A human-centered approach to data-driven design

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Arianna McClain on humanizing data-driven design, and Dirk Knemeyer on design in emerging tech.

This week on the O’Reilly Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Roger Magoulas talks with Arianna McClain, a senior hybrid design researcher at IDEO, about storytelling through data; the interdependent nature of qualitative and quantitative data; and the human-centered, data-driven design approach at IDEO.

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In their interview, Magoulas noted that in our research at O’Reilly, we’ve been talking a lot about the importance of the social science design element in getting the most out of data. McClain emphasized the importance of storytelling through data at IDEO and described IDEO’s human-centered approach to data-driven design:

“IDEO really believes in staying and remaining human-centered throughout the data journey. Starting off with, how might we measure something, how might we measure a behavior. We don’t sit in a room and come up with an algorithm or come up with a question. We start by talking to people. … We’re trying to build measures and survey questions to understand at scale how people make decisions. … IDEO remains data-driven to how we analyze and synthesize our findings. When we’re given a large data set, we don’t analyze it and write a report and give it to people and say, ‘This is the direction we think you should go.’

“Instead, we look at segmentations in the data, and stories in the data, and how the data clusters. Then we go back, and we try to find people who are representative of that cluster or that segmentation. The segmentations, again, are not based on demographic variables. They are based on needs and insights that we heard in our qualitative research. … What we’ve recognized is that something that seems so clear in the analysis is often very nuanced, and it can inform our design.”

McClain also stressed the interdependence of qualitative and quantitative data, and how the two together are necessary to glean meaningful insights:

“They are totally interdependant — quantitative is meaningless without qualitative, but at the same time, if you solely base your decisions off of qualitative research, you are not understanding at scale what those insights mean. The way we’re doing it is by having everybody in the room, we’re trying to make data more approachable.

“The answer isn’t in the numbers…a lot of new technologies are being developed to make data mining and data analysis almost automated. … If qualitative is not involved in [the decision-making] process, we’re making decisions based off of numbers. We might not know what those numbers mean.”

Also in this podcast…

Jon Follett, editor of O’Reilly’s recent book Designing for Emerging Technologies, talks with Dirk Knemeyer, founder of Involution Studios and a contributor to the book. The two discuss the changing role of design in emerging technologies, including genetics and synthetic biology, and the convergence of the engineering and design disciplines.

You can listen to the podcast in the player embedded above or download it through SoundCloud or iTunes.

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