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Nov 2003 Contents

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I want tools, give me Tools!! - An AWF Editorial

Lucas Daniel

We are at a school that teaches design research and synthesis. This is our conference. Our industry. These are the people who are doing what we are taught professionally. Why then was I left clamoring for more? I found it interesting that the two main sessions I attended (in room 210) alluded to tools I could use for synthesis, but didn't show me them in action. I wanted case studies. I wanted to go away feeling like I had a new arsenal of ways to chop up information to get to ideas. Instead I learned more about what Jump and SonicRim do, and their philosophies on design research and synthesis. Don't get me wrong, that's value. It gives me a great sense of how this stuff is done professionally, and what we need to know to make sense of this stuff in the future. But I wanted something concrete.

I felt the most interesting part of this past Saturday, was in room C50, downstairs in the Stuart building, during the student speaker sessions. Dale Wunderlich was giving a presentation of a User Observation project he did about meetings. He used Edward De Bono's colored hats brainstorming method to show how a particular brainstorming meeting his team videotaped resulted. The room lit up with questions. People were fascinated with how they took this information, applied a synthesis method and achieved their end.

Comparing these 3 sessions I attended, it figured why that room erupted with questions. Here was a tool that audience members can take away and use. In Dev Patniak's talk about making meaning, or how you get to reframing (opportunity identification), he glossed over some tools they used at Jump to make the "implicit leap", the leap of the designer's intuition that makes our gut instinct worth so much of the client's money. He talked about role playing, rorschach products, what's weird lists, top ten stories, and others as good methods to use. But I wanted to know more about these. Perhaps the talk should've spent 10 minutes on the introduction of what Jump does and the rest of the time showing us these tools in action.

I had the same reaction with Uday Dandavate's (of SonicRim) session. He spent a long time discussing the importance of engaging the user to create their own meaning, and what this lends to the design research and synthesis, but little time discussing the tools they use for participatory research. I wanted to know more about ideation frameworks, immersive spaces, and aspirational models. These were tools that were mentioned at the end.

And yes, there is the argument that this is what ID is about, teaching us frameworks, tools and methods. Dev even acknowledged this saying "teaching methods to this audience is like preaching to the choir." But school projects are very different from client engagements. I want to know how these are applied in the real world.

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