What happens in an interaction design studio

There's an interesting short article by Bill Gaver in the latest issue of ACM interactions. Beyond the focus of the research, I was interested by the description of the approach and the vocabulary employed. Very relevant to see how they define what "design research" can be.

He starts off by stating that their place is "a studio, not a lab": it's an interdisciplinary team (product and interaction design, sociology and HCI) and that they "pursue our research as designers". Speaking about the "design-led" approach, here's the description of how they conduct projects:

"Our designs respond to what we find by picking up on relevant topics and issues, but in a way that involves openness, play, and ambiguity, to allow people to make their own meanings around them. (...) An essential part of our process is to let people try the things we make in their everyday environments over long periods of time—our longest trial so far is over a year—so we can see how they use them, what they find valuable, and what works and what doesn't. (...) Over the course of a project, we tend to concentrate on crafting compelling designs, without distracting ourselves by thinking about the high-level research issues to which they might speak. It's only once our designs are done and field trials are well under way that we start to reflect on what we have learned. Focusing on the particular in this way helps us ensure that our designs work in the specific situations for which they're developed, while remaining confident that in the long run they will produce surprising new insights about technologies, styles of interaction, and the people and settings with whom we work—if we've done a good job in choosing those situations."

Why do I blog this? Collecting material for a project about what is design research. Even brief, the article is interesting as it describes studio life in a very casual way (I'd be curious to read the equivalent from a hardcore science research lab btw). The description Gaver makes is al relevant as it surfaces important aspects of studio life (prerequisites to design maybe): interdisciplinary at first (and then "most of the studio members have picked up other skills along the way"), fluidity of roles, the fact that members contribute to projects according to their interests and abilities.