Alison Black is a cognitive psychologist. She has worked with designers in industry and academia for over 25 years. She is Professor of User Centred Design and Director of the Centre for Information Design Research, Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading. For the case study to be presented, Alison collaborated with Clare Carey, an information designer and researcher at the Centre for Information Design Research, University of Reading, and co-owner of Studio Lift, an information design consultancy.
Monday 7 April: Design for health and wellbeing
How does research help? Reflections based on a case study of information design for dementia care
While ‘user research’ has become an established part of many design disciplines (e.g. interaction, industrial design and service design), it is less embedded in information design. Even within the disciplines in which it is used, there is debate about its impact. Proponents claim it provides unique insights that could not be gathered in other ways; critics regard it as unnecessary, most vocally, Don Norman.
This talk takes a case study of the design of a manual for carers of people with dementia and describes how user research contributed to the different stages of its development, discussing who benefited from research outcomes. It describes how user research findings were curated to ensure accessibility and impact on the project, and examines the interplay between user research findings and design decision-making. It considers the role user research can play, beyond informing design, in building relationships and shared understanding between designer and client, between designers and users, and within a design team.
The talk reflects on how user research contributes in the context of other potential knowledge inputs to designers' work (e.g. relevant research from design or other literature, market research). While acknowledging the impact that user research makes depends on how it is conceived and conducted, the talk considers whether information design has suffered as a discipline from not making a stronger commitment to its use than appears presently, and whether defining the potential of user research more broadly than as a basis for design decisions would be a benefit.
The case study is a collaboration with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and funded by the NHS Dementia Challenge, 2012. It exemplifies the interdisciplinary and applied work that is characteristic of the Centre for Information Design Research.