Throughout my master, I have been working on different projects focussing on supporting independence for elderly and people with dementia. These project support my vision and who I am as a designer, while they also allowed for moments of reflection and building my approach to projects and my development.

The main factors in my approach to projects is the importance of the user and society. Design impacts people’s everyday life and creates value for them. When impacting someone’s life, it is important to take their point of view. As mentioned in my vision it is therefore important to include the users as the main stakeholder. Additionally, especially when working with vulnerable target groups, it is important to create empathy with the user and be respectful of them. Make sure you don’t waste their time and focus the project on something significant for the field.

During the process of a project, it is important to look at the context from the viewpoint of different stakeholders. Looking at the society involved and influenced by the product, but also to the companies involved and their principles and point of view on the context. This allows for better integration of the final product.

During a project, it is important to find the balance between knowledge and intuition. Taking into account how good the users you talk to represent the target group and seeing how insights can be supported by research papers or the other way around.

Learning points

Working on projects and following electives allowed me to gain supporting skills and insights which are useful within future projects and support my approach and further development. Here some of these main learning points will be addressed.

As already shown in my vision and approach, the users play an important role within a project. Throughout the projects, different ways of gaining insights from the users are used. Such as a probe study, user diary, focus group session, deployment and a phased user test. The elective on user experience was focused on creating empathy with vulnerable target groups and taught me the importance of how you address the issue you want to talk about. It also taught me how to have other group members, who haven’t interacted with the target group, create empathy with this target group. One of my pitfalls, regarding empathising, is when empathising and getting to know the target group I have to keep looking at the target group from a distance, to also see how relevant an individual’s difficulties are in relation to the target group.

Another of the learning points surrounds gathering data. When wanting to gather data about a product or service, it has to be noted which type of data is best suited to allow you to answer the questions you want to get answered. For instance, when wanting to see if the PeeTree was really used by elderly men in nursing homes, it would be best to use quantitative data to see how much they used the tree.

On the other hand, looking at the Wijstijd, qualitative data is better to find whether a product is perceived as useful and what the points of improvement are. Working with these different types of data taught me different ways of analysing, visualising and linking the results back to the product. This learning point was also supported by the elective on constructive design research.

During the iterative process of a design project, I have to allow myself to keep working on the concept. A pitfall for me is that I tend to get stuck in the idea generation process. I have to dedicate time within the process to really do some idea generation session, alone or with stakeholders, to allow for more iterations on a certain concept before going into the next phase. This is something which I noticed coming back as a difficulty, especially during my final bachelor and graduation project. During my graduation project I did notice that setting a stricter planning and deadlines for finishing a certain amount of concepts or iterations already helped. Using different techniques from for example the Thinkertoys book helped me to approach the problems with a different mindset.

Lastly an important aspect for me was creating a bigger understanding regarding the development of a prototype. When doing my final bachelor project I already noted that for some people, especially elderly, it is important to make a nice looking and working prototype. Within my projects and the elective on complex sensors I worked on broadening my knowledge on how to use different programming tools. This allowed me to program the Wijstijd myself, and communicate with an expert on the aspects where I needed support. Additionally I worked on the aesthetics of my prototypes with the help of a material prototyping workshop. I also required insights within my projects on how certain aspects, such as the size, visual electronics or quality, can already have an impact on the users perception of the products functionality. Lastly following the electives on peripheral interaction and interactive materiality allowed for a basic understanding on how the aesthetics and form of a product influences the way people interact with it.

My Future

Following everything I learned during my master’s program, I see myself working in the direction of user experience design. Working closely with the users to find and understand the problems they are facing, and to find fitted solution for these problems.

Working on projects that really have an impact on everyday life, and improve their quality of life. My interest is, as seen from my vision, mostly in the direction of designing for dementia.

Additionally, I am interested in looking into the possibility of developing two of my projects further, my final project and research project. Especially the research project, where the result showed that there is a need for a solution in this direction. After the project, I also heard from multiple people connected to nursing homes that there is a real need for this.

For my final master project, the next step will be to present the project during the DDW 2017. Reaching a bigger audience and potential stakeholders will hopefully lead to further development of the product.

All guided towards my vision of being able to improve, support and impact peoples everyday life.