Growth


In my Master, I have chosen the two expertise areas of CA and US. On this page you will find four different reflection articles below, clustering the areas by subject.


(SDCL)

Guiding my own design process


This was the most important skill that I have learned during my entire span of six years ID education. I emphasise its importance, since it is not exclusively design-related and thus applicable in a variety of situations in my life.

Where at the beginning I expected that this education would teach me fixed design principles, in fact it offered my to guide everything on my own. The years of my Bachelor were characterised by fully taking this space, in a total of four individual projects. For the sake of control, I had a strong tendency to do everything on my own, from individual brainstorms, to concept evaluation and prototyping. By trial and error, it took much time to truly find a balance in these projects, as it is impossible to do everything on your own. I have known weeks of fidgeting with technology, completely messing up my planning. Sometimes, it left quite some gaps where expert validation and user validation was missing. Although I succeeded in getting an understanding of all the main design aspects during my Bachelor, there was a lot left to learn.

Hyper-focusing seems to be your Achilles heel.”

– Rhys Duindam, 2014

Following from this, the years of my Master were characterised by finding correct balance in my projects. The FMP showed that I was more capable of this than during my FBP, since all design aspects were spread out more evenly. I think I learned this for two reasons:


Approach & planning

Firstly, I set up an approach and planning at my approval, which gave me general guidelines (image below). Older projects were sometimes a little messy because they missed that. Those projects felt so open, that I’ve lost motivation many times. My first tightly planned project was the Interactive Lighting research project, Little Lux. By working with designated periods of time for specific parts of the process, I was forced to balance my project. That project, I made early decisions on the design (e.g. to wizard of oz the interaction), which resulted in enough time for analysis, evaluation and documentation. As the following FMP was a design project, it fitted such a tight planning less, still resulting in some rushes at the end. To prevent this, I should make a habit of using a Gantt chart. But, in general I can say that for the most part of the project was balanced. 

Expert involvement

Secondly, high involvement of my coach, clients, colleagues, users and experts made me evaluate my work more. They forced me to zoom in and to step back on the right moments. My coach Bart Hengeveld has left me the skill of converging and diverging at the right moments. It was mostly in such a large project as the FMP that I could get easily lost in a big pile of interests, scientific information and ambitions. For such projects with concrete user groups, I now know it is important to converge as much as possible to make design steps. As I am quite an abstract thinker, that was quite hard. But after this, I had enough time to diverge by exploring and evaluating the project in its widest sense too. My clients, users and experts left me the skill of testing all design aspects throughout the project. With this, I have learned to tackle assumptions in the middle of the project, instead of evaluating at the end that the design still needs a lot of improvement.

So now I’ve reflected on how I should guide a personal project. Yet in my near future, I will have to work on projects for an employer. Planning, time limits and results could be a lot stricter then. With my current activities as a freelance visual designer, I already have some experience with this. The MVP (minimum viable product) seemed a recurring term here. For an employer, it is not always relevant what I might dream of as a designer; he wants something that creates value. Finding the ultimate minimum then would be more interesting for him. For the FMP’s demo day I worked with an MVP too, which was useful for me to find the core of what I want to communicate (image below). I should really keep this in mind when I tend to be overambitious for future employers.

US

Making it striking


In my Bachelor, scientific information only had a small role. Where that left unconsidered assumptions, partially evaluated designs and scientifically ungrounded processes, I needed to improve this in my Master. Following, my main competency development was in US and working with scientific information. With this, I wanted to assure my designs are well-argued, relevant and thus striking.

Poirtershuis in Oisterwijk, where the user empathy for dementia was gained. Source: http://www.dagelijks-leven.nl/

Source: http://www.dagelijks-leven.nl/genieten/

Scientific grounds

So getting better scientific grounds was the first essential goal . To get there, I successfully followed the Constructive Design Research elective and the Interactive Lighting research project. Through working with the Lab approach in the elective, I learned how to work with a methodology, framework, methods and analysis. Where this was a group effort, the Interactive Lighting project offered me to show that I was capable of doing it fully myself too. From these activities I have mostly learned the following points: you have to be extremely precise and concrete; you first have to know exactly what you want get from a research; a significant amount of background literature should illustrate relevance and potential; a research should often only address a tiny effect in order to make accurate conclusions. Furthermore, it has trained me in my academic writing and reasoning. All of this was in clear contrast to an earlier research project, that was considered more as a “personal journey” (Mark de Graaf, 2015) without any sources.

good process, relevant research question, formulated in useful iterations”

– Harm van Essen, 2016

User & Society

The other goal was to develop myself more in User & Society. I think I gained the most knowledge here, since all Master projects and many electives contributed to it. In the oneGround project, I used the Storiply method. For the Composing Everyday Rituals elective, I designed a ritual in high detail, from a user experience perspective. In the Designerly Perspective on IoT elective, I had my first encounter with the Rich interaction, aiming at a positive user experience with an intuitive interaction. In the Interactive Materiality elective, a strong user perspective was chosen to design for materials, using the Frogger framework. The User Experience Theory and Practice elective gave me an empathic design attitude. Mostly in this activity, early involvement of the target group (elderly with dementia) made me see how valuable it is to get personal contact with this group. I learned to get away from my comfortable desk, step into their lives and look from their point of view. There are often so many things we can exclusively know from being right there and not from any desk research (in contrast to my M11 and M12 projects, where I had the quite relatable target group of musicians and office workers). The same happened in my FMP, where I had regular meetings with my focus group of autistic musicians. Here, I had the time for more thorough user research. By means of various experimental setups, expert meetings and design evaluations I have shown to be capable of using this information as input for my design process.

CA

Creating that beautiful depth


As both a product designer and graphic designer, I have built up quite some experience with making creative and aesthetic designs. In the beginning of my Master, I expected to take this to a further level. I imagined to create more well-crafted, shiny, museum-quality prototypes (the “body” layer). This turned out to go a different way. Instead, I learned how to create and evaluate aesthetics in product interactions (the “soul” layer).

Exploring materiality

Electives

The main sources of this development were the Designerly Perspective on IoT, Composing Everyday Rituals and the Interactive Materiality elective. In these activities, I have learned to create aesthetic interactions by exploring with various forms, functions, interaction styles and materials. Here, my urge to go through an iterative-heavy design process was satisfied. In the Rich interaction from the IoT elective, I have learned to think with my hands (sketching in 3D with physical cardboard modelling). Earlier in my eduction, I mainly thought of a product’s shape as a casing of electronics that looks nice. Now, I experienced to create a meaningful feedforward and feedback by finding a unity in form, function and interaction. In Composing Everyday Rituals, I learned to think in details. I was about zooming in on the details on micro level and zooming out on the details on macro level; these details actually make a difference. Think of hand movements, subtleties in materials, the order of steps and the body position. In Interactive Materialilty, I learned to speak in materials. I looked for qualities in materials, abstracted a notion, made numerous material explorations and finally fed this into a newly composed and applied material. The elective held a balance between abstract and more concrete thoughts. It offered me a first time to evaluate beauty in interaction by means of the Frogger framework too. All in all, many insights in aesthetics.

Project

But how did I do in my personal projects? Slightly different than the electives. I see myself mostly as a concept developer and (abstract) thinker, so correspondingly the focus was on that, not on creating numerous shape and material explorations. Still, some of the principles were applied and evaluated and can be found in my interaction analysis of Tuun (see report). Mind that the final prototype was not a flashy prototype, crafted in high quality; it was a full product family, conceptually worked out and partially tested with user. For me, the beauty was that.

Summing this up, no, I haven’t learned to create shiny prototypes. For making it shiny, I should find the help or others or follow crafting classes. But according to my vision, that is just the upper thin layer. I learned to design beauty on a deeper layer and how to evaluate that.

Frogger framework

Source: here

BE, TR, MDC

Not an expert, but still learning


Within my non-expertise competencies I have had a little less, yet equally important growth.

Filled in Lean canvas

Filled in Lean canvas

Business

Like described in the first section, I am working more often as a designer for an employer. In these situations it is obvious to set the employer’s wishes as the highest priority, not my own. While working for UniPartners, I had a similar situation when two options were presented to the client. One was more “industrial designy”, experience oriented, playful and innovative. The other was much more straightforward, not even a design. Yet, the second one was chosen because of its effectivity and feasibility. A disappointment at first, but understandable in the end. Something similar happened in my FMP, where I had the ambition to create an adaptive, wearable musical interface with multi-modal support. But the users simply didn’t feel comfortable with it. This resulted in an “embarrassingly” simple concept. A disappointment at first, but understandable in the end. Fortunately, I could still make the design modular, wearable and adaptable (see identity), which all did fit the users’ wishes. So, in future projects I should at all times prioritise and balance my own, my client’s and users’ wishes and ambitions.

Next to that, I filled in a Lean canvas for the first time to show the need for my design. It made me again think from a perspective other than my own design fantasies. It made me look for the core elements of my design that create value. I have seen it is very important to keep in mind when putting it on the market. In future project that I have to fully guide, I should clearly fill in such a canvas again.

Technology

Furthermore, my TR and MDC skills have had some gradual development too. For MDC, I followed the Embodying Intelligent Behavior in a Social Context elective. Here, I learned to think in terms of data, intelligence and behaviour. I have seen the intelligent behaviour of Whoozle could contribute to a user-product relationship. This has a lot of overlap with my vision and identity. If I ever create an intelligent system again, I will lack the deeper programming knowledge (something I should outsource) but I will be able to take a designer’s role there. For TR, I have mostly learned about integration of technology. From the embodiment point of view, a product’s shape and its computing are not two separate things; they are more interwoven, influencing each other. In the electives I have learned to design these things together. I looked at qualities of materials and technologies, strategically choosing them to create an optimal result. Here, technology was not an end goal, but a carrier of meaning. To illustrate, I showed in my FMP that I could use the qualities of the infrared technology for my intentions. It didn’t require any advanced programming and knowledge of all electrical components. For me as a designer, it is a more important to explore and use technology in a meaningful way.