How a Kid’s Perspective Improves Design Research
In this case, the kid is my daughter, Quinn. As face-squeezingly awesome as this was for her, it was an adventure driven by design. My team’s design researcher didn’t want us merely to observe; she wanted us to feel this place—its buildup, its storytelling, its magic—as a kid feels it. And for that, we needed a Quinn. The face-squeezing effects of a Harry Potter World trip in action. But aren’t there already plenty of kids at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Well, yes, one or two. But it’s a different experience when it’s your sleeve being tugged. As a designer, you can observe what others are feeling—but you get a richer kind of fuel for design when you feel it for yourself. IDEO New York has been inviting Quinn to share her opinion, inspiration, and feedback since she was 5 years old. The first time, she helped a team designing an alarm clock to make Mondays less dreadful and more delightful. Initially, the team planned to record her laughter, but they enjoyed her input so much that she was asked back to test materials, prototype concepts, and model for their website. Since then, Quinn has helped lead workshops, taught a class of grad students about gender bias when she was in the second grade, and built a fort of umbrellas in our café. Quinn helping a team film a video; Quinn doing synthesis. Quinn has earned such favor in our community that it was suggested (not by me) she be offered an official internship. And so, last autumn, when her school let out for half-day Thursdays, Quinn came to the studio and took up the mantle of IDEO’s Kid-in-Residence: The Quinntern. Again, it wasn’t all fun and games. Designers were asking her for help left and right. Here are four reasons why. 1. Kids don’t know the rules Our project teams grab Quinn for their brainstorms because she listens to the problem and tries to solve it. She doesn’t think about financial viability or the laws of physics—she just thinks. Eventually, it’s our job to add those things back in, but in the divergent phase of a project, she’s a superstar. Although she’s prone to insert dinosaurs and robots into her concepts, she cuts to the core of an issue and simplifies the needs behind it in a way that can inspire us to develop a dinosaur-free solution. Quinn making art; Quinn recharging her creative juices. 2. Kids are buzzword bloodhounds Einstein long ago reminded us that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it. Tapping a kid is the ultimate way to prove this out: If they’re confused by a concept or question, it usually means we have a lot more work to do. Quinn will call us out on our assumptions—happily and loudly—and she won’t fall for any design jargon or doublespeak. Getting critiqued by a kid keeps you honest. 3. Kids are full of surprises Kids see the world from a different perspective and value it with different priorities. Having first-hand access to that unique point of view helps jumpstart creativity. At one 30-person client meeting, we wanted to establish a sense of play from the start, so Quinn ran a silly-face photobooth for us. As lawyers and Wall Street professionals walked in, » Read More
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