Research techniques can be incorporated before, during, or after the design solution is established. If done before or during the design phase, these techniques are collectively known as user research; if after, they’re known as user testing. User research attempts to answer questions like “whowill use this design?” and “how does this concept work in the context of our users’ workflow,” whereas user testing seeks to answer: “how effective is this design?”

The diagram below provides an overview of user–centered design techniques,highlighting research activities in red.

A constellation of design techniques.

Young, Indi. 2008. Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior. New York: Rosenfeld Media.


As previously mentioned, Design Research is conducted to add context to the design process.

It’s also used to combat the natural tendency to design for ourselves (or our stakeholders) rather than designing for our target audience. Don Norman, cognitive psychologist and author of The Design of Everyday Things, explains: “We tend to project our own rationalisations and beliefs onto the actions and beliefs of others.”
Without design research we tend towards a self–serving, uninformed design process.


The design team is ultimately responsible for analysis of user research. Analysis turns the data collected during research into actionable information. Prominent analysis techniques include (the creation of): personas, mental models, storyboards, nomenclature etc. Although the techniques described here will guide you in conducting research, the presentation and discussion of that data is more important.


Design Research is littered with unanswered questionsHow many usersshould we interview (before we can decisively conclude what’s wrong)? What kind of research should I conduct? Should I conduct qualitative or quantitative research? etc. No one technique or approach is correct. It all depends on the fidelity of the technique and the context in which it is applied.

How is user research done?

User Research has the potential to be a sizable undertaking, depending on whether or not the client is iterating on an existing website or commissioning a new one. Regardless, it’s the researcher’s job to explain to their clients what the project’s goals and budget imply for the forthcoming research initiative.

Fortunately, all signs point toward a more casual, habitual approach to user research. Many of today’s practitioners eschew expensive laboratory or field research for rapid behavioral observation.

The following tools and their “plain–English” descriptions are based heavily on the article Can You Say That in English? Explaining UX Research to Clients first run on A List Apart in November, 2009. Although this list is far from comprehensive, it’s enough to get your team started conducting user research.

On a final note, if you need more comprehensive user research, I highly recommend following Indi Young’s Mental Models.

How is user testing done?

As previously mentioned, user testing involves asking potential users of your product or service to complete a (set of) task(s) using a version—ideally a prototype—of your product or service in order to determine its utility and its usability.

Thanks to the Internet, the practice of user testing has seen a dramatic shift over the past few years; despite the fact that it’s less than 50 years old. Nate Bolt and Tony Tulathimutte describe the prevalence of user testing in large organizations in their book Remote Research:

In-person lab research procedures were developed, refined, and standardized, and then became entrenched in the corporate R&D product development cycle. Practically everything gets tested in a lab nowadays: commercial Web sites, professional and consumer software, even video games.

Fortunately, user testing is becoming increasingly prevalent in smaller organizations.


Regardless of where it’s conducted, user testing always follows a similartesting protocol:

  1. Identify potential users (ideally done during user research, see above)
  2. Recruit potential users
  3. Create test guidelines
  4. Schedule test sessions with potential users
  5. Administer the test
  6. Analyze the results

A super–simple method for doing just this is explained in Steve Krug’s new book Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.

The names of the various methods in which user testing is done depend largely on the relationship of the proctor to the participant:

  • Lab research

    A Usability lab circa 1987

    A modern usability lab circa 1987

    Lab research describes usability tests conducted in a highly–produced, simulated environment. Researchers typically observe the test behind a one–way mirror and employ screen–capturing software, video cameras, etc. to document the test.

  • Guerrilla research

    Guerrilla research is a modern, lightweight take on lab research. Instead of renting a lab, guerrilla research is typically done on the spot; users are simply asked to complete basic tasks with a website or service, and the entire operation is recorded for later use.

    More informationWatch Steve Krug administer a simple test.

  • Remote research

    On Bolt|Peters‘ website Remote Usability, they define remote research as “any kind of research where the user and research moderator aren’t interacting face–to–face.” Remote research is the answer to the increasing cost and hassle of earlier research endeavors juxtaposed with iterative, agile development. Ideally, users are both recruited online and tested online, so that the entire feedback loop is handled at both parties’ convenience.


Design research luminaries

The following people have contributed greatly to the field of experience design research. Follow the related links to see what they’re currently up to.


After pioneering and directing the User Experience department at Clear Ink in 1999, which included the construction of Natural Environment and Remote Observation laboratories, Nate co-founded Bolt | Peters. He now serves as el presidente, where he has overseen hundreds of user research studies for Sony, Oracle, HP, Greenpeace, Electronic Arts, and others. Beginning in 2003, he led the creation of the first moderated remote user research software, Ethnio.

Read Nate’s Blog


Mike Kuniavsky is a user experience design, process, and strategy consultant. He’s created successful and innovative user-centered digital technology for more than twenty years and for dozens of the world’s biggest companies. His typical work involves partnerships with senior level executives who want to create more successful products and a more compelling user experience.

Read Mike’s Blog


Steve is fascinated by the stuff of a culture—its products, companies, consumers, media, and advertising. All these artifacts and the relationships between them are the rules that define a culture—the stuff makes the culture, but it is the culture that makes the stuff.

Learn more about Steve


Dan is a founder and principal of Kicker Studio, a design consultancy for consumer electronics, appliances, devices, and interactive environments, specializing in touchscreens and interactive gestures. When he’s not researching the latest and greatest in interface design, he works as an interaction designer.

Learn more about Dan


Jared founded User Interface Engineering in 1988. He has more than 15 years of experience conducting usability evaluations on a variety of products, and is an expert in low-fidelity prototyping techniques. Jared is on the faculty of the Tufts University Gordon Institute and teaches seminars on product usability. He is a recognized authority on user interface design and human factors in computing.

Learn more about Jared


Indi is an applications and navigation guru who began her work in Web applications in 1995. Her clients range from technology start-ups to large financial institutions. Projects include global corporate intranets, consumer finance and investment tools, enterprise software lead generation sites, knowledge management tools, workflow applications, and business-to-business e-commerce.

Learn more about Indi








Tools of the trade

Much of design research is actually done in a question-and-answer sense; researchers ask questions, record responses, and analyze the results. As a consequence, the tools they use are mostly communicative or illustrative:

Sticky Notes

While you’re researching users, illustrating ideas, or performing a card sort, consider separating and physically playing with your ideas using sticky notes.


When you don’t want your notes to be sticky, but still want to allow people the flexibility to move them around and play with them, use these. They’re a cheap, worthwhile addition to any research meeting.


Like the other “analog” tools listed here, Moleskines are great for jotting down and exploring ideas with users and stakeholders alike. Invest in a few of these notebooks and then bring them along to any collaborative session.

Flip Video Camera

Although any video camera will do, the Flip is great because its small, lightweight, and convenient. Researchers conducting interviews or contextual observations will quickly put them through their paces. Consider buying a couple (and sometripods) for your team.


Need to get in touch with potential users? If you’ve already tried Twitter or bugged enough of your Facebook friends, consider sourcing users from your existing website usingEthnio. Ethnio works well because it gets users actually in the act of doing something with your website before you ask them questions about their experience.


Combined with an application such as Audio Hijack Pro, researchers can conduct audio (and video) chats with users and record their responses. Grab a copy.


Spontaneous, unobtrusive usability testing software for designers and developers. Nothing like bringing users to your laptop and asking them for feedback on the spot. Learn more about Silverback.

Related Resources

Introductory Letter to the Participant

This letter helps prepare research participants for the questions that you might ask of them.

Printing Template for 3M Printable Post-It Notes

Use this Microsoft Word template to print anything on 3×4 Post-It Notes. For example, copy quotes to the template and print them out for sorting on the wall. Or, during analysis of one transcript, assign one team member the job of typing up the verb+noun phrases you shout out, to print every 10 minutes or so.

EightShapes Unify

EightShapes Unify is a collection of templates, libraries, and other assets that enable user experience designers to create more consistent, effective deliverables faster. Useful for generating documentation after you’ve conducted your research.

Sample Usability Test Script

A six–page script that walks proctors through administering a hypothetical user test. This is a direct excerpt from Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy.

Usability Testing Checklist

Another excerpt from Steve Krug’s book, this guide explains what to do in the weeks, days, and hours leading up to guerilla usability tests.

The Work of a Design Researcher | Design on GOOD

The Work of a Design Researcher | Design on GOOD.

The Work of a Design Researcher


Design mind on GOOD is a series exploring the power of design by the editors of design mind magazine. This is the first installment in a miniseries within that blog, and it will run every Thursday for six week.

Ask any seven designers their view of design research, and you will likely get seven different responses. Why that happens is up for interpretation. Some say it’s because different jobs require different goals. Others contend that it’s because we filter observations through our own life experiences. I say it’s because the world is full of surprises.

Whether it’s discovering Barbie dolls in dishwashers while finding out how people collect them or going undercover as a Girl Scout leader to understand the teenage mindset, the job of a design researcher is to uncover and illuminate something about the user experience that was previously unknown.

The best designers approach research without preconceptions. They are ready to absorb and integrate the obvious as well as the hidden, the stated and the unspoken, the ideal as well as the real. Design researchers are always moved by what they see, and it’s that serendipitous moment of discovery and illumination that lifts designer and user alike. The final outcome, whether it’s a product, a service, or a system, is far more meaningful and resonant because of the work we do.

Over the next few weeks, we will present stories from designers at frog design that offer a peek into a day in the life of a design researcher. Each tale illuminates those wonderful moments when observation becomes insight and our way of noticing the world is forever changed. This week: Life as a Table.

Picture 1

Life As A Table, by Elizabeth Roche

We sat in her crowded living room in a building that reflected the paradox of London. Constructed from worn, gray poured concrete,the building was gloomy, with narrow balconies and exterior stairwells that were dark, chilly, stained, and dripping with water. The front door was just as shabby, but on the other side was a cozy apartment, and Jill (not her real name) was cheerful, intelligent, well-spoken, and eager to greet us. Part of our goal in this journey was to understand the characteristics of aesthetically valuable objects.

Right away, Jill showed us the heavy wooden dining table at the end of the room. The top was at least half a foot thick. She told us a story of how she and her father were taking a day trip near London and saw the table outside the kind of random furniture shop that only appears by chance. It was love at first site, she said, and paid the shopkeeper. Then came the saga of going back for the table in a larger vehicle and manipulating it up the gloomy stairwell in her apartment building and through the door of her apartment. Jill never mentioned it, but we could all see in her eyes that this experience added to the table’s beauty, like a friend who becomes better looking the more you get to know them.

Smiling, Jill pointed out that the table was so sturdy that nothing could damage it beyond use. If something fell and dented it, she told us, the blemish would only add to its beauty. This brings to mind the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi, tersely summarized as finding beauty in asymmetrical, flawed, or imperfect objects. Often these are objects from nature that have been affected by man.

The unifying note in this story is that the beauty we see in some of our things is enhanced — and sometimes entirely created — by the emotional attachment we have to objects. Interestingly, this attachment grows and takes on more value as the object acquires more of the dings, bumps, and scratches of a well-traveled life.

A version of this piece appeared in the May 2009 issue of design mind magazine.

Larry Constantine – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Larry Constantine – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Structured Design

Constantine, who learned programming at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began his professional career in computers with a summer job at Scientific Computing, at the time a subsidiary of Control Data Corporation, in Minneapolis. He went on to full-time work at MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science, where he wrote routines for analyzing spark chamber photographs, and then to C-E-I-R, Inc., where he worked on economics simulations, business applications, project management tools, and programming languages.

While still an undergraduate at MIT he began work on what was to become structured design, formed his first consulting company, and taught in a postgraduate program at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. The core of structured design, including structure charts and coupling and cohesion metrics, was substantially complete by 1968, when it was presented at the National Symposium on Modular Programming. He joined the faculty of IBM’s Systems Research Institute the same year, where he taught for four years and further refined his concepts.

As part of Structured Design, Constantine developed the concepts of cohesion (the degree to which the internal contents of a module are related) and coupling (the degree to which a module depends upon other modules).[7] These two concepts have been influential in the development of software engineering, and stand alone from Structured Design as significant contributions in their own right. They have proved foundational in areas ranging from software design to software metrics, and indeed have passed into the vernacular of the discipline.

Constantine also developed methodologies that combine human-computer-interaction design with software engineering. One methodology, usage-centered design, is the topic of his 1999 book with Lucy Lockwood, “Software For Use”. This is a third significant contribution to the field, being both well used in professional practice and the subject of academic study, and taught in a number of human-computer interface courses and universities around the world. His work on Human-Computer Interaction was influential for techniques like essential use cases and usage-centered design, which are widely used for building interactive software systems.


About | Eyeo Festival

It’s an exciting time to be interested in art, interaction, and information.

The way we experience all three is changing. The way all three interact and overlap is evolving. Access to data and tools continues to enter new realms. What data is—is changing; It’s a social media feed, it’s a physical sensor, it’s a house plant, a novel, it’s open access to oceans of digitized archives and more and more APIs.

What can we do with all this data? What can’t we do?

Artists, designers and coders build and bend technology and give us a glimpse into what’s possible, into what’s next. Ones and zeros float all around us just waiting to deliver the next new interaction.

About | Eyeo Festival.