EPIC workshop on See>Sort>Sketch

I just got back from the beautiful city of Copenhagen, where my colleague Leah Buley and I presented a workshop at EPIC 2008. We worked with 25 people on the topic of See>Sort>Sketch : pen & paper techniques for getting from research to design. The EPIC conference was wonderful…many interesting people doing cool projects in ethographic research.

You can see some of my photos from the workshop on Flickr.

You can also download the presentation deck and workbook here.
I’m looking forward to seeing the EPIC community again in 2009 in Chicago. Fun!

Session Description:

The rich world of human behavior is fascinating to observe, yet often difficult to interpret. Underlying goals and motivations lay masked beneath behaviors, essentially hidden from sight until our analysis illuminates them. Similarly, the meaning and opportunities inherent in the findings can be elusive for those who are responsible for taking them forward into organizational action. How can we bring clarity and insight to these areas through tools that are inherently visible? By using the analog favorites of pen & paper.

In this hands-on workshop, you’ll experience a number of engaging activities that leverage the power of pen and paper as open, participatory tools. Using inexpensive tools that have a low-intimidation factor such as sticky-notes and Sharpies, you’ll learn sticky-based note-taking, clustering, sketching, and collaging as you explore the benefits of pen and paper to transform an abstract and invisible process into a more visual form. This makes it possible to leverage the natural human affinity for seeing pictures and watching stories unfold, and use that to collaborate more efficiently and effectively.

We begin with a framework that is deceptively simple. Three questions guide the process through collecting research concepts, synthesizing learnings, and paving the way for action: What did we hear? What does it mean? And why does it matter?

What We Heard: Capture and Documentation of Data

Successful research hinges on effective analysis. Youíll learn techniques for making field observations visible to the research team, and turning them into something that forms the basis of theories and strategies for design. Methods include: capture boards, jotting and rapid concept sketching.

What It Means : Clustering, Synthesis and Interpretation

How do you take all the loose observations and ideas that you gather through field work and shape them into something that can form the basis of a viable design direction? You’ll experience methods for making the full landscape of findings as visible as possible, and effective ways to capture and document the emergent patterns and themes. Methods include: clustering, bottom-up trees, theme boards and development of concept models.

Why It Matters : Articulating and Exploring for Action

Once the big themes become clear, the next step is to start to explore what they mean for design. Again, you’ll use simple pen and paper techniques that help get ideas out of the invisible space inside our heads and into a visible, tangible form that we can refine, evolve, and share with one another. You’ll learn methods for structuring ideation sessions that ensure participation and engagement, and that result in concepts and design directions that pave the way to taking action. These methods include: Rapid Concept Sketching, Ideation via spectrums, 2x2s and grids.

At key points in the workshop, we’ll talk through the processes covered, and hold a share-out to discuss your experiences and insights. You’ll leave at the end of the day with a full toolkit of skills and approaches that you can immediately put to use to make research findings visible and actionable to your team, stakeholders, and business partners.


  1. Alison Barret

    Fabulous visuals for a fabulously visual presentation. Just wish I had had the chance to personally participate. A wonderful blending of art, technology, and business (and life) application.

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