Week 8 – Experience Prototyping (mid-semester break)

“‘Experience Prototyping’… a form of prototyping that enables design team members, users and clients to gain first-hand appreciation of existing or future conditions through active engagement with protoypes.” – Buchenau, M and Suri J.F., 2000, Experience Prototyping

User-testing is one of the most fundamental aspects in all design process, and can basically make or break an idea. We have moved beyond visualising scenarios and focused more on how humans would interact with such a future. Working alongside the idea of speculative object, experience prototyping allowed the designer to look at their idea on a more in-depth level, thus weeding out ideas that won’t work and further enhancing the process behind designing.

I found the various examples presented in the Buchenau and Suri reading very provocative and inspiring, being a Visual Communications student I had no need to user-test any sort of physical object, yet this expanded my views and I realised that things that are ephemeral or hard to grasps can also be prototyped, for example, the defibrillating shock experience kit. It does not present the actual object, but it lets the researchers understand the actual experience of such a device. I have always thought prototyping was to create a physical object so that people could grasp how it works, but it actually extends beyond that – a perfect scenario visualisation does not only include a plausible future, but also focuses heavily on human interaction within its boundaries (In the end, that is all that matters, for who are we designing a future for if not for ourselves?)

What I garnered from the reading this week and also the below talk by Tim Brown is that experience prototyping can be as crude as it can be, and most of the time playful. It is through this act of playing and situating ourselves within the situation can we truly understand the experience.

  • “The ability just to go for it and explore lots of things, even though they don’t seem that different from each other,” – to try a lot of different things and just go for it, especially with regards to bodystorming  (don’t be shy!), is important in aiding the process of creativity and allow designers to gather the necessary experience outcome for their projects.
  • Brown also refers to examples similar to the ones that Buchenau and Suri suggested, of rigging up an adhoc use of objects as props to guide the experience of the real object, and in this case, a roll-on deodorant became a Macintosh mouse. By having this tangible object designers can then manipulate it and express ideas in a more succinct manner.

During the break we were to do two interviews, and create a future scenario based on issues, concerns, ideas that arose in the process. I have learnt, over the course of this subject, that future design is not about things looking cool, or sleek, or futuristic, but how we, as humans, interact with these situations.

References:

Brown, T. Tim Brown: Tales of creativity and Play, TED, viewed September 21st 2012, <http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_on_creativity_and_play.html>.

Buchenau, M and Suri, J 2000, ‘Experience Prototyping’, , pp. 424-33.

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