My contribution on this project was as a Design Researcher, and Visual Design Consultant. I collaborated with the Design and Marketing team, and the Executive Board of the National Institute of Genomic Medicine Mexico, INMEGEN.
The brief is the document that delineates the scope of the project, and includes its essential features:
- The design challenge: Apply Information Design and Project Management principles to a National Research Project on Genomic Medicine. To assess and propose a Design Language for the Human Genome Project, Chapter Mexico.
- Main goal: Analyse the current Visual Language of the INMEGEN, and make a proposal based on the users. Conduct a transversal research among different areas of the INMEGEN, collaborating with a multi-disciplinary team. Present innovative solutions to the executive board.
- Planner: Conduct the Research and Practical Project on time. Schedule interviews with scientists.
- Limitations: Complexity of the subject, limited amount of time, and size of the project (National scope).
2. Primary Research
IDEO names this step Discover, whereas for IBM Design Thinking it is Hills. What they both have in common is that they define the mission and scope of the project. The Primary Research step answers the questions “Who, What and Wow”, as well as Where, and How. It focuses on what the team will create.
- Who is the end user (target audience)?
- What needs to be done?
- When does the solution need to be finished?
- Where will the design solution be used?
- Why does the client think a solution is required?
- +How will the solution be implemented?
3. USER EXPERIENCE
The main question for the team was: How to present the project to the entire Nation?
The INMEGEN planned to publish the results of the Mexican Genome Project nationally. The team needed to consider a wide range of users, from different educational backgrounds, different incomes, ages and occupations.
The researcher proposed to identify a set of personas that would best represent the target users. For that purpose, the following tools and frameworks were used:
- Character profiles and
- Empathy 360º
Classifying the users, recognising their needs and fears allowed the researcher to make future design decisions.
4. SECONDARY RESEARCH
The best way to tackle a design challenge is to have a firm foundation of knowledge. Secondary Research analyses the data around two main topics: the context and the audience.
The researcher categorised the information obtained from internet, newspapers, scientific magazines, journals on Genomic Medicine, articles about the Human Genome Project chapter México, and other data available from the INMEGEN.
It was critical to design a solution that would work for everyone. Talking to all the users required a deep analysis of what they thought, felt and expressed. The researcher grouped the data into four themes:
- Visual Elements
After analysing all the data from the context and the audience, the researcher conducted a personal brainstorming activity. The aim was to generate as many ideas as possible around the research project. The researcher bundled ideas, and tried different combinations. She kept the best parts of some ideas, and got rid of the ones that did not worked. The elements of the Design Language were outlined.
2. Select Ideas
Clustering similar ideas into more complex solutions is part of the selection process.
The researcher started building more complex concepts, moving from individual ideas to design solutions.
The researcher solved the question of how the INMEGEN could talk to their users and present the results of their research project: they needed a Design Language.
Such Design Language would present a complex subject that is usually full off scientific terms in a much more relatable and friendly way.
Using tools and principles from Information Design, Semiotics, and Design Management, the researcher attempted to bring science closer to people.
Incorporating drawing and sketching helped the researcher unlock innovative solutions. All the imagery previously used by the INMEGEN was filled with digital models of the double-helix. The DNA strands and textured backgrounds were used in the internal and external communications of the Institute.
Sketching allowed the researcher to think about other applications of the double-helix and how to incorporate people.
The researcher sketched maps of Mexico, utilising the double meaning of the word “Map”, referring to the Haplotype Map and the place where the research took place.
1. Learning Launch
The researcher released the proposed Design Language, as an example to be used by the INMEGEN's Design and Publications team. In addition, she collected all the research process, the analysis and the proposal on a written document.
The Development of a Design Language
The researcher presented a set of guidelines and design principles, as part of the Design Language for the Human Genome Project, Chapter Mexico. The goal was to propose a tool set for the team, with an aim for a “human-centred approach”, that leaves enough room for users to connect and relate with Genomic Medicine.
The written document
The researcher included the research journey on a printed document. Such document was divided into chapters, covering:
- The research process
- Context and Design Challenge
- Theory and principles from Information Design, Semiotics and Design Management used to analysed the current Design Language.
- Examples of how to use the Design Language.
- Interview transcripts, and additional material collected during the research project.
The most significant contribution to the project was to modify its title. The researcher proposed the tittle: “The Mexican Genome Map”, instead of “Genetic Variability, and the Haplotypes Map (HapMap) of the Mexican Population”.
The research proved that the majority of the users were not familiar with the scientific terms. The previous title was confusing to the users, even when it was specific: the Haplotypes Map referred to the DNA variations or polymorphisms that the project identified and analysed.
This project was an opportunity for the researcher to push the boundaries where Design and Science meets; presenting future opportunities to apply Design principles on Genomic Medicine, specially in popular science.
The researcher was interested on sharing the research project. In addition to the written document, the researcher made a public presentation about the research and its findings. The presentation was attended by the marketing and publishing team of the INMEGEN, general public, undergraduate students from Information Design, Biology and Mechanical Engineering, as well as three professors of the Information Design Department of the University of the Americas Puebla.
This research project was a breaking point in the researcher’s future. It boosted her interest on tackling complex challenges, and working with multi-disciplinary projects, composed by individuals from different backgrounds. It was a unique opportunity to share Design Thinking principles with non-designers, and to display the potential of Design.