Category Archives: empathy

Design Research Fieldwork and Saying Yes

These last 2.5 years as a design researcher at IDEO have involved a lot of saying “yes.” When you’re doing fieldwork you’re entering someone’s life and quickly understanding what they need in order to feel comfortable — so that you can learn what you need in order to inspire a design process. It’s tricky, and also beautifully human.

Here are some ways I’ve said yes:

Yes, I will taste your mysterious spice blend! I will climb to the top of your water tower on the totally rickety ladder! I will attach this thing to my shoe so I don’t create static electricity and blow up the factory! I will ride in the back of your police car! I will eat your favorite granola bar! Yes, I will peer deep inside this vat of paint solvent and almost pass out!

And in return, our research participants say yes.

Yes, strange people, come into my home! Ask me intrusive questions about my favorite vegetables and how I install software! Take photos of my refrigerator/car/insulin pump! Yes, come to my acoustic gig! Yes, I will show you the secrets to sword swallowing and beer brewing! I will tell you when I’m on vacation and how much my electronics cost!

The trust on both sides is extreme and appreciated.

Rebuilding luggage for the real experience of air travel

The unpleasant set of experiences that commonly comprise air travel these days include: being charged an additional fee to check a bag; sitting on the floor near wherever you can find a power outlet; and having to separate out liquids into a separate bag. These are commonplace annoyances that for various reasons weren’t part of air travel just a few years ago.

Yet, even though the experience of flying has changed in fundamental ways, luggage, an essential part of this experience, hasn’t evolved much.

That’s why I’m psyched about Z?úCA luggage, which I just found out about. “With a built-in seat (seriously) and removable packing pouches that stack like drawers, this patented new concept in travel is like nothing else.”

I like the luggage but what I like even more is the spirit of it—the thoughtful understanding of the realities of travel and the creative rebuilding of a commoditized product.

On bikes and needs

From Look at it Another Way by Indi Young

The people who designed the bike talk about what the bike can do, but the rider wants to find out what she can do. In the former vocabulary: “We give you 20 gears.” In the latter vocabulary: “I’ve decided to bike to work twice a week, but I fear the pain of getting up that steep hill on the way there.” If the bike company were smart, they’d be talking about making it easier to get up hills while commuting to work, or suggesting alternate routes or techniques so that you’ll arrive at the office without needing a shower and a nap.