Before we decided on our research topic, we had debated back and forth about which scope to narrow in on before taking a step back. We had been too fixated on visualizing the final solution, and this constricted our ability to discover new design opportunities. After escaping this tunnel vision mentality, we settled on researching routines—specifically, we looked at the ways and reasons people take care of their bodies. We believed this topic was broad enough to supply unforeseen insights, but narrow enough to follow the design process realistically.
1/5 - Research
We used three main research methods. First, we sent out a digital survey, asking questions about how college-age people take care of their bodies, and why these routines were a part of their schedule. The 50 responses we collected were mostly brief, but revealed to us a wider definition of what our participants considered a part of their routine self-care. Next, we conducted participant observation and directed storytelling with four college students to get an in-depth look into their routines. As they walked us through their daily rituals at home, we encouraged them to elaborate on key artifacts.
We found that participants were generally happy with their routines, but admitted that they would like to incorporate more self-care rituals— namely those associated with fitness and mindfulness.
1. Routines are made up of rituals.
These rituals could be a morning cup of coffee, an afternoon workout, religious meditations, etc. All people have rituals, but not necessarily fixed routines. Participants noted that completing rituals for stress relief and self-care was important to their day.
2. When people experience unexpected complications in their day
—such as waking up late, social events, or catching a cold— their rituals are subtracted or rearranged in their routine. This can lower people’s moods, but when they find ways to adapt their ritual, they can achieve satisfaction similar to the original ritual.
3. In general, people operate within predictable environments.
These environmental factors—such as time constraints, people around them, or seasons—cause people to structure their routine around rituals they need or value.
We experienced difficulty in getting participants to elaborate on why they have the routine they do—everyone’s routine is very obvious to them, but they don’t immediately realize how much it varies between individuals. Life changes every day, especially in college, which is why we adopted the use of the word “rituals” to supplement.
At this point in the process we wrote the following statement to give us direction:
How might we bring focus to the connection between self-care rituals and the body?
Originally, we thought that addressing the disturbances people experienced in their routines would be our best design opportunity. However, we knew that this approach may be overbearing, as our participants already had their own personalized methods of addressing disturbances. Our final choice was design to encourage critical thinking about the ways that an individual’s body responds to their self-care; we saw it as the more empathetic path.