Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Design Thinking with Barry Katz at Stanford: Class 4 and 5

In the fourth and fifth How to Think Like a Designer classes, Barry invited an excellent guest speaker, Gabriel Trionfi, User Researcher at Facebook. Previously, Gabriel was a Human Factors Community Leader at IDEO. He has a psychology and theater background, which he taps into when conducting interviews and facilitating research. He's a warm, open, insightful guy - definitely someone I'd enjoy working with.

Gabriel talked about the state of most experiences, which by default, aren’t designed. When experiences are designed, not all iterations are accounted for (EX: most chairs are optimized for sitting, not slouching). Experience takes place within an individual - it's a psychological phenomenon. You cannot point to the experience you designed, but the thing that facilitates the experience. Designers can constrain experiences, increase the probability of an experience happening, but there's no guarantees. Ideally as a designer, you’re looking forward seeing how you can change what is, iterating to get people to the better experience, the optimal state.

Gabriel said the #1 thing a User Researcher does is to provide authentic, grounded, meaningful inspiration to designers. Inspiration is required for innovation. As a User Researcher, you need to have genuine insights about people and the opportunity to share those insights with designers to help them find a reason for the design to be. User Research is a set of practices that help you discover valuable insights.
User Research has many names and overlaps with multiple disciplines: ergonomics, need finding, human factors, usability, HCI participatory design. Believing in Human Centered Design doesn’t make you a User Researcher, or at least doesn’t make you a good one. (Note: Don Norman wrote a fascinating article about the Dangers of Human Centered Design). Design research is not objective. It is subjective because we intend to design something from the start. If you don’t pursue inspiration you aren’t doing it right. It's about change, fluidity, being reactive, following insights to an end vs marketing research, which is generally about how many dollars are associated with different types of users.