Thursday, March 15, 2007

Nokia's Design Research for Everyone

An interview with Jan Chipchase of the Nokia Research Center on design strategies ...

"British interface designer and user anthropologist Jan Chipchase spent several months last year thinking about how the human race shares things. He's an exploratory human behavioral field researcher at the Nokia (NOK) Research Center based in Tokyo. Chipchase tries to help multidisciplinary researchers understand how the world will be in the future. On Mar. 9, he spoke at the TED conference in Monterey.

His talk, which he called "Always On: An Introduction to Design Research for Everyone," quickly became a hot topic of discussion among conference goers. Innovation Editor Jessi Hempel sat down with him there to discuss what an anthropologist is doing working for a cell-phone company. Edited excerpts from their conversation follow:

What exactly do you do, Jan?

I work for Nokia Design. It's a group of 250 people worldwide in Nokia that includes psychologists, industrial designers, materials experts, and people like me, anthropologists. We use human-behavioral research to think about how the future might turn out.

Help me understand better.

At Nokia, we have an internal market for ideas. There could be someone in Nokia who wants research, and they will come to us. You might have people in the company who want questions answered. A simple example would be: How are early adopters of mobile TV using mobile TV? That's about current behaviors. We would go to the place where the technology is being rolled out, South Korea, and we would look at that. We would take the core lessons of that and think about the further, future place.

Then there are areas where growth is likely in five years because of demographics or price points but we don't fundamentally know too much about this area beyond analyst reports and the research.

Can you give me an example of some work you've done?

Let's talk about a study we did last year on how people share objects. You can relate this to mobile phones. They're basically designed as personal objects. But if you look at usage in Africa, increasingly the phone is shared. A family might have one. A village might have one, or someone who runs a phone kiosk in a village might have one. We're thinking about how we could redesign the mobile phone and the communication experience to be more suitable for sharing.

We picked two cultures, Indonesia and Uganda. Cultural comparisons are good because they can tell you about what's similar, but also sometimes they make it easier to see obvious differences. We need a month's lead time to plan for a study. I prefer something like three or four months, but we can move quite swiftly if we need to."    (Continued via BusinessWeek)    [Usability Resources]


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