© 2017 SHUAI SHAO. All rights reserved.
WHO I AM
To explore and establish a harmonious human-tech relationship through tangible/digital interfaces
To create aesthetic and seamless user journey with empathy and systematic view
To make use of intelligence and create value for future world by integrating design skills and knowledge
CONCEPT DESIGN IN BACHELOR
As the first project I had at TU/e, I first learned how to establish a structure for design process and adopt several design and research methods into my project.In this project, I basically used the user-centered design approach, which I have used for almost the two years. Besides, skills such as storytelling, prototyping, animation making, were also improved through the project. It was also my first time to conduct usability testing and analyze data, in which I learned a lot and the knowledge benefited later projects.
This master core course helped me to step from concept design to a research field. By doing a showroom research about a societal problem, I got to know the process of doing research, including data collection and analysis, and understood how a design artifacts can play a role in research. The understanding of all the three main research methods introduced in the course helped me with other design or research projects.
In this elective, I learned a lot of theories about a social interactive system and I became able to analyze as well as design an interactive system, with concerns from both technical and user perspectives. And I am capable to propose alternatives for interacting with a complex sensor and could make decisions based on analysis of some features to match uses’ requirements. I also trained my programming skill by prototyping the final design via Processing, in which the later design were based on.
I chose the research through design approach, and field research methods for my project, since the research under this context is meaningful only when the data are collected in real life of users.Throughout the research project, including design phase and evaluation phase, I used a framework of eco-visualization dimensions as the principle. This research made me realize the context of energy consumption as well as the design opportunity for point-of-consumption display to trigger awareness.
In this elective, a social theory, Embodied Cognition was introduced, which deepened my knowledge of user’s cognition from a psychology perspective. Through the exploration of how to integrate learning algorithm to social behaviors, my understanding of the new intelligent technology was increased and my vision of how technology should be positioned in the world was developed. Furthermore, by prototyping an experiential prototype, which was favorable to other students, I also developed my programming skills.
As an elective out of my track(RDD), I was expecting to learn a basic knowledge of business, which I believe will broaden my vision for design. Through case study, several talks and lectures,and group project, I got to know more about how a startup can be developed and scaled. I was assigned to generate business canvas, which made me understand the crucial factors that a business plan should be concerned about, and gave me another perspective to think about design itself.
Through quick iterations in squeezed schedule, the understanding of both how to design rich interaction and design for a growing system, as well as the design opportunities for the IoT context, were deepened a lot. The knowledge gained from this elective influenced my final master project to a large extent, since they share a similar context. This brought me a fresh idea to consider interaction with respect of human’s perceptual-motor skills and make use of mode-of-use and information-for-use approach.
The two challenges in the elective helped me to deepen both my knowledge of visualization and visualization design skills.To design a information product, the visualization theory gave me a guidance while I was looking at data, trying to map different type of data to different parameters of visuals. By visualizing a complex datasheet and visualizing data in the IoT context, I trained my skills in creating communicative and aesthetic visualization and interaction, as well as the programming skills for creating better user experience with digital UI, such as animated motions.
BENEFITED FROM PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE
My final master project was to design a communicating system, in which each components can “talk” to each other and collaborate on certain tasks. I used reflective transformative design process to manage different kinds of activities at different design stages. The process included thorough exploration in context, aesthetics, and technology to make sure the relevance and feasibility of the final design. I also tried to involve users in some of the activities, such as role playing and co-creation, for validating the design therefore validate my vision. In this final master project, I was able to make use of what I had learned in the past, and integrate the knowledge and design skills to create a meaningful design as well as generate value to the research field. As can be seen above, I listed the approach, theories, skills and tools I used during the one-year process of this project, and where I learned them from.
This FMP can be regarded as a summary of my master education, where I showed the level I have reached in the end in all relevant aspects, including design & research process, expertise areas, and professional skills. Regarding the expertise area user & society, I improved my knowledge and skills by conducting user-involved design activities, and final evaluation session. The gained insights could always help me to connect the design to the reality. As for technology and realization, I explored a lot about what the technology can achieve, and finally fulfilled the functions of the proposed concept, create the connection and generate the simulation for demo and testing. In terms of creativity and aesthetics, it’s always connected to design activities: ideation, storytelling, form and interaction design, and at the end to deliver a high-quality results.
CHOSEN EXPERTISE AREAS
Throughout the whole two years, I always focused on user & society in my projects. Therefore, I often followed a user-centered design approach to frame and manage the design or research activities in the process. In order to deliver a high quality of design and pleasant experience to the user, I not only looked for their pains and needs for a product or service, but also stood from the system side, as to first understand the technology empathetically. In my opinion, it’s meaningless if a designer doesn’t know what the technology can or can’t do. Thus, the understanding of user was always connected to the understanding of technology in my design process, which also made me concentrate on the technology & realization area. Besides, the experience of research, including showroom research in the CDR course, field research in research semester, final evaluation in the end of FMP, and small testings in other activities, made me gradually familiar with different research methodologies. The research activities and fundings reveals my potential interests in doing research, especially for the future technology.
As I see, creativity is the essential element in the design process. However, creativity is not about a flash of inspiration. In the past two years, I started to explore tools or approaches to achieve creativity under different circumstances. For example, at an early stage, I used storyply, personas, to figure out the essential points for users and therefore I could frame a user flow based on that. Moodboard and mind map were also frequently used in the brainstorming session. Later on I was introduced several design theories, such as embodied interaction, rich interaction, Bellotti’s framework, Frogger interaction framework, from electives or literation study. After that I understood that aesthetic is not only about form, but actually how form, interaction and function are integrated to provide seamless and pleasant user experience. In the final master project, I tried to make use of some of the theories, with additional ideation methods like co-design, role-playing, etc. In terms of form itself, which is regarded as aesthetics easiest, I tried in the FMP to make 3D models with the limited materials (wood, Perspex, arcyprop) and limited techniques(laser cutting, hand craft) to create visually aesthetic prototypes with minimal shape which I intended to have. The form of the prototypes gained a lot of positive feedback on demoday.
As a designer, as I mentioned in user & society, I think understanding technology has the same position as understanding users. Based on the understanding of both sides, a designer can make a wise decision, which is intended to change the reality and bring value to the user or society. During the two years, I have touched different kinds of technology: Leap motion controller as a complex sensor, learning algorithm to recognize and perform intelligence, Arduino as the basic hardware prototyping tool, and Processing as the basic digital prototyping tool. From these related courses or projects, though sometimes I couldn’t dive really deep into the field, such as learning algorithm, but at least I would understand how it works and as a designer how to use this kind of technology for design. Besides, with the help of the knowledge and programming skills, I was able to create prototypes quickly, which enabled an iterative design process to be used for my projects.Furthermore, the experiential design I had by developing with the skills also made the design itself more close to user for a real experience in context, and made it possible to conduct more meaningful research to validate the addressed challenge.
DESIGN & RESEARCH PROCESS
Before I came to TU/e, I didn’t really have a very structured design process which makes the results more meaningful and convincing. As I gradually adapt to the education system here in TU/e ID, I became more aware to structure the process by reasonably manage design and research activities in different phases. For example, following a user-centered design approach, I managed each iteration based on the insights gathered from the previous user involvement; following a research through design approach, I explored context firstly and generated idea with quick prototyping, which could be put forward to the pilot test, the insights from which could be used back for modifying the design or research procedure. As for my final master project, I used reflective transformative design process, with which a designer could leverage his own experience and knowledge gained from all kinds of activities to eventually make design decisions for the unknown future. As my design project was really aiming for the future intelligent world, I used this process to flexibly acquire what I need for the design and reflect at every shifting moment.
OVERVIEW COMPETENCE DEVELOPMENT
Around the end of my master education, I was thinking a lot about the future direction. As I declared in my identity and vision, I regard myself as an interactive system designer/ user experience design researcher, and I aim to design for the future connected world, for achieve the eventual coexistence of multiple media, multiple user, and improve human-tech relationship.
Previously I planned to go back China and seek for an interaction design position, since the market is expanding and there seems to be a lot of opportunities with good salary. However, the IT companies regard interaction designer only as a wireframe and user flow maker for an mobile application or a website. This reality doesn’t fit my vision to design for the future intelligent system.
After the final master project was done, I found myself quite interested in researching in this field, by means of research through design. Thus I am thinking of applying for a PhD position somewhere, to continue designing and researching what I like, and intend to create value for the society. Though, it’s much more challenging and there will be more practical issues.
To make a decision, I made a radar chart with ratings on seven aspects. By giving each aspect a weight, I calculated the total score of each direction. However, the scores are to close so I still can not make a decision from this. But with these information I could first prepare for the both direction.
IN A SHORT TERM
I will still try to find a job which fits me better. In this way I will need to know more about the companies, and contact with some designers there. In order words, I need to earn money to maintain the flexibility of future.
IN A LONG TERM
I will also keep looking for research position in universities that the project also fits my vision. If there is a suitable one and it’s a good timing, I will go for a PhD diploma. After graduation, I will try to be a university lecturer, and further a professor in China to improve the design education there.
© 2017 SHUAI SHAO | STRIVE FOR COEXISTENCE