New technology for new design research

A 90 minute Workshop by:

Samantha Miller


Jonathan Flint


About this Workshop

Our workshop is of interest and value to those who want to further their knowledge of design research methods, in particular how to think about which technologies, methods and tools are best suited for particular research. Want to explore how someone uses their phone on the bus? Give a participant a clip-on camera and record video with a point-of-view perspective. Interested in how groups play Pokemon Go in the park? Use a 360° camera to capture your surroundings and an audio recorder to listen to conversations.

Our participants will leave our workshop with a deeper understanding of qualitative design research methods, with an emphasis on visual approaches. You'll understand the value of carrying out design research in context (ie in different environments, not just in a controlled user lab) as well as the power of visual methods to capture and communicate users' experiences and stories to others. You'll also get an overview of new and emerging imaging technologies that can be used in design research for different explorations, perspectives and outcomes. We'll have on hand some gadgets to play with (eg 360° camera, GoPro and camera drone) and have a look at technologies still in development (eg CurvACE extra-wide camera). Participants will also leave with the ability to bridge design research methods with imaging technologies for visual qualitative research. You'll gain practice in thoughtfully considering which tools and methods to use and when and where, getting closer to the experience of interest.

Often design research can happen in controlled lab-like environments. This doesn't grapple with the complexity of the environments in which technologies are actually used. Our workshop explicitly stresses the importance of researching out in the field, whether it's in a freelancer's work space at home or in an overcrowded train station at rush hour. As our environments shape our interactions and vice versa, it's crucial that we as design researchers go out and investigate beyond a user research lab. It's also crucial that we make considered choices as to how we go about researching a particular scenario, tailoring our approach to appropriately fit each context. We affect the world around us as design researchers, and our workshop will consider how our presence in the field, especially with new (sometimes attention-grabbing) technologies, may affect the very environment we aim to investigate.

Our workshop draws inspiration from card decks such as IDEO Method Cards and Oblique Strategies, in order to make a playful set of cards for ideas for future design research. Participants will leave with a card deck full of inspiration and ideas, excited and ready to explore the potential of new visual technologies as design research tools.

About the Speakers

Samantha Miller

Samantha is a design researcher at STBY in London, interested in visual design research methods and designing engaging research materials and prompts. Originally from New York, she moved to London after completing her BA in sociology at NYU to pursue her MA in interaction design: research at Goldsmiths, University of London. As a designer and researcher she hopes to carry out thought-provoking and playful design research. Her work has been presented at the Microsoft Research Design Expo in Seattle, WA and at enter14 at Watermans Art Centre, London.

Samantha's recent projects include material-led design research into graphene and exploring the use of photography in design research. Together with STBY co-founder Bas Raijmakers, she co-authored and published Viewfinders: Thoughts on Visual Design Research.

Jonathan Flint

Jon Flint is a designer and maker at London-based design practice Superflux. He completed his MA in interaction design at Goldsmiths, University of London. He enjoys tinkering with electronics and using speculative design methods in new design and research contexts. Jon has worked extensively on the Drone Aviary and BuggyAir projects, recently done projects on the public perception of Graphene, and has conceived and led various hands-on drone-making workshops. He has exhibited work with Superflux at 21-21 Design Sight in Tokyo, the Victoria and Albert Museum London, and the ZKM in Karlsruhe.