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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Collect – Analyze – Create – Validate

Research and Teaching Statement

I studied design in both my undergraduate and graduate schools, and then worked as a designer, design educator and entrepreneur. There are different theories about design process and methodologies, for example, the HCD Hear – Create - Deliver process; the design thinking process, empathize – define – ideate – prototype – test – implement; but in my conclusion, no matter what theory or process, actually it is all about: collect – analyze – create – validate. This process is the design process, and it is also the process for learning, which forms the foundation of our research and teaching system.

1. The first stage of learning is to collect information

In order to learn something, one should start with collecting information. The more informative one is, the more resources he/she has. The collecting phase is also the research and study phase.

If it is a design project, we will conduct market research to understand the opportunities and competitors, we will conduct user research to understand user needs and their life styles, we will collect all the alternative solutions currently in the market, we will interview users and listen to their voices and complains.

If it is an education subject, we will start by collecting all necessary information around the subject, we will provide students with all sorts of resources for them to explore and absorb, not just the resources in the school system, but also outside in the industry. As an educator, we need to provide the students with all possible resources, and guide them to collect and explore all related information.

2. Analyze is the digestive and absorb stage

The analyze stage is a filtering and organizing stage. With all the information collected, now it is time to screen, filter, narrow down; and then reorganize the information to find things in common to draw a pattern; to compare the differences to nail a niche.

If it is a design project, we will do SWOT analysis, by comparing company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, to plan our strategies. We will define use cases, task flows, so we can build up the information architecture, utilizing the pieces of information we have collected at the collecting stage. We will do cart sorting to arrange features, so these features can like pieces of puzzles and fit into our architecture.

If it is an education subject, the analysis and interpretation of data, helps students to have a profound understanding on the subject behind all the information and phenomenon. Study and understand what has been collected, simplify the complicated data or evidence, help the students to meet intended learning and associated curriculum achievement standards.

3. Create is the ultimate goal of research and education

After collecting and studying the information, one gains comprehension of a subject, then he/she should be able to generate new concepts on top of the understanding. This is the sublimation stage, and this is the ultimate goal for our research and teaching, which means, the students should not only know all the knowledge and information about a subject, he/she should be able to truly understand them, and be able to transform those into new innovations.

If it is a design project, this stage is the ideation and production stage, with the understanding of market and target users, knowing their needs through empathizing and research, then analyzed and synthesized our observations and collected information; at this stage, a designer is going to create human-centered problem solutions.

If it is an education subject, this is a creative stage that seeks to generate new ideas, by encouraging students/team members in brainstorming sessions to contribute freely and openly, often in a collaborative environment. It pulls together new perspectives, assumptions and helps participants think beyond the obvious. At this stage, based on the understanding of this subject through collecting and comprehending, students quickly generate a large number of new and innovative ideas.

4. Validation stage is to assess the value of an idea

A creative idea means disruption, means many new potentials, but may also means many risks; so it is critical to validate an idea before put it into production. A validation stage is always needed after collecting, analyzing, and creating, at this stage, one build prototype and put into a testing environment to validate the ideas, to find out its value, feasibility, cost, and trade-offs, etc.

If it is a design project, we normally build a quickly-built, inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product or system, to investigate the ideas/solutions generated in the previous stage. We will do our best to simulate the environment to be close to real scenarios, and recruit start users to participate in the testing. It is an iterative process, we keep refine our model and then put into the testing, till we adjust and fixed most issues, and reach to a satisfied solution.

If it is an education subject, I will also encourage my students to build a prototype for their creation, then do the testing in our lab or a simulated environment. It will be great to involve real potential users, involve the industry and other domain experts into the validation process, to help the students understand how to valuable his/her ideas, how to do trade-offs, and how to think thing through.

In a word, the design process is the education process, it is a divergent, convergent, iteration; and finally transform a problem to a solution, a learner to an expert, a newbie to an innovator. That is why I have always enjoyed my professional career as a designer, a design educator, and a design entrepreneur. This Collect – Analyze – Create – Validate process is the process for design, research and teaching, and it is not just to feed students with knowledge and information, but to help students transform into a creative expert in this area.

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