“User studies for product design” is a theoretical course looking into the techniques and approaches widely used in Design to study, understand, and engage users as part of innovation processes. The course aims to support students to theoretically and practically understand the premises, qualities, and limitations of research methods adopted in Design, to be able to then consciously plan design research work given a specific design context or brief.
In particular, the course will review methods and techniques moving from more traditional practices toward more experimental and participatory forms of research, also considering modes to analyse and report on user studies:
- market research as a systematic approach to gather and analyse quantitative and qualitative data from a specific market or target user, applying methods such as focus groups, surveys, interviews, desk research, or social media research;
- ethnographically inspired design research that aims to study people in their life context, and grasp their native’s point of view, using methods such as observation, participant observation, shadowing, contextual interviews, archival research or self-reporting techniques;
- user centred design research where designers engage with users as subjects of their research, to understand their practices and receive systematic feedback on specific solutions, applying methods such as contextual interviews, task analysis, usability testing, or desktop walkthrough;
- participatory design and experimental research, that engage users as active and expert participants in design processes to inform, evaluate or experiment with developing design solutions, using methods such as design games, generative tools, prototypes, role play, or design probes.
The course will combine theoretical presentations with practical exercises to help students to understand and experience the peculiarities of each method in terms of preparation, application and analysis, as well as to evaluate their suitability to different kinds of research questions.
On successful completion of this course students will be able to:
- Undertake different kinds of research activities for design
- Generate, analyse and interpret research data
- Describe and justify the selection and application of a range of research methods appropriate to design practice
- Discuss the role and value of different modes and kinds of research for design
- Write a research proposal starting from a given topic and brief
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