Designing for people whose lives are very different from your own is important, but difficult. For example, it is a challenge to understand the experiential world of people with cognitive disabilities, because you have never been (and cannot be) in their situation. In this PhD-project I aim to develop tools and techniques, which helps a designer to learn through direct contact with children with autism about the experiential world of these children.
I explored in the LINKX and de Klessebessers project how I could (as a designer) gain insight into the experiential world of users with cognitive impairments. I explored how I could involve these users, and their caregivers, in the design process, what plays a role when meeting them, and why. Based on these experiences, I explored in the RichCollections projects how tools and techniques can facilitate (other) designers in interacting and gathering information about children with autism.
1. Research project: RichCollections 2009-2010
In this project, nine M.Sc. design students designed product concepts of educational material for children with autism. They students learned about the world of children with autism with the help of an observation tool. This tool aimed to involve caregivers more actively in the design process, and in the observation in particular. Designers and caregivers used this tool during the observation and were supported in a discussion about learning moments.
Period: December 2009 – April 2010
2. Research project: Brainstorms based on different information sources
In a comparative study, I explored how different ways of informing design teams influence their brainstorm sessions on product concepts for children with autism. Teams of designers were informed about this user group in three conditions: (A) only literature, (B) literature + direct contact, (C) literature + video. In one-hour sessions, the teams conducted a discussion, brainstormed ideas, and developed one concept design. The sessions were videotaped, transcribed, and analyzed for signs of empathy. The proposed product concepts were evaluated by parents and teachers of the children. Results show that the B-teams discussed the users most intensively, and produced concepts that fitted the target group best. The A-teams made many false assumptions about the user group. The findings underline that willingness and motivation are key-factors in empathic design (read more in van Rijn et al. 2010).
Period: February 2009 – June 2009
3. Research project: RichCollections 2008-2009
In this project, thirteen M.Sc. design students designed product concepts of educational material for children with autism. They students learned about the world of children with autism with the help of a set of (interactive) toys. These little toys that enable designers to explore the possibilities, constraints, and preferences of children with autism, together with the children. This toolbox was used in the elective RichCollections in which students gained insight into the experiential world of children with autism for their design project (van Rijn et al., 2009).
Period: December 2008 – June 2009
4. Design project: De Klessebessers for people with dementia
As part of my PhD project I designed de Klessebessers together with Mariet Schreurs. This leisure game helps people with dementia to actively recall memories together. Four ‘Klessebessers’ are arranged in a group: a telephone, a radio, a suitcase and a television. Each klessebesser can trigger memories in its own specific way, such as little poems, songs, objects and movies. In that way the people experience cosy happy moments together. The game was awarded with the first prize in design competition Vergeethenniet. The game is now in use at De Landrijt in Eindhoven. PhD-student Nienke Nijhof (TU Twente) evaluated this game. Results from her study come soon! See de Klessebessers website for more information.
We explored where people with dementia are good at and what they like at an elderly home. There we learned people with dementia like to feel connected to others. However their dementia makes it difficult for them to understand each other. With our design we wanted to give them a common topic to talk about (read more about the design process in van Rijn et al. 2010).
Period: July 2007 – November 2007
5. Design project: LINKX for children with autism
I graduated cum laude for the M.Sc. program ‘Design for Interaction’ on LINKX at LinguaBytes. LINKX aims to learn children the words of objects in their own environment. This is done by means of speech-o-grams (pictograms with sound added to it). Parents record words inside them and attach them to objects before play starts. Children can link blocks to these speech-o-gram. Each link results in lights that go on and a sound that is played. The sound moves into the block. You can link blocks and speech-o-grams over and over and this will eventually make them remember the word. You can also link blocks together. When one block owns a sound, it will move to the other block. Again doing this again and again will stimulate language learning. The toy is not developed for sale.
I learned about these children by means of interviewing parents, observing children, using contextmapping techniques, discussing ideas with parents and evaluating prototypes in play-sessions (read more about the design process in van Rijn and Stappers 2007). I realised the children have trouble with giving meaning to words. Therefore they should learn the words of physical objects around them. For these children repetition, direct feedback, and rewards are very important. They have an excellent memory and like toys which they can organise (read more on guidelines on desiging for autism in van Rijn and Stappers 2008).
Period: April 2006 – January 2007
6. Research project: Contextmapping in East Asia
Together with Yoonnyong Bahk, a student from the Human Centred Interaction Design Laboratory of KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology), I did an explorative research about the development of new tools and techniques to elicit East Asian participants to express themselves. Based on literature on cultural differences between the West and the East and interviews with East Asian master students at the TU Delft, new tools and techniques were developed. These techniques were brought into practise in South Korea. This study served as magnifying glass for gaining better knowledge and understanding on methods to facilitate personal expression in contextmapping studies (read more in van Rijn et al. 2006 or van Rijn and Stappers 2007).
Period: September 2005 – March 2006