If you read Jeffery Mau’s insightful report from the recent Design Research conference at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology, posted here on the NEXT blog, his description of ModeMapping may have piqued your interest.
I thought I’d supplement his post with some more details on ModeMapping, a tool developed by Stuart Karten Design in Marina del Rey, Calif. (It won a 2006 IDEA Silver Award in research.) It’s a visualization method that tracks the state of mind of various consumers over time so designers can see patterns, by using a colorful system of categorizing these states of mind, or “modes.” See this example:
How does ModeMapping work? Designers identify and then color code patterns of consumer behavior to look for shared experiences — and then use these observations to suggest innovative new solutions that will appeal to a corporation’s customers. This creates a topography of sorts of consumer activities and what they are thinking and feeling while engaged in those activities.
For example, for Johnson Controls, Stuart Karten Design found that the drivers they observed all made quick, frequent transitions from role to role (parent at school, friend meeting peers at a restaurant) throughout the day.
Seeing this pattern led the designers to suggest products such as a modular storage system that can easily be loaded into a vehicle and a reminder system (using RFID tags) that would alert drivers when important items (say, kids' sports equipment before a game) wasn’t brought into the car.
The beauty of ModeMapping is its use of elegant simplicity -- the consumer behavior patterns pop visually and are made easier to identify. It also seems like a versatile tool, one that can be used to research a wide variety of products and services.