Rethinking Experiences — Design Thinking Case Study

“People ignore design that ignores people” — Frank Chimero

“Creating an ideal experience for users by implementing Design Thinking to address, analyze and solve elemental issues users face while interacting with different areas of their houses.”

As the title suggests, this article explores the fundamental usability issues users encounter in their respective houses on a daily basis, and how one can go beyond the usual basic solutions to resolve them using the eminent ‘Design Thinking process.’

A brief introduction about me: I am an Architect, looking forward to helping improve the user’s experience. Being a designer we always wear many hats and use innate skills of creativity and compassion to explore new opportunities and make a difference. Thank you for being an early audience on my debut!

Overview

As a part of this design thinking project, we were divided into groups of ten and assigned a room each, in my case — a bedroom. The task was to enhance the usability of a bedroom by following the 5 main steps of the design thinking process. Let’s jump right into them!

Empathize

“Know the people you’re designing for, so you understand their needs better”

The first stage required me to put myself in my users’ shoes, ask questions to understand in what context do the users use their bedrooms, and then tailor the next conversational questions accordingly. The users were quite co-operative and each session lasted for approximately half an hour. I noted down the users’ needs, their likes/dislikes w.r.t the bedroom, and their usage pattern.

These are the five broad areas I focused on during the User interviews :

WFH Workspace: How has work from home been treating you? Do you usually work in your bedroom? What does your workspace look like? How much time do you spend in your bedroom daily?

Ventilation: How many windows/balconies does your bedroom have? Describe the view from the windows. Is the air circulation proper and sufficient during daytime/night time? How often do you use a fan/air conditioning unit?

Lighting: Do you get enough sunlight in your bedroom? Give me a brief idea about the lighting system. How often do you have to use artificial lights? Does the bedroom look fresh/dull during the day?

Storage: Describe your bedroom’s furniture and its usage. Is the storage utilization proper or hampered due to any reason? Do you have a bedside table?

Ambiance: How do you feel when you enter your bedroom? Do you feel like often taking a break and walk out of your bedroom? Describe the layout of your bedroom.

After asking these questions, I received quite elaborative answers. I must admit, I came across very different perspectives as to how one might utilize a specific element in any given room.

Here are some key insights from the users :

Define

Define Stage enables you to derive inferences from the User interviews and understand the key problems faced by them.

I revisited all the information I had gathered during the interviews, analyzed the insights received, and broadly classified them into 3 problem statement sections. This helped me to prioritize the issues and approach them individually during the Ideation stage. The issues faced are as follows :

Lack of Natural Light:

Due to the increase in urbanization, there is a rapid growth of concrete jungle and most of the users have insufficient light due to the neighbouring development which blocks natural light.

Ambiance:

Most of the users felt that the ambiance of their bedroom is dull which makes them not want to work in their bedroom. Some addressed the issue of feeling disconnected from the world & nature owing to extensive urbanization and no greenery in/around his apartment.

Stress:

Many users said that their stress due to work has inclined which makes them less productive and make them want to take breaks quite often. They even experienced a lack of sleep and are in mental unrest.

Before entering into the Ideation stage, one must define the right problem to address. But since I came across multiple sets of problems, and our project required us to choose and solve only one, I took the liberty to choose a problem statement that I found to be most unique and challenging.

Ideate

Ideation stage indulges you to actually sift through the issues, challenge commonly held beliefs and explore different solutions for your users’ problems.

Following the “there is no bad ideas” mindset, I listed down solutions for every problem identified in the Define stage

Here’s a brief summary of my ideas :

  1. Natural Light — Placing a mirror adjacent to the window walls or where the light rays fall in the bedroom for a reflection of light and illuminating the spaces. The mirror can be framed for better decor.
  2. Natural Light — Making the space in front of the window clutter-free for direct natural light in the bedroom.
  3. Ambiance — Introducing air-purifying Plants/Creepers indoors next to the window or any desk for the natural and living touch.
  4. Stress — The sense of smell is very crucial for uplifting a user’s mood, hence introducing a soothing, refreshing element like a fragrance candle, fragrance bottles, fragrance oils, etc.

Quick tip : Get bold and curious and stay off the internet to come up with original ideas!

At this point, I had something to work with. The problem with storage can be solved with many great solutions on the internet, so why make another one. I knew my users needed something more than just a storage space. Like I mentioned at the very beginning, I wanted to take up an interesting problem. I decided to club the ideas to personalize an experience for the users. That is a Lack Of Light, Ambiance, and the most important, Mental Unrest. Let’s get to prototyping!

Prototype

Problem: The fact is, space is at a premium. When you’re looking for a new place, a nice view is usually at the bottom of your list. The user’s bedroom has one window but without a good scenic view & lack of natural light. Extensive urbanization and a cluster of buildings together have blocked the view from his window and no greenery is visible in/around his apartment, the ventilation is also limited. Since the user spends most of his time in his bedroom, he feels slightly laid back and claustrophobic sometimes.

Why the solution is important to the user?

The energy that we allow to flow in our room directly impacts our mental, physical and emotional well-being. Since the user is confined to his room the entire day, he could use something that shifts the focal point of his bedroom and make him feel more connected to the outside world & increasing the natural light would also glam up the entire space. Resolving the mental unrest is a win-win addition to the solution!

The sense of smell plays an important role in calming the body, reducing stress, and increasing focus. Since WFH has been the new normal, the level of stress has inclined. Introduction of a fragrance candle or oils can evolve the entire space and can make the user more productive and reduce stress. It helps overcome mental unrest and avoids sleepless nights.

Thus leveraging the SENSE OF SMELL to prototype.

Placing the fragrance candles in the corners and next to the bed

Appling the fragrance oils on the bulb of the side lamps, which when turned on will emit heat and fumes of oil fragrance will uplift the space and calm the smell sense.

My Proposal: If you can’t go to the life outside ( current pandemic situation ), bring the life inside! The answer, my friend, is to grow plants in your room.

1.Look for a mirror, it can be of any pattern or tint, and place it on a wall adjacent to the window to create a sense of openness. It optimizes natural light and bounces it throughout the room.

2. Make sure to arrange your plants opposite the mirror to help them mimic a window with the view of a garden or in any of the corners of the space to give it a character. It reduces the feeling of being enclosed, purifies the air in your room, and makes you feel connected to the outside world.

3. The sense of smell plays an important role in calming the body, reducing stress, and increasing focus. Since WFH has been the new normal, the level of stress has inclined. Introduction of a fragrance candle or oils can evolve the entire space and can make the user more productive and reduce stress. It helps overcome mental unrest and avoids sleepless nights.

Tip 1. Light the fragrance candles in the corner of the bedroom or near to the bed or study table.

Tip 2. Dip the cotton in the fragrance oil and spread it on a bulb next to the bed or the study table or on any of the heat emitting elements. As per the oil properties, as the bulb heats up it will emit the fragrance of the oil and calm the user’s smell sense, hence will make the user calm and feel fresh.

Testing

This final stage requires me to present my prototype to the users, guide them through the entire process of Ideation and understand their constructive feedback.

The prototype was presented to my team members who also happened to be my users. We arranged a 15-minute feedback session on a video call where I presented the prototype and received feedback.

Users’ feedbacks and ratings :

Major takeaways from this project

This being the first design thinking project I’ve worked on as an aspiring user experience designer/strategist, and the first case study I’ve ever drafted, I felt it was an intimidating yet enlightening experience. My quest for finding an innovative solution to an already existing set of problems came to an end when I tried to follow the not-so-common path of reiterating and solving a design-based problem. During the entire course of this project, I embraced the ambiguity of a user’s perspective and learned to empathize with them. And I now know that Design thinking is not rocket science, it's all about getting beyond the human biases and understanding the needs of the user!

I see you stayed with me till the end of this looooong article, might as well hit the clap button below! :D