Blog: Reiterations and Process of Refinement for Home-Making Model
Objective: Understanding User Research through Model Making for CHI 2012 Design Competition “fridgeTop” – Interactive Fridge Surface
I had a list of things that I wanted to do when I enrolled for graduate school at the University of Michigan. Most of these things, I’ve accomplished – including doing a summer internship, attending the Alternative Spring Break Program, and learning new prototyping tools, like Adobe Fireworks and Axure RP Pro. However, there was still one more thing that I hadn’t done; attending a CHI competition. During October 2011, realizing that this would be my last opportunity to enter the CHI design competition as a student, I formed a group with like-minded friends and entered the competition.
One of the things that I had always enjoyed doing was making models from user research. Most importantly, I had always found delivering user research in a concise and efficient manner to be relatively challenging. Models can help convey important user research findings, but moreover, this process can help designers to focus on the higher-level themes and insight. With the help of visual design, you can convey user research much more efficiently. I was first exposed to model-making from a graduate course at the School of Information called SI501: Contextual Inquiry and Project Management. My role in that project was project drafter. I was in charged of taking the transcribed results and data and making them into effective, graphic presentation to stakeholders.
For the CHI 2012 Competition, we interviewed international students to examine their home recreation process. We interviewed 16 international students, and recorded 289 affinity notes. From these notes, we identified major themes (For detailed project description, please click here.
However, though the affinity diagram generated major trends and groupings of themes, we need to take one step further and look at the higher-level indications as to how our user research can help us make design decision. My team mates and I started by doing a group analysis as what we thought to be the general trends. From the initial discussion section, we found that there seems to be a distinction between physical environment (place-making) and how people have initial conceptions of home from how they grew up. My team member, Ityam and I each drew our own versions of the home-making model and came together to discuss how our models differed and we further identified common themes.
We observed several important findings. The most prominent categories in regards to how students approached remembering their homes were: food-related rituals, communication with family, and memorable objects.
We also found out that there was three main phases that was involved in building a home-like experiences. One of the components is the different factors that shape perceptions of home. These include perception of the physical home, public and private spaces, models of infrastructure, weather and religion. We further attributed these as a form of place-making from the initial conceptions of home. Another component was relationship making from friends and family, where people form emotions of support, trust and care.
Based on our model, I drafted an Initial Conception of Home using Adobe Illustrator. I used circular elements to display the complexity of how people form conceptions of home (Figure 1).
However, it became clear that this was almost impossible to read and legibility was an issue. I made changes and rearrange the information based upon a hierarchical manner to give order to the model (Figure 2).
The first phase highlights the different factors that shape perceptions of home. For the second phase, from our discussion and interpretation, we found that when international students leave home, they try to re-create home-like experiences. They accomplish this through reattempting to create physical spaces, discovering new familiar third-spaces, and creating new independent routines. I went through several reiterations to find out the most symmetrical manner in presenting this information (Figure 3).
Lastly, the third phase shows the redefinition phase where people extend their definition of home, where people broaden their definition and conceptions of home. We found that people have better self-esteem when they have established control, achievement and definitions of their new place. Moreover, people will integrate new places and new relationships into their extended homes. We also discovered that the process of home re-creation is challenging and sometimes fails. When faced with stress, people try to increase communication with their family.
After modelling the three critical pieces of home-making phases, I went ahead and placed meaningful quotes from our user interview that helped support these concepts (Figure 4). In this process, I learned graphical elements such as typography and the use of color theories to help organize information. I also used graphical visual icons to help people interpret consume information without the use of words (icons such as airplanes, people figures, etc). Moreover, I learned how the process of reiteration can be used to help organize design concepts and information.
For detailed project description: CHI 2012 Design Competition “fridgeTop” – Interactive Fridge Surface