Posts Tagged ‘observation’

Dance Your Phd

Why get bogged down in diagrams? for year as human we have been communicating without them we have been communicating through actions so why not tell a story through dance? John Bohannon & Black Label Movement present a talk with a difference “Dance Your Ph.D.” is fantastic talk demonstrating how the art of dance can be used to help explain the complex world of science. And if it works for science why not for other difficult subjects?

This method is extremely effective in demonstrating movement and function which is something images and graphs struggle with. However equally I find it hard to see how this method could be used to show statistical data therefore this method resides more in the storytelling side of the infographic spectrum.

One of the key issues addressed in this talk is about how bad power-points and I assume by extension infographics are costing the country ridiculous amounts of money. It is far too common to see a person trying to dazzle the audience with images rather than relevant facts or data. This needs to change but is dance the way forward? or will this method become as mislead as traditional visual infographics?



02 2012

Findings In a Nutshell

So what did we discover throughout this project?

That many service stations locally are being reused (e.g. Ladybank – Chinese Takeaway, Guildtown – Car Showroom)

There are government schemes to encourage people to re-use the land

People seem to have changed there shopping habits and this has affected the petrol station

There is negative feeling towards loosing petrol stations but not enough to make people change

People seem to regard loyalty schemes as important

These findings are only our interpretations of the results we collected but further research would be needed to get a more refined outcome and project area. Our team has identified 3 main areas for future research:

Abandoned – Looking into where the abandoned stations actually are (North Scotland?) , Finding example of them being re-used and identifying what allows them to survive.

Behaviour – Looking into how shopping habits have affected the service station. Identifying what impact price and loyalty schemes really have on the customer and trying to see how peoples journey for shopping has changed 

Community – Going back to the rural and small communities to see how they survive even without a petrol station. What services do they really need and how can their loyalty be redirected back into the community?


Where to start?

After all our teams explorations to gather data over the last wee while, today was a nice change to get back into the studio and get to work making sense of it all. The first thing to do was the get all our insights from the interviews and observations down onto post-it notes and start to group them together just like in the previous task(shown below).


After getting all the points up we create tags to explain them:

Petrol as a Hook


Fuel and Food

Cost vs. Loyalty

Re-Use of Fuel Stations – It’s not all doom and gloom



This process helped in allowing our group to identify the key points for the presentation and start to get our head round all this information we had collected. There are still some questions to be answered and things to be cleared up tomorrow but it’s a good start today.

While doing today’s tasks we decided to film the process and the results will be unveiled tomorrow even if the filming was cut short today.


Petrol Station Observation

Another early morning today, but not to get the bus to Dundee… Oh no, this morning was a weird one. I went to my weekend workplace on a Monday. This was in order to observe my local petrol station and see how many people shop while getting fuel.

I observed the station in Perth from 8:30 to 9:15, and the results were quite interesting:

42 people used the petrol station

32 left getting petrol only

8 visited the store after getting petrol

2 get petrol after visiting the store

After getting cold and wet in Perth, it is was time to go to Dundee and start analysing the data.



It was nice to have a bit of family time today, It’s not usually a good thing to mix family and work but in this case it was a great excuse to have a day away with the grandparents in Guildtown. For those of you who don’t know Guildtown it is a small village outside Perth which has recently had it’s local petrol station and shop close down (shown above). So I wanted to see what impact this had on my grandparents.

The results of my interview backed up the Lady bank results, the loss of the petrol station hasn’t had a huge effect the locals but the biggest problems are that they miss the little things such as getting rolls and papers in the morning and having an easy place to get petrol in an emergency.

It is interesting to see that some of the same themes are coming up and I can’t wait to see what the groups observations add to this growing list of information. On to the next stage…observing the petrol station.


Enter the Dragons

Another day for Team B, with today’s task being to decide on a brief, create a research question and present our research proposal to “the Dragons”. With Dougie only joining the team this morning we decided to discuss out favourites from the RSA briefs and decide which would be best to take forward. To do this in a efficient method we looked at the pros and cons of each topic then put it to a group vote (discussion notes). The result was a unanimous selection for RECHARGING STATIONS because it seemed the most interesting but also allowed for a lot of research oppertunities.

Recharging Stations : Re-conceive or find a new purpose for non-operational and increasingly obsolete service stations by capitalising on their unique design features. 

After deciding on the brief it was onto the hard work creating a plan of action. Firstly we identified that we wanted to focus the brief onto the small communities and how the closure of petrol stations has effected them. So we started to identify possible places for research, such as Ladybank, Guildtown and Kingskettle, which all have closed down petrol stations in their communities. The key thing now was to identify any contacts we have in these communities. These came in the form of my grandparents who live in Guildtown and Dougie’s friends who live in the Fife area. By limiting the users to smaller communities it makes the research much easier especially as we could start to get access to them quickly and easily.

Now we had selected a user and area it was time to think about how to gather our information. The original idea was to firstly go to these places and interview the public, and utilising the methods and tools show by Lauren and Cat. We also wanted to do some observational research around the community and possibly at some local petrol stations. Finally if time allowed, some kind or workshop or cultural probe could be used to get some more rich data however this option seems less likely to happen due to the time constraints.


We then had a brainstorming session to create our team brand. I tried to integrate previous methods I’ve used for this such as the “some up your company in three words” task and also looking to develop a mission statement for the group, something similar to Snook’s – “transforming people” this means giving them responsibility and empowering people in new ways. However this didn’t work as well as previous experiences but we still go there in the end, giving birth to team RECEATION, who’s missions is “Helping communities connect”.


Understanding it all

If today was a film it would be “Busy Day 2: Now it’s Logical”. Today was another busy and hectic day in the designs studios, where we had to make sense of all the data we gathered yesterday.

We had no idea where to start with all this data so to get all out key points and observations out for everyone else to see we created a wall of post-its then tried to group them all together into themes. This resulted in clusters of information (shown below) and a set of tags which began to tell a story of the space and people we observed but we couldn’t stop there, to get more insights out of our data we started again. Following Cat’s advice we took them all down then had a break to reset out brains then returned and scaled the data into two sections Human based and Space based. In a nutshell looking into what caused the actions we observed, people or the environment? (diagram shown below, lower)


DING DING, now time for round three. For the final analysis we used the map from yesterday and the magic of “magic” whiteboard to layout where the observations happened creating a visual representation or the task. In doing this we identified that certain “zones” had associated actions and atmospheres so we mapped this out as well. However looking at this the data seemed to show a happy and vibrant place but that wasn’t what we thought as a group therefore we also added some mood mapping to show how the public emotions seemed to be mapped out in the space (shown below).

Finally at the credits, after showing the class our work we could reflect on the teams performance. In my opinion we tackled this task very well, we had a few stumbling blocks with team management but time allowed us to settle and in taking on Cat’s advice, it allowed us to view the data from different perspectives and learn from it. We now will have to look to carry on this team work and retain what we’ve learnt for the next assignment.


Observation and Interviews

 And so it begins… the first project of Master of Design, well… the set up for the first project. After a talk in the morning from Design Ethnography’s Cat Macauley, introducing how to research and gather data, we were let loose into the world to scavenge for information.

Firstly going back to the talk, to loosen the class up a bit we were introduced to the PING PONG CHALLENGE. This was a way to waken ourselves up and get tour body and minds ready for a frantic day of researching. However it was also a lesson in how to act as part of a team. You need to communicate, take charge and most importantly think fast. These are some of the key attributes we as a class will have to develop over this year to become good designers and a researchers.

Now to the task at hand. To start with we were split up into teams to integrate the designer and ethnographers, time to introduce our team:

Katharina – Design Ethnographer from Germany

Junying – Design Ethnographer from China

Claire – Designer from China

Me – Designer from Scotland

Assignment 1: to go and observe a transitional space (Tower Building) for 30mins.

To start the task we decided to look at the space and divide everyone up so that we covered the whole area. (I have to admit my brain did want to pretend we were secret agents on a mission, but we were all out of radios, ear pieces and guns). Katharina cover the front entrance from the outside so we could get a different perspective. Junying took the back exit, while Claire and I settled into the lobby area.

The task went well and to me seemed to fly by. I managed to get a lot of information and because I used my laptop to take my notes it just appeared like I was working rather than observing, resulting in no awkward/suspicious looks from the public. The rest of the group also got a lot of information (mapped out in the diagram below) and seemed to have little trouble from the task, except for Junying who had to change her position due to the fact she was getting awkward looks for hanging around a busy exit but going nowhere. With one task completed, it was onto the next stage.


Assignment 2: create an interview protocol and interview your team members.

This task was harder for me, coming up with an interview protocol which wasn’t suggestive or limited to Yes/No answers was rather difficult and it was our groups first real challenge to the language barrier. However after thinking for some time, Claire and I managed to come up with a protocol to ask Katharina and Junying. Asking questions which asked the interviewees to describe the place, people and interactions allowed the group to see the observations from each other’s perspective.

At the end of a very hectic and busy day, our group had gathered a lot of information, learnt a lot about each other and got our first real taste of researching. Overall it was a very productive day but it doesn’t end there. The next stage making sense of it all, but that can wait till tomorrow.