Tag Archives: Research

Research and Creative Practice Module: #1st Post!

I chose to do the ‘Research and Creative Practice’ module this year, for semester two. I have a small flicker of interest in research careers but very little experience so I am hoping this module will help me with that. I never considered myself doing – and enjoying – research until I came to DJCAD but thanks to my experiences with generative research (from my design studies module) and from lecturers and speakers, who have spoken about their own research, I am now really intrigued by it.


For the module we have to pick a topic we would like to look into and identify a book from the library to get us started. Over the course of the semester we will further our reading and investigate the subject more broadly. We will then give small presentations about our research in seminar groups. Together with this we will be introduced to research techniques and practices in both seminars and lectures. The final goal being a 2,000 – 2,500 word literary review about our findings – eeek!

So, the aim of our first seminar group was to think about what things we would like to research. We all noted our ideas down on post-it notes which we stuck on the wall under headings such as ‘Education’, ‘Politics’, ‘Environment’ etc. My main area was education as  I would really like to look into creative learning. I would particularly like to look into  helping people re-learn or remember things.

I have a few topics under this umbrella however so I need to work out (quickly!) what to focus on:

  • How layout design can enhance understanding/learning

I really love layout design and getting right into the nitty gritty of page folios and paragraph styles. I would take InDesign over Photoshop any day. I have a lot to learn about it however and realise that it’s not just about making a magazine look nice. During my advertising and branding module we seen a video about eye-tracking which, as a graphic designer, I found a bit disheartening. She hardly paid any attention to things I could have imagined the designer spending a great deal of time on. I would like to look into this more together with how people actually read and view things on a page and how this information influences layout design – particularly of educational and information based publications.

  • Helping trauma victims learn to communicate again

I watched a programme about a soldier who had suffered a severe head trauma and he basically had to learn how to eat, walk and talk again. I noticed that a lot of the things he was using to learn to communicate again were for children. I wondered if this was necessary or if tools and books could be designed for adults?

  • How police/councillors help children/adults to talk about and describe an experience accurately

I would like this to overlap into service design because a lot of the process involve getting people talking and describing things. But getting people to talk about an experience can be critical in some cases, especially if it were for a court case for example. I would like to investigate why people sometimes recount things differently to how they happened e.g filling in things unconsciously; then look into how design could perhaps help this.

  • Communication to children/adults with autism and how to design for them

I read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell over the Christmas break and was fascinated by his research into how a man with autism perceived a movie. The main issue was he could not mind-read which is a skill Gladwell talks about as he explores the main theme of the book: rapid cognition – the thinking we do (without always realising it) in a blink of an eye. I would like to learn more about autism and either think about what a designer would need to consider when designing for someone with autism, or think about how design could help them to understand the world around them.

  • Communicating to children/adults with learning difficulties

Communicating messages is a key element of graphic design but I would like to think about the people I am communicating to a little bit more – particularly children (and even adults) with learning difficulties. How could you ensure your message talks to everyone? Or how can or does design help children/adults to communicate?

  • How design is taught prior to further education e.g in secondary and even primary school

I could not really have told you what design was when I was at school – was it just me? What’s the situation today? Since coming to DJCAD I have been overwhelmed by how broad and important design is. I would like to investigate how design is currently taught and whether it is of any use to children. Would it be helpful for them to have an understanding of design, the design process and how to apply it early on?


David Ogilvy

I am going to be really, really honest and tell you that I’d never heard of David Ogilvy until last month. Of course the second I flicked through his books, Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising, I recognised a few of his campaigns; even though they are ‘before my time’.

Both books are filled with his experienced advice on creating advertising that works. True to my graphic design head I flicked straight to chapter seven How to Illustrate Advertisements and Posters in Confessions of an Advertising Man. He firstly comments that the illustration – drawing or photograph – should convey the same message as the ‘promise’ made in the headline. He goes on to say that photographs are much more successful than drawings.

“Photographs represent reality, whereas drawings represent fantasy, which is less believable”

The results he has gained by switching to photographs proves that they work better. He comments that art simply does not telegraph its’ message quick enough for use in advertisements.

Initially, I didn’t quite like this piece of advice but I have come to understand it. I just have a thing for good illustrations but I know that sometimes personal taste has to be sacrificed. Good evidence or research is one sure reason, for me, for resignation. Even from the few chapters I have read I already know that Ogilvy did his research – lots of it.

Sometimes this was simple test research. He recounts that one time his agency were in doubt (dispute) as to whether a photograph of an aircraft or a destination should be used to advertise KML airlines. They ‘split-run’ them in a newspaper and the one which pulled the most coupons gave them the answer: destinations.

Sometimes it was desk research:

“If, for example, it is a petrol account, read text books on the chemistry, geology and distribution of petroleum products. Read all the trade journals in the field.”

In his other book, Ogilvy on Advertising, he spent three weeks reading about the Rolls Royce car he was to advertise. During this research he came across an unassuming statement about how the only noise you would hear at sixty miles an hour was the electric clock. It became the headline.

Sometimes it was more psychological research. He refers to a substantial number of Doctors which have helped him understand human behaviour. One interesting analysis was that when watching films, people are more interested in actors of their own sex.

“In general, people take more interest in film stars they can identify themselves with”

He supports this research done by Dr. Gallup with analysis done into ‘3,874 dreams’ by Dr. Hall. A photograph of a woman will be ignored by men – apparently. One the same page, a photograph of a man will be ignored by woman. I thought about this in relation to perfume adverts, look at this:

Apparently though, the best way to get a woman’s attention is babies. Hmm, I guess it would depend on the product being advertised and the appropriateness of using a baby…

Oh dear…

Anyway. I watched Mad Men for the first time last night and I remember one of the stories (in the first episode) linking to this idea. It was the very first episode and Don gave an inspired off-the-cuff saga about the experience of going on a plane.

“You want to get on a plane to feel alive. You want to get on a plane to see the hint of a womans thigh because her skirt is just *this much* too short”

Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, Box of Broadcasts: BBC Four, Online, (13/10/2011)












Peggy – a flourishing copywriter – comes in later on in the episode with an updated ‘comp’ which illustrates the saga and indeed the air hostess. Don looks at it and comments:

“It’s obvious, I’m uninvolved”

Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, Box of Broadcasts: BBC Four, Online, (13/10/2011)












He then squares off the small child running to greet her father:

Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, Box of Broadcasts: BBC Four, Online, (13/10/2011)












Peggy quickly denounces it as “sentimental” but Don counters her by saying that something with sentiment is not necessarily sentimental. Peggy raises the point that it’s being advertised at business men and “sex sells”. I loved Don’s reply: “Says who?” He then goes on to say:

“You are the product. You feeling something – that’s what sells”

He then encourages her to think about a question the girl could ask her father rather than a statement. She comes up with “What did you bring me daddy?”

I realise this didn’t involve a man being directly used to advertise to a man but in a way it did. The question spoke directly to the man in a way that he could relate to. A man looking at that advert could identify himself in that situation.

Don’s selection of focusing on the little girl and cutting out the rest of the scene is a tactic Ogilvy actually mentions! He says that crowd scenes don’t pull, illustrations should be kept simple and the interest should be focused on one person. He also notes that you should avoid large close-ups of the human face because, in his experience, they repel readers.

The chapter was filled with lots of simple, one sentence tips like this together with more detailed stories. It’s the kind of book you could pick up and just read a random chapter – or even page – and learn something. In fact both books are. Of course it’s bias, slightly out of date and you may disagree with the moral implications on some of the things. However he gives some solid, practical advice that you could easily apply. E.g:

“If you start your body copy with a large initial letter, you will increase your readership by an average of 13 percent”

Workshop 3: One Day Brief

My third ‘advertising and branding’ workshop was a follow-up to the lecture we had the previous day about the workings of an advertising agency. It involved us researching, developing and creating an advertising campaign – in just one day. It started off with our small, four person teams being grouped together with other teams to make three large groups. In my case, I am in ‘Team 5’ and we were working with Teams 4, 6, 7 and 14. For the rest of this post I shall refer to us as Group B.

After the lecture the majority of us, in Group B, found each other and thanks to Paula’s iPad we read the brief straight away. It talked about how men are notoriously bad at visiting their GP; how many major health issues such as depression are ignored; how there seems to be a collective ‘head in sand’ syndrome when it comes to health. Rather than tackling these issues however, our campaigns aim was to:

“Encourage young adult men to visit their GP’s by targeting woman”

Our target audience was therefore to be woman: girlfriends, mothers, wives, friends etc. (Basically woman who know/have a relationship with men). You can read the brief here if you like. After a quick discussion about the brief we decided that each of us would do some desk research that night, to prepare us for the next day. We also appointed Anna to be team leader.

My Desk Research

I found lot’s of Statistics online which backed up the brief such as “men visit the doctors 20% less than woman”. I specifically highlighted the one I thought was most telling: (yellow box in picture above) how even though more woman get skin cancer – more men actually die from it. Whilst I did do a few pages of desk research I quickly realised that everyone else would probably be getting the similar stuff. I decided to mock up the field research idea that came into my head as I had been walking home earlier. I thought it would be good to know the most influential woman in men’s life. Knowing who men were influenced by the most or would go to first for health advice might help us make the campaign more effective.

So I created this chart as a research method suggestion:

The idea being they ticked which woman in their live would most influence them; or which one they would take advice from; or even more directly asking who they would take health advice from.

Thursday Morning

The morning kicked off at 9 am where we found a giant desk to sit around and have a group meeting. We went round everyone individually to find out what we had did, found out or thought about last night. It was a good chance to hear early idea’s and sort out any problems. After the discussion we split up into pairs to do some field research. Each pair was assigned an area of Dundee and one of three research methods:

  • Influence Chart

This was the one I suggested although the group helped me tweak it a little to include a ‘friend’ and ‘other’ category. The idea was to just approach men on the street and ask them: which of these woman in your life would you go to if you needed heath advice. It was to be a quick tool that only took a few seconds to answer and produced a high volume of results.

  • Body Concerns

This was Fay’s suggestion: an outline of a body, where woman could mark the area(s) of a mans body that would worry her most were he were to complain of having pain there. The idea was to approach woman on the street and ask them to circle areas on the cartoon body outline. This tool was slightly more interactive and allowed the pair to initiate a conversation with the subjects, if appropriate/possible.

  • Chat / Interview

This was a more in-depth method which featured strategic, open questions for men regarding their attitude towards going to the doctors. The idea was that whilst the pair would not get a high volume of results, they would get more in-depth opinions and personal stories.

Each pair (using methods 1 and 3, i.e speaking to men) would also ask their research subjects: what would be their first port of call if they had a health concern. The idea was to find out which NHS service was most popular amongst men.

My Morning Research

Lindsay (from my Team 5) and I paired up  and we were to tackle the city centre (together with the Perth Road from DJACD to the city centre)

We got on really well; the majority of the men we asked stopped to look at the choices and consider their answer. A lot of them were rushing though and only took part because we assured them it was “just one quick question”. We did get a few rejections but it comes with the territory; we also got one man who said he would ask all of them! The first twenty men (first sheet) had no problems with it however the second sheet flagged up a problem. One man looked at it then told us that “Judie Dench” would be the one he would go to… A short while later another man told us he would go to the “blonde one” before another man said “Phoebe”. This confusion was my fault, I knew when I was making it the night before that I probably should draw the representations. I didn’t really have enough time so thought that movie stars who could be associated with being ‘a mum’ or ‘a sister’ would be fine. Unfortunately it wasn’t. We corrected the men that the woman were ‘representations’ and got their proper answers. Lindsay then quickly folder the paper in such a way that hid the faces but kept the text and we continued on.

At least I will always remember this research failure and learn from it for future experiments. Celebrities are not good for research representations!! Draw them if you have time otherwise use stock photographs of ordinary people.

Our Morning Research Results

After our hour and a quarter of field research we all met up to discuss and add up our findings.

The top four on the influence chart were not at all what I had anticipated, I guess it just goes to show the importance of doing research and not assuming things. One thing we did discuss, but didn’t seem to act on, was the idea that each pair doing the influence chart should concentrate on a specific age group. Had we reinforced this, the research might have worked out differently. However, because we did the research personally we were able to roughly remember. For example: the majority of men who said ‘mum’ were younger – about eighteen to thirty. The men who said ‘friend’ were also in this range. The majority of men who said ‘wife’ were about twenty five right through to seventy or eighty. The men who said ‘daughter’ were over sixty.

The group doing the body outlines found that the heart, head and joints were generally of the most concern to woman. The group doing the questionnaires told us how the men would wait until their condition got more serious before going to the doctor. The collective results for the NHS services showed that most men would go to their GP; a very surprising but positive result.

We moved on to do some mind-maps and brainstorms for the rest of the morning.

Some idea’s were blowing about but the main themes that kept coming up were ‘embarrassment’  and ‘nagging’. A lot of people were also keen to include ‘fun facts’ and statistics. The majority of the group were keen to go down the humour route instead of ‘shock tactics’. This was backed up by our desk research and questionnaire results which both suggested humour and fun would be most effective. For this reason we decided to focus on small ailments (such as a cough, rash or small pain) that get worse when left untreated. Serious illnesses such as heart disease or cancer would be inappropriate for humour. The idea being that if a man is encouraged by a woman to go to the doctors to get a cough seen to; he would be more likely to go again with a serious problem, such a lump.

I remember at the point we were discussing coughs getting worse, Fionnlagh told us about a video he had watched on Youtube for his desk research. We watched it and agreed that it had a good tone. He had just casually ignored her nagging, she persisted but neither did it in an argumentative way.

One idea that came from this was a woman looking up a mans symptoms on the NHS website but him pretending not to care. When she walks off, he quickly goes and check’s out the laptop. The idea being he does it when she’s not looking, he doesn’t like to make a fuss. The rough tag-line was “it does make a difference”. I quickly drew it out and stuck it up on the wall.

As you can see we had a few other sketches and post-it notes but there was a lack of general idea’s. We had a lot of big brainstorming sheets etc. I also stuck up a slightly out of context motivational poster…

There was a lack of doodling and writing things down however – I think we were just too comfy sitting down. We did discuss a lot of idea’s however and I remember one girl saying something but dismissing it herself as being targeted at men. However someone else like it, reversed it and made it work for woman. This was a great example of listening and group collaboration!

Here are some quick snaps of the things we did write down and put up:

Afternoon Session

After a short half hour lunch break we got back in the zone by doing some quick personas based on our field research.

These three woman were the ones we were to keep in mind for our campaign; asking ourselves regularly if it would appeal to them. This took a little longer than anticipated but it helped us do some mind-maps of places these woman would go. Noting down things like shopping malls, cafe’s, salons etc. gave us an idea of the places and types of media we could use for advertising.

At this point it became quite clear that we were all thinking along the same lines. We wanted a man who was ill and a wife who was nagging (telling) him to go to the doctors. He didn’t and as he got progressively worse (sneezing, spluttering, skin breaking out…) the woman would get progressively more embarrassing in the way she told him to go to the doctors (notes in lunch-box, leaving voicemail messages, flying past on a plane…). It was the sequence of events that was causing some problems and it was hard to keep track of everyone’s suggestions. I remember Anna taking charge at this point and suggesting we split off into small groups. Each group was to draw a potential storyboard for a television advert in ten minutes:

This is the one my group came up with:

We spent far too long discussing it and found it hard to settle on a sequence and what imagery would go with it. I do remember feeling a little bit lost at this point; I think it was just a combination of too many ideas/opinions and trying to connect too many things. As you can see this affected our sketching.

Anyway, even though it did take slightly longer than ten minutes, it did force us to quickly visualise the advert. The idea was to look at them all then pick and choose a sequence of events.

It was pretty much all go from there, Anna delegated tasks to certain people to help get things done quicker. So the illustrators and some of our good drawers were in charge of drawing up the final storyboard visuals:

The rest of us discussed the advertising, pitch and possible guerrilla advertising tactics that would link up with the campaign. We looked at our potential strap-lines narrowed it down very quickly to “eventually he’ll get the message” as it was more or less the unanimous favourite.

We then took a vote on whether it should be “eventually he’ll get the message” or “eventually he’ll get it”. The first one very much had the majority. I have say I was quite pleased, I felt it related more to the idea of the woman leaving/sending the man messages. The other one, for me, was just a bit vague – especially for an new, ‘unestablished’ campaign.

We developed the ‘cards’ idea that had came up earlier where our strap-line was written on a mock medical appointment card. We also decided upon handing them out prior to the campaign. Fay had told us that the old Wispa adverts were on before the product was launched. They were so obscure that they didn’t give away what was being advertised. This got people’s attention as they wanted to find out what it was. I actually looked up the campaign and it was quite clever:

“The bar was launched by teaser advertisements in 1983 bearing the phrase “Have you heard the Wispa?” but without identifying the product as a chocolate bar”

You’ll probably know that Wispa vanished only to be temporarily re-introduced in 2007 then permanently in 2008. I watched this video about the making of the advert and it’s actually really interesting. The advertisement was made up of ordinary people who had pledged themselves… For example one woman telephoned to pledge them her bear costume and herself wearing it!

Anyway, sorry, back on track. The early distribution of the cards would hopefully create interest and get woman wondering ‘what the message was’. Our previous personas’ research helped us when it came to the places these cards would be ‘placed’. So we thought about salons, retail outlets, cafes, gyms and indeed doctors surgeries. The cards would have web addresses and social networking logos’ directing them to the campaigns online presence. We were really keen to have a youtube video that would hopefully turn viral.

It was during this discussion that I had an idea for reinforcing the campaign in ‘reality’. One of the scenes from the final sequence involves a note from the woman written on a steamy mirror when the man comes out the shower. I thought that we could make transfers that would stick on mirrors in ladies restrooms (in public places such a shopping centres). A frosted print effect would make it look as if it had been written on condensation.

Other guerrilla ideas involved buses and billboards like the ones from our final sequence actually being put into action. We were very keen to develop the bus in particular and make it actually relate back to our main concern: encouraging men not to delay a visit to the doctors. We discussed it being a touring bus that delivered health education/awareness demonstrations and drop-ins. it was also cleverly suggested that it could become a touring surgery with real GP’s on board. I am not sure about the logistics and red-tape involved but it’s an idea. Kind of like the blood donation vans that go to offices and retail parks – delivering the service as near as possible.

All of these ideas featured in our pitch together with our final sketches or ‘comps’ (comprehensive layout – the proposed design initially shown to a client). Here are my notes from our discussion about the our pitch and how we would present everything.

We decided to actually mock up some dummy post-it-note ‘cards’ that said “eventually he’ll get the message” and stick them about the space where we would deliver our pitch. Whilst the team were going about sticking these up, a few us went over the plan for the pitch. Lindsay volunteered to do the pitch (or rather she was suggested and then gently persuaded to) so we had a run-through of what she would say and when. This all happened really fast and within no time at all it was deadline time and we summoned to the gallery space to deliver our pitches.

We were second and I must say Lindsay did it brilliantly; she remembered everything as she talked through our concept, advert and entire campaign.

I have written up the entire pitch as a campaign proposal so click here to read it.

The feedback we got from both our tutor and the other groups was really positive. Someone suggested it was more aimed at men but after a lot of discussion it was decided that it actually just lacked a woman in it. They felt that the suggestion of her was not enough and should be reinforced with her actually writing the notes and doing the thing’s. My tutor also commented that some of the things such as the billboard were a bit unrealistic. He was getting at the point of well how did she do that? Rather than a billboard could she maybe graffiti one instead. They felt it was appropriate both humour and target audience wise and liked our further development ideas – particularly the ‘drop-in surgery bus’.

Final Thoughts

Gosh. I would say overall I was happy with our final campaign. There obviously were things that I would not have did had I been doing myself but that’s just as much of a positive as it is a negative. It was interesting just on an experiment level to be part of ‘big idea’ that around twenty people were contributing to. It was nice to watch it grow and develop over time. I was conscious that a lot of good ideas had to be disregarded and some key things were overlooked.

I remember one idea was for the bus to have something embarrassing written in the destination bit. Along the lines of digital text that would normally read ‘city centre’ instead reading ‘doctors appointment’ or something along those lines.

Another one was my suggestion of making it a kind of sitcom style where each scenario was separate and a new successive one came out every couple of weeks. I thought this would give us more room to play up the scenes and make them quite detailed. The idea being people look forward to finding out ‘what happens next’ and maybe start subscribing to the youtube page in order to find out. The momentum would be maintained by regular new adverts and related guerrilla techniques so that peoples interest was maintained.

There were load of others and I think we were just overloaded and forced to make quick decisions in order for it to be ready in time.

For example if you look back at the quick sketches we did about the sequence of the advert you will see the woman in most of them. In fact, most of them are normal as well and contain her doing things she could actually do – such as phoning him up at work. Fair enough some of them are far-fetched, like the aeroplane banner, but she was driving it… I think she somehow just got lost in translation.

It would be really easy to re-instate her back in and tweak the scenarios a little. In fact the whole campaign could be built up and taken further. So yes, I think we created a good ‘big idea’ and I learnt a lot about the process of working in a big group.

It was also a brilliant opportunity to eat lots of sweets and sample Fay and Veronica’s home-baking:

Smash Ads?

I drew out some idea’s for possible ad campaigns for Smash following my research workshop last week. Somehow they sounded better in my head, however here goes:

This first one portrays it as a ‘stand-bye’ that is good to have in emergencies. In fact it saves the day (dinner) Grandpa:

In the end though it becomes something that the little girl would want to eat normally (not just for emergencies). It’s also kind of re-branding it as “special potato’s” which is something that could be developed.

I like the idea of bringing back the smash robots but having them engage with people. I like the thought of them being helpful creatures to parallel with Smash being a helpful product. She is shopping for healthy fruit and veg with lots of wholesome food in her basket. The robot approaches her and their dialogue (from her side) is a little bit awkward, she looks around, wondering if this is happening. The robot is very wide-eyed and talkative (almost mavenish) however so she talks to him:

She takes the Smash from him, pleased to have found out that it’s a healthier alternative to her buttery mash.

Workshop 2: Personas and Focus Groups

I had my second ‘advertising and branding’ workshop yesterday which I really, really enjoyed. It connected to the lecture we had been given the day before on market research. (which I also really enjoyed). Reconnecting with the research methods I was introduced to last year reminded me how fun and interesting it is. It’s proven to me that I made the right decision in choosing the ‘research and creative practice’ module for next semester.

Anyway, back to the workshop. We were given a brief: To get people to try Smash – the instant mashed potato in a packet.

It was actually described rather eloquently in our notes:

“Smash is dehydrated mashed potato. When boiling water is added it reconstitutes into hot mashed potato that can be served as part of a meal.”

(Yuck…Although I think I really should force myself to try it his weekend in the name of research)

We were also given some notes about the product and it’s market, basically desk research stuff including a SWOT analysis. Rather than coming up with a new marketing campaign for Smash, our job was to do some market research. This involved collecting ‘reactive data’ involving peoples attitude and relationship to/with food. We also wanted to explore nostalgia, happiness, friendship, memories and experiences, particularly within the context of food. In the afternoon we would use this data to create some personas of people we wanted to target.

Morning Session

I met up with the girls in my group and we decided to find out about people’s favourite meals. We liked the idea of it being more interactive than a question so we drew some plates on some paper with coloured markers. After splitting up into two pairs of two (so we could cover more as well as different ground) we started asking people to tell us about their favourite meal and encouraged them to draw it for us.

Christina and I headed down to Magdalen Green because we thought people would be sunning themselves. It was a bit of a mistake because it was the wrong time of day but we bumped into lots of people on our way back to the Perth Road. We found a little park type area with benches and got lots people to talk there. Heading down towards the town was not as productive and we got a few knock-backs from people who were too busy. Nonetheless we did get some people in that area – I think it helped telling them that we only needed a few minutes of their time.

Here are some photo’s of the people we asked with their hand-drawn dinners!

The boy on the right was one of the most interesting dinners we got. Initially he didn’t want to tell us because we wouldn’t have heard of it or be able to spell it. We quickly told him that didn’t matter, he could draw it for us and write down the spelling. Whilst he was drawing we got him to tell us more about it. It turns out he was from Sweden and this was a really special, expensive meal that a group of about twenty people would come together to eat. Apparently his uncle would hunt a reindeer then spend ages preparing, cooking and carving it up. I wished we could have been in a better environment with him rather than just on the street. Had we been in a cafe or somewhere more comfortable I am sure we would have found out a whole lot more! But that’s the nature of ‘outside’ research, we would never have met him had we not approached him like this.

We had been told in our lecture the day before to offer people the chance to cover their face with the drawing. This is apparently a technique Lauren Currie uses just to make people feel more comfortable but still allow her to have a record of her research subjects. Some people didn’t mind being photographed as you can see but it was definitely a good tip to have up our sleeves when we sensed the person was uncomfortable.

I also think they responded better to having the paper rather than being asked questions. As Lindsay, one of the girls in my group, said: it takes away the awkward silences where you are writing down their answers. In effect they write down their answer for you and actually get quite involved in it as they draw away. It becomes more of a conversation where you can ask some open questions or ask for more detail when they mention something interesting.

I did try to ask people who made the meal, where did they learn to cook it, does it remind them of anything/anyone when do they eat it e.g special occasions. My only regret is that I didn’t push these questions more. It didn’t always work mind you, sometimes we got flat responses such as “mum made it”. Other times we did get the more descriptive answers like “she made it for me most days because it’s all I would ever eat”. It is a generative tool I would most definitely remember and use again.

Afternoon Session

We had a quick run-through of how each group had gotten on with their research. Most of the groups, like us, had taken the decision to not mention Smash. We focused on peoples attitude to food in general. One of the groups had decided to ask people about it – once they had completed their questionnaire. They told us that a lot of people had memories of it being watery, lumpy and not made properly. One person told them they actually used it, to this day, to make a pizza base! One woman had a positive memory of the old ad jingle “for mash get smash” but said she would never buy it! One group tried to get people to interact with an iPad and draw food on it but apparently it didn’t go down very well. I think a lot of people were put off by it because they didn’t know how to use it. My favourite story was the group who asked people “if the meal were a person, what would it be like”.

I couldn’t help thinking that was an instant ad campaign!

> What’s Mr Roast Beef like? He’s lean (athletic), rich, grounded  and has traditional family values. He enjoys being surrounded by people with different tastes but likes to be the main focus of the gathering. He also likes a good glass of red wine.

Anyway, sorry I am getting carried away. Once that was finished we had to create some personas of the sort of people we might want to target. These were to be quite general, not too specific. For example our Swedish student would be generalised into International students from a range of countries. In fact it could be broadened out even more into people who like travelling and visiting different countries.  One of the groups had a camper so that would be broadened out in active people who like exploring. The idea being that this persona represented a type of person. This ‘type’ would have a similar view on life, similar interest and use the product for a similar purpose or in a similar way.

I have drawn a quick sketch of some personas for the Apple ipad:

While not every student would say use it exactly the same as Sean, they are more likely to use it in similar ways to him, apposed to Katy. They will be in a similar stage in life to him, have ambitions, goals and wants that are similar to him.

So, here are the personas we created using our data and experience from the morning research:

As you can see, we have three distinct targets: International Students, British Students and Busy Mums. I actually remember speaking to quite a few older people so I have created another persona for our group myself:

You can see that we persona of a busy mum who sometimes opts for quick dinners. We could also have created one for a mother who insists upon nutritional food for her children. She would be a harder person for us to tackle but as my lecturer said: “know your enemy”. We could investigate the nutritional properties of smash and see if there was an argument that would encourage her to try it.

Anyway, these are our personas who represent the people we want to target. The idea being we want people like them to give Smash a go, to be attracted to it, buy it and try it out.

I have a few ideas in my head already for some possible ad campaigns so I will draw them out over the weekend!

Research Proposal

The power of context has fascinated me ever since I read Malcolm Gladwells book ‘The Tipping Point’. In relation to this topic he looked at the fundamentals of groups by researching book clubs and innovative manufacturing companies such as Gore.

In December, I chose to investigate this topic by looking at groups vs individuals using research from secondary sources. I read a journal article about foster parent training that investigated two types of training: group sessions vs home visits to individual families. I read another journal article which explored the appeal of worthless groups, trait self esteem and group dynamics. I was able to draw some conclusions from the secondary research but I did find myself with a lot of new questions. One, in particular, was:

“Why do people give up groups?”

I would like to bring my recent experiences of primary research into practice and explore this question. I want to know, directly from ordinary people, why they chose to stop attending any groups/clubs/societies they used to go to. An interview would be an appropriate method for gaining this kind of information because, through interaction, they result in descriptions and explanations. Their structure can be tailored to suit the kind of information needed from them. I will conduct semi-structured interviews, with individuals, so that I have set questions and goals but can deviate from this should any interesting points come up. From this, I may gain insights about group membership I would not have otherwise considered.

I would not be able to get these insights using research methods such as observation. Such methods would tell me what people do – I want to know why they took the decision to do it. From my experience of watching people at a bingo hall I know that ‘people watching’ provides information about how people behave. Observing groups in their natural environment would let me see how they interact and whether this affected attendance. This would be particularly relevant to my journal article about worthless groups. Interviews are however the better route for getting opinion based answers to questions – which is what I want for now.

In my previous experience with interviews I had a sheet of prompt questions. Whilst this was helpful I would prefer to have something more natural that my interviewee could interact with. I looked into finding such a thing on the Service Design Tools website and came across ‘Issue Cards’. These are basically cards with an image, word or even small description relating to the subject. I would place the cards on the table to induce a conversation. This would encourage interpretation, leading to different responses, depending on the assumption the interviewee makes about the card. I would need to be careful just how ‘open to interpretation’ my cards should be because I want answers that relate to group membership. Would the topic of the interview be enough to direct them?

To counter this potential problem I would test out different Issue Cards by conducting an experiment based around the concept of Polysemy. Images mean different things to different people, something I found out the first time I did this experiment. From experience I know that adding text helps to fix the meaning of images. I would test all my Issue Cards by asking ordinary people what is going on in each one – what they think it means. For example I might want the person to tell me how they found time to be part of a group. Would I use a picture of a clock or a calendar? What text is needed? This experiment would help me work this out.

Polysemy is very complex so I am aware that using Issue Cards could still fail. If I sense that my interviewee is having difficulty then I would try using the  ‘Cognitive Walkthrough’ methodology. This is another tool recommended on the Service Design Tools website and involves going through the stages of a clients journey. In the case of my interviews, every time a new group was mentioned I would encourage the interviewee to draw the various stages they experienced. (I would have some pens and paper already on the table whether or not I used this technique. I have found out – through using the ‘Group Sketching Technique’ – that getting people to draw what they are talking about is a great way of getting more detail) For example, if they mentioned seeing a flyer I would get them to draw it. I would encourage them to describe various details such as it’s location and what made it appeal to them: Was it the group itself? Did it imply anything? Do they mention colour or imagery? This would then lead on to their first interaction with the group and I could get them to draw things like the first person they met.

Whichever design tool I use I can anticipate that people will tell me about their first impressions. I am therefore going to read ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell which looks at rapid cognition. Similar books, such as ‘Snoop’ by Sam Gosling, together with advice from tutors have helped me discern how to produce reliable results. One way of doing this is to ensure that I do not know the participants. To do this I will either contact friends of friends or utilize the University of Dundee’s Hermes service. To allow for the latter I will carry out the research during term time. Arranging time between classes for myself and participants may prove difficult. From experience I have learned that good results can be achieved by asking as little as seven people. Considering all of this, I estimate that it will take me four weeks to carry out the research. It will then take a fifth week to analyze the results

I would like to review the results myself first then look over them with a group of other people. I will be able to experience the difference, first hand, between working along vs working in a group. This secondary experiment will be a complimentary appendix to the research. In fact it hints at future research avenues for the project. I could conduct interviews with groups of people – one of which would be the individual I spoke to for this project. I could analyze the data given by the individual in both scenarios as well as my experience with both types of interview.

This is not a dead-end project nor is it a dead-end subject. It is a relevant direction which will provide valuable information that will feed into the groups vs individuals topic.


Barthes, R. (1967). The Rhetoric of the Image – Elements of Semiology. In: Innis, R. E. (ed). Semiotics – An Introductory Reader. London: Hutchinson & Co Ltd.

Gladwell, M. (2000) The Tipping Point. Great Britain: Little, Brown.

Gosling, S. (2008) Snoop. London: Profile Books Ltd.

Hampson, R. B., Schulte, M. A., Ricks, C. C. (1883) Individual vs. Group Training for Foster Parents: Effectiveness Evaluations, Family Relations, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 191-201

Haupt, A. L., Leary, M. R. (1997) The Appeal of Worthless Groups: Moderating Effects of Trait Self-Esteem, Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 124-132

Paton, J. A. (2010). Reading and Reviewing. [Online] December 2nd 2010. Available from: https://toomanyballoons.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/reading-and-reviewing/. [Accessed: 5th April 2011. 6th April 2011]

Service Design Tools. (2009) Tools. [Online]. Available from: http://www.servicedesigntools.org/repository. [Accessed: 5th April 2011. 6th April 2011]

Service Design Tools. (2009) Cognitive Walkthrough. [Online]. Available from: http://www.servicedesigntools.org/tools/11. [Accessed: 5th April 2011. 6th April 2011]

Service Design Tools. (2009) Group Sketch. [Online]. Available from: http://www.servicedesigntools.org/tools/34. [Accessed: 5th April 2011. 6th April 2011]

Service Design Tools. (2009) Issue Cards. [Online]. Available from: http://www.servicedesigntools.org/tools/32. [Accessed: 5th April 2011. 6th April 2011]

W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. (2009) Our Culture. [Online]. Available from: http://www.gore.com/en_xx/aboutus/culture/index.html. [Accessed: 5th April 2011]

Why Do Some Students Live On Their Own?

For my latest assignment I had to interview some people I did not know in a productive, open style. I have been learning how to do this at recent seminars and from looking at the Service Design Tools website. My friend Rebecca introduced me to two of her friends who are studying at Dundee University, but not at DJCAD. It was important to the assignment that my interviewees did not know me and were not at Art School. This was simply just incase they tried to aim their answers towards me, i.e give me answers that relate to Graphic Design or creative culture. I just wanted honest, ordinary answers from ordinary people.

I took both of my interviewees’ to a cafe/bar just on the Perth Road so that the experience would be more relaxed. We were able to get comfortable and have a nice big table to sit around and use for drawing. It was also a very good excuse for a hot chocolate…

Before I started I briefly told Andrew, my first interviewee, what I was doing without giving too much away. I told him that I was just looking into how students live at home. I did not tell him until after the interview that the topic of my investigation was:

Why do some students live on their own?

(It was important not to tell him this because it might have affected his answers. For example he might have defended, or found fault with, living with a flat-mate more than he naturally would have).

I then let him read over my ‘participant information sheet’ and just explained to him about using his name and photograph. He was happy for me to do so and signed the little ‘informed consent form’ I had made up.

I also asked for his permission to record the interview but assured him that it was just for my personal use, to help me write up the results. Had Andrew not been happy about any of this I would simply have changed his name and just drawn some stick men sketches. I could also have mixed his results with another interviewee to ensure full anonymity. I learnt about this practice from reading Snoop by Psychologist Sam Gosling:

“When I describe the rooms and offices which I’ve snooped, I’ve changed some names and details to protect people’s anonymity and in a few cases have combined examples to improve the efficiency of exposition and the flow of the narrative”

In this case I did not need to do this but I will bear it in mind for the future. I do not ever want to invade anyones privacy or make them feel uncomfortable. I was aware that recording the interview might do this so I had a notepad and pen at the ready. I probably would not have used them though because I was using the “group sketch” tool that my lecturer introduced me to at my recent seminar. It involves getting the group, which consisted of Andrew, Rebecca and myself, to draw what they are talking about. In Andrews case he drew a floor-plan of his flat and, with encouragement, sketched in items such as couches and beds.

Funnily enough Victoria did the same even though she had not seen Andrews sketch as she arrived a while after his interview had finished. This got me thinking about how people think about their living space. When we were asked to draw our experience of Mecca Bingo my seminar group and I also drew a sort of floor plan. Yet when you think about it, this “birds eye view” of spaces is one we don’t actually see. I didn’t stand on the Mecca Bingo ceiling and look down on everything…? You would normally associate this kind of view with architects and builders who kind of do see this view when they put in the foundations of a house. I wonder why this angle view has spread from these discourses into ordinary peoples perceptions?

Anyway, back to the interviews. I went over the consent forms with Victoria as well and she was also happy for her name and photograph to be published on this blog.

Recording the interview was fine with her as well. I knew beforehand, from Rebecca, that Victoria lived at home with her parents. I let her mention this naturally of course and I also found out she has a brother. I deliberately interviewed these two people who lived in different set-ups – one at home with her family and the other in rented accommodation with a flat-mate. I wanted to get an insight into how people get on living with other people. I wanted to understand why they do so and therefore understand for myself why some people choose to live on their own. I hope to do another interview with someone who lives on their own to compare their answers with Andrew and Victoria. It will be nice to see the differences and well as the similarities in their answers.

For now though I will look at the results of these interviews and compare the set-up of a student living in their family home to one living with a flat-mate. Here is a reminder of my mind-map which shows the areas I wanted to look at.

It was too big to take with me and I would not have wanted my subjects to see what I was looking for. I did take some promp questions with me incase I got stuck during the interview:

Rather than go through each subjects interview I think I will go through the mind-map areas and compare the subjects that way. Whenever I think of this assignment now I think of my mind-map!

So…let’s start at the top right with MONEY.

Andrew has a weekend job where his flat-mate also works, most of his wages tend to be spent on food. He cannot cook very well though and tends to just buy lots of nice and cheap stuff, random things that catch his eye. He doesn’t ever buy things for the flat, furnishings etc, they just use what it came with. Quite often he has to be quite stingy about money so will not drink on nights out and not eat out. His flat-mate on the other hand eats out the majority of the time! When it comes to bills Andrew, “very nerdily”, keeps good track of them and saves up beforehand. I got them impression that having money for them takes first priority. Later on he mentioned that he keeps all of his important documents in a certain place in his bedroom. From this I would say that he is quite a mindful person and takes his responsibilities seriously.

Victoria works in her dads office during the holidays but not generally at term time. Most of her wages are spent on clothes and last year she went on three holidays! Her parents don’t make her contribute any digs or anything to the house. They also decorated her bedroom for her whilst she was on holiday. She does have to buy her bus ticket though, which is seventy pounds for three months. The bus takes her more or less straight from her door to uni so it’s really convenient. Because of this, she didn’t see the point in wasting money living in a flat. Her boyfriend lives in a student flat and she has seen just how much it costs, so that put her off. Dundee is also a really good university, more of less on her doorstep, so she wouldn’t have moved away to study anywhere else either.

As you can see their is a huge difference in the way Andrew and Victoria spend their money. Living at home means Victorias wages mostly become ‘disposable income’ which she can spend on herself. Andrew on the other hand has very little disposable income because of he has to consider his financial obligations. He also has a student loan which he will have to pay back one day. This is actually very interesting in terms of marketing. A travel agent for example would want to consider this discrepancy amongst students. Victoria was able to go on three holidays last year because she had the time – summer holidays – and the unspoken for wages.

Now let’s looks at ENVIRONMENT

Andrews flat is rented and the landlord did say that nothing was to be put on the walls. Apparently he has been quite lenient with them so they do have a lot of posters on the walls. The living room has “general posters we both like, films like Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill and any bands we both like”. His bedroom however has more specific ones of bands that he likes. Andrew mentioned tickets on his door which I asked a bit more about. Apparently whilst his brother was in New York he collected all of the tickets he used throughout the trip, eg. theatre, film and train. This inspired him to do the same because “it’s nice to remember the little details like where you sat at a gig or something”. He has been doing this for a couple of years now. This conversation lead us to music then neighbours. I found out that he doesn’t know his neighbors very well but the downstairs ones have been to his door a few times to complain about the loud music. This hasn’t stopped him or his flat-mate playing it loudly but they do turn it down when someone complains. Later on Andrew also mentioned that the flat was quite plain with big brown couches and a broken table. The furniture in his bedroom was also mentioned and what he uses it for but didn’t go into details about materials or colour except to say that his flat-mates room had a random red wall.

Victoria on the other hand mentioned colour and texture a lot more and she just generally described items with more detail. She told me how her parents decorated her room whilst she was away and that it actually use to be there room. The walls are cream and the bed has “a kind of tartany quilt which goes with the colour of the carpet”. She has fitted wardrobes down the bottom and the desk is next to her bed which has lots of cushions on it. She never mentioned posters or pictures too much however which surprised me. Her brother is in the room opposite her but he doesn’t make a lot of noise. Victoria took a lot more time to draw her house and she drew the dining room first which I found out is where she studies and her family eat together there also.

The difference in the way my subjects talked about their environment reminded me of an experiment at one of lectures. My tutor asked a boy and a girl who lived together to describe their living room, they each left the room whilst the other one did so. The difference in the descriptions was quite telling, the girl mentioned colours and fabrics where as the boy just said what was there. This would be something to bear in mind when shops and magazine describe furniture or clothes. But but are they actually the cause of this difference? Does the language in magazines aimed at woman contribute to the way they speak? This is something I’ve had on my to do list since that lecture: look into how true this is.

Anyway, onto CHORES

One of the first things Andrew told me was how his living room carpet was drenched in beer from the night before – “its not a very tidy flat”. This topic was where Rebecca chipped in some points which was good as it spurred Andrew on to tell me more. Apparently his flat-mate doesn’t clean it at all, this bothers Andrew a little bit in that he sometimes just won’t bother. Eventually though he will get fed up of the mess and tidy it up, “I do try”. They never argue about it though, I got the impression cleaning was too little a priority to cause an argument. I wrote this down on our group sketch paper  and it prompted Andrew to tell me that in actual fact his flat-mates towels bothered him. Apparently he leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor and they smell awful! Again though, they’ve never had a real dispute about it and he was laughing when he told me about it. Some of their friends do comment on the towel smell and the state of the flat which motivates Andrew to tidy it up.

Victoria said very little about cleaning, just that her mum generally does most of it. If someone in the family makes a mess they are expected to tidy it up. She mentioned that she keeps a lot of clothes piled on her desk chair and when they reach a certain level she will tidy them by. Her mum will occasionally complain about this to her but she “thinks she’s given up”.

Neither of them had any kind of routine or rota for cleaning up and it is defiantly not a priority for either of them. This subject in particular made me think about the app I am designing at the moment. It’s aimed at people who share a flat and lets them create shopping lists and put on notifications for appointments, say a plumber for example. One of the areas involves chores and originally the design was going to involve a rota. I have since changed it to more of a ‘log book’ that allows users to say what cleaning they did. Other users can then comment on it and hopefully it would inspire them to clean so they can log it. Whilst this change made it more fun I think it’s still a bit too serious, talking to my subjects I realized how cleaning up was quite a funny subject. I could have incorporated some fun, quirky bits to the design had I used a technique like these interviews beforehand. I will remember to consider them for future projects from now on!

Oh and Andrew also mentioned that his friends comment on the state of the place. My app could have been more interactive and allow flat-mates friends, (even parents) to log that they had cleaned or urge the flat-mates to clean!

Right, onto STUDYING before I get carried away

Andrew mentioned his desk and I asked him what sort of things he uses it for which led the conversation to studying. It was nice that it flowed in this way. He told me that it was “piled with junk that surrounding his pc which he uses for uni work and stuff like facebook” He likes to have really loud music on whilst he is studying to drown out the loud music coming from his flat-mates room. He added, “Its not a very quite flat…”.

Victoria on the other hand told me that even though she has a desk in her room she often studies in her dining room. This is because the computer there is the family one and has less distractions than her laptop. She needs complete quiet when she is studying so wont’ have the tv on or music playing. Her family, even her brother, are very quiet so they don’t make a lot of noise that would bother her when she is working. She did say she doesn’t really study that much however, “not as much as I should”.

With this topic you can again see the differences between my subjects. Andrew mentioned that he prefers working in his room to the point that he will leave Uni to work at home. Victoria avoids her room and prefers to work somewhere completely separate!

Last one now, “HERMIT(NESS)”

I was surprised to learn that Andrew doesn’t see his flat-mate an awful lot. The reason for this is that have very different schedules and eating patterns. They are both friends and have the same group of friends but he said they both very much like their alone time. They stay in their rooms a lot and don’t really talk that much although they do get on. I think they suit each other quite well in that respect. Andrew said he spends a lot of time on his own but doesn’t ever feel lonely. He could always text his friends who live down the road if he ever did. Friends also visit their flat too and of course he is always aware that his flat-mate is there.

Victoria also spends a lot of time in her room, on her laptop or watching tv as does her brother who she hardly see’s. Her family do always have meals together in the Dining room. (Andrew told me and indeed drew the broken table in his living room. He did say that nobody would eat together at it anyway, even if it were fixed) If she did ever feel lonely she would just go down and see her parents as she gets on well with them. She also mentioned her boyfriend and friends come over a lot as well. From this topic she went on to say that she sometimes wishes she lived in a flat. The people on her course seem to know each other and know more people through flat-mates – “they have kind of groups already so it can be a bit harder to make friends”. This point is something I guess someone living on their own would feel as well. In fact Andrew actually mentioned that it might be better to live with a few more people, that it might be more sociable.

It would seem that this area has quite a lot of similarities in that both subjects retreat to their rooms most of the time. I wonder how this compares with someone who lives on their own?

I would really like to find this out so I hope do find a willing subject soon and fully compare the results. For now though I can say that I found out an awful lot from these interviews, the open questions and group sketching really helped me get some stories out of my subjects. The semi-structured nature of the interviews allowed me to deviate whenever something interesting came up. So I found out lots of little extra things I might never have considered. I also, unintentionally, managed to see the difference between having a third party present. During Andrews interview Rebecca chipped in some times and this led him to expand on some things. These were more personal points that I would not have gotten out of him because I didn’t know him. I interviewed Victoria on her own however and noticed a slight difference. For future reference I would say that it might be a good idea to interview a few people at a time, if it suits the subject of course.

I defiantly will use this research technique in the future whenever I need this kind of qualitative information. Doing it without a voice recorder would, I think, be quite a challenge. Knowing that I had it allowed me to concentrate on making the interview more comfortable without worrying I was missing anything. I think the fact that it was my phone really helped as it blended in and the screen blanked over. A dictaphone would look quite alien and might put people off. I guess I owe Apple a big thank you for the voice-recorder – an example of good design. Listening back over the interviews I realize that not all my questions were as open as they could have been. I would also like to experiment with the service design tools. My interviewees were not just as enamored with the group sketching as my seminar group were. Maybe that’s the difference between art students? I think I will test out some more tools and then I can guage what works best for what kind of people. It’s basically all just practice, I have the basic formula and know-how, I just need to play about with it.

Here are some photographs of the ‘group sketches’ from the interviews…