If you already read about my project on using movement based sensors with physiotherapy over here, you know that in the IT University of Copenhagen, students are allowed to create individual projects instead of doing electoral courses. Along with my friend, this design research carried out in Colombia, South America was exactly such a project. Our approach and purpose was as follows:

What does it take as a designer, to identify design opportunities in a context of a domain which greatly deviate from the designers usual surroundings and culture?

The purpose of the project was thus, to challenge ourselves by distancing from danish culture, to learn how it is possible to cover a completely foreign domain.

Seeing as all information about the project, process, pictures and blog posts are available on a blog we created for the project, I will simply suggest that you visit the site. In the following, I comment only in short on my learning outcome.

“Hey, this is a hoax – aren’t all domains new to a designer?” Well, yes. But I might ask: Are they equally challenging and different? Well, no. So did we succeed in the above explained purpose of this project? Certainly.

Above all, this project about sustainable architecture in Barichara, Colombia taught me how important a designers role really is, when creating a supporting tool for a complex and foreign context. This is my primary insight, since what I learned was primarily surrounded the importance of ethnographic fieldwork and the use of design research methods, when striving to fully comprehend a foreign culture, with the aim of creating a supporting (digital) teaching tool for a rural Colombian area. It is, in short, simply essential for an eventual artifact that enters this situation, that its design has taken into account, all the unique and important features of that situation. If not, a design might end up destroying the elements that works well instead of supporting the elements that could use a boost. So let me be clear: In this case, it would simply not be possible (for us) to successfully introduce any sort of digital tool without understanding the domain.

This project does, however, also raise a general question of when a designer knows enough. How many aspects of a design situation do we need to understand, before we can develop a concept? And is it worth it to put that much effort into investigating and understanding the domain? Lastly, how can that knowledge be successfully transferred to the next step in a design process, if the i.e. stakeholders change?

I guess there are always challenges in design projects, and it is up to the designer to understand them and on that ground make appropriate decisions. The greatest designers must then be the ones who dare to put themselves through a variety of situations, that readies designers for basically everything. Hereby I believe, that designers can become increasingly good at interpreting a design situation, and use a fitting approach, the best theory and sublime execution that will fit exactly that situation.

Now I’m one step closer and have one more experience in my backpack, that I believe will eventually become a tool for solving future design challenges.

Please ask away, if you have any comments, needs og requests regarding the project.