As If Users Mattered: Research in Human Centered Design

Patrick Whitney and Kei Sato, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology,

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University January 22, 1999


As if users mattered:

Businesses are continually trying to reduce development time, add value to ensure high profit margins, and extend the life cycle of their innovations. Re-engineering, change management, QFD, TQM, and using cross functional teams are but a few of the methods and business practices that companies try to use to win in the market place.

Most of these methods are aimed at improving operations and increasing speed of development. These goals are very important but they are no longer enough. The current business environment is characterized by seismic shifts in both markets and their needs and in technological possibilities. These simultaneous changes make it difficult for companies to make decisions because it is difficult to predict the nature or their market and who the next competitors are going to be.

This means that to compete successfully it is becoming more important to focus on creating breakthrough concepts that go well beyond user's stated needs. A new set of design methods developing at a few organizations including the Institute of Design now provide companies with predictable ways of getting deeper understand of users which can be used to create systems of products, services and messages that create fundamental changes in customer's daily lives.

This presentation will focus on an expanded framework for human factors which, when combined with two new types of prototypes, can help companies put users at the center of the development process.

Research in Human Centered Design:

An overview of the five research areas at the Institute of Design: Understanding Users, Interactive Systems, Communication and Media, Strategic Design and Policy, and Design Systems.

Clips from research/design projects: Designing between physical space and media space: A reconfigurable puppet interface for remote communication and collaborative learning This project exemplifies the nature of coherent relations between design research and design development which catalyses the exploration of new paradigm s in design, more specifically, in the domain of interaction design. In developing an effective method of internet-based communication and collaborative learning for children, a puppet driven interface mechanism was introduced both as a physical interface and as a software interface. The reconfigurable structure also allow the interface to respond to the change of application and needs in extra-ordinary conditions.

Patrick Whitney is a Professor and the Director of the Institute of Design, one of six schools within the Illinois Institute of Technology. His research and consulting work focus on diverse topics including strategic design planning, information design, employee training, and interactive media. His clients have included Aetna, McDonald's, Microsoft and Texas Instruments. His current research is within the Institute of Design's arenas of the Future of Work and Future of Learning. These projects have received support from The Joyce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, ACCO, Adobe, Secura Insurance, Steelcase, Texas Instruments, and Zebra Technology. Professor Whitney has published and lectured throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. He has juried numerous award programs including the 1995 Presidential Design Awards, was a member of the White House Council on Design, and was the president of the American Center for Design (ACD). Professor Whitney was the editor of the Design Journal, the annual journal of the ACD. He edited a book published by Knopf called Design in the Information Environment, a book about theories and methods of design relating to the advent of computing.

Keiichi Sato is Associate Professor at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology. He received BS and MS in Industrial Management from Osaka Institute of Technology, and MS in Product Design from Illinois Institute of Technology. He taught at Kyoto Institute of Technology for 7 years before he came back to IIT in 1998. His current research interest includes gene al design theory and methodology, interaction design methodology, performance and function design for extra-ordinary conditions, and economic and social validation of design. His thesis research at IIT in developing a structuring method for system configuration design received Best Paper Award in IEEE-ACM Design Automation Conference in 1982. His students' project "Puppet driven interface design" sponsored by Interval Research Corporation received the best presentation Award at the Human Interface Symposium in Japan in 1996. He served on the Board of Directors for the Japanese Society for Science of Design from 1993 to 1998. He has been consulting in the area of product planning and design development. He, with Fahnstrome/McCoy, received design awards in Essen 1989 and Hannover 1990.


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