DRC08 Workshop: Tapping into super-noticing power


Last weekend was my workshop (“Did you see that? Tapping into your super-noticing power”) at the Institute of Design’s Design Research Conference. Most of the folks in the workshop completed a homework assignment where they went out and took photos of something they noticed (similar to the assignment I had given to the students I taught at CCA, discussed here). During the workshop itself, people presented their photos and stories, while I asked both speakers and listeners to think about the noticing process more than the details of the specific examples (all of which were interesting and enjoyable).

We did just a first pass at synthesizing the observations, and some of the things that came out may or may not be obvious to others. Here’s a sampling:

  • To notice, we filter on our previous experiences, our personal backgrounds, and our professional experiences
  • We react to something that evokes an emotion in us
  • Rather than noticing details, we may simply grasp the gestalt of the details in the moment
  • Taking the picture helps you notice, even if you go back to the picture later and notice things in that picture
  • The importance of slowing down, relaxation, being calm/still, having a time of contemplation (in contrast to “trying” to do a noticing activity…several people reported that they couldn’t do the exercise when they tried to do it, but then later on they noticed all sorts of stuff
  • In contrast, for some, there is no on/off button for their design research way of thinking/being
  • There’s a need to give ourselves permission to look silly by stopping to pay attention to something seemingly trivial
  • Notice similarities when you expect differences
  • Notice differences when you expect similarities
  • Most importantly to me, was that it’s okay not to know the “why” of something; this was tough during the workshop when some people had a strong urge to try and explain what others had noticed; to rationalize, clarify, or even solve it

I look forward to the next opportunity to lead this workshop again.

See also: Ever notice? by Steve Portigal and Dan Soltzberg at AIGA Gain


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