Posts filed under ‘Methods’

Post-its: Not to be confused with design, or a summary of innovation

Pic: Workshop to a Startup-NGO in Washington DC [CM]

It may sound really obvious, but as time goes by and I have been a PhD student, a design-anthro consultant, ethnographer, instructor in academia and in the industry, the reality is that people confuse the design process or the lead to innovation with the sole use of using post-its, and it stresses me out.

While talking to individuals from some companies that have been consulted by design firms, innovation gurus or self called design thinkers, they indicate they are troubled by having paid a bunch of money to “just learn to paste post-its, cluster them and talk about ideas.” But what do they do next? The technique has become a financially successful end in itself, but the empowerment towards innovation is limited. The technique can only provide certain answers and people are not aware that this is just a small part of the whole picture.PIC: Stanford’s DSchool PA [CM]

Don’t get me wrong. I work with post-its, my students work with post-its and the organizations I assess work with post-its in my workshops. They are great to extrapolate ideas (display and externalize knowledge), yet…they are just that, a practical tool to think display (a term popularized by Miles and Huberman), which is to say they are great for brainstorming, mind maps creation or to visualize mental models. But the threat is that they also can generate what my friend Michael Barry from Stanford mentioned to me once: Academic Paralysis.

Post-its seem to have been the perfect marketing response to selling the usefulness of designer’s divergent thinking. Nonetheless, it has become an end in itself (with no results or success guaranteed on innovation). What can we do? I believe that making people aware that this is just a small portion of the ecosystem and just a small bit of the design process might be the most ethical way out. Post-its should be used to answer the right type of questions. Not everything needs to be answered with funny colored elements; that is not the synonym of effective design.


August 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm 3 comments

Dance and Design, this is revolution

Pic: CM [Aleta teaching students to improvise and flock, 2012]

I have always been a wannabe contemporary dancer, but always stayed in the basic-amateur side. But really, never thought this kind of art could relate to design in such a smooth way. This, until I met Aleta Hayes at while doing my research at Stanford Uni’s CDR. She made a whole session of improvisation with the design students from the Needfinding course at the DSchool. This is one of the courses that, thanks to Anne Fletcher and Michael Barry, I am working with for my design-anthropology doctoral research. Throughout a series of exercises, which for the first time DIDN’T SEEM CHEESY AT ALL [sometimes consultancies love to take over these exercises but without hiring the right people], she demonstrated the power of empathy and leadership. Leadership through flocking exercises: “… try to become like the people you are working with…”, which is how we commonly learn a choreography… and Empathy: certain exercises that “make you take over others people’s quality...”


Aleta Hayes, performer and Stanford lecturer, opened a whole new area in my mind. And I really mean it when I say it wasn’t cheesy, it made sense, just said by her in the way she said it sounded like easy-adoptable-theory. And even though I am working with some aspects of choreography for analyzing team performance, I had never thought to use dance in the ways she presented.
Video: TED X Brussels
She also showed this video of TED X Brussels [it had to be here, the only place where a circle of my friends, (more…)

March 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm 2 comments

Global Service Design Jam Oslo

Pic: Alex Asensi

Manuela Aguirre is an emergent designer, ex student [in Chile] and good friend finishing her Masters in System-Service Oriented Design in The School of Architecture and Design in Oslo [AHO], Norway. Manuela has been tightly working in “The Policy Lab” and experiencing the role of design at the systems level. She recently attended the “Global Service Jam” in Oslo. Here is what she tells us:

“On Friday 24th of February we got together in the Pop-up hub in Oslo (the first virtual co-working space: POPUP HUB OSLO . With some beers and pizza we met the Oslo participants at the second Global Service Jam.  At 7 o’clock we all gathered together towards the big screen to get the task from the central jam-office in Germany where they announced the global theme for this event: Hidden Treasures.

Check out the opening theme for this year:

From that minute (more…)

March 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

Methods: Personas, have you ever though where they came from?

ImagePic: Workshop I carried out at Stanford with Chilean incubators [CM]

Palo Alto, CA: Since I am here at Stanford as a VR, at the Center for Design Research, I’ve seen students carry out methods like “Brainstorming“, “Rapid Prototyping” and “Personas“. I would like to comment on the “personas” tool. Students learn how to make them, but do they know where they come from? It is in my belief that students or recipients of this teaching should learn the sources of these techniques. Why? Because you get to know the place where to search for more information or for understanding the rationale behind it. This situation would enable the learners to reconfigure their way of applying the methods yet in a more informed way. ImagePic: Cooper 

Making archetypes coming from ethnographic or qualitatively inspired research is not something new to the fields of Anthropology or Sociology. But it was Alan Cooper, the “humanizer of technology”, so he indicates in his website, the one that “pioneered the use of personas as practical interaction design tools to create high-tech products that address user’s needs” . (more…)

December 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm 6 comments

Conditional Design

Pic: Conditional Design

Through the work of Casey Reas , Diego Gómez got to know the work of a Dutch collective called: “Conditional Design“. They have published an interesting manifiesto, which is the one he is exploring in this post. Conditional Design entails: THE PROCESS IS THE PRODUCT AND LOGIC IS OUR TOOL [please look at the manifesto for further statements]. As an MA candidate, Diego had the possibility to help in a workshop about “Conditional Drawing” based on the statements that this Dutch collective explore. During his own course, back in Chile, he implemented a similar idea with students from Digital Design at UDD in Santiago. Gómez enfatizes in the fact that: “The exercise proved to be an interesting step to to start thinking about: what do we design when we design with the and from technology. If this sounds benign to you, is because you haven’t really reflected about it”.

By Diego Gómez
designer, media worker & academic enthusiast

Incluso en la más intrincada definición de diseño, es imposible negar el vínculo de la disciplina con la tecnología y los medios. Más aún, habemos quienes creemos que el diseño está íntimamente ligado a la evolución de estos constructos sociales. Para bien y para mal. Para el diseñador, reflexionar sobre esta ligazón debe ser parte fundamental de su hacer. Entender cual es rol de la disciplina en la sociedad implica analizar cada día qué significa el crear con y desde la tecnología y los medios, y por lo mismo, cómo éstos condicionan el diseño.

Pic: Diego’s Workshop at UDD

Esta inquietud no es nueva y se podría decir que es (more…)

September 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm Leave a comment

DiRT-Open Source Digital Research Tools-Wiki

Pic: DiRT Website

The Humanities are going through big changes. They no longer can stay confined to the “Analog World”. Acknowledging this situation, is that the Digital Research Tools Wiki [DiRT] project is built. The Wiki sets the platform to collect information and resources for conducting research within digital environments. It mainly indicates the use of open source tools that can enable the delivery of better and more creative ways to describe, interpret, analyze and display data specially for the humanities. WE LOVE OPEN SOURCE! Open source has various benefits, but one of the most relevant of them is the technological non-obsolescence derived from market constraints.


March 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm Leave a comment

Strategies for writing a positional paper in design [and other disciplines]

PIC: Amber’s Class [CM]

It happens [once in a while, hopefully more and more] that our design students need to write a thesis or a paper. How do we make that process more cognitively approachable for their academic training? Amber Howard, PhD candidate and instructor at NCSU [previous posts on teaching Mobile Technologies] College of Design has been taking students through what was her own writing process for the dissertation proposal. She is helping MGD students to identify and structure positional papers as an exercise for their thesis writing. 

PIC: Amber’s Class [CM]

[1] With three colors, students had to identify: sources, evidences and big ideas in articles found in particular (more…)

February 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm 1 comment

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
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Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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