Hyper Island 2016 – Week 2

Hyper Island

Hyper Island does bring out the best in students. Despite a 5am start to be in Manchester each Monday there’s always insightful and interesting conversation with a group of professionals keen to not just learn, but understand.

The focus for week two is preparing for the user interviews. We took the teams though the process of planning a session, joined by Senior Design Researcher Kate Wakley, our recommendation was to treat this interaction like any other experience to be designed. We shared the tips and tricks that we’ve developed over time.

So, what jumped out?

Design Research Ethics

Kate shared IDEO’s latest publication The Little Book of Design Research Ethics. It’s the culmination of work done by design researchers around IDEO and collects up our advice on how to handle the complex situations that can arise during design research interviews.

The three core principles are:

Responsibility – act to protect people’s current and future interests.
Respect – honour participant’s limits and value their comfort
Honesty – be truthful and timely with communication

We strive to keep these things front of mind overtime we go out into the field.

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This new work on Ethics is still being defined, in fact there isn’t even a site or pdf that I can point to towards. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Advice not rules

The most important thing to about any ethical advice is that it is only ever a starting point to form your own best practice. The ethics that surround design should be front of mind as much as possible as it’s very easy to skip over things when you’re moving fast.

It’s also very important to shape your ethical position as a team or group. As you’ll be working together consensus is vital. You’ll find this consensus through discussion, never assume that you opinions are shared by others. Even if they are, it’s better to know for sure that than risking conflict, or worse, silent resentment in the team.

Human: Professional

A Design Research interview isn’t like a conversation. Nor is it really like a interview in the traditional sense (such as a job interview); it’s a structured conversation that needs to be treated professionally – just as every other activity you’ll do as a designer.

During a Design Research interview you should assume a professional persona both to make the participant clear on the roles you each have but also to make sure you get the most out of the session.

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But before you launch into a professional demeanour, arrive as a human. You can transition into a more formal tone once you introduce the topic of conversation and start asking more detailed questions. Usually participants are new to the experience of this kind of interview so make sure you spend enough time at the beginning to make them feel comfortable, answering any questions they have.

When the interview is complete you should also make time to transition back from professional to human. Coming out of your professional mode can also be an opportunity for the person you’re interviewing to relax and reflect on the conversation.

Pass the Question

We also shared a little cheat sheet with some techniques that might help you out of a tricky spot in your next interview. So if you find an interview going slowly, or a participant not being entirely co-operative give the following technique a whirl:

It’s called: “Pass The Question”. During the interview, while you will be asking the majority of questions, you may have a participant ask you something back to you. Rather than answering try to pass the question back to them. Here’s and example:

You: How would you like to access this new service?
Participant: Will it be on a website?
You: Would you use it if it was on a website?

There’s an art to doing it without looking contrived, but most people don’t notice it and it’ll feel more obvious to you than them.


I also mentioned a few resources that the group might find useful while preparing their research

Design Kit

A very comprehensive collection of Design Research methods, activities and techniques.

A bit clunky, but links to useful templates along with activities to try in an interview.

An IDEO collection of content to make you a better Human Centred Designer.

A list of toolkits for design research. Almost too much to take in. Thanks @dalmakad for sharing.