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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.
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|Section 1: Theory of Design Synthesis|
Design as Problem Solving: Well-Structured, Ill-Structured, and Wicked ProblemsPreview
The Process of DesignPreview
Deductive, Inductive, and Abductive ReasoningPreview
Making Meaning Out of Data
|Section 2: Methods of Design Synthesis|
Process Flow Diagramming
|Section 3: In Summary|
Applying Synthesis in Real Life
Jon Kolko is Vice President of Design at MyEdu, and the Founder and Director of Austin Center for Design. His work focuses on bringing the power of design to social enterprises, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and large-scale industry disruption. He has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 clients, with a focus on 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 roles at frog design, a global innovation firm. He was also 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.
Jon is the author three 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, and Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving, published by Austin Center for Design.