The Value of Making and Thinking

I love to make things with my hands. And while I’ve made many things that were irrelevant, tangential or just plain ugly, the act of creating helps me sort through ideas and tease out what works and what doesn’t. In my practice as a designer/researcher, the things I make are physical, tangible manifestations of user needs and insights discovered in the first phase of the design process.

For me, this next phase of concept development is the most fun. I get messy and experimental. I may pull out some classic design tools like an x-acto knife, glue gun and saw. For a project around stool collection, my partner and I used Bristol board, cardboard, clay and plastic to make concepts for a stool collection basket, scooping device and vial. Only through the interplay between making and thinking were we able to develop a variety of concepts that reflected a user-centered product.

Most importantly, these things serve as something for people to respond to. In designing the stool collection kit, we took our lo-fidelity, “Frankenstein,” concepts back to the users and asked for their feedback. With physical objects in hand, they provided meaningful feedback as to what they felt was easy and intuitive to use, what was difficult to use, and what was confusing or cumbersome. Their responses were essential to designing the final product. They told us what worked best and what should be … flushed down the toilet.