Personas (Design methods #47)

Nov 02 2017 Published by Neil Gains under design

Personas (sometimes called pen portraits) are used in design and research to represent customer or user types through fictional characters, often based on synthesising research findings (e.g.., segmentation studies) but with a fully fleshed out version of an archetype or archetypes that creates a more realistic picture of an individual person with an individual history, beliefs, context, character and behaviours. In some respects, they are archetypes brought fully to life with real details and specific context.

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It’s All in the Memes

Sep 29 2017 Published by Neil Gains under book review

Memes in Digital Culture is a short and well-written guide to the use of memes in digital culture which I read on a flight back to Asia from the UK. Limor Shifman really gets to the heart of what memes are, how they work and what makes some more successful than others.

The word meme was coined long before the internet became an integral part of our lives, most famously by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene. Limor Shifman points out that Dawkins successful memes incorporate three key traits, longevity, fecundity and copy fidelity, and that all three are enhanced by the internet. Memes transmitted online have high fidelity (accuracy) when digitalised, they can be diffused to multiple places immediately and arguably have longer life when information is stored indefinitely. Read more »

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Word Clouds (Design methods #46)

Jun 28 2017 Published by Neil Gains under design

Word clouds are one of the most basic methods for visualising textual information. While sometimes overused, they provide a sometimes useful summary of the frequency of use of certain words or phrases within a piece of research, in answer to a question, or on a website (as in the example above taken from doctordisruption.com). Word clouds derive from tag clouds, and are easy to access online via Wordle and other free applications.

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Principles of Design #72 – Readability

Sep 25 2016 Published by Neil Gains under design

Readability is the degree to which prose can be understood, determined by word length, word commonality, sentence length, number of clauses in a sentence and the number of syllables in the sentence. It is something that is often overlooked by designers and researchers, who often believe that more complex information requires complex presentation. This, of course, is bunkum. The principle of cognitive fluency teaches us that the easier something is to read the more readily it will be understood and the more likely it will be acted on. I write this as I am preparing for a client workshop on report writing where the number 1 principle is make everything as simple as possible (but no simpler as Einstein famously said). Read more »

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Design Methods #34 – Photo Studies

Dec 09 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

In photo studies, participants are asked to document ideas, events and aspects of their lives with photos, allowing researchers and designers to collect visual insights into their behaviours, motivations and beliefs. Such studies are very personal and provide inspiration for design and co-creation based on the worlds of the users of products or services.

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The Social Psychology of Music

Oct 19 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory branding

As the authors of The Social Psychology of Music point out, although music has many functions in human life, they are all essentially social. We use music to communicate, even when from very different backgrounds and speaking different languages. Music has the ability to trigger very powerful emotions., forming the basis of shared experiences. Music always conveys meaning, but that meaning is always situated in a social and cultural context. Meaning can never be free of context. Read more »

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Design Methods #33 – Content Analysis

Oct 03 2015 Published by Neil Gains under design

Content analysis is a systematic listing and description of the form and content of written, spoken or visual materials, often leading to a summarisation around themes, patterns and frequency counts of specific items (words, phrases, images, concepts, etc). Content analysis is typically used in qualitative research to provide a more manageable way to analyse open-ended comments and verbatims. Content analysis can be used to give structure and system to what are often deep accounts of a topic, but with lengthy text or transcripts and ambiguous images that can be very time-consuming to interpret. Read more »

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In Touch With Reality

Sep 06 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory

“Seeing’s believing, but feeling’s the truth” – Thomas Fuller

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves” – Albert Einstein

I first wrote about the importance of the sense of touch five years ago (click here). At that time there was very little literature focusing on this important sense, but the last two years has seen the publication of at least four books about touch and related senses (see below) so it’s time to look again at touch. Touch is often neglected, especially by marketers, so let’s focus on why touch is such a powerful way to communicate with your customers. Read more »

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The Rhythm of Life: The esSense of music

Apr 28 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory branding

“Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired”  – Boethius

I have loved music all my life, and visitors often mention my music collection as one of the first things that strikes them. As well as being large, my tastes are quite diverse, and it’s always fascinated me how different music can radically change the mood, both at home and also in the cinema or in a retail outlet.

If you have ever watched a film with and without the musical score you’ll notice a huge difference in the way you react to events on the screen, and music is still often undervalued for its profound effect on how we experience the world. Read more »

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Making Sense of Smell

Mar 16 2015 Published by Neil Gains under sensory

In Jakobson’s Organ, Lyall Watson lays out the primal power of smell, showing that it not only helps us detect the difference between good food and bad food, but can also diagnose disease, detect danger, identify relatives and follow menstrual cycles. He quotes Rousseau who wrote that, “Smell is the sense of memory and desire”.

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