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Insights Arts & Crafts: 7 Ways to Co-Create, Ideate, and Engage Your Research Participants

Use these go-to strategies to encourage your participants to explore their creative side and sketch their thoughts.

Words by Emily Kuhn, Bryn Pernot, Karen Eisenhauer, and Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Jarred Kolar

Remote research offers researchers the opportunity to capture exclusive and candidate experience moments they might not in-field. Photos and videos of participants' worlds can foreground new opportunities and surface unseen friction points.

Co-creative activities are one way to extend your remote research practice and engage participants in new and fun ways, broadening the kinds of data on which your org makes decisions (and keeping things fun for participants along the way).

dscout's in-house research experts shared a few of their go-to ways to weave more collaboration and creativity into your remote research. Whether it's in a recruitment screener, before a 1:1 interview, or during a Diary study, adding some arts-n-crafts to your design offers experienced researchers a chance to weave ideation and imagination into your insights.

1. Journey map

What’s a journey mapping study without a journey map? I love to have scouts draw their own, because—while it may not be your final product—it gives you the best sense of what’s truly important to the participant, and really lets you inside their head.

I ask scouts to draw their map and talk through it in a video for every journey-mapping study, and every study like it. Sometimes it makes sense to have scouts layer on different aspects of their journey over a multiple-question flow, and sometimes the exercise can be quite simple.

Grab a dark-colored writing utensil, a sheet of paper, and let’s get started! Please take some time to consider your overall home buying journey, and then draw it out for us! Where did it start? What major milestones occurred along the way?

When you’re done, snap a picture—please make sure we’ll be able to see the whole picture, and that everything is clearly labeled. Up next, get ready to record a video walking us through it!

Use the image artifacts (those beautiful maps!) to get deeper into scouts’ minds, get better context on their journeys, and then show them off in a deck. Create highlight reels out of the video content to help your stakeholders understand key moments in the overall journey, with some added flavor and empathy-building.

Tag key steps in the journey maps to identify the typical flow that users take. And of course, use those maps to inform the one that you create!

2. The ideal UI

When you’re trying to get a sense of your scout’s priorities around your product, sometimes it’s beneficial to not beat around the bush. In certain cases, I like to ask my scouts outright to show what their ‘perfect’ product would look like, by sketching out a customized UI or design and walking me through it.

What scouts choose to include in their personal UIs can be a powerful tool illustrating their values and priorities when it comes to a product. It can also give scouts a sense of impact in the research process since it puts them in the chair of co-creator.

For the next question, we want you to design your own perfect version of this product. If it were completely customizable, what would it look like? What information would be front and center? Find paper and a pen and take a few minutes to sketch out what the ideal version would look like. Snap a picture and upload it here.

Now, in a 1-2 minute video, walk us through your sketch. Walk us through each element that you included in your design, why you put it where you did, and what you might use that element for when you use this product.

The resulting designs will give you a great idea of what is most important to scouts when it comes to using your product or service. Scouts explaining why they made something so prominent in their design will provide great insight into common use cases for your product.

The uploaded photos will also make great illustrations to show off your users’ priorities in a deliverable!

3. Draw your emotions

Drawings can be a great way for scouts to showcase how they are feeling during exciting or challenging moments. When paired with videos and open-ended questions, these illustrations help give you a fuller picture of scouts’ emotions.

I’ve used this question in a reflection part where scouts were asked to use a magic wand to solve a problem, but it could also work well as an introductory get-to-know-you part where scouts are outlining their current challenges with a product or service.

Now think about ONE moment you shared with us in an earlier entry. Close your eyes and think about how you felt at that moment. Imagine that feeling in physical form: what shape, color, texture, feel, smell does it have? Is it small or does it fill the entire room? In a few sentences, give us a detailed explanation like you’re describing a movie scene, or something right in front of you!

Now grab a sheet of paper and sketch what you are imagining. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect! Just do your best, we want to see what you are seeing: the size, shape, color...What does this feeling or challenge look and feel like to you?

To wrap things up, give us three adjectives or phrases that describe how you felt in that moment.

Create a collage from photos to illustrate the range of emotions that scouts are feeling and pair it with quotes or word clouds to “caption” the images. You could also tag the open-ends with the colors, smells, and other descriptors scouts used to identify common themes in how these challenging or exciting moments felt to scouts.

Interested in seeing how dscout can help you facilitate your next co-creation session? Connect with a member of our team.

4. Paper AR

Many co-creation activities involve asking a participant to create their own ideal version of a product. This is easy when conducting an in-home, but is still feasible (and more scalable) with remote approaches. I call this the "paper" AR because it asks scouts to create something that they WISH existed, and place it in context within their environment.

This could be used in the formative stages of product design, when the idea is there but the shape and specifications are still being ironed out. It works especially well when the value-proposition is known, but the form that value prop might take is still evolving.

Here's an example of how this might be used for an emergent storage solution:

Think about your IDEAL storage solution. What would it hold? How big or small would it be? Where would it "live" in your home? Using a pen and paper, draw or sketch out the solution, highlighting how it meets your needs. Next, affix that paper to an area of your house where your ideal solution would live.

In a video, show us the storage solution and explain why you designed it the way you did, and why it "lives" where it does.

This offers insights for product, design, and even marketing teams. Videos showcase not only the design and usage needs of would-be users, but contextualizes the product in their lived environments, giving creative teams a chance to see how they interpret and understand the value proposition?

This activity might precede a concept test where an idea (maybe even based on scout sketches) is presented for feedback. In this way, scouts are already thinking about their needs and can share elevated feedback about your team's ideas, increasing impact.

5. Elements pie chart

Not all research involves clearly-defined concepts and ideas. Many times, it's those fuzzier, subjective ones that offer the most learning. Brands are usually interested in unpacking what "goes into" or "makes up" concepts like privacy, trust, or loyalty.

A series of focus groups might tap into some foundational aspects, but remote research offers the chance to hear from a larger and representative group without the scheduling and moderation matters.

This works best when scouts are asked to describe a certain number of things, elements, or characteristics of the concept or idea. They can then ascribe values, weights, or percentages to order these. Why ask folks how important a concept like "trust" is when scouts can unpack what makes up something like trust. Talk about value for the organization.

Here's one way to do it, using a pie chart (but any other visual could be used):

We want to learn what you think makes a brand or company "trustworthy." What aspects or characteristics do a brand or company need to have in order for you to trust it?

Using pen and paper, write FOUR things that make a company "trustworthy." Then, give a percentage value to each of those things totaling 100%. In a video, show us your pie chart and walk through the most important elements.

Why do those matter to you?

This could be used for any other concept your product, marketing, or experience team is trying to tap into with its offerings. Maybe its loyalty or fandom; maybe its privacy or trust.

Using the transcripts and the world cloud feature, this produces frequencies of characteristics, giving your team a set of characteristics and elements to build against. Ask participants to take a photo of their pie charts before recording their video for a great collaging opportunity.

Drop share-worthy pie charts in comms channels or share out really stands out when the concepts are in a customers' own handwriting!

6. Photo sketchnotes

When designers need to "see" as a user does, using a smartphone can be an easy way to source that unique perspective. Taking this a step further, most smartphone UIs enable scouts to mark up or annotate photos, showing specific areas of interest of note. This—in combination with a vantage point—offers designers and product managers critical data when iterating and refining.

For example, image conducting research on wearables for factory workers. What information would they want and need to see displayed? We might ask scouts:

For this activity, hold your phone's camera at eye level when taking a photo. We want to see you as you are in this moment.

After snapping the photo, use your camera editor to mark up any pieces of information that are vital to getting your job done in this moment.

Then, in a screen recording video, give us a quick overview of the photo—what did you take and why? What information is critical for you to know when looking at this object or process?

In this example, researchers learned about the importance of some health and safety factors that could be displayed on glasses worn by workers. This approach—marking up a perspective—could apply to any number of enterprise or consumer products, especially in the wearables category.

You're not only learning what matters to would-be users, you're also capturing organic use cases to refine against, ensuring application and context fit.

7. Craft a collage

Sometimes, you need more than one image to really understand the breadth and depth of a construct. How would you describe something as broad as fashion? When conducting truly foundational research, sometimes nothing beats a plain old collage. On dscout, we recommend building a collaging activity out into two parts—one to collect each image and some brief context, and the next to have scouts put it all together and give you the big picture.

Your first activity, if you choose to include it, can be two simple questions:

1. Upload an image (from the internet, from your camera gallery, anything that strikes you!) that represents fashion to you. Make sure each image you pick is different!

2. In 140 characters or less, describe how the image you just uploaded represents fashion.

In your second activity, ask scouts to create their collage, snap a pic, and then walk through it in a video (then ask any follow up questions!).

Now, take some time to collage the images you collected in Part 1! You’re welcome to print your pictures and arrange them physically or use a digital tool to do your collaging—whatever your preference is works for us. As you’re collaging, think about why you chose each image. How does all of this relate back to fashion?

Then, walk us through your collage in a 2-minute selfie video. What does each image mean to you? What does fashion mean to you, and how does that come through in this collage?

By collecting individual images AND the collage, you’ll have a richer dataset and a better understanding of each scouts’ mindset as related to the construct you’re researching. Use dscout’s built-in word cloud chart creator to pull out keywords from scouts’ descriptions of their images to ensure the product you’re building could be described in a similar manner.

With collages already made for you, no need to do any further image editing—use each collage to better understand the people in your audience. This matches really well with segmentation research—confirm that your segments have similar interests and definitions, and pick the “best” collage to go right into your segment profile.

See how dscout can help foster creative, collaborative sessions with your participants.

Connect with a member of our team to learn about co-creation with dscout.

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