26 August 2010

ode to a camera
We all get asked about what we do. Sometimes we get asked how we arrived at the place where we really knew what we wanted to do (a common inquiry from my students). This less than ideal image represents a moment when I began to get a feel for how I might answer this question.

Please note: I wasn't fresh out of high school and I hadn't just received my undergraduate degree. If I'm totally honest, I was feeling pretty discouraged and wanted to find a way to see the world differently. The camera forced me to do this by virtue of putting the world into a frame.

This moment helped me to identify one thing I really like to do:


I now call myself a design researcher* (for the sake of identification) but if I distill this notion down, it comes back to being someone who observes and investigates. These observations can take various forms: people, places, systems or experiences. I use these observations to help me design things more effectively and/or appropriately.

It is one thing to talk about what you do. But in my own career journey, I've also been interested to know how someone actually does what they do. In light of my pursuit of this path, I have been developing a "toolkit" that I can draw from in order to do this observing well. So I figured it might be valuable to document the tools/resources that I use when I do what I do. I'll write more in the coming weeks about items or ideas I have found useful.

Since I opened this post talking about cameras, it seems an obvious tool with which to start. I currently use a DSLR and an iPhone (but as you can see from the above image, have also used a point and shoot). A higher quality video option is next on my list of acquisitions so if you have any recommendations, let me know. Flickr is one place where I can store/share these observations (but I give the disclaimer that if you are working on observing for a client, you'll want to ensure you've considered things like informed consent when it comes to showing your imagery).

I've also considered how I can allow others to be the observers of their own experiences. In this case, I've used a single use film or point and shoot digital camera to enable others to participate in the research. I've done this so I can actually get out of the way (because being an observer doesn't always equate to being invisible and sometimes, this can actually be a distraction).

Which kind of camera should you acquire? From my experience, this will depend on the context you find yourself in. If you're a travelling researcher, you may need to factor in easy of use and weight considerations. If you're researching on a topic that requires something more elaborate, you may find yourself with a more significant set of gear.

More to come.


*IDEO provides a definition of how they interpret this role which resonates with me:

"Design Researchers lead teams through inspiration-gathering and people-understanding experiences to uncover stories and insights that help guide design and innovation. In addition to being empathetic, creative, and strategic, here are some of the qualities we’re searching for:
Passionately curious – People who are excited to be in the field and as inquisitive about other people and their stories as they are empathetic.
Captivatingly articulate – Compelling storytellers who can get people out of their seats and bring tears to their eyes.
Provocatively thoughtful – People who can challenge conventions and inspire teams and clients to translate keen observations into compelling ideas.
Sensorially inspired – People who are inspired by emotions and engaged in all of the senses."

1 comment:

Mitchell said...

I think if you're looking into video, you probably can't beat the canon T2i for affordability and quality of image, IMO.