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!