Pre Interview Prep

In a recent seminar I was asked to interview my friend Lynsey on the spot about her trip to a football stadium. I had one of those panic moments where everything flies out of your head. You suddenly think you know nothing about anything…what’s a football again? I briefly overcame it but in all I lasted about two and a half minutes before my blank mind blanked over completely.

My tutor however explained to us all how I had basically just been asking the wrong kinds of questions. I had either been asking ‘closed questions’ or ones which were directed towards her answering me with what I wanted her to say. Apparently I did the second type a lot so would make a good journalist. I don’t want to be a journalist though…I want to be a designer. I want to learn to interview people as a way of listening to them and how they feel about things. I don’t want to manipulate their answers, I want their answers to manipulate my design thinking.

In this case I wanted Lynsey to tell me openly about the whole experience, so I should just have asked “Tell me about your trip to the football stadium”. I could have asked her to roughly draw out the stadium, doing so might then encourage her to give me details about the aesthetics for instance.

This “group sketching” technique is actually something that is covered in the Service Design Tools website which I mentioned in a recent post. It works as well! This is the sketch that a few of us did during the seminar about our trip the the Bingo:

I was amazed at how much we remembered and how doing it as a group helped trigger our minds about the experience. Our tutor got all this information from us from one single question. He did occasionally ask us to elaborate on things we mentioned and this further spurred us on to recount more. The trick is to wait until things are mentioned naturally so that it seems less forced and more like a conversation. That’s what’s important in a good research interview – the person telling you things, chatting to you, rather than answering you.

I now need to do this on my own for a new assignment; interview someone (a stranger who doesn’t know me) in this more productive, open style. My friend put me in touch with some of her friends who I will chat to/interview tomorrow. I will admit I am very scared incase I have another blankout! BUT hopefully this will not happen as I am much more prepared >

  • I have picked my own interview subject: Why do some students live on their own?
  • I have prepared a mind-map about things I want to find out:

Interview Mindmap

  • I have also thought about the wording of my questions and tried to prepare more open ones which involve descriptions rather than yes or no answers.
  • I have printed out consent forms for each participant to help make the research more ethical. This includes a choice for them about whether they remain anonymous or not.
  • I have got together some big bits of paper, coloured pens, pencils and post-it notes that will make the interview more interactive

Eeek, I think that’s everything. Wish me luck.


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