The fields of media and design rely heavily on understanding the end-user. To design and develop any media base product for the public use, one must delve into the target audience. Coming from a design background, I have had the opportunity to become familiar with various methods to help better understand the end user. I will admit; however, these methods were learned years ago seem somewhat dated and limited. Some of the standard techniques I have used in the past include surveys, research analysis, design briefs, and focus groups. No media based product to be successful without creating an empathetic understanding of the target demographic.
From experience, I have come to appreciate a couple of critical aspects of design thinking and approaches to empathy when creating a media-related product. Kouprie and Visser (2009) outline the four stages of approaching empathy as discovery, immersion, connection, and detachment. Detachment has a strong relationship with me when it comes to design. If the designer or developer has too much of a connection with the end product, they will assume too much bias and will ignore any input from outside sources, precisely the target audience. For the media based product to be successful, the designer must remove themselves emotionally early on in the design process.
IDEO (2015) outlines secondary research as additional aspect for design. Although time-consuming, secondary research can validate ideas, assumptions and input from the end user. Although it is great to assimilate data from the target audience, the designer should always follow up with additional research that will help validate the primary empathetic-based data. Secondary research can also help build a strong foundation, reveal unique information, and possibly offer inspiration for the creation of the final product.
As a professor in a media related field, I have the ability to observe the students as they approached design and development themselves. The digital learning resource I wished create is targeted for these students. Therefore I’ve already have the ability to make use of what IDEO (2015) describes as peers observing peers, define your audience, and immersion. From the empathy methods that are listed on the IDEO (2015) I plan to use a combination of “group interview” and “draw it”. The one caveat I plan to implement is that this empathy-based method will be timed. I have found in the past that placing the restriction time on a creative exercise provides the extra pressure on the end users that enhances their creative output.
The resources required to complete this empathy-based exercise include participants from the target audience, a room, pencils, paper, and final approval from the research department at the college. Unfortunately, at this time this session is in limbo as I have to wait for approval to proceed with my feedback session. Only time will tell.
IDEO. (2015). Design Kit – Methods. Retrieved from http://www.designkit.org/methods
Kouprie, M., & Visser, F. S. (2009). A framework for empathy in design: Stepping into and out of the user’s life. Journal of Engineering Design, 20(5), 437-448.