User-centered design research activities produce an enormous quantity of raw data, which must be systematically and rigorously analyzed in order to extract meaning and insight.
Unfortunately, these methods of analysis are poorly documented and rarely taught, and because of the pragmatic time constraints associated with working with clients, there is often no time dedicated in a statement of work to a practice of formal synthesis. As a result, raw design research data is inappropriately positioned as insight, and the value of user-centered research activities is marginalized – in fact, stakeholders may lose faith in the entire research practice, as they don’t see direct return on the investment of research activities.
Design synthesis methods can be taught, and when selectively applied, visual, diagrammatic synthesis techniques can be completed relatively quickly. During Synthesis, Designers visually explore large quantities of data in an effort to find and understand hidden relationships. These visualizations can then be used to communicate to other members of a design team, or can be used as platforms for the creation of generative sketching or model making. The action of diagramming is a way to actively produce knowledge and meaning.
Jon is Partner at Modernist Studio, and the Founder and Director of Austin Center for Design. He was previously the Vice President of Design at Blackboard, the largest educational software company in the world. He joined Blackboard with the acquisition of MyEdu, a startup focused on helping students succeed in college and get jobs. His work focuses on helping design students develop autonomy through making. He has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 companies, and he's most interested in humanizing educational technology.
Jon has previously held positions of Executive Director of Design Strategy at Thinktiv, a venture accelerator in Austin, Texas, and both Principal Designer and Associate Creative Director at frog design, a global innovation firm. He has been a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he was instrumental in building both the Interaction and Industrial Design undergraduate and graduate programs. Jon has also held the role of Director for the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), and Editor-in-Chief of interactions magazine, published by the ACM. He is regularly asked to participate in high-profile conferences and judged design events, including the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards. He has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Design Studies of Monterrey, in Mexico, and Malmö University, in Sweden.
Jon is the author of four books: Thoughts on Interaction Design, published by Morgan Kaufmann, Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis, published by Oxford University Press, Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving, published by Austin Center for Design, and Well Designed: How to use Empathy to Create Products People Love, published by Harvard Business Review Press.