Posts Tagged ‘life balance’

Thesis update….

June 3, 2009

Today i have been battling my way through all my notes and quotes from my research sessions. In the end i carried out 12 interview sessions over the course on 1 week! 9 of these were in person (in Copenhagen) where i used a number of mapping tools and a series of questions, 3 were carried out remotely over skype (to USA and Italy) and one person (in Italy) also kept an in depth written and photograph diary for me for one week. In this she recorded all her routines, habits, frustrations, anxieties and happy moments. This information has proven to provide very rich and interesting material! She did a fantastic job! The people i interviewed were divided into students, couples that work and families, as well as a few extreme users such as people that travel frequently for work reasons and people that have a keen passion in their life (E.g. sport)

Currently i am still going through everything so i can’t say what i am going to take forward. We do have a hand in on Tuesday though, where we have to define what our design challenge is, so by then i will be able to be more specific! At the moment i am creating character boards for all my interview subjects and picking out key quotes and observations for each person. After completing this i will then pull out specific insights that i feel have potential to be developed. I will use these to turn into “how might we statements” and then hopefully frame them into a design challenge. Here are some photographs just now until i have finished going through everything…..

102_0262Interview notes typed up and organised

102_0281An emotional time line map

102_0284“Mapping Priorities” tool

102_0259A diary that one of my research candidates kept

102_0272One of the character boards

The rest can be found here.

Objective, research, assumptions

May 5, 2009

End Statement
I want to help people feel in control and have a more balanced lifestyle, yet still meet their own personal priorities that brings  them meaning to their lives.

Research Objective
Find out what does it mean for people to have a balanced life. What do people need to do to feel in control. How does this vary at different stages of their lives and how do their priorities change.

Currently there are a number of personal informatics tools on the market to help people balance their lives. These tools generally are designed to help very generic areas of peoples lives for example, health, finances and energy consumption. Some of these tools have been a great success but other are just a waste of time, i am very skeptical that any bar chart on a screen will actually motivate anyone to change their behaviour.

I believe that there are other more specialized and interesting areas that could be addressed to help people feel more balanced. These could be very subjective to each person, but there may be some interesting patterns. Some of these assumptions could be:

People need to..

  • Check there emails repetitively throughout the day
  • Speak to parents/grandparents each weak so they don’t feel guilty
  • Read Newspapers to make them feel they are up to date with current knowledge
  • Do some sort of exercise each week
  • Keep in contact with friends that live in other cities/countires
  • Buy organic or fair-trade food to make them feel like they are being healthy or ethically conscious
  • Recycle their paper and bottles.
  • Shower every morning and evening
  • Wear unwashed clothes everyday
  • Make sure there mobile phone is fully charged at all times
  • Know where their ‘significant other’ is at all times

Even writing this short list of assumptions of the top of my head has really made me realize how big this area is i am trying to tackle, but also very interesting! Lets see if any of these assumptions come true!

Research kick off!

May 4, 2009



Today we started the research phase of our thesis projects with a great talk from Christine Truc, the founder of the Design Strategy Lab. Christine in an expert in User Research and gave us an overview of how to plan and implement our research. As i mentioned before i am looking into what it means for people to live a balanced life, what are people’s personal values they need to meet to feel comfortable in their lifestyle. I am also especially interested to see if personal informatics can play a role in helping people achieve this. If you can access more information about your day  to day actions that is currently hard to access or invisible would this help. For my research i am going to work with three user groups; students, couples who live together and work, and couples that live together with a family. By working with these user groups i hope to see how people’s priorities change through a change in age and their lifestyle? What do people need to do to live a meaningful life, and do they use any tools or strategies to achieve this. This week i will be working on preparing different tools to use for during my interviews, these may include diaries, mapping tools or card sorting activities. I will post about them here as i define and create them! At the end of last week i also did some initial research on what tools are currently available and did a quick email question asking people “what information about their lives that is currently limited would they like to have better access to?” Some of the reply were:

“A system that tells me how my personal actions and lifestyle (i.e. flying, cycling, recycling, energy consumption, food consumption etc.) contribute to my personal lifestyle picture and how this affects the larger global picture. Information is currently there but they all seem so separate as systems and isolated. I would like them to be more integrated so I can get an overview of myself and others (maybe my local community, or my social circle of friends etc. – peer support system)”

“I’d like to know more about spending my money, so I could manage my finances    more effectively. I generally am decent with my money, but I can let it slide easily when I’m busy on other things. I’ve looked at things like budgeting software but always seemed like too much work to set up”

“I’d also like to know more about my shopping habits, so that I could make more ethical choices by buying good things and not bad things”

“I really don’t know if I want to know anything about my actions. I’d rather get unexpected information about my life, that could trigger a change in behaviour or make me reflect upon certain aspects of my life”

Although this exercise was slightly random, i found it very interested to here such a wide range of responses. It helped me see that the area i am dealing with is very subjective to the user. Different people can have such a wide range of personal values.



Updated thesis statement

April 29, 2009

On Monday we officially started our thesis at CIID, so over the past few days i have been re-writing my thesis statemant of intent for my topic. Here it is!

What is my thesis to me
As someone who is still in the early stages of their career I see my thesis as my golden ticket to learn who I am as a designer and to prepare myself for my future after CIID. It is an opportunity for me to explore a new area that I am extremely excited about, yet have no pre-conceived ideas about what the outcome will be. I feel the area I have chosen will challenge me intellectually and technically as a designer. I want my thesis to allow me to use my natural strengths of product design, service design and prototyping, but also allow room for me to keep building on the technical skills that I have been gradually developing.

Thesis Topic

Area: Personal Informatics

Personal Informatics is an emerging field that can be characterized as the monitoring and displaying of information about our daily lives through products, services and systems. I believe this new realm has huge potential to redefine the way in which we interact with the physical world and gain insights about our actions that make up our daily routines. I am excited that this greater awareness has the potential to help us adjust and moderate our behaviour in a number of positive ways.

Currently in our everyday lives we are often engulfed in specific contexts, which makes it often difficult
to see the bigger picture. Personal informatics can enable us to see relationships or pinpoint actions in our behaviours we would otherwise miss.

There are two challenging areas that I see within Personal Informatics that really interest me. The first is how can these personal insights and data behind your lifestyle be delivered in such a way that it will impact someone on an emotional level. How can you motivate people so they will actually change their behaviour rather than turning a blind eye to reality? In our world “there are already lots of useless devices, tracking consumption behaviour” (Robert Fabricant) The majority of these devices contain some graphical display, which works fine for things we are not so aware of, but areas that we are already very conscious of (i.e. how many calories) need to be delivered within something that is more motivating then a bar chart. The information needs to be transformed into something meaningful and understandable for the user.

The second area is that our lives are already infiltrated with huge amounts of information everyday from emails to RSS feeds. So how can the interface for these products, services or software be designed in such a way that the information you receive does not add to the information overload that currently exists. Plus it should not result in people compulsively checking their ‘data’ as also many people currently do with email.

Context: Life Balance

The context I want to explore personal informatics in is how can it be used to help people balance their lives and help them meet their personal priorities. I will use research to pinpoint either a more specific value that is important to people that personal informatics could be applied to or a set of values that could be subjective to each user.

A theme that I am really interested in and I see as an underlying thread throughout the project is addressing the issue of ‘time poverty’ People need to feel connected to people, places they live, even the food they eat. Traditionally this was much easier to achieve, as family all lived together, you new all your relatives and you new that your food had come from your back garden. These connections have been weakened because of a fast pace of life. The advance of new labour saving technologies has allowed us to achieve more in a shorter space of time, yet instead of using the time we save to ‘slow’ down we are prone to making ourselves even busier. How can we ‘slow’ down our pace of life whilst still meet important responsibilities?


At the moment I have no pre-defined outcome of what form I would like the idea to take (TUI, GUI etc) However idealistically I would love to make a working tangible product and design a service that was attached to it to further the experience, and within the service a community would exist. I strongly believe that being part of a community makes people’s feel more responsible for their actions and more valued.

During my thesis I would like to challenge myself in

I want to challenge my design thinking, to a deeper and more emotional level. I want to continue my learning on the correct use of metaphors, affordances and appropriate use of technology that is appropriate and makes sense to non-expert users. I will push myself to gain a more practical knowledge of electronics and programming. Where it is possible I will leave my comfort zone If it will have a positive effect on my learning and project experience. I will also work at becoming more articulate and confident at presenting my work.