AIGA Designer 2025 workshop: Tags & Traces

Designer 2025

In the fall 2018, our studio explored the seven trends outlined in AIGA's Designer 2025 which addresses the changing context of professional practice by year 2025 to help designers and educators anticipate and prepare for the future.

The trends are: Complex problems, Aggregation and Curation, Bridging the Digital and Physical Experiences, Core Values Matter, Resilient Organizations, Making Sense of the Data Economy, and Accountability for Anticipating Design Outcomes.

Krithika Sathyamurthy and I conducted a workshop on Accountability for Anticipating Design Outcomes. What does accountability for design research mean?

  • Accountability anticipates changes in design practice by engaging in foresight and speculative design.
  • Accountability acknowledges the benefit of interdisciplinary investigations to aid in design research.
  • Accountability values qualitative research methods and data aware-research tools to analyze patterns about human behavior.

The Workshop

We facilitated an ethnographic study NCSU's library Brickyard using the AEIOU framework. AEIOU is an observational framework that helps design researchers code captured data under a guiding taxonomy of Activities, Environments, Interactions, Observations, Users (The Doblin Group 1991). We purposefully targeted the Brickyard as the main space for the observational study, as it included different densities of activity. The workshop was organized into three sequential phases (1) Hunt and Gather; (2) Mapping; and (3) Blueprint.

(1) Hunt and Gather—Observation:

Key considerations: perspective, orientation, and scale.

We divided the brickyard into five zones to ensure that individual group member's observational viewpoints vary from each other (even if at the same location). We then asked participants to treat AEIOU as a starting point rather than a hard-set method, as a carried out during the field study. Workshop participants gathered materials via ethnographic methods: notes, photos, videos, audio, etc.

Krithika and I collected all of the images generated from part one of the workshop and created visual narratives in the form of contact sheets which concurrently provide a meta-view of the ethnographic field work.

(2) Mapping & Visualizing Information:

Key Considerations: Encoding, Patterns, & Connections

Individuals re-grouped and shared their collected information. Next, participants were introduced to a curated set of materials and were asked to visually synthesize patterns that emerged from their observations. The visualizations of the data from the AEIOU forms became both a container of possibilities and provided an additional layer of understanding for the different types of information gathered. One of the objectives of this workshop was to guide participants in connecting the various metaphorical interpretations that "Tags and Traces" assume in the wild.

(3) Blueprint & Framing

Key Considerations: Proximity & Correlations

Using phase two visualizations as their guiding material, workshop participants were asked to stitch different narratives and patterns that emerged. Individual groups had to come together and discuss how to combine each group’s visual system with all teams. In the end, they wove together a dynamic blueprint of their observational studies as a class. The result of this research and discovery process was translated into a site-specific visualization on our studio window (image below) that explored the explicit and implicit observations of the Brickyard, both individually and as part of a bigger ecosystem.

(4) Exhibition & Tagging

The workshop culminated in an exhibition about AIGA's Designer 2025 at NCSU. Krithika and I came up with a tagging system to mark each observation throughout each phase of the workshop. We printed out contact sheets with images documenting the workshop as a sort of meta ethnographic survey and arranged them in a narrative sequence to guide the viewer throughout the process.

On site observations tagged in the Brickyard A, E, I, O, U

Using Format