DESIGN RESEARCH, MENA PROJECTS, RESEARCH METHOD, SOCIAL INNOVATION

KonfiKits: Results & Insights

Summer has almost come to an end, and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. We spent those 3 months getting to know kids from all over Lebanon and exploring their secret worlds, which they gladly shared with us. They gave us so much insight through their interactions with the KonfiKits, and introduced us to concepts we were hardly aware of with regards to their interests, worries, likes, dislikes, and lifestyle habits. Some answers surprised us, some made us laugh, others were very touching; in all cases sharing experiences with these tweens reminded us of what it feels like to be 10, 12, or 13. It became clear that due to technological advancements and over-exposure to media, many things had changed. These issues opened up new questions and topics to be further tackled.

Currently we are filing all the data we have received and we will be writing an official report to hand to Toufoula regarding our findings and suggestions to move forward with a design solution for better health awareness for Lebanese Children.

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DESIGN RESEARCH, MENA PROJECTS, RESEARCH METHOD

Introducing: The Konfikit

After months of preparation, the Konfikits, which are the first cultural probe kits designed by us as a form of research with kids in Lebanon, are finally ready to be distributed. We at the MENA Design Research Center are now the KonfiAgents, that will visit children between the ages of 10 and 13, explain to them how to use this kit and then come back in a week to recollect them. The process, results and insights collected within this project over the course of the summer will be documented online. If you know children who would be interested to take part in this great project, that will be a very useful tool in understanding our culture’s youth, and that is also much fun, please feel free to contact us.

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DESIGN RESEARCH, MENA PROJECTS, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Piloting Questions with Kids First

Before distributing the cultural probe kits on the kids, it is best to test out the questions on a few children first to make sure that an average child of the same age understands the requirements. Often, researchers discover missing points or realize issues that only become apparent with the child’s input. Initially, we met with Professor Bahous who teaches education in the Lebanese American University in Beirut, to look over our questions and give us feedback, as she is extensively experienced with such projects and Lebanese children. We also met up with Nadine Touma of Dar Onboz, who recently finished filming a documentary with children and their families in Lebanese rural areas concentrating on their traditional eating habits.

We asked parents and friends to help us find children between the ages of 10 and 12 from different demographics across Lebanon, who would be willing to test the questions with us. Some of the questions (see above) are very personal and would give us insight about how the kids feel about the world surrounding them and themselves, the answers could help us find smarter ways to reach them and  better ways to integrate a healthy lifestyle into their everyday lives. We are currently piloting our probe kit questions before mass producing a significant quantity and issuing them to schools who have already approved the project. Thanks to Toufoula’s founded reputation and previous projects, the dispensation part of the project has been relatively easy for the MENA Design Research Center.

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DESIGN RESEARCH, SOCIAL INNOVATION

Design for Social Innovation

One of the greatest outcomes of design research is its application in the field of what is now known as social innovation. Using research methods such as participatory or co-design and human-centered design, we are creating new concepts and strategies to deal with the world’s greater problems. Issues regarding health, community, education, civil society, and the environment are some of the numerous topics that are currently in research by teams of designers, strategists, social workers, anthropologists.. and an abundance of various relevant fields. Some of the most innovative projects that have created much awareness respectively and have contributed to today’s societies are for example the One Laptop per Child project, aimed at motivating African kids to embrace education; Jamie Oliver and IDEO’s open food Revolution, encouraging better health choices for kids; and FROG’s Project M, which uses mobile phone technology to fight against HIV and other epidemics in South Africa. What makes design research a compelling attribute to these complex social problems is the detailed observation of the existing systems within the context, and the design thinking methodology of integrating out-of-the-box solutions -from basic analogue to highly advanced technologies. All methods are prototyped and tested whilst modifications, ensuring the effectiveness of the result through trial and error. By letting go of all assumptions and cliches, trying the ‘unthinkable’, and experimenting with basic tools, some designers have managed to solve more solutions for people’s lives than most of the world’s powerful politicians.

So yes, design sometimes CAN save the world.

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DESIGN RESEARCH, EVENT, MENA PROJECTS

Typographic Matchmaking in the City: a design research project event in Beirut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is not a common occurrence in the Middle East to be able to attend international design research events. This long-awaited publication initiated by the Khtt Foundation -based in holland- is one of a kind because it aims to investigate the bilingual presence of type in urban and social spheres. Developed by a multicultural group of interdisciplinary designers and architects, this project attempts to initiate cultural change, assimilation and integration by the simplest form of communication: the written word.

“The book and the design research project, provide concrete observations on differences as well as shared principles between the Latin and Arabic scripts, and on cultural and architectural conventions for the use of typographic design in three-dimensional urban space in different cities and cultural contexts. It raises thoughtful questions and provides useful tools that designers can use in creating new works for interventions in their own cities.”

The Event will be held on April 11 at the Beirut Art Center.
facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=139181969485454

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DESIGN RESEARCH

The Clash between ‘Traditional’ Research and Design Research

Most of our projects here at the MENA Design Research Center are collaborative and multidisciplinary; this means that sometimes, while working with psychologists, social scientists or education professors, we experience a typical conflict between our methods and theirs. The relatively new design research approach is unorthodox and in many cases the complete opposite of what a scientist has learned to obey as rules of research. In fact, it could be exactly this rigidity in scientific and statistical research that has lead to the birth of design research and its focus on intuitive analysis. Basically,  the main difference between the two is that traditional research depends more quantitative data (numbers, measurements, statistics…) while design research favors qualitative information (observation, sounds, images, subjective interpretations…). This methodology is not the invention of designers, in fact most of it is borrowed from ethnography; Geertz defined this multifaceted and multi-sensual concentration on the object of research as “thick description”. Moreover, relying partly on your intuition while researching is not considered wrong, because even intuition is based on an innate human logic.

“You know when it’s typical, when it’s unusual, what kinds of people do this thing, and how. You know why someone would never do this thing, and when they would but just lie about it. In short, you’ve transcended merely noticing this phenomenon”

Design research is NOT so much about how many people bought a certain product or used a service, what age group they were or whether they were male or female. It is more about  how they felt about their experiences using the product or service, where they encountered problems, and how they dealt with them. It is the various creative ways to see solutions that didn’t really fit in the ritual problem solving scenario, and it is mostly about the input of a single person that can offer more insight to the designer than all the silent accurate statistics and demographics ever could.

“So the next time someone asks you, ‘how many people did you talk to?’, you can answer them with an hour-long treatise about why that doesn’t matter.”

Inspired by Sam Ladner’s ‘The essence of Qualitative Research: Verstehen’, 2009

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DESIGN RESEARCH, RESEARCH METHOD

Ethnography & Design

Since the 1980’s design educators have been trying to integrate concepts from other disciplines (literature, rhetorics, semantics, semiotics, sociology, psychology…) to form a design discourse which could push for design to be recognized as a field with a strong theoretic backbone; one that educates students to think of the intrinsic value of design in social context rather than just prepare them for the trade. In those terms, research takes center stage by backing up the design decisions and presenting them on solid ground instead of justifying them purely on a designer’s creative intuition and aesthetic taste.

Ethnography is an approach developed by the social sciences to aid the study of everyday culture through people, their behavior, and the ways in which they interact with the world. An ethnographer produces knowledge through observation of interactions. Most importantly, ethnography is a qualitative method of research, meaning that it does not rely on quantitative -numerical or statistical- data.

Some examples of ethnographic techniques are participant observation (e.g. using a video camera in a certain setting), non-participant observation (e.g. using hidden cameras), interviews (preferably semi-structured open-ended questions and based on previous observation), and artefact studies (e.g. cultural probes).

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