UX Research @ VUW

Thanks to Dr Catherine Caudwell, Birgit Bachler, Gillian McCarthy, Sebastien Voerman and the School of Design, Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) for a fascinating evening about design research. During this meetup, we learned about relational methods and thinking in user research, more-than-human participatory design, engaging participatory research methods, and qualitative "emotive" user testing.

Dr Catherine Caudwell is a lecturer and researcher at the School of Design VUW. Catherine is an interdisciplinary researcher, and has collaborated on projects across design, media studies, anthropology, management, and architecture. Her current research incorporates design ethnography and cultural studies to explore how relationships are fostered between social robots and their users/caregivers.

Catherine talked about the potential of relational methods and thinking in user research. She opened up a topic about the relationships that we develop with design objects and services, and how are they established, developed, and concluded. She emphasised the need to identify how should these relationships be crafted and why.

Twitter: @CBCaudwell


Birgit Bachler is an Austrian new media artist, designer and researcher currently pursuing a PhD at the School of Design VUW looking at designing a more-than-human Internet of Things together with urban waters.

Birgit challenged us to think about beyond human experience, asking how do the things like your Internet of Things? Her 'more-than-human' participatory design process involves not only human experience but also gathering data about the things such as streams to create network technologies. She shared her challenges along the way and the new opportunities that came up from her research.

Twitter: @irgbit


Gillian McCarthy is a human-centred design researcher completing a PhD at VUW. Her research explores teenagers’ experiences managing type 1 diabetes, and what these teenagers want out of modern medical devices. Gillian contributes to the development of a range of medical and assistive products, designing for children through to adults.

Gillian shared her tools for engaging, participatory research that she’s been using in her research. For example, writing a love letter to your insulin pen, pinpointing the best, worst and missing features of a glucose meter, or drawing diabetes. Gillian discussed what sort of information can we uncover using these different research approaches.

Twitter: @deignergillian

Publications: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gillian_Mccarthy2

Sebastien Voerman is an industrial designer who recently graduated with his Master's in Design Innovation, where his thesis looked at the intersection between physical interactions and the potential that multi-material 3D printing technologies offered. In October he took his research overseas to Hong Kong to showcase the outputs of his research at Cumulus Hong Kong. He is currently working as a freelance designer experimenting with lighting, furniture, fashion, and media design.

Sebastien showcased some of the physical outputs he developed in his research about the experience of surprise and delight in lighting design. Sebastien talked about how qualitative "emotive" user testing factored into his design process and shared with us some key tools, challenges and learnings.

Twitter: @sebastienvoermn

Instagram: @sebastienvoerman


Big thanks to the School of Design VUW who hosted and sponsored the event.