Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Effect of Visual Quality and Animation of Concept Representations on Users' Responses to Early Design Concepts: A Study on the Adaptive Patient Room Concept

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Effect of Visual Quality and Animation of Concept Representations on Users' Responses to Early Design Concepts: A Study on the Adaptive Patient Room Concept

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the early phases of the design process designers question whether they are working on the "right" design concept, i.e., whether a proposed concept would meaningfully fit in the lives of people (Buxton, 2007). One way to answer this question is to discuss early design concepts with users. For that, designers need to externalize their design ideas and prepare concept representations which communicate the role that the design would have in the lives of people (Houde & Hill, 1997). These representations should communicate the attributes and benefits of the design concept (Veryzer, 1998) and help the user imagine using it so that s/he can make judgements about whether the design concept matches his/her needs and interests. Story-based representations are considered to be effective in communicating the aforementioned aspects of the design concept and focusing the discussion on the role of the new design concept in people's everyday life (Houde & Hill, 1997). Among the story-based concept representations, storyboards are the most commonly used. Such representations usually consist of a sequence of sketchy pictures with captions (van der Lelie, 2006). However, new technologies enable designers to create more advanced representations, even early in the design process, through utilizing animations, videos, and augmented and virtual reality. These media allow sounds, motion and light effects to be included in the representations and enable a "feel" of experience (Stappers, Gaver, & Overbeeke, 2003; Olivier, Xu, Monk, & Hoey, 2009). Such advanced representations may be particularly helpful to communicate "dynamic" (4D) concepts, that is, concepts for applications (products, services) that show behaviour. For static (3D) designs, a (series of) still(s) might do, but for 4D applications, it might be important to present the concept "in action" and not only the steady states resulting from the actions. On the other hand, creating these advanced concept representations requires more time and effort in comparison to creating classical storyboards. Then the question arises: Do these advanced representations help users more than the sketchy, static representations to understand the concept, and to envision its implications on their life? In this paper, we present a study investigating the effect of two properties of visual concept representations on the nature of the user feedback on early design concepts.

Lim, Stolterman and Tenenberg (2008) argue that the material, the resolution and the scope of concept representations affect people's perception of, and reaction to, the design concept. However, there are varying opinions about whether sketchy or advanced concept representations elicit better feedback. Houde and Hill (1997) argue that design ideas communicated through rough representations cannot easily be interpreted and understood by people who are not familiar with the design concept. On the other hand, van der Lelie (2006) argues that advanced representations would be accepted "as it is" and would inhibit critical feedback. Designers have the same dilemma as well (Ozcelik, Quevedo, Thalen, & Terken, 2011). Sketchy representations are believed to be better than visually refined representations in communicating that the design is in an early stage and any feedback is welcomed. At the same time, it is believed that feedback elicited through sketchy representations may not be reliable as the user might have made misinterpretations.

In this paper we present a study comparing the nature of user feedback on an adaptive patient room concept presented through different concept representations. We compare the user feedback elicited through sketchy representations to the user feedback elicited through visually refined representations to gain insights about whether and how the visual properties of concept representations influence the users' understanding of the concept and the nature of the feedback they provide. …

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