Report for Assignment 3: Resourcefulness of Everyday Design Background information: Method: Contextual Inquiry Researchers: Kerri Zhang and Urvashi Gupta To investigate the ways non-designers design things to suit their needs, we conducted two sessions of Contextual Inquiry. We recruited two subjects and conducted one session with each subject.
Session #1: Time: 12:00 PM, Feb. 9th, 2014 Location: 821 Woodbridge Dr. Subject: Female, first-year graduate student, major in Computer Science. She has been living with her roommates in a townhouse for the last 4 months. She is 24 years of age and loves computers. She is from India and came to the USA for her Masters about 4 months back. She got most of the furniture currently present in the house from the church furniture giveaway and hence she doesn’t have a lot of furniture in the house. This leads her roommates and her to “redesign” the little pieces of furniture they have and make the most use of it. This also helps them in saving money. They plan to move to a better fully furnished house next semester. Procedure description: ●
Before the interview, we wrote down the information we needed to gather such as what we heard/observed, why they do what they do, tools and etc. ● We talked about the purpose of this session and asked for her permission to record. ● We conducted this session at the table in the dining room. Session Summary/ Findings: The subject described several instances of everyday design. ●
She described about how the press board is now used more like a storage shelf. The press board is placed next to the dining table where they usually study and hence they keep the books, ipad chargers, paper sheets etc on the press board where they are
easily accessible. They had also placed a lamp on it, which they use whenever they study to have more light. She described how a computer desk is now being used as a microwave table. They got the computer desk at the furniture giveaway. Initially they wanted to keep it upstairs, in their room, and use it for its intended purpose. But later they realised that it will be difficult to move it upstairs because it is hard to disassemble and there is no space in the room. At the same time, they needed a table to keep the microwave because the microwave cannot fit in the kitchen. Hence they then decided to use the computer desk like a microwave table. And slowly other stuff got added to the table. Letters about the house which are common to everyone have been placed on the keyboard board. And other kitchen electronics have been placed at the bottom-most shelf. Other common stuff like speakers and shopping bags have been placed at the top most shelf. She described how a file cabinet is being used as a shoe rack. She was looking for a shoe rack at the furniture giveaway but she found a file cabinet with missing drawers. And she immediately got it to be used as the shoe rack. She described how they used rope as shower rings. When they first moved into the house they didn’t have shower curtain rings and they needed it urgently. Hence they thought an alternative way to hang the curtains. They thought about what things could go through the holes and hang stuff. So they used the rope which is generally used to hang clothes, cut it into small pieces and created rings out of it to hang the shower curtain. Lastly, she described how they use Amazon boxes to store newspapers, pamphlets and food.
Users due to several reasons engage into everyday design. Some of the reasons that came forward from the first subject were Finance - Being students, they can not afford to buy furniture for everything that they would like to have for. Hence they repurpose whatever furniture they got from the furniture giveaway to suit their needs. ● Culture - This also reflects their cultural background. The subject mentioned that in India, shower curtains are not required in the bathroom. Hence they did not know the need for shower curtain until their bathroom floor started to leak. Because of this they needed the rings urgently which made them design rings from rope. ● Convenience - They use the iron board as storage because it is convenient. Books and other stuff placed on the board are easy to access when they study on the dining table. ●
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Up: Press board serves as a storage shelf. Left: File cabinet is used as shoe rack. Right: Work desk is repurposed for microwave table.
Session #2: Time: 1:00 PM, Feb. 9th, 2014 Location: 812 Woodbridge Dr. Subject: Female, first-year graduate student, study in SPEA. She just moved in for a week by
herself. The apartment is still under decorated so she sleeps in the living room now. She likes bold color and vintage style. Procedure description: Researcher Kerri was given the wrong apartment number (812 instead of 821) . She knocked on the door of apartment 812 and accidently found out this girl was painting her wall. So Kerri asked her if she was interested in being recruited in a contextual inquiry session. She agreed. ●
We went to her apartment 5 minutes earlier and talked about random stuff to make the conversation less awkward. ● Then we introduced the purpose of this study and then we walked into her bedroom to observe her painting the wall. Session Summary/ Findings: ●
She described how a huge wooden dresser is being used as her TV stand and storage for other things(see picture). She moved this dresser here from her mother’s house. There, the dresser was repurposed for storing kitchen stuff. She explained that she likes old things and decorations. It goes well with the style of her apartment. We noticed that she has vintage clock and paintings on the living room wall, which verified what she said about the style she is planning to pursue. ● She described how she used four farm racks to make a bed box(see picture). She used to sleep just on her mattress but she decided to have a bed box. She spotted these wooden racks on a farm and it occurred to her that they could make a bed box. First, she mismeasured the size of these rack and spread them out. It turned out they were too big for the mattress so she stacked them up to make a proper sized bed box. She painted the racks and started using them like a bed box. The reasons why the subject chose to repurpose: Value system: she was taught to learn to use what you already possess instead of buying new ones. She also mentioned that she didn’t want to spend money on buying a new bed box. All she had to buy was the paint. ● Personal style: she is pursuing a vintage style in her apartment so she would like to reuse things that go with that style. ●
Left: The dresser is used as TV stand and storage. Right: Four farm racks are stacked up to make a bed box. On it are her tools and paint.
Data Analysis Common themes: The specific intentions to repurpose vary, yet some common themes are shared. It is interesting that both subjects talked about they think the artifact itself is a good piece and they don’t want to waste it. The cultural value to use and reuse what they have is similar. To achieve this goal, they explored beyond the artifact itself to some extent and based on their shape, material, texture and etc., they redefined the artifact and change them to suit their own needs. Since it’s for everyday use, they share some similar principles such as low-cost. And in some situations, the creative process is inspired and happens because of out of option. Subject 1 uses file cabinet as shoe rack because the church giveaway ran out of real shoe racks. Also, the reason she uses rope instead of shower curtain rings is the rings were out of stock in the supermarket. Hence, creative everyday design is sometimes inspired by the urgency of particular situations. Unique features: Subject 2 mentioned about personal style. In her particular case, the vintage style does include a process of creatively reusing and refurbishing the old things to suit her needs and her style as well.
Design implications: The Internet of things In the context of internet of things, everyday design plays a very important role. ●
Internet of things relates to how everything - humans and the environment are interconnected and interact with each other. Everyday design can be thought of as how people interact in different ways with objects around them. ● Everyday design is about repurposing things to suit your personal needs. It is a way in which people connect different things together. When non designers engage into creative use of objects, undirected affordances surface. This is very useful while we think about designing the homes of the future. For implementing the internet of things successfully it is very important to involve non designers into the design process because the way people use objects in their environment is sometimes very different than the initial intended purpose. ● The use of artefacts change and evolve over time as has been explained by Ron Wakkary in the article ‘Anything Is a Fridge: The Implications of Everyday Designers’ “Design artefacts exist in an evolutionary and complex environment. The value and use of artifacts change over time as they are combined into systems with other artifacts, renewed through discovery of new uses, or as situations or needs change. Recognizing that qualities emerge over time requires us to consider more than just the explicit usefulness of an artifact, that is, to include more passive usefulness and unintended uses”. The internet of things cannot be implemented in a day. It will need several years before technology can blend in completely with the environment. It is very important to understand how people will adapt to your designs over time.