Synthesis as an analysis activity in designresearch

30 Mar 2009 - 4:20pm
5 years ago
1 reply
323 reads
gretchen anderson
2005

There's Synthesis and synthesis.

You always do some synthesis along the way, you can't help it. But the Synthesis is a really important step that should be distinct from Research. This is where you are really putting the whole picture together. And checking assumptions: "Did everyone really say x? Or do I just think that?"

Finally, I find that your audience won't hang with you if you don't have a great story about what you did and what you found. And I don't mean the story is "we did this, and we think this." You need to really craft your findings to capture all the nuances that lead you to a design direction. This is Synthesis.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com on behalf of Steve Baty
Sent: Mon 3/30/2009 12:44 PM
To: David B.Rondeau
Cc: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Synthesis as an analysis activity in designresearch

David,

Thank you for the detailed view of your process. You raise one point that
I'd like to tease out: although you have a separate stage that is solely
focused on synthesis activities - Consolidation; your Research stage
includes other, smaller but no less significant, synthesis activities. Did I
understand that correctly?

Things like: "visually sketch out other relevant models (sequence, flow,
physical, etc.)"

One of the things I'd like to understand better is the way in which these
smaller tasks - right across design research - are intertwined. It's that
intermingling which makes them so difficult to identify, understand and
improve.

Thanks again
Steve

2009/3/30 David B.Rondeau <david.rondeau at incontextdesign.com>

> For me, the work is broken down a little differently. (I work at
> InContext Design and so use the Contextual Design methodology created
> by Holtzblatt and Beyer). Using this methodology, the process is
> broken more into Research and Consolidation (or synthesis), with
> analysis being part of Research.
>
> The Research phase consists of gathering information: we talk to the
> client and other stakeholders to understand the business needs and
> technical constraints, and we do Contextual Inquiry interviews with
> users. As part of this Research phase we have an interpretation
> session after each interview%u2014this is our analysis. We recount
> the interview and capture the details that are relevant to our focus.
> This includes capturing notes to later build an affinity diagram, and
> visually sketch out other relevant models (sequence, flow, physical,
> etc.). We do this so everyone on the team can have a shared
> understanding about what happened during the interview. For me, this
> analysis is just part of the research%u2014but it is separate from
> synthesis as Steve initially suggested.
>
> After enough interviews are completed, we then consolidate each model
> across all users. Using our process, we take each individual sketch
> and combine them to create new consolidated sketches. This is where
> the synthesis takes place and you begin to see the larger picture of
> the work across all the users.
>
> The sketching that we do in these phases is different than the
> sketching that Brad Nunnally discussed, but similar to what Dave
> Malouf raised. In these phases, we use sketches to understand the
> data and to share and communicate that understanding to the team and
> eventually to the client. (Yes, the sketching here is synthetic, but
> that's not the main purpose.) We don't sketch solutions until
> consolidation is done and we have a full picture of the work across
> the user population.
>
> Once into the design phase though, I agree wholeheartedly that
> designers should be sketching their ideas. We have a saying, "If
> nothing is being captured, then you are just talking in the air."
> Without a shared representation, it's hard to build a shared
> understanding and make a decision. Personally, I find it very
> difficult to even think about design without sketching.
>
> I suspect that our process may be different than most. If so, I'd be
> curious to hear how other processes differ in terms of research,
> analysis, and synthesis.
>
> David Rondeau
> Design Chair
> Twitter: dbrondeau
>

--
Steve 'Doc' Baty | Principal | Meld Consulting | P: +61 417 061 292 | E:
stevebaty at meld.com.au | Twitter: docbaty | LinkedIn:
www.linkedin.com/in/stevebaty

Blog: http://meld.com.au/blog
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Comments

30 Mar 2009 - 8:16pm
Steve Baty
2009

Gretchen,

I think that's a good characterisation, and fits with what I am thinking.
There seems to be a point at which we pause and reflect on the data - as it
was, and as it is after we've done some work with it - after which the real
Synthesis phase begins. Looking back at my article, this is where you get
into techniques like abstraction and generalisation; and the heavy lifting
of design begins.

I also like your reference to a story - that thread around which our
insights are woven into a compelling "here's where we're headed" that
contains elements of both the 'what' and the 'why'. In Cindy Chastain's IA
Summit presentation she introduced the notion of a theme (in the context of
story-telling/film-making) as this core idea or thread. Her presentation is
worth a look:
http://www.slideshare.net/cchastain/experience-themes-an-element-of-story-applied-to-design-1190389#

Regards,
Steve

2009/3/31 Gretchen Anderson <gretchen at lunar.com>

> There's Synthesis and synthesis.
>
> You always do some synthesis along the way, you can't help it. But the
> Synthesis is a really important step that should be distinct from Research.
> This is where you are really putting the whole picture together. And
> checking assumptions: "Did everyone really say x? Or do I just think that?"
>
> Finally, I find that your audience won't hang with you if you don't have a
> great story about what you did and what you found. And I don't mean the
> story is "we did this, and we think this." You need to really craft your
> findings to capture all the nuances that lead you to a design direction.
> This is Synthesis.
>
>

--
Steve 'Doc' Baty | Principal | Meld Consulting | P: +61 417 061 292 | E:
stevebaty at meld.com.au | Twitter: docbaty | LinkedIn:
www.linkedin.com/in/stevebaty

Blog: http://meld.com.au/blog
Contributor: Johnny Holland - johnnyholland.org
Contributor: UXMatters - www.uxmatters.com
UX Australia: 25-27 August, http://uxaustralia.com.au
UX Book Club: http://uxbookclub.org/ - Read, discuss, connect.

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