I design products and services that convey value to the people who use them through their interactions. I tend to think of well-designed interactions like a scaffold; they provide enough structure to guide but also leave plenty of room for each person to make their own meaning.
The Austin Center for Design is a rigorous program in interaction design and social entrpreneurship that emphasizes creative problem sovling in the context of social issues. My experience at AC4D formed the core of my design perspective which has been further informed through my professional experience. Additionally, my background in tutoring, mathematics, and blogging all play an important role in my approach to problem solving.
I believe that qualitative research plays a vital role in informing a designer’s intuition and provoking new ideas. I have repeatedly experienced that by putting myself in context and learning directly from people who are affected by a problem, I build full, rich relationships with many different aspects of a problem space very quickly. And these new mental models quickly lead to new connections and new insights into behavior. Not surprisingly, design ideas that result from this sort of contextual, qualitative research stand a much better chance of being appropriate and making an impact because they are anchored in relevant, first hand experience.
I describe the process of sense-making as rigorous and intentional. A new insight always feels like a flash of magic. Often new connections will topple out one after another in what feels like an uncontrollable roller coaster. And while it’s true that the actual moment our brains make a new connection is always serendipitous, we can engage in processes that make new ideas occur much more often. Data can be made physical and moveable. Behavior may be questioned and judged from different mental frames. Tension can be created between the mundane and the absurd. Overall, strategies can be devised that force us to experience and engage with each other's thoughts rather than idly waiting for them to happen.
I believe rapid iteration early in the prototyping process leads to much more robust final designs by provoking dialog as well and helping the designer avoid major flaws before they are engrained. This is especially important in wicked problem spaces. Complex problems can be like void, they will absorb as much time as we give to trying to understand them. What’s more, new understandings and insights don’t ever solve complex problems on their own. Designing in complex problem spaces requires problem solving through creative articulation. You must make something. Confront the imagined with the actual. Put it in front of people. Learn from it. Remake it. And when you are iteratively prototyping solutions and getting feedback; the manifestations stand a much better chance of being appropriate and impactful.