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September 27, 2013 / cbkingston

The USER Model

The USER Model

As part of my PhD in Design thinking, I developed a framework for the design thinking process. It’s called the USER model which stands for:





This framework can be helpful in categorising the different stages of design thinking, although it doesn’t have to happen in sequence. The System aspect in particular is useful in organising the different people, objects, rules and skills involved in designing as part of the ‘big picture’ of the activity surrounding the product you are designing for. By that same rationale, it is also useful in organising a service design map and identifying touchpoints in a user system.

Here is the USER model in two pages: USER Model Handout

Today we are going to experience each of the four stages through a “Shoe Experiment”. This is to give you the opportunity to test the model first-hand and consider how you might use it as part of developing your product and creating your business.

Things to think about:

What ways were more/less successful in getting people to talk to you?

If you were designing a shoe, would you talk to other kinds of people besides students? If so, who? (think ‘who would be an extreme user’?) Now consider how you would decide what people you would talk to for another product of your choice as a ‘mental practice’.

What stories were the most memorable you heard today? What made them memorable? How could you use those same qualities in the story you develop about your own key customer this year?

Prototyping: What makes a good prototype? Why do people so rarely prototype? What advantages did you see in your team when you prototyped?

Polite tip: Don’t forget to attribute the author when you reference outside content in your blogs, including when you discuss the USER model. 🙂



Leave a Comment
  1. Sarah Wray / Sep 28 2010 3:10 pm

    As mentioned in class, I found it really difficult to assist the “blind” person because I was the “deaf” person and our communication was very hindered. I felt I was giving good instructions and leading her relatively well, but then I couldn’t have known if she asked questions or was unsure of something I had said.

    I did not do a very good job, which I found somewhat surprising because I have actually worked with a blind person before. As a volunteer at a hospital in Missouri, I helped an older blind woman walk around a track and do simple exercises at the hospital’s health center. The difference, I think, is that she had been blind for over 40 years and had an amazing sense of space in spite of the disability. Oli, on the other hand, had been fake blind for all of 3 minutes, which can make it seem very difficult and scary to move around without hitting walls and doors.

    As far as the Sainsburys/etc. exercise went, it was really interesting to see each group’s take on the event maps of the different stores. Obviously, each business was reaching out to a different constituency, but I thought it was a good way to show that every business needs to create a understandable but novel experience for its users.

    I learned that you often have to come up with creative ways to communicate. This translates to just about every walk of life, whether it is working with customers and users, talking with friends, or marketing a product. I also learned that little things matter (for example, store setup) when reaching out to customers. Businesses have to create an appropriate ethos in order to reach a desired customer base. I worked a lot with ethos and audience analysis in my undergraduate technical writing classes, so I am excited to see how this translates to business and entrepreneurship.


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