Let the walls do the talking

Many of the Cooperistas were out traveling today, so I had the opportunity to snoop undisturbed. I thought it would be fun to find out a little more about what goes on in the office and to practice an aspect of our research approach while I was at it.

Observation of the environment in which people work is important to gain a well-rounded understanding of the people we design for. The objects and information that people surround themselves with, the character of their workspaces, and the way in which people interact with each other in those spaces all provide important clues about needs, priorities, preferences, and goals. When we talk in someone's personal workspace, we often intuitively pick up on facets that would not come up in conversation.

I snapped some photos of a few curiosities, and wrote down my initial thoughts about what these artifacts say about their owners. I also recorded the questions I would have asked of them if they were around to answer.

I discovered that there are a variety of computer mice around here. At first glance, it looks like people have chosen their mouse setup based on form, control type, and the feel that they prefer.

Questions: What do you use your computer for? Did you specifically choose this mouse? Why or why not? What other digital products or peripherals do you own? Tell me about your favorite one, and why you like it. Any that you don’t like? Why?

I'd guess this stack is on the floor because its owner is so busy that paper management is a challenge. The content leads me to believe that this person is a visual thinker.

Questions: Tell me about the stack of paper. What does the color-coding mean? Why are these on the floor? What are the green pieces of paper for? And why so much paper when there is a computer sitting three feet away?

This setup makes me think its owner has a great appreciation for beautiful and serene surroundings. If I’m designing a product for this person, would incorporating these qualities into the visual design approach make her feel comfortable with the product?

Questions: Why have you chosen to keep these objects on your desk? Why did you choose the photograph? Do you always display the same one?

What else could you learn about us from the images below? (Click for a large version.) Tell us what you think in the comments!


Sanjiv Sirpal
Righto... 1. This is a collector of all things retro. It seems that some of the artifacts and colors of the things that are collected are somewhat kitsch. 2. This one's a perfectionist, designer with a flair for composition and balance. 3. If you look on the book shelf you'll find a copy of 'Stop Stealing Sheep'. 4. Big traveller. Plays the guitar. 5. Who let the code jockey into the fridge? 6. Classic Soccer pop/mom. :D
Amanda Hocking
1. Still a kid at heart (hence, the toys), probably enjoys listening to music while he works. Seems like he'd be fun to collaborate with. 2. Likes keeping track of what goes on every day, probably loves pie charts. Is that a steak? (Does the steak help your productivity?) 3. Probably enjoys one small personal touch in an outfit, like a punchy red scarf her grandmother knit for her. Penchant for large, round African mammals. :p 4. Sports fan. Probably does layouts. Having the pictures there are like hanging with his boys. 5. Caffeine addict. And crafty. Saving the bottle caps for an art project? Or just for fun? (The baby feet are just too cute!) 6. Definitely a parent. Having pictures of family makes it easier to work away from them. I think out of all the desks, I'd like to: Work with 2, Collaborate with 1, Have coffee with 6, Shop with 3, Play frisbee with 4, and talk sustainability with 5. And like Dana, I'd have lots of questions. ;)

Post a comment

We’re trying to advance the conversation, and we trust that you will, too. We’d rather not moderate, but we will remove any comments that are blatantly inflammatory or inappropriate. Let it fly, but keep it clean. Thanks.

Post this comment