Participatory design is an approach to design strategy that brings customers into the heart of the design process. Also known as “co-creation”, “co-design”, or “cooperative design”, it emcompasses techniques useful to both initial discovery and subsequent ideation phases of a project.
Participatory Design in Practice Finding deeper nuance for a large health insurance network. An health insurance provider sought to design a new member portal that provides a highly personalized and anticipatory digital experience for all members.
The design process was supported by participatory design sessions.
Role of Participatory Design:
Love Letter/Breakup Letter Activity: This method provides insight into customers’ perceptions by eliciting feelings of appreciation, frustration, or aversion through writing a hypothetical love letter or breakup letter directed at the service or organization.
Empathy Collage: Visual associations allow people to re-frame their perspective and make potentially abstract connections between their experiences with a product or service.
Magic Screen Activity: Providing participants with materials that allow them to engage in a hands-on “making” activity provides us with a sense for what features or functionality may be most important (or least important), and often reveals insights about customers’ mental model for interactions.
Result: This work resulted in a personalized, anticipatory experience that included certain tools and content identified by customers as higher priority than the organization’s stakeholders and designers expected. There are a few more interesting case studies for reference in the original article.
In sum: Involving the people we’re serving through design as participants in the process helps ensure that our solution addresses their life holistically. People can often identify hidden opportunities and potential design value through a co-creation process.