Investigate Phase: Day Three

Oh reflections, reflections, reflections! I’ve been very reluctant to post this up, rewriting and correcting it over and over again. I’m still unsure whether I am making this succinct but meaty enough. But I realize that this has to go up before next week starts, so work does not pile up.

The importance of reflecting upon each session is great. It solidifies our learning- our workshop sessions are so filled with information that it becomes overwhelming easily. To keep information from entering one ear and out the other, reflecting upon each session helps to reiterate the things that we have learnt which allows for better understanding and hence better application of the new concepts.

On Wednesday- on our third session of the Workshop, the second “chapter” of the Design Thinking discipline was taught to us in the order of observation, role-playing and interviewing. All of these and form informed insights as required.

Although the method of role-playing seemed weird to me at first, even after the explanation, discussing it with my group had been beneficial. We had all agreed that it is another way to gain primary understanding by experiencing the situation through the eyes of possible ferry patrons in a first-hand manner.

We plan to role-play using crutches, a wheelchair and possibly a stroller one day, if we are able to rent such at a reasonable price and conduct the role-play by the end of next week at the latest. Time is scarce and we need to use it wisely so we have to choose carefully when to draw the line. In an ideal world- every single part of every single chapter of this Design Thinking discipline would be explored thoroughly. But we do not have the luxury of time at all. The brevity of this project keeps us on our toes and will teach us to prioritise and know how to make good decisions fairly quickly.

The other parts of the investigate chapter; “observing” and “interviewing” have proven to be very useful in acquiring and learning more information about a situation like our case. We have spent two days so far down at the ferry terminal and already we are very happy with the information that we have gathered.

Observing the behaviour of people and how the place is set up is all very easy and straightforward, especially since pointers were given to us. Seeing and not looking means to look with understanding. On our first visit to the downtown ferry terminal, all we did was soak up the information with our eyes. It  was all on a wave of adrenalin rush, I reckon- the anticipation for whatever the terminal has in store for us. I know I definitely had my eyes peeled for a good opportunity where we can stage a design intervention. I tried to hold back, so that my eagerness would not get in the way of following the process, and I hope I did just that. We discovered new things and disproved our assumptions or rather ticked off the assumptions and concluded that indeed the ferry terminal is a-okay.

I felt that we were only looking at the basics, the workings of the place; how it runs, and if it runs to fulfil its function (and if it is accessible). It is all well and good to know if the place runs smoothly, but that is just dealing with the technicalities. Don’t get me wrong, of course the technical side of things are important- but I just felt like we were missing something.

That’s when the interviews came into play. The idea of interviewing strangers was a bit daunting really, to tell you the truth, but I found that after you have gone through your very first interview it is much easier to approach the next ones. On the first visit to the terminal I built my courage up and talked to one of the passengers waiting for a ferry bound for Waiheke. I had two reasons to why I approached her as early as the first day- first I wanted to try if casual was the way to go- and see if we as a team can build our strategies from there and secondly, I just wanted to prove to myself that the second visit to the ferry terminal shouldn’t be all that bad.

The thing with interviews are that it gives you first-hand access to real live thoughts of ferry patrons, and that by far is the best information you can get. I’ve learnt to be patient with the interviewees I had been fortunate to speak to as some were helpful and some obviously were not. It is one of the expected cons of this process though, so it wasn’t at all discouraging that most didn’t have very helpful things to say. It is however a consequence that should be tolerated, for that one or few interviewees that have a lot of input. I think that is where all of the meat comes from- it is where we can draw emotional ties from to make the design intervention that much more worthwhile.

I relate this back to the very first exercise we had done on the very first day of this project; designing a wallet for one of our classmates, as I remember my struggle to add any emotional ties to it. I had covered all the immediate necessities that my classmate had pointed out but I kept forgetting to add that one thing that would make it even more unique for that person, as my concern was majorly focused on the function and not the ‘experience’. Looking back at it now, it has similarities to our actual project, in the way that our aim is to ‘enhance the experience of the user’.

In the end, we as a group had decided to approach the ferry patrons casually, no pens, no notebooks, just our smiles to offer a friendly chat while waiting for the ferry to arrive. It worked amazingly. We didn’t really take to making the interview too formal as it might scare off people and had decided on just one or two prompt questions: “How is your ferry travel experience?” and “If there is one thing at all that you could change to improve the service and/or the facilities what would it be?” Of course these questions weren’t asked until we had introduced who we were, which university we were from and what our intentions were for speaking to them.

I consider both days as amazing learning experiences that did not only teach me about the importance of each method within a chapter of the Design Thinking discipline by way of practice, but it also gave me confidence to step out of my shell and speak to strangers and surprisingly have a good time. I hope that in the near future, my group and I are able to borrow some crutches and wheelchairs etc. for role-playing purposes as it would be good to gain some primary insights of what a ferry experience would be like to those who are mobility-impaired.

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