All posts by Dee Balkissoon

Secondary Research

Authour: Thuy Linh Do
Edited by Christine Keene


Secondary Research is a common research method; it involves using information that others have gathered through primary research.


  • The information already exists and is readily available  -> quick & low cost
  • Helps guide the focus of any subsequent primary research being conducted
  • Internal secondary data uses categories and breakdowns that reflect a corporation’s preferred way of structuring the world
  • Secondary research may be the only available source of specific pieces of information (i.e. government data)


  • The information lacks specificity or does not exactly address question of concern
  • Some external secondary data may be of suspect quality or outdated
  • Internal secondary data such as sales reports and customer databases may only describe existing customers
  • Information is less likely to exist, particularly in developing countries, due to the lack of primary research conducted in unpopular markets or strict media control from the governments


This technique is performed in order to:

  • Assess easy, low-cost and quick knowledge;
  • Clarify the research question;
  • Help align the focus of primary research in a larger scale and can also help to identify the answer; and
  • Rule out potentially irrelevant project proposals (ex. The proposed work may have already been carried out).

Goes By

This technique is also known as Desk Research.


There are two types of Secondary Research hence two types of data collected from this technique:

  • Internal Secondary Data consists of information gathered within researcher’s firm (i.e. customers databases and reports from past primary research)
  • External Secondary Data consists of information gathered outside of researcher’s firm (i.e. government statistics and information from media sources)

Using the Technique

Secondary Research can happen at any stage of the creative process. Each Secondary Research process involves 4 steps that can be repeated as necessary:

  1. Identifying the subject domain and where to acquire the information;
  2. Gathering existing data;
  3. Comparing data from different sources, if necessary and if feasible; and
  4. Analyzing the data


Before starting any Secondary Research, it is helpful to define the research topic/domain. Next, the researcher would prepare a list of questions to be solved by the end of the process. This step helps narrow down the topic and also allows researcher to have an active role in conducting the research. After identifying the research domain, the researcher would look at various sources of information and decide where to get necessary data.

Good sources of information include:

  • Internal data such as databases, sale reports, past primary researches;
  • Government statistics and information from government agencies such as Canada Business Service Centre (, Statistics Canada (;
  • Information resources companies (ex. Passport GMID or Datamonitor360); and
  • Different media such as articles from respected magazines and newspaper, reports from university research centers or non-profit agency.


At this step, researcher looks at the topic and breaks it down in to keywords and their synonyms. For example, when looking at the topic: “What are the trends in woman clothing market?” the keywords would be “clothing”, “women” and “trend”. Accordingly, their synonyms would be “apparel”, “female” and “fashion”. Using these words to search can save researcher a lot of time in finding valuable data and also warrant no important information to be missed out.


Sometimes researchers would want to normalize the data to make it easier to analyze later.

Example for this step comes from a research project of area household income data in the US. The collected information came from 3 different sources: US Census Bureau Data (1997 data), a telephone survey of area residents (2000 data) and a published article (2007 data).

Raw information table

By shrinking the categories into 6 income scales and putting all data form in percentage, the information was then much easier to look at and analyze.

Normalized data


At this final step, the researcher should seek actionable findings to move the project forward. It is important to look back at the list of research questions from the first step and ask if they have all been answered and if there is any new question been raised. The most important goal is to come up with future actions for the project.


  • Most of the time, Secondary Research would start during or after brainstorming process. Brainstorming brings in ideas or concepts/themes that would become the topic of secondary research.
  • Topic for secondary research can also come from different stages of the creative process; basically, anytime a new question arises in the creative process, secondary research can be used to find the answer.


  • Secondary Research provides answers to the uncertainties and questions, and will narrow down the subject domain making it easier for primary research to be conducted later on.

Other Points of Note

During the step of gathering data, researcher should make sure to verify the credibility of the information coming from the Internet. Screenshots or another method for saving important websites should be used for reference since the online data might be changed without notice.

For data such as reports and statistics, the best way to verify their credibility is to consult the appendix and references. Generally, the more detailed the references, the more trustable the data.

On it’s own, copying or summarizing information identified by secondary research has no value as far as the project is concerned. Secondary Research is of value when information is compared and analyzed, when the researcher performs a critical review of the data, and when the researcher comes up with actionable findings to move the project forward.

Other Case Studies and Examples

In Winter 2010, a design agency in New York City worked on the Fall Winter 2011 Advertising Campaign for the fashion brand Miu Miu. After the brainstorming process, several ideas and themes had been chosen for mock-ups.  The ideas and themes were then divided into styles, and secondary researches had been conducted based on those styles as topics. The data were collected from different sources such as online image databases, women’s magazines, fashion magazines, art books etc. Most information was in the form of visual data.  Information was arranged into mood boards for analysis.

By looking at internal data of the firm, which were the designs for the brand’s previous season’s ad campaigns, the researchers realized that the company was following a cliché approach to the project − the ads were all shot in a studio setting with similar looking models.

These findings led to a search for a new approach to the campaign that could make the Fall Winter 2011 ad unique. A brainstorming process was used once again and a final campaign evolved that met the expectations of stakeholders. The company used a 14 years old fashion icon to be the face of the brand and the photo shot was done in a home setting, with the model doing ordinary things instead of posing in front of the camera.

Without the process of secondary research, the campaign would have likely had outcomes similar to their previous work.

Resources and References

Collins, H. (2010). The theory & practice of research for the creative industries. Switzerland: AVA Publishing SA

Government of Canada: Canada Business Network. Guide to market research and analysis. Retrieved from

Mcquarrie E .F. (2011). The Market Research Toolbox: A Concise Guide for Beginners, 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Stewart, D. W., & Kamins, M. A. (1993). Secondary research: information sources and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

The Wallace Foundation. (2009). Workbook B: Conducting Secondary Research,  Collecting and Using Data Resources. Retrieved from



Rapid Prototyping

Authours: Jeff Ranson & Margaret Lahn
Edited by Christine Keene


Innovations communicated verbally are often difficult to imagine. Since they are abstract ideas, it is difficult to get a sense of what they will look and feel like.


Rapid prototyping is the act of creating a low-fidelity object for the purpose of testing a concept. Through rapid prototyping, a designer is able to quickly test and adapt a design with minimum investment in time and the cost of failure.

Used When

During solution design, Rapid Prototyping allows for concept testing, accelerating the innovation process.

Used For

Prototypes are built using anything at hand to mock up rough concepts, giving form to early ideas and hunches. The purpose of the building is to think, to understand existing experiences and user needs, and to move abstractions into tangible objects with a low initial production cost. Ideas are explored, and learning occurs faster by failing earlier and often. Permission is granted to experiment, try and stretch. Ideas are communicated and shared to enhance the team’s understanding. This method quickly moves thoughts into concrete objects for discussion.

Rapid Prototyping facilitates an iterative process:

design > build > test > feedback > adjust

“The purpose of rapid prototyping is to demonstrate possibilities quickly by building an inexpensive series of mock-ups so designers are able to obtain early feedback from which they may respond to user requirements. This is particularly true in the following three types of situations: (1) cases that involve complex factors, which can make predictions difficult; (2) cases already examined by conventional methods without satisfactory results; and (3) new situations, which do not offer a lot of experience to draw from (Tripp and Bichelmeyer, 1990).”


1) Materials – The tools used for rapid prototyping of non-product applications are usually chosen for flexibility and affordability as well as ease of use. This is critical to keeping the initial design and redesign costs as low as possible.

  • Paper and Pen – Almost everyone has access to these and understands how to use them
  • Mock-up Software – This can be very inexpensive and requires some knowledge, but it is optimal for multiple redesigns.
  • Whatever’s around – Create 3D or special representations of design components

2) Sample prototypes

  • Paper Mock-ups
  • Storyboards
  • Simple physical models
  • Role Playing Scenarios
  • Idea Cards

3) Session – The process can be self organized by a team of designers, or it can be facilitated. If the design team does not include customers/end users, a way to gather feedback on the prototypes from users will be required.

4) Record – A way to document feedback and ideas is beneficial but not necessary. In some cases, feedback will immediately be captured in a modification or a new, rough prototype during the session, so extensive documentation may not be necessary.

5) Analysis – Feedback and micro failures during rough prototyping inform direction and refinement, which can move the process into the Pilot phase.

Baek, C. B. (2008). User-Centered Design and Development. In M. J. Spector, D. M. Merrill, J. Van Merrienboer, & M. P. Drescoll, Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 660-668).

Rudd, J., Stern, K., & Isensee, S. (1996). Low vs. High-fidelity prototyping debate. Interactions , 76-85.

Tripp, S. D., & Bichelmeyer, B. (1990). Rapid prototyping: An alternative instructional design strategy. Educational Technology Research and Development , 31-44.

Rapid Prototyping With CNC Tools

Authour:Alex Leitch
Edited by Christine Keene


Rapid prototyping with CNC tools is a continuation of the sketch processes to develop a physical product. Although 2D and electronic sketch processes are commonly used to iterate software product designs, they are less commonly used in physical product design due to the historic expense.  That expense has recently dropped, allowing artists and architects to join mechanical engineers in the use of CNC tools.

CNC stands for computer numeric control. Rather than carving a prototype by hand, a design can be programmed into a calibrated machine and a prototype will be created on-site.  This is beneficial as iterations can continue before committing to a production run on a conventional platform (, “The Age of Desktop Manufacturing.” 2012).

The use of advanced tools like desktop 3D printers and inexpensive laser cutters allows a high level of detail. The product can then be iterated and mass-produced from original computer sources, which do not tend to suffer random variation as hand-finished models do. This allows collaborators to repeatedly work on the same base models together, or print their own variants.  It limits the reliance on the hand of the designer and speeds the product development cycle. This allows for a more evolutionary design practice.

CNC based rapid prototyping comes after sketching in the design process.


CNC prototyping evolved out of the same techniques first developed in the early medieval period (Buxton 2007). It works on the principal that all but the finished product can be thrown away, but it also implies a value to the object itself that invites use.


This technique is performed in order to:

  • Assess functionality of concept piece;
  • Assess overall real-world design quality; and
  • Determine unexpected production costs, for example: parts that will break off or triggers that appear useful on paper but are unworkable by specific demographics (i.e. elderly) in the real world.

Goes By

This technique is also called: prototyping or modeling.


Modeling by hand or prototyping in paper are very similar to rapid prototyping for manufacture. They allow people to experiment with the design before having the finished product in hand, allowing for a better quality of finished product.

Using The Technique

Rapid prototyping using CNC tools requires some investment in high tech resources. The first requirement is a computer, and then a suite of Computer-Assisted Design software.

You Will Need:

  1. A computer that is less than seven years old.
  2. Software, for example: SketchUp, Autodesk’s Make suite, Blender, Rhino, Inkscape, Illustrator, Photoshop, or GIMP.
  3. Version control software is handy, or a version control plan, so parts that work can be kept and those that do not can be discarded.
  4. A sketchbook.
  5. Access to various CNC output devices or access to an output shop, such as TechShop, Shapeways, or Ponoko.


  • A clear sketch of the prototype is required.
  • It is useful to have the prototype split it into each of its moving parts, so the pieces can be assembled.
  • Model each of the sections of each part.
  • Output sections to the appropriate CNC.


  • A full prototype of your design, of which some parts will be instantly useable.

Next Steps After Exercise

  • Iterate the prototype that has been produced.
  • See where it breaks and why, take notes. Are the wings too heavy? Do the doors not shut properly?
  • Go back to the 3D software models and adjust accordingly.

Other Points of Note

Rapid prototyping is not actually that rapid, it is simply faster than it has been historically.  New materials and techniques allow a prototype to be created and iterations to be integrated faster.

It is very helpful to have access to a design team. Collaborators can include technicians, much as reproductions of paintings once relied on skilled engravers and lithographers to get the prints right.

Many people who use this technique artistically focus on bizarre, algorithmic shapes that could not be produced by hand.

Unfortunately, by removing the hand of the artist, individual objects produced using a rapid prototyping process lose individual value. They are limitlessly reproducible, identical, and require only the correct manufacturing setup to make. Once source files have been created and released, your work no longer requires you. How you add value – get paid for your work – on top of the basic model is up to you.

Case Studies and Examples

3D printing is commonly used in dentistry to get truly excellent tooth fit (

The Evolution of the OrangeX Manual Juicer is a case study from Buxton’s 2007 text Anatomy of Sketching Experience Design (

Makies (, a doll manufacturer in England, uses these techniques to fabricate one-off custom dolls via online ordering.

Anderson, C. (2012). The New MakerBot Replicator Might Just Change Your World. Wired. Retrieved from

Buxton, B. (2007). Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann Pulbishers.

Hart, G. (n.d.). Rapid Prototyping Website. Retrieved from

Shapeways 3D printing house. (n.d.). Shapeways. Retrieved from

Stratasys. (n.d.). Digital Dentistry. Retrieved from






Authour: Trevor Haldenby
Edited by Christine Keene


It can be difficult for researchers to observe some of a community’s most important behaviors, particularly when that community is wary of outsiders, isolated, underserved, oppressed or operating without written language. In these situations, observational research conducted by outsiders can result in a skewed and inaccurate view of the community, which can then result in a poor understanding of its needs, assets and cultural values. Furthermore, researchers entering a community who attempt action-oriented research or social change may have difficulty ensuring that the progress made in their presence will remain in effect or continue to develop upon their departure from the community. Without a powerful emotional picture of a community and its constituents, policymakers may misrepresent or fail to consider many of its most important aspects when making relevant decisions.


Photovoice, a participatory research methodology first formally articulated by Caroline Wang and Mary Anne Burris (1997), provides a process by which people can “identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique” (p. 369). The method builds on a history of earlier participatory needs assessment work in healthcare and social health education, on theoretical literature from the fields of feminist theory and documentary photography, and on a number of practical photographic traditions (Wang & Burris, 1997). The method is based around the provision of cameras and associated physical and theoretical infrastructure to individual community members. These individuals are then prompted to capture visual representations of their everyday lives so that researchers working with the community might gain insight into previously invisible practices and assets, helping the community to better engage in critical dialogue around the problems and opportunities it faces.

Use When

This methodology is most useful when employed at the front-end of a project, as well as during the evaluation and analysis stage to gauge success and validity.

Use For

Activity-focused research, needs assessment, problem-finding, problem-solving, solution implementation activity, project analysis and evaluation. Photovoice has been used successfully in projects related to issues as diverse as infectious disease, health education, homelessness, economic barriers, sexual domination, diasporas, population isolation and political violence (Catalani & Minkler, 2010).


Researchers begin their use of photovoice in a community as active facilitators, but by the end of the program, they should have passed on much of the facilitation role to individual community representatives. Many of the steps identified below can be considered creatively, as photovoice employs rapidly changing technology in the context of participatory research in a way that is unique among research methodologies. In their original articulation of photovoice, Wang & Burris explicitly state that the technique should be “creatively and flexibly adapted to the needs of its users” (1997, p.383).

The first step is to identify a community, or group within a community, that has an expressed interest in improving one or more conditions of that community.

1) Demographics – Clearly define the demographics and region of the community. Create a list of participants that is representative of the gender, age, occupational and economic diversity of that community. If there are other demographic criteria of particular relevance to the community, consider them as well.

2) Budget – Ensure funding for the purchase of as many cameras as there will representatives. Also consider the costs associated with taking the images, image development, transportation of equipment and a method by which photographers can communally examine each other’s work (a slide or data projector, for example).

3) Introduction – Bring the group of community representatives together, and explore with them in an accessible and inclusive way why they have been chosen as representatives and how photovoice works as a research methodology. Address any questions or concerns from the group, if possible. Once the group has agreed upon a mutual understanding of the research process and purpose, move forward with training.

4) Training – Brief community representatives on the technical and conceptual operation of the cameras secured for them. Important technical elements include recommendations for the safe operation of the camera and introductions to basic photographic concepts, such as portraiture, posed versus unposed photographs, and wide versus telephoto lenses. Wang & Burris (1997) suggest minimizing the amount of time spent on specifically technical and aesthetic training, while research conducted by Catalani & Minkler (2010) suggests that prolonged and increasingly rich training exercises tend to produce more engaged participants in the long term. Discussions around photographic ethics and power dynamics should also be conducted before any shooting begins. Questions such as, “How is it acceptable to photograph a person?” and “Would you take someone’s picture without telling them?” are good starting points.

The first photographic assignment should expand participants’ knowledge of photographic principles while considering community cultural values in suggestions of subject matter and setting. Photographers should set out into their communities with open minds and a focus on capturing scenes that are relevant to their everyday lives. While the photographers should be encouraged to seek out important situations, they should also be encouraged to consider the mundane or obvious as relevant subject matter.

5) Viewing – Once the photographers have shot the images, they should return the images to the facilitators. Facilitators should develop the images as promptly as possible, and return prints to the individual community representatives who shot the photographs. An additional set of each photographer’s images should be converted into a medium for communal viewing and reflection. Photographers may want to keep individual copies of their own photographs or give them to other members of the community, so it is important not to only produce a version made for communal viewing.

6) Discussion – Once the images are developed and the photographs are delivered, it is time for the discussion phase of the process. To begin this phase, ask each photographer to choose a subset of their roll that they find particularly interesting or relevant for group discussion.

In a group meeting, all community representatives should view the work of all others. When a photograph is displayed, the photographer should be encouraged to tell the story of and behind the picture: why/when/where was it taken, as well as who/what is doing it. Group discussion during this storytelling process, and the application of captions or written accompaniments to each image, are encouraged. This is the contextualization part of the discussion phase.

7) Analysis – Photographers identify themes and codes in the images that appear again and again internally (within the work of an individual photographer) or externally (across the bodies of work of many photographers). These themes can then be categorized, making it easier to identify overarching issues and opportunities affecting the community. In Wang & Burris’s (1997) original work in the Yunnan province of China, for example, numerous photographs depicting water-related issues (e.g., a man stooping over a cistern, children climbing poles to replace electrical infrastructure for water purification, women boiling water in front of their homes) led to the realization that constructing clean water reserves in the community was more important and relevant than increasing access to written knowledge.

At this stage, the steps that facilitators and community members will take are more flexible and open to interpretation. If the project was intended as the lead-in to an action-oriented project, then these storytelling series and photographic records may be used to persuade policymakers and government officials of the importance of allowing the community to decide its own priorities. If the research was intended as a knowledge-acquisition activity for the community, then more time can be spent ensuring that community representatives have a sufficient understanding of the photovoice method and process to teach additional members of the community, or even members of other communities.

An important step to ensure that the project’s process and infrastructure support potential community-run activities in the future is to make the cameras and other equipment available to the community either free-of-charge or at a price appropriate to the community’s economic capability. The continued availability of equipment required for photovoice activities offers significant benefits to the community in terms of action, advocacy, community values and individual empowerment, even after the project’s outside facilitators and researchers have departed.

Examples:  Photovoice has been used in an array of needs assessment projects around the world, on every continent except Antarctica.
Wang & Burris (1997) conducted their initial research exploring the methodology in the Yunnan province of China, looking at how new approaches to needs assessment in a male-dominated community could improve the effectiveness of reproductive health programs.

Prior to this research, methodologies involving the provision of cameras to underserved communities and groups had been explored as photo novella and fotonovella (Wang & Burris, 1997, p.369).

Photovoice work is presently being carried out in Toronto as a part of the St. James Town Initiative, a project of the Wellesley Institute looking at the needs and community capacity of St. James Town, one of North America’s highest-density residential areas.


Catalani & Minkler (2010) note in their excellent review of the photovoice method that until very recently, no systemic appraisal of existing literature had been conducted by researchers. Their review examines 37 peer-reviewed articles focusing on photovoice in public health, the majority of them reflections on action-oriented projects. What their paper shows, particularly in its appendices, is a wealth of diversity in protocol and context for photovoice research. While the method formally emerged on to the community-based participatory research scene as an approach to community health needs assessment, it has since been applied to contexts as diverse as political violence, discrimination, language barriers, and diasporas. Much of the most interesting work still seems to be taking place in the world surrounding health care and health education.

Some of the most interesting insights in Catalani & Minkler’s (2010) paper are around comparative performance of photovoice projects. They note that approximately 1,006 participants were involved as photographers in the projects they reviewed, with a median community sample size per project of 13 (p.439). The median study length is approximately 3 months, and while no relationship was noted between group size and participant engagement, a correlation between project duration and quality of engagement was identified (Catalani & Minkler, 2010, p.439). Photovoice projects with a higher participant engagement rating also seemed more likely to employ the method during analysis at the back-end of the process, as well as during needs assessment at the front (p.444).

Catalani & Minkler (2010) note that in spite of the explosion of diversity in photovoice work, “most projects continue to be heavily influenced by Wang & colleagues’ early work” (p.438), lending support to the notion that although photovoice emerged relatively intact as an ethnographic research methodology, it owes a great debt to a number of earlier 20th century theoretical traditions and practices.

This should come as no surprise considering the introduction Wang & Burris gave to their methodology in their 1997 paper, citing as inspirations everything from Paulo Freire’s problem-posing education teachings to the depression-era U.S. Farm Security Administration’s orthodox documentary photography work (p.371).

What isn’t touched on in Catalini & Minkler’s review is the use of technology. Alongside the increase in contextual diversity for photovoice work in the last fifteen years has come a massive acceleration in the development of digital photographic technologies, increasingly affordable and easy-to-use video and non-linear video editing systems, and of course the ubiquitous cameraphone. There would appear to be a great opportunity at present to investigate how cameraphone and point-and-shoot digital camera technology could be leveraged in the creation of new photovoice projects, not only in terms of how information is collected, but also how it is shared and organized.

Catalani, C., & Minkler, M. (2010). Photovoice: a review of the literature in health and public health. Health Education & Behavior, 37 (3), 424-451.

Halifax, N. V.D., Yurichuk, F., & Meeks, J. (2008). Photovoice in a Toronto community partnership: exploring the social determinants of health with homeless people. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 2 (2), 129-136.

Wang, C., & Burris, M. (1997). Photovoice: concept, methodology, and use for participatory needs assessment. Health Education & Behavior, 24 (3), 369-387.

The Wellesley Institute. (n.d.). Community voices: tackling inequity through a community initiative on the social determinants of health. Retrieved from

Lead User Research

Authour: D. Lloyd Gray
Edited by Christine Keene


Lead Users (senior members of a group using a product or process) frequently modify or develop systems and products to solve problems they are encountering for which there are no existing solutions. Locating Lead Users and using them as key informants can be a cost –effective way of developing new products and services or modernizing old ones.


Dr. Eric von Hippel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed the Lead User concept and first published it in the July 1986 issue of Management Science. He has written 2 books that touch on the topic: The Sources of Innovation (1988) and Democratizing Innovation (2005).


This technique is used for finding ideas that have been developed by people on the leading edge of a product or service that may be of use to others in their field.


While Lead User techniques can be similar to focus groups and regular expert interviewing techniques, it is unique in it’s interest in using high performing group members who innovate as key informants. While a focus group may ask users what innovations they would like to see, a Lead User interview would ask a user what innovations she has developed.

Using the Technique

The first step is determining if your problem lends itself to this technique. Industrial equipment and processes lend themselves to this technique. Most consumer products do not, primarily because of the problem of finding lead users: typically, a lead user will gain a personal benefit from his innovations. This is usually not the case for mass-market products (sporting goods are an exception).

Identifying Lead Users is a critical step. There are two suggested ways of doing this:

  • By looking at the leading edge of your target market; and
  • By looking at Advanced Analogue markets.

When looking for the leading edge of your market, there are two suggested approaches. The first method is to go where your users are. They are likely to spend time with others in the group and be invested in it socially. They may go to conventions, workshops, or weekend events. An added benefit of this method is that innovations may be openly displayed at such events. “Pyramiding” in the second method. People with specialized interests tend to know others in their field. By asking members of a community who they consider one of the top performers in their group, you can follow the chain until you find a lead user.

Another approach is the advanced analogue. This is a market with similar requirements to yours, but either with more extreme conditions or that has been around longer than yours. Users in this market may have information or techniques that help with your problems.

Once lead users have been identified, they have to be convinced to help you. This can take many forms: In some cases, the innovation may be openly displayed, vastly simplifying the procedure. Ski and other sports equipment manufacturers use many levels of sponsorship, ranging from free equipment to paid positions as professional Race Team members. Other companies may offer almost no compensation. This is because the Lead User may gain recognition or status in his group by having his innovation popularized; Lego is an example of a company that takes this approach with it’s “Adult Fans of Lego” group.


  • Task Analysis
  • Stakeholder Needs analysis


Examples of improvements that have already been tested by your users, and which may have the potential to be developed further.

Next Steps after Exercise:

If the item being developed is a manufactured product, prototypes will have to be developed. If it is a service or process, it will have to be tested.

Von Hippel, Eric. (2005). Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Von Hippel, Eric. (1988). The Sources of Innovation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Horizon Scan

Authour: John Harvey
Edited by Christine Keene


The practice of horizon scanning has its origin in the discipline of Futures Studies or Futurology, which is the systematic forecasting of the future from present trends in society. ‘Futures’, according to Wikipedia (n.d.), seeks to understand what is likely to continue and what could plausibly change. It postulates what is probable versus what is possible by researching and identifying current patterns. ‘Futures’ differs from short-term predictions and strategic planning in that it addresses time horizons that extend beyond 10 years from now.

‘Futures’ often refers to the “three P’s and a W”:

  • Possible future;
  • Probable future;
  • Preferable future; and
  • Wildcards.

Wildcards are low probability events with high impact, either positive or negative, and play very important roles in disaster planning and long range business projections.


There are two schools of thought in ‘Futures’: one is more abstract and the other is of longer range.  The second of these is more pragmatic and quantitative. Horizon Scanning seems to belong to the second school.


There are many techniques used in ‘Futures’ study. Some have been borrowed from other disciplines, such as economics and the social sciences. Some are more qualitative, such as reviewing of industry publications and dialogue with industry experts, while others are more quantitative, using numeric data and mathematical models.  Some examples include:

• Causal Layered Analysis (a four-layered examination of a trend, one layer following the next);
• Cross-Impact Analysis (a study of the mutual influence of events, using a mathematical probability matrix, often in conjunction with a Delphi analysis);
• Delphi Method (consensus among experts, via presentation and re-presentation by analyst of colleagues’ judgments – made anonymously – to each participant, until consensus is reached);
• Environmental Scanning (study of events, issues, and trends affecting a business, industry, or market);
• Growth and Envelope Curves (mapping data to reflect and to forecast trends – usually a function of time and the analyst’s judgment);
• Monitoring (keeping abreast of technologies as they develop);
• Morphological Analysis (breaks down existing solutions into elements, places elements in a matrix, then changes one element at a time with a view to increased efficiency);
• Network Analysis (a formalized extension of Monitoring – explores possible capabilities and systems that might result from current science research, and determines what research results are required to achieve a desired capability);
• Relevance Tree (a hierarchical arrangement of objectives and tasks);
• Scenarios (hypothetical views— usually presented three at a time —based on past experience and conjecture, generally extending 10-20+ yrs. into the future);
• Substitution Model (early recognition of the inevitability of technical obsolescence, requiring conformity to an S-shaped trend curve as new technology overtakes a market);
• Technology Forecasting (2 general methods: numeric data-based ‘fits’ to historical data or subjective judgmental forecasts of experts. Most appropriately applied to capabilities, not to specific characteristics of specific devices);
• Trend Extrapolation (may or may not rely on statistical procedure, meaning specific technical change cannot be predicted but the degree of technical change can be predicted).

Goes By

The term ‘Horizon Scanning’ is used broadly as an umbrella term to represent many of these widely divergent techniques. Of the techniques listed above, ‘Environmental Scanning’ best approximates ‘Horizon Scanning’, but strictly speaking, their meanings differ. ‘Environmental Scanning’ seeks to contribute to a global analysis, while ‘Horizon Scanning’ seeks to serve a single industry or sector.

Using the Technique

To date, it appears that ‘Horizon Scanning’ is used most often in the healthcare sector in the UK, the US and Canada.  It has been used to plan for an aging and longer-lived population, increasing healthcare delivery costs, and for training and workforce education.

Examples follow:
• The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health describes their Environmental Scans as short reports that “support Canada’s health care decision making and policy development”, based on “ongoing literature scanning”.
• A Canadian Journal of Surgery paper describes Horizon Scanning as involving “regular searches of medical news, clinical literature and industry sources, as well as contact with biomedical researchers, industry and clinical experts”. This same report goes on to describe the results of an interview with a group of surgeons regarding their criteria for judging nascent technology, a study that might elsewhere be called a Delphi Analysis.
• The Centre for Workforce Intelligence in the UK describes their Horizon Scanning Method as a means of generating “high-quality intelligence to inform long-range workforce planning that meets the needs of patients …”. This is done by identifying ‘big picture challenges’ in a number of categories and engaging their stakeholders.
• A Horizon Scan for the UK’s Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform on the production of chemicals and developments in biocatalysis includes comprehensive and detailed analyses of a number of biochemical developments, sources and patents, a SWOT Analysis of chemical industry drivers and a modified Network Analysis for each identified trend.

The US Department of Health and Human Services published their Horizon Scanning Protocol last year. This document standardizes a system for identifying target technologies and innovations in health care, and for creating an inventory of those technologies that have the highest potential for impact. At the same time, the system avoids making predictions on future utilization and costs: it is only meant to guide planning and prioritization.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Horizon Scanning Techniques Overview:

1) Daily broad scanning and lead selection by searchers for potential topic identification
2) Populating the “Initial Leads List” to develop topics
3) Topic nomination meetings and entry of topics into the system
4) Searches and profile development for Target Topics
5) Expert comment and ratings inputs for consideration of potential impact
6) Processes for determining inclusion in Potential High Impact Interventions report
7) Quantitative analysis and forecasting of selected topics
8) Topic monitoring, updating, and reassessment of potential impact
9) Archiving processes
10) Indexing and linking process

Resources and References
Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health. (n.d.). Environmental Scans. Retrieved from

Horizon Scanning Centre. (n.d.). Methods. Retrieved from

Future Studies. (n.d.) Wikipedia.  Retrieved from

Skibar, W. (2008). Assessment of current activity in the production of platform chemicals from renewable sources and horizon scan to forecast potential future developments in science and technology activity in biocatalysis. Retrieved from

Stafinski, T., Topfer, L., Zakariasen, K., & Menon, D. (2010). The role of surgeons in identifying emerging technologies for health technology assessment, Can J Surg, 53 (2): 86-92.

Student Wave.  (n.d.) Technological Forecasting. Retrieved from

U. S. Department of Health and Human Services: Agency for Health and Research Quality. (n.d.). Effective Healthcare Program.  Retrieved from

Design Fiction

Authours: Zahra Ebrahim & Carl Hastrich
Edited by Christine Keene


Traditionally, companies, organizations and governments have used speculative design practices: linear, expert-led ideation that extrapolates from internal technological innovation. Speculative design has been more linked to showboating innovation capacity than to gauging broader cultural responses.

As disciplinary boundaries begin to blur and traditional scientific practice meets social practice (Novotony 2008), it becomes clear that the tools to visualize and materialize future scenarios are limited. A tool/method for design research is needed to create ways to test, explore and prototype these futures in order to engage both intellectual and emotional responses.


Design Fiction is the construction of a narrative—a movie, animation, written story, presentation or installation—to immerse an audience in an experience that provokes emotional and intellectual responses. It is the generation of ideas that are not yet possible to provoke a dialogue about what could or should be possible.

Use When

Design fiction can be used during the problem framing, at the boundaries of strategic planning, collective visioning and prototyping, where an organization or agency needs to overcome what isn’t possible in order to explore the implications if it were possible.

Use For

Generating ideas outside of the boundaries of what is deemed possible, thereby encouraging experimentation of “worldviews”. Design fiction can provide a framework for gauging an audience’s response to a given idea. Success occurs when an idea has been developed to a point that an audience can engage with it. It is an evolution of strategic methodologies that ends with an abstract ideal (e.g., planning and visioning) into simulations that foster an environment to experience the benefits, consequences and implications of their visions.


1) Generation of ideas – The process of making design fiction is research. It begins by identifying an opportunity where “thinking is stuck”, boundaries need pushing and an audience needs engagement.

2) Gaining feedback – Collecting responses to ideas

3) Observing – Audience response to ideas

4) Continuation – Narrative is extended through complementary tools: Expert Interviews, Semi-structured interviews, Cultural Probes, 5 Whys, Focus Groups, Prototyping, Scenario Planning, SWOT Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Design Documentaries, Focus Groups, or Observation.

Philips Design Probes:

Liam Young’s Productive Dystopias:

Liam Young’s Under Tomorrow’s Sky:

Bleecker, J. (2009). Design Fiction: A Short Essay on Design, Science, Fact and Fiction, 49. Retrieved from
Denison, S. (2012). Why design fiction is design research – or should be. Retrieved from

Grand, S. (n.d.). Design Fiction Method Toolbox. FHNW | HGK | Visual Communication Institute/The Basel School of Design. Retrieved from toolbox/id477135032

Grand, S., & Wiedmer, M. (n.d.). Design Fiction: A Method Toolbox for Design Research in a Complex World. Retrieved from method-toolbox-for-design-research-in-a-complex-world

Starr, A. (2005, July 31). It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Architecture! New York Times. Retrieved from

Young, L. & Chen, D. (n.d.). Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today. Retrieved from


Citizen Juries: An Action Research Method

Authour: Hilary Best
Edited by Christine Keene


In a democratic society, it is widely recognized that the best solutions are those that are embraced by the population. Consequently, public consultation has played a central role in public decision-making (Wiklund and Viklund, 2010). In Canada, a consultation process is a key component of many policy-making activities, and is reflected as a legislative requirement in matters such as urban planning, natural resource extraction, environmental assessments and more. In spite of this focus on consultation, many existing consultation options have suboptimal outcomes – producing polarized and unhelpful public input and resentment and cynicism amongst the populace. There is a need for action research methods that empower the populace to make informed choices that advance public policy decisions.


Citizen juries are one answer to this need. A citizen jury is the action research method whereby a randomly selected yet demographically representative group of citizens learns about, reflects on, and presents a collective statement on an important issue (NCDD, 2010). Citizen juries are distinguished from other types of engagement frameworks by their length and the representative nature of their selection process (Wiklund and Viklund, 2010).

Citizen juries were first developed in 1974 by the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes (Crosby and Hottinger, 2011). Huitema et al. (2007) argue citizen juries are grounded in deliberative and pluralist political philosophies. The pluralist perspective recognizes citizens as autonomous individuals pursuing their self interest, while the deliberative perspective sees that opportunities to debate and discuss issues of public importance is critical to the health of a democracy (Huitema et al., 2007). Taken together, these perspectives value the contributions that a group of citizens can make with sufficient information on an issue of public concern and time to discuss it.

As a research method, citizen juries are grounded in an interpretive, interventionist and participatory philosophy that empowers citizen participants to be co-creators in developing solutions to complex issues.

Use When

Citizen juries are appropriate for use when there is an opportunity for informed citizens to have a meaningful impact on public policy, when there is sufficient time to conduct a lengthy process, and when deliberation will be helpful to achieving optimal outcomes.

Use For

Citizen juries are well suited to the deliberation of sharply polarizing social issues. They are useful for raising the level of public debate and creating recommendations to inform public policy choices. Citizen juries have been used to address a variety of issues including transit investment, arts and culture plans, online voting, health care, and income inequality.


1) Demographics – A researcher selects a panel of citizens to participate in the jury. This selection is performed randomly and is constructed to be demographically representative of the broader population being studied. Demographic representation can be determined according to variables such as age, education, gender, geography, and ethnicity (Jefferson Center, 2004). On average, 18 to 24 individuals are selected to form the jury.

2) Session – The citizen jury is invited to meet over the course of several days (usually 3-5). During this period, the citizen jury goes through a process of learning, reflecting and presenting.


The citizen jury is invited to learn deeply about the issue under consideration. This may include readings, videos, and testimonial from expert witnesses. The intention is that the citizen jury will become sufficiently knowledgeable about the topic so as to inform the reflection phase of the process. It is important to note that the issue under consideration must be appropriately scoped to allow the jury to delve deeply, while not getting lost in particular pieces of the issue at hand or related issues (Jefferson Center, 2004).


Once citizens are well versed in the topic, the jury begins a process of reflecting on the issue and the information they have gathered. Through a process of respectful deliberation, the jury attempts to reach some shared conclusions about the issue at hand. The jury need not arrive at complete consensus on the issue. They must, however, arrive at a place of common ground that they can share with a wider stakeholder group.


The citizen jury is responsible for crafting a collective statement on the issue under consideration, summarizing or synthesizing their process and conclusions. They must then present this statement and their recommendations to decision makers and/or the public.

3) Compensation – members of the citizen jury are offered a stipend for their time and contributions.

Examples: Citizen juries can be used in a variety of controversial public policy contexts. In 2012, the Centre for Public Involvement in Edmonton, Alberta held a citizens jury on the issue of online voting. Jury members were randomly selected members of the public, reflective of the diversity of the population of Edmonton. Over several days, members of the jury received expert testimony from a number of witnesses, reflected on the information presented, and deliberated to create a set of recommendations on the issue. In January 2013, these recommendations were presented to city council to inform their decision-making.


While the format of citizen juries is fairly rigorously defined by its custodial organizations, including the Jefferson Centre, the method has been adopted in several countries.  This has resulted in regional interpretations. For instance, the English citizen jury model is distinguished from its American counterpart by its role for jurors in establishing their own ground rules for the proceedings, its use of pilot projects to test assumptions, its request that participants think from a community perspective rather than an individual perspective, and its requirement that the decision making body make a formal response to the recommendations of the jury (Crosby et al.).

Centre for Public Involvement. (2012). 2012 Citizens Jury on Internet Voting. Retrieved from­‐civic-­‐ voting-­‐project/

Crosby, N., & Hottinger, J.C. (2011). The Citizens Jury Process. Book of the States, 321-325. Retrieved from

Crosby, N., Romslo, J., Malisone, S., & Manning, B. (n.d.). Citizen Juries: British Style. Retrieved from

Huitema, D., van de Kerkhof, M., & Pesch, U. (2007). The nature of the beast: are citizens’ juries deliberative or pluralist? Policy Science, 40, 287-311.  DOI: 10.1007/s11077-007-9046-7

Jefferson Center. (2004). The Citizen Jury Handbook. Retrieved from

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. (2010). Engagement Streams Framework. Retrieved from

Wiklund, H., & Viklund, P. (2010). Legitimizing Public Policy: Citizen’s Juries in Municipal Energy Planning. Jibs Working Paper Series, No: 2010-1. Retrieved from

Behavioural Mapping

Authour: Kirk Clyne
Edited by Christine Keene


In any man-made environment, discrepancies may exist between the intent of its design and how it is actually used.


Behavioural Mapping allows researchers to determine how participants use a designed space by recording participant behaviours and/or tracking participant movement within the space itself.

Use When

Behavioural mapping can be useful to help identify underlying patterns of participant movement and behaviour within a given environment.

Use For

Planning improvements to an existing space, improving the overall design of similar spaces in the future or confirming that a newly designed or redesigned space supports the behaviours for which it was designed.


This methodology is unobtrusive (done “at a distance”) and often undertaken in public areas, so participant consent may not be required.

The process for “person-centred” behavioural mapping is outlined below.

1) Materials – Begin with a site plan or map—typically, a top-down-style drawing of the area under study, sketched on paper or created with a graphics software application. Produce multiple photocopies or prints of the map as necessary. (A single sheet can capture both motions and behaviours, visually aggregating the data in the process; however, this may prove more difficult to read than tracking individual participants on separate sheets.)

2) Parameters – List the behaviours that will be recorded during the study. This crucial step helps researchers to avoid making assumptions about the behaviours they might encounter during the study. It also helps them avoid the temptation to record every observed behaviour rather than those deemed most relevant to the research question. Develop a method of notation for locating recorded behaviours on the map, such as initials, symbols or colour- coded dots. Depending on the needs of the study, researchers may also wish to capture basic demographic data on each participant. Some studies may benefit from recording each participant’s movement through the space (usually indicated as a line on the map). However, researchers may also wish to record the various directions that a participant faced, or note the places where a participant stopped moving.

Time is often an important data point in behavioural mapping studies, as well. How long was each stop? For how long was each behaviour displayed? How long was the overall stay or journey of each participant? Define the duration of observing a specific participant. This decision can be based on various conditions: after a set amount of time, when the participant leaves the area, when the researcher loses sight of the participant, or any combination of factors.

3) Record – Each researcher records the behaviour of a single participant respectively, making notations on the map until one of the conditions for ceasing observation is met. At this point, the researcher becomes available to observe the next participant who arrives. (Note: researchers should avoid overlapping their observations—in other words, no two researchers should track the same individual.)

4) Analysis – Viewing the results in aggregate is often a useful first step. For example, visually overlaying the paths that participants took may help to determine heavy traffic zones versus underused areas. (Recall that behavioural mapping is typically combined with other qualitative methods in an effort to uncover participant motivations.)