Posts tagged “class”

Young students do “fieldwork” to learn about others

In For Lessons About Class, a Field Trip Takes Students Home very young children are exposed to the homes and possessions of others. The thrust seems to be about class, but to me it seems like establishing an early model for empathy as well. The notion that other people are different from you seems foundational and it’s exciting to see this being addressed experientially. Check out the slideshow for the worksheets and debrief sessions!

Some of us have more toys and bigger homes than others. We all have a lot in common, but there are certain things that make us unique, too. Let’s talk about those things and celebrate them, even. This is not standard prekindergarten curricular fare, but it’s part of what the 4- and 5-year-olds at the Manhattan Country School learn by visiting one another’s homes during the school day. These are no mere play dates though; it’s more like Ethnography 101. Do classmates take the bus to school or walk? What neighborhood do they live in? What do they have in their homes? Over the last several weeks, I tagged along to find out. The progressive private school considers the visits to be one of the most radical things it does. “We knew we needed to talk about social class,” said Lois Gelernt, the teacher who came up with the idea. “It was opening up a can of worms, but if we were never going to talk about who we are and where we come from, the sense of community wasn’t going to be there.”

Registration open: Design Research Methods on March 1

Registration is now open for the full-day Design Research Methods class that I’ll be teaching. It’s a full-day event on Saturday March 1, 2008 in at Involution Studios in Sunnyvale, CA. Not local to the Bay Area? Well, why not hop on a plane for the weekend?

This course will provide first-hand knowledge and training in core design research methods. At its root, design research emphasizes learning about people and using the insights gained to inform and inspire design. We will focus on exemplary models of what research is, what it looks like, its role in concept generation, and what it produces.

From the official announcement:
The Involution Master Academy recently released its Winter 2008 semester for open registration. A post-secondary education program designed for mid-career professionals, Involution Master Academy focuses on direct, one-to-one interaction and training between the instructor and students. To ensure maximum interaction and an intimate educational setting, each course only accepts nine participants.

The Winter 2008 course schedule features five courses taught by well-known user experience thought leaders:

Product Architecture Symposium
Instructor Andrei Herasimchuk
Saturday February 23, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Design Research Methods

Instructor Steve Portigal
Saturday March 1, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Applied Empathy: An Experience Design Framework
Instructor Dirk Knemeyer
Saturday March 8, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Web Form Design Best Practices
Instructor Luke Wroblewski
Saturday March 15, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Site Search Analytics for a Better User Experience
Instructor Lou Rosenfeld
Tuesday March 18, 2008
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Past courses have sold out. Given the small class sizes, you are
encouraged to register well in advance.

Peeling The Onion

From our Design Research Methods class, some observations from an interviewing exercise.

The scenario was to conduct interviews in order to uncover opportunities in helping people to manage food, meals, nutrition, etc.

The question asked was
What are the challenges you face in meal preparation?

Of course, that question is flawed because it presumes that there are indeed challenges. This was evident when the respondent struggled with how to answer outside the frame of the question.

An alternative might be
Are there any challenges in meal preparation?
which is is more open-ended.

But better still is
What are your feelings about the experience of meal-preparation?
since it doesn’t put the label challenges into play. It would be important to understand the labels the person being interviewed places on the different aspects of their experience, and to use their terminology to probe further.

Also worth noting is that the original question came right off the sample interview guide I distributed. Sometimes the interview guide is a tool to document “questions you want answers to” rather than “questions you want to ask”; doing fieldwork involves a lot of translation back and forth between the two.

Learn Design Research Methods from Steve Portigal

On Tuesday nights from October 9 to November 13 I’ll be teaching a weekly two hour class, aimed at providing first-hand knowledge and training in core design research methods.

This course is part of the Involution Master Academy (an educational program for experienced professionals in design and related fields) in Sunnyvale, CA. Class size is being kept quite small to make sure that participants get significant hands-on time with instructors. Registration opens today, so sign up soon!

Full Description
This course will provide first-hand knowledge and training in core design research methods. At its root, design research emphasizes learning about people and using the insights gained to inform and inspire design. We will focus on exemplary models of what research is, what it looks like, its role in concept generation, and what it produces.

Students will develop their own design research philosophy, learn how to think about people, behavior, and culture, as well as the importance of being open to new perspectives. They will also learn tactical skills they can immediately put into practice: how to conduct observations and interviews, find research participants, and interpret and synthesize results as fodder for design and storytelling.

The schedule includes:

Week 1 – Introduction to Research
Week 2 – Methods and Research Planning
Week 3 – Problem Refinement, Interviewing & Fieldwork Planning
Week 4 – Analysis & Synthesis
Week 5 – Ideation
Week 6 – Presentation

Additional Involution Master Academy Courses:

Product Architecture Symposium
Instructor Andrei Herasimchuk
Saturday October 27, 2007
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Strategic Influence by Design
Instructors Luke Wroblewski and Tom Chi
Saturday November 17, 2007
10:00 AM-6:00 PM

Class, a number, a lizard

We recently saw an amazing production of the play A number

The dramatic premise is as deceptively simple as it is uncompromisingly topical. In five short scenes — ‘Number’ packs an astonishing amount of thought and entertainment into less than an hour — a father, Salter (Bill Smitrovich), meets with three embodiments of his son. Two, both named Bernard, are the son he fathered and the clone he raised. The other, Michael, is a stranger to him, in more ways than he can comprehend. That each is instantly recognizable as a distinct individual, despite an exact physical resemblance, is a testament to the skills of Josh Charles, who plays all three roles.

There was a Q&A afterwards where we heard about a British production (the play was originally produced in London, I believe) in which the actor playing the three different sons had more degrees of freedom in how he presented the three characters – since class can be denoted through accent in a more significant way for the Brits. It was another interesting example of small and large shifts in meaning seen from a shift in context.

Now, I noticed recently that they changed the voice actor who does the voice for the Geico gecko. He’s gone from a somewhat refined sounding English accent to a rougher Cockney (or what sounds like Cockney to me) tone. That would have significant meaning in the UK. What does it mean to us in North America? First off, it’s odd that it changed so drastically after several years of advertisements, but what are we supposed to take away from the revoicing? I honestly don’t know. Here’s what Geico’s website says

Even when the gecko becomes annoyed with people calling him at home on the phone by mistake when theyÔø?re trying to reach GEICO, he always maintains his decorum in a very proper English tone.

I think they need to update that part of their site! And there’s speculation about who the new voice actor is (described as “less posh”) here and here while others rant about the change in the character’s voice (originally Kelsey Grammer in the first ad) and purpose right out of the gate.

Blog/flickr project for class

For my class in Design Research Methods at CCA, I’ve asked the students to start either blogging or adding pictures to flickr. They are ideally doing this regularly, at least weekly, but I think it’s taking some time to ramp up.

I’ve asked them to think like design researchers and use this as a way to practice noticing stuff, and telling stories. They can blog whatever they want, but at least one piece per week should be something interesting they noticed – something funny or odd or curious or unusual – in their daily lives. An experience, a design, a need, a person doing something odd. Just to learn to pay attention to that alerting part of our judging selves. Ideally, this will help build the muscles they’ll need for making sense out of the fieldwork they start doing.

Anyway, I’m going to link to ’em all here and maybe some of the folks who read this blog will check out what the class has done. Maybe offer some comments or encouragement. Once they got their feet wet, the hope is that having an audience will actually provide some inspiration, motivation, momentum. NEW

Laugh of the day

Here’s my laugh of the day, from Maslow and Branding

Remember back in your Psych 101 class when you learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Bet you never expected to see it again in the business world

WHAT? Maslow is an overwhelmingly cliched and over-used structure in the business world. I wish I had a nickel for every variation and reapplication of Maslow that I’ve seen. I don’t take issue with Jennifer’s points specific to branding (frankly it was hard to really get to them, with that intro), but to claim some sort of clever uniqueness for bringing this into branding (or anything) is really silly.

Cliche aside, I did present a basic version of the hierarchy to my Design Research students this week, showing them that they can (and should) design for all sorts of needs, and as they do research, they’ll see interesting ways that the needs are related. One group is looking at nutrition, and obviously food is an amazing category for physical, emotional, and other types of needs all occurring at once. I’ll note that I went through a whole thing about how it is indeed cliched and once I had shown it to them they were guaranteed to see it a dozen other times in short order, and that it was absolutely over-used in business.

Funny, then, to see it presented this way so soon after.


About Steve