Wayne Chung’s “Make Tools” Help LG Innovate

Loretta Neal

Wayne Chung shows off a smartphone “make tool” used in a research project for LG Electronics, a global electronics and appliance manufacturer. The tool is an acrylic whiteboard representative of a smartphone. Wayne’s participatory tools allow people to tell their stories, and in this case, what the future of mobile phones could be. 

Korean electronic manufacturer LG had typically contracted design research from outside design firms. But, they grew frustrated with the results they received for two reasons. First, they didn’t know what to do with the insights that came from the research. Second, they were in the dark as to how the firms arrived at their results. 

Wayne Chung, Associate Professor and Program Chair of Industrial Design, was approached last year by LG, and asked to teach them how to perform their own in-house design research so that they could understand the process, synthesize the results and innovate appropriately. 

Wayne and his students employed various types of behavioral and participatory design research methods to help LG understand a people-centered future for their North American mobile products. 

The benefits of participatory design, as Wayne explains are many, because they allow designers elicit people’s stories, feelings and ideas. Singular research or marketing methods such as questionnaires isn’t adequate. 

Wayne used the ‘Say, Do, Make’ multi-method approach of confirming and verifying people’s responses. If people were asked how much cheese they would like on their pizza, they will ask for a mountain of cheese. But if you actually have them make their own pizza, they will use what is realistic and to their preference.” This combination of asking and observing helps understanding current behavior and lifestyles. Then we employ the Make tool methods, such as collages and diaries, to attain desired or future stories.

Wayne continues to say that, “the beauty of the participatory design experience can be applied to anything and anyone because it’s all about understanding people and their experiences, and then letting the understanding and innovation happen from there. There is never a prescribed ending nor two stories alike. And that’s what makes participatory design methods so useful and exciting.”

Prior to coming to Wayne, LG’s research phase lasted one to two weeks. Initially, the LG professionals wanted definitive answers like, “Yes. No. Red. Blue.” but as they grew closer to the process of design research, they began to understand the value this potential open-ended process allows. 

LG’s was so committed to understanding the process that five User Interaction and Experience designers traveled to CMU multiple times to be part of the research and learn the philosophy and methods. LG UI designers now employ and teach these design research methods to their own teams back in Seoul, Korea.

Date Published: 
Monday, March 12, 2012
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