Week 2 Assignment Part 2

Reading Response 2 : Jan Chipchase, Hidden In Plain Sight: How to Create Extraordinary Products For Tomorrow’s Customers. (2013)

The point of design research is understand how and why people behave the way they do to create a meaningful design, and what better way than to experience it yourself. To experience is both to put yourself in the customer shoes as well as to observe the way others behave. It is true that the global connectivity granted to us by the internet and social media allows one to easily reach out to many people and access data regarding consumers, but it may not yield deeper information such as how their lifestyles affect their choices. I think that it is probably because social media for example tends to provides hard data such as the number of people who searched for a particular topic which can be superficial. I guess there are online forums, chatrooms and review websites which can give you the opinions of people which is very useful but it is certainly not a substitute for being there.

This rapid cultural calibration which could be a stroll at dawn or rush hour subway ride, a visit to the barbershop, a train station or a global chain restaurant, I agree provides a deep understanding of a culture because being in a local setting allows you to get into character and play the role of a local. The best time to do this research according to the Chipchase is in the morning starting from 4am because it is more consistent and regimented. While I agree that there is much to learn from the morning rush hour, I think that it depends on what the purpose of the design research is and the evening commute or night life could also yield useful results. Riding local helps one gain a better understanding of the mental and physical state of the locals. But apart from riding the train or riding the bus to experience the commute, I think a good way to get the pulse of a particular city or community is to take the local taxi and talk to the cab driver. Long distance travel hubs have a diversity of people which is useful for learning cultural norms and expectations.

The barber shop is a social hub where people meet and chat about their lives and the latest hot topics are discussed. The barber shops in HDB estates in Singapore are a good example. Mcdonalds is a place where cultural differences in terms of food and the demographics. Whenever I visit a Mcdonalds in a foreign country, I always lament about how the local one is “better”. For example there is curry sauce in the local Mcdonalds and is a place where young people study. Signage as the author suggests reveal much about social behaviour and value conflicts. In the Singapore context there are signs everywhere that indicate fines for smoking and littering and even “no durian” signs which reveals the punitive culture and food habits. There is a myriad of idiosyncrasies that are revealed that can provide tremendous inspiration for a design project when we immerse ourselves into the local experience.

Q1. Is it always beneficial to a design project to conduct an immersive design research such as the rapid cultural calibration as mentioned in the reading?

Q2. How much collecting of data is enough to give the designer the insights and inspiration he needs to create an empathic design?

Author: Timothy Chan

Product Designer and Artist

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