Methods & Tools
At the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, we work closely with people throughout the design process – from implementation through to delivery. This idea is at the heart of all our projects. We design our research as a creative activity in itself, using existing tools of design and design ethnography as well as creating new methods. Illustrated here are eight major activities that we use to engage people in a respectful and equitable way throughout the design process. We see our participants as collaborators, co-creators and authors in the process, rather than simply viewing them as 'test subjects'.
Frequently Asked Questions
We often receive enquires from students requesting assistance or advice about their projects. While it is possible on occasion to speak to a member of staff by appointment, we advise that our useful FAQ Factsheet is initially consulted, as it may provide the information required.
Interviewing is one of our most powerful ways to understand people. The most common way of interviewing is face-to-face and one-to-one. We also do interviews with groups and communities. They do not have to be scientifically neutral or objective – they are simply about collaboration or conversation.
moves beyond the expert and non-expert relationship between designer and
participant. It involves people as valued contributors and even as co-authors
of ideas. Co-creation workshops allow for a ‘dream team’ to work on any sort of
design challenge together.
This is an imaginative method we developed that embraces fictional, future-based aspects of people-centred design. This presents a scenario in the form of a film or illustration where real users of a future concept act the idea with a script. This helps to explore, visualise and realise speculative outcomes.
This is not about objectivity or subjectivity, but about full immersion within a context, environment, experience or community. This is about empathy building and attempts to generate a 360-degree view of an issue. It requires the designer to deeply experience other people’s worlds.
Listening is at the heart of all our research methods. It enables a person to express their thoughts, needs and perspectives with the designer taking the role of facilitator or enabler. We aim to ask more open-ended questions rather than focusing on a single issue, putting people first.
This is the creation of a model of a design idea for evaluation. Our prototypes can range from a quick mock-up of an initial concept to a more resolved artefact closer to production. Prototyping makes abstract ideas real, communicates concepts clearly and allows real interaction to happen.
This is a novel method we developed at the Centre called Design Provocations which involves showing people props, sketches or visuals to stimulate discussion and engage with people’s imagination. This is not about validating ideas but about provoking responses from participants.