While doing my undergrad at Portland States awesome Graphic Design program, our focus was understanding the tools we were using, exploration into what was our personal style, and perfecting the craft behind the deliverables we made. Research was always present, but not the focus. During my time at IBM, have had my eyes opened to the importance of design research. I have had the opportunity to shadow our design researchers around the studio, work with them throughout the entire design process of our products, and even conduct my own research through user testing, interviewing and other insight activities. This has taught mehow research and understanding our users on more than an assumption based level is what makes a great visual designer, and therefore makes an excellent.
I recently was able to take what I had learned and apply it to a Contextual Inquiry at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington. Two design researchers and myself had two days to observe 6 Point Defiance employees as they went through their day to day. While there we were able to see different types of Zoo employees (in areas such as ticket sales to Zoo maintenance) use our software as well as other data insight tools to:
- To begin finding the why’s Driven to find out the motivations of customers
- Better utilization of tracking technology
- Optimizing education messages
- Improved data entry processes System integration
Getting to see our users interact with a product I had spent months working on, and hear their perspective as someone who is using analytics on a daily basis, was excellent. Why some assumptions we had we’re accurate, getting to see our users gave insights in unexpected places. Things like first time use of our product, how data visualizations are used on the day to day and what is need for collaboration in their work environment were areas that became apparent were in need of further exploration.
I’m very grateful for my coworkers Anne and Sara Marie for letting me join theme as a research rookie, and for all the amazingly friendly and intelligent people at the Point defiance Zoo. For my first big Contextual Inquiry, I feel pretty spoiled.
Also, I got to ride a camel. So that’s cool.