Designing Effective Communication of Design Principles, Practices, and Mindsets in Interdisciplinary Collaboration

This project is to investigate how individuals with different disciplinary backgrounds engage with a set of Design Innovation Method Cards, bite-size introductions to Design Innovation methods, their language, and a reference for further exploration and practice. With these findings, we can identify key improvements to enhance the method cards, with the goal to enhance accessibility to unfamiliar methods or applications, and ultimately facilitate more effective interdisciplinary design education and practice. Read on to learn more about the research and how you can participate in the project!

DI Team member Anthony Porcaro began this research project as a EUReCA! Fellow in summer 2020. His presentation at CU Denver’s Virtual Summer 2020 Research Symposium received a Second Place Award in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Category! You can see Anthony’s poster below.

Anthony’s initial research focused on how perceptions of a set of interdisciplinary methods differed between practitioners with arts and design backgrounds and practitioners with engineering backgrounds. Some methods that artists and designers found easy to understand were ones engineers found very difficult to understand, and vice versa. This led us to wonder how we can design a more accessible introduction to Design Innovation – a blend of design thinking, systems design, engineering analysis, and business innovation – for new practitioners from any discipline background. We can expect that some engineering analyses will be unfamiliar to those with an arts or creative background; likewise we can expect that some user research methods will be unfamiliar to those with an engineering background, based just on specialized training each will have obtained. But what we found is that most participants from our initial inquiry, regardless of their training, landed on the same criteria to enhance their ability to engage with all the methods, familiar or not. Those criteria are usability, ease of understanding, and clarity of purpose.

Usability is a key component of user experience, and refers to ease of use. Imagine you are trying to use something – how easy is that to do? Often usability is thought of in the context of websites or apps, but is equally applicable to physical and digital products and systems. We are curious what design elements on a set of Design Method Cards enhance (or detract) from their usability.

Understandability refers to the ability to understand something with the knowledge you currently possess. We consider understanding to be a first step towards building future knowledge. Understanding comes from experiences, perceptions, language, and training. We are investigating what changes in the language on the Design Method Cards as well as how that language is displayed impact understandability, especially differences in evaluation that may arise from people with different discipline backgrounds.

Clarity of Purpose refers to having a clear intention. The Design Method cards are intended not as a sole source of learning about a design method, but as an introduction to a language of design that is purposefully interdisciplinary. We are learning what elements of the Design Method cards are perceived as contributing to a clarity of purpose for the cards.

Would you like to learn more about Design Innovation? Click here to learn more about our process and see some of our Design Innovation projects at the CMTC here.

Would you like to participate in our current study, and share your perspectives on designs created by our team? If so, click here. We have a short survey (about 20 minutes) and we’d love to hear from you. This survey will be open through mid-July 2021.