A tool to see more
I like to take along a video camera when I visit customers. In fact, I like it so much I wrote my thesis about how video can be used in the design process.
I originally thought that video would be useful for identifying problems and needs, and then a short video clip would be an effective way to communicate these needs within the company. That certainly has happened, but I also found a more powerful aspect of video.
Video workshops help design teams to collectively interpret the video material.
I found that after a design team watched and discussed video material in a video workshop, they started to feel that they knew the people in the video. They not only were able to probe motivations, and discuss what certain statements really meant, but they were also able to test out new product ideas, and features by thinking about how specific customers would react.
Video of customers creates representations in the designer's minds. Specific design ideas are tested against the representations (e.g. "What would Matthew think of a smaller power drill?") which leads to a new design ideas. ("He loves his heavy-duty drill, but maybe he would like a smaller one that he could always keep charged in his truck. Something good for small jobs like assembling an IKEA desk for his girlfriend.")
I now plan my workshops so that participants can use the video, not to hunt for problems, but instead to evaluate ideas. Through video designers can enter into a conversation with the customer, and use this feedback to perfect and refine design ideas.