In this weeks class we took a closer look at design methods and prototyping with readings from Druin (1999), Zimmerman, Forlizzi, & Evenson (2007) and a paper that fellow student Joohee picked out Buchenau & Suri (2000). In addition to a discussion of the readings Brenna McNally from the iSchool visited us to demonstrate the Cooperative Inquiry that was discussed in the Druin paper.

In a nutshell Cooperative Inquiry is a research methodology that Druin specifically designed to enable adults and children to work collaboratively as equals on design problems. The methodology grew out of work at the University of Maryland Kid Design Team. In the paper Druin specifically discusses two projects at UMD: KidPad and PETS and how cooperative inquiry drew upon the traditions of contextual inquiry and participatory design.

Brenna’s demonstration of the technique was both fun and instructive. It was really interesting to be a participant and then asked to reflect on it in a meta way afterwards. Basically we were asked to generate some ideas about things we would like to do with digital cameras: being able to take a photo while driving, being able to take a picture quickly (like when a young child smiles), and taking pictures in your dreams (that was my suggestion). Then Brenna brought some prototyping materials: colored paper, string, pipe cleaners, various sticky things and asked us to prototype some solutions.

I wish I had take some pictures. Jonathan and Diane’s digital dream catcher that you wore like a showercap was memorable. Joohee and I create a little device that could sit on top of your car and take pictures on voice command and beam them through the “dream cloud” to a picture frame device in your house. I found it difficult to make the leap into using the materials at hand to prototype, but Brenna helped gave us examples of the types of prototyping she was looking for. Also, while we worked she was busily writing down different features that she noticed in our designs.

When we were done we each presented our ideas … and applauded each other (of course). Afterwhich Brenna went over some of the design elements she noticed, and highlighted ones she thought were interesting. We discussed some of them and decided on ones that would be worth digging into further. At this point a new cycle of prorotyping would begin. I thought this demonstration really clearly showed the iterative nature of observation, ideation and prototyping that make up the method.


Buchenau, M., & Suri, J. F. (2000). Experience prototyping. In Proceedings of the 3rd conference on designing interactive systems: Processes, practices, methods, and techniques (pp. 424–433). Association for Computing Machinery.

Druin, A. (1999). Cooperative inquiry: Developing new technologies for children with children. In Proceedings of the sigchi conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 592–599). Association for Computing Machinery.

Zimmerman, J., Forlizzi, J., & Evenson, S. (2007). Research through design as a method for interaction design research in hci. In Proceedings of the sigchi conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 493–502). Association for Computing Machinery.