Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A Research Update

I have almost completed my first phase of qualitative research which has involved interviewing the Project Clients of Dott 07. I had two main aims for this phase:
  1. Look at developing an evaluation model for the Dott 07 programme, using insights from both the design and client side to see what kinds of criteria are similar and different;

  2. Understand the experiences and learnings of participating in a design project from a client-point of view.
The first aim has changed a lot. I have never really liked the word evaluation. My instinct was that evaluation was not what I was doing with the Dott 07 programme, but I know I will need a set of criteria to discuss across all project that are at the least, “intelligent and consistent”, as Jim Collins says in his book, Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

I have just 2 more interviews to go and have thoroughly enjoyed doing all of them. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my previous work was meeting and talking with new people, getting insights into their daily experiences, and thinking about how design could have an impact through the products and services we were helping our clients develop.

During my first phase of research, I got to travel a little around the north east region of England. I had to go to Middlesbrough for some interviews and squeezed in a trip to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), which was showing a major exhibition called Bauhaus 1919 - 1933. It was wonderful to see some key pieces from the Bauhaus Archive in Germany.

While my interviews for the PhD take on a very different aim, I really enjoyed listening to people’s experiences on a design project. It’s something that I was always curious about in my old job and the PhD gave me a platform to explore this a little.

The process did not come without some learnings. Here are some which I think are important to point out:
  • Planning, organising, interviewing and transcribing takes a long time! Plan accordingly;

  • I wrote up a planning document, inclusive of aims, before I begun interviewing. I found it was a great reference to go back to to ensure I was clear on my direction;

  • I drew upon my previous experience in practice as a design researcher which was really valuable. Everything from filing documentation into envelopes to writing up Confidentially Agreements, were things that none of the academic research methods books told me;

  • Confidentially Agreements help lots! I wanted and needed honesty, and part of being able to get that was making sure that the interviewees knew exactly what I was going to do with the data collection;

  • Some of the Project Clients I met at the Dott Debates, which proved to be a really helpful introduction. I was able to let them know who I was, gauge their interest in being interviewed and get a sense of their roles on the project. It made it much easier setting up the interviews;

  • The interviewees found the use of visual aids really helpful in remembering and discussing the design outcomes. It had been 4 months since the Dott 07 Festival and everyone could use a little reminder;

  • I think it’s important to mark out a core set of questions. In some later interviews, where time became an issue, I wasn’t clear on a core set of questions and had to go back to the interviewee to ask them these questions later on;

  • Above all, have fun! The task is a crucial part of the data collection, but if you can’t be yourself and connect with people, you’re just not going to get the feedback you want.

1 comment:

karine said...

Thank you for sharing your experience! As you said, we can't find this in research books. Maybe you should write one!