The Layers project has a challenge of combining various parallel activities in broader and narrower scale. The R&D streams are the broader parallel activities and the design teams, whose birth was one result of the design conference held in Helsinki, are the narrower parallel activities. The design teams collect the knowledge of the different R&D streams and in cooperation with end users form the end-users needs and knowledge from the R&D streams into design ideas, wireframes, mock-ups, use cases and finally through test usage into field trial prototype usage and real use in the context. It could be said that the design teams work as a layer above the other structures, getting input from all aspects in the project. The focus of the design teams’ work changes depending of the phase the project and design teams are in.
At the moment the contextual design with its ethnographical studies has been executed. It produced user stories, personas and contextual factors. The process is approaching towards mock-ups, use cases and low fidelity prototypes of the ideas – the participatory design part of the co-design process (picture 1).
Picture 1. Below you can see the overall co-design process and where we are (inside the wobbly black line) adapted from the general co-design process (Leinonen et al. 2008) to fit Learning Layers project.
However, the design ideas of the design teams are in different development phase, the design teams are not executing the same things – they proceed parallel with their ideas. The images (picture 2) below display the different threads of design that design teams can have. One design team has more than one thread for sure. Some of these go forward smoothly and some more slowly. All of them follow the same kind of iterative cycles with topic generation (thinking what the thread is about) or creative session (with end users, e.g. design activities/workshops) on how to design, for example, the interaction logic, screen visuals, etc. of the thread, then designing it, then introducing it again to end-users, documenting and reflecting on the feedbacks. The cycles produce outcomes, e.g. wireframes, interactive wireframes, paper prototypes, interactive prototypes, etc. The picture 2 also shows the different times the process has for “validation”, namely, for prioritizing threads, functions, features, discussing user experience, etc. before the actual timeline is the legend of the symbols used in the timeline. The different design threads help the design to see the overlaps in the designs, these can also be called the use cases- The use case describe an interaction stream of particular task or practice that the end-users have defined.
Picture 2. Below, the parallel activities within a design team and across design teams. and the legend of the visual symbols (images created by Eva Durall)
Below the timeline (the first line in the picture are different phases of the different design threads. The x-axes with the horizontal lines, in which different phases of design are displayed, represents potential design phases. It could, e.g., display two design teams. One design team has 3 design threads under development and the other design team has 2 design threads under development. The phases of design in the horizontal lines are not displaying the actual stage because the project has not gone that far yet, but it expresses the process. These display that within a design team there will be designs that go forward in different phases.
The Y-axes, the vertical lines, display the face-to-face meetings where broader issues are agreed on. For example, in June, meeting to select design threads, prioritize them, cut of and integrate some design threads, reshuffle them. One of the most important points of the design teams is that they are flexible and provide a space and place for trying out potential design solutions. All of the outcomes are also considered as results – they prove always a point either for the design or to abandon the idea.
One of the challenges in the process is to be able to engage the end users through the phases before actual usable prototypes and have enough workshops where design activities are held with the end-users. At the moment, design teams are having one to two workshop in a month. Other challenges are to keep all potential design ideas in the process until these are validated and tested to be good for further design or not interesting for continuation.