Design Research Methods Notes

Design Research Methods class notes. 2007

Parsons School of Design | School of Design Strategies

    About making things simpler

                  Ethnography –

∙••••• Part of sociology

∙••••• Trying to understand people through the eyes of those people. Based on spending time w/ them you begin to find patterns that you can extrapolate.

∙••••• Have a concept first → go test it in the world.

∙••••• All about telling stories (not just data & numbers)

∙••••• Con: Not very quick turn over of results

∙••••• Pro: Very complex and rich

∙••••• Are not valid in the social science world

∙••••• But they are real.

∙••••• because they come from a persons life.

                  Data – something that is out there in the world like noise.  Something you can observe.

                  Information – information is when data gets meaning and has value.  When it says something you care about.  Analyzed data, or patterns in data.

                  Primitive terms –

                  Derived terms – an expansion on primitive terms. Built on derived terms.

∙••••• ex: letters are primitive terms.   When you put them together in a word, the word is the derived term…derived from letters,

                  Concepts – are when things have meaning.

                  Pattern – something that is recognizable that you can pull out of the data and turn it into information.

                  Random – information that has no discernable pattern.  Noise.

                  Archetype -  a series of patterns that we recognize.

                  Objects –

                  Attributes – characteristics that make objects similar or different.

                  Reliability – predictability.  If you can repeat or predict something – it’s reliable.

∙••••• Need to repeat tests.

∙••••• If it can’t be repeated w/ same results it’s not reliable, you jumped to conclusions

o      If you flip a coin, it will land on heads, or tails…or it’s edge.

                  Validity – truth.  It has to represent the real world.

∙••••• You can’t have validity w/ out reliability.

∙••••• It is what you want to be the truth.

∙••••• But ultimately you can never prove things.

∙••••• no hypothesis – only disprove things…never prove things

∙••••• if it’s not reliable it’s not valid.

                  Variable –

                  Intervening variables –

Heuristic – short cut… we know makes sense.

                  Operational definition –


                  Domain - made of dimensions

                  Dimensions - the way of measuring things, but not the measurement itself.

∙••••• Dimension – length

∙••••• Increment – inch

∙••••• Some dimensions are parallel, some dimension are orthogonal.

∙••••• Some dimensions:

o      Time

o      Place

Continual – can infinitely be divided into subdivisions

Dichotomous –


                  “Carter proposed an object is ‘anything that exists psychologically for a person.’”



                  Reading – Airport::

∙••••• Negotiations

∙••••• Tactics used – to convey information to reader:

o      Easy to read titles

o      Citations

o      Visuals

o      Common language used.

o      Important to capture the language.

o      Give travelers’ tales – interesting to read

o      A lot of editing - Condensed information from one year into 8 pages.

▪▪▪▪▪▪▪ Where is the line between data & information

▪▪▪▪▪▪▪ How to apply to audience?


                  HW:  read:: agency of mapping- james corner

∙••••• General concept of mapping

∙••••• 4 different types of mapping in detail


                  take 1 hour: same time as last one.

                  Another mapping.

                  Hold at least three of the dimensions constant (one being time)

                  Add new dimensions.

                  Collect the data

                  Present it to yourself.

                  Lay new data on top of previous data

                  Create analysis on how they differ/compare the two.


                  Taxonomy – classification


                  Donald Normal  - The Design of Everyday Things

How a person interacts with the objects around them on an individual basis

                  He is very much about efficiency.  Not about experience.

∙••••• ex: a video game is not meant to be efficient (finish it as quickly as you can), rather it’s about fun and the experience of the game.


                  Seven Stages of Action

∙••••• Forming the goal

∙••••• Forming the intention

∙••••• Specifying an action

∙••••• Executing the action

∙••••• Perceiving the state of the world

∙••••• Interpreting the state of the world

∙••••• Evaluating the outcome

                  Affordance –

                  Recall memory –

                  Recognition memory –


                  Additional Notes:

                  Watching TV is a learned thing.

                  We translate the use of visual images into 3d concepts. (Dogs do not understand that, but they understand the audio).


                  Design + Management

                  making things that are intuitively explicit

-emphasis on doing, not planning.




∙••••• Paul garege

∙••••• HCI

                  Do: critique what you did after reading fedderman reading.

∙••••• Video ethnography of Hinds vs. Maiz.

∙••••• Top 10 things you’d do differently.


                  10 Things to do differently:



ethnography – the art and science of describing a group or culture.

∙••••• And their interaction in those groups


Applied and exploratory – for a specific reason or out of curiosity.


Embodied Interaction:  Exploring the Foundations of a new Approach to HCI

ethnomethodolgoy –



path dependence –


Select Level Creation

Select Line Creation



zone:: when you were learning to write you used to look at the top line, the bottom line and the mid line and think “is my b to tall?.” But now you don’t think about it, when you write you flow.



not just what we’re observing, but the process of us observing it.

Sigma Six Blackbelt






∙••••• findings.

∙••••• Bring to class week by week for critique


∙••••• Speed dating

Apple store


                  Endless mill –


                  Ant behavior – example of emergent behavior/ground up design.


                  Social facilitation – the tendency for people to be aroused into better performance on simple tasks (or tasks at which they are expert or that have become autonomous) when under the eye of others, rather than while they are alone (audience effect), or when competing against another (coactor effect).


                  Agency – about getting something done

                  Instrumentality –  the dynamic behind agency, the force behind it.  Having the power to do something. 



                  Types of Maps:

                  Drift – taking an existing mapping and putting your version out there.

∙••••• Biased, always about you.

                  Layer – a map that has more than one layer of information

                  Game-Board – two things“meet on a shared working surface” and “ ‘play out’ various scenarios’”

                  Rhizomatic Map – 

∙••••• Allowing whatever order exists to emerge from below.

∙••••• Not forcing the data into place.


                  Tracing & mapping

∙••••• Tracing – is what’s there

∙••••• Mapping – when you start abstracting it and making sense of it.


                  London Underground map is not a tracing.

∙••••• It does not accurately display the distance btwn one stop to another

∙••••• But all the rider needs to know is the order of stops, not the actual distance.


                  Additional Vocab

                  Levels of analysis – looking at diff levels/scales of information

∙••••• What resolution are you focusing on

∙••••• ex:  cellular level, personal level, diatic level (two people), group level, societal level, national level.

                  Unit of analysis – what your studying, what you’re measuring

∙••••• ex: if checking votes, the unit of analysis would be the way people vote.

                  Increment – how you’re measuring, with ways of dividing dimensions

∙••••• ex: increments: McCain or Obama

∙••••• ex: dimension – happiness


                  Full Example

∙••••• height :: dimension

∙••••• inches:: increment

∙••••• unit:: Sam

∙••••• level of analysis:: individual


                  Agency of Mapping info:



                  forum – structure of things in our world

                  forces – dynamics that shapes our world and the forces in them.

                  patterns –

                  induction – if you want to elicit a particular result by constructing the situation.

∙••••• acting as a stimulus

∙••••• involved in the action

                  deduction – picking out parts of a pattern and associating it w/ past know information

∙••••• back from the action only viewing.




∙••••• The Michell Theorem -



∙••••• similar to layering map

∙••••• comparing

∙••••• what methods can you use to map abstract concepts/forces?

Notes taken on a mobile device. Pardon any auto-corrections or incorrection.