MICRO UX | IBM - Week 1

Week 1 🗓: 14 Apr - 17 Apr

Brief 🔍

Design a way to counter some of the alienating effects of remote working online.

Teammates: 🤝 Pat, Lee and Ann

This term was a challenging term for everyone. We all learned and worked remotely. "How to improve the remote working experience?" had become a hot topic in the world. Many designers and researchers were working on the possible solutions for this issue. For the Micro UX unit, I also had a chance to work on IBM's Brief, which is about "How can we continue to work in this way when the physical experience becomes purely digital?". To start the project, we had a meeting with the IBM IX team to understand the brief deeply. Below are some key points that I dropped down.

MindMap of recapping the briefing meeting

📌 the Loop system

Understand the present and envision the future in a continuous cycle of observing, reflecting, and making.

  • Observe: Immerse yourself in the real world with design research.

  • Reflect: Come together and look within to synchronize your movements, synthesize what you’ve learned, and share your “aha” moments with each other.

  • Make: Give concrete form to abstract ideas.

📌 Three Perspectives

Processes // Tools // Environments

📌 Design something for design.

📌 Physical Challenge

  • Can't sit to each other

  • Lack of body language/ Bad Facial Expression

  • Talking your own slide/ can't see anyone/ feel disconnected/ talking to computer

  • Can't go to a room/ not good for workshop/ pitching

  • Messy work desk/ Family disturb

  • Mental health problem/ stressed/ lack of trust/ career risk

📌 Digital Challenge

  • Overworking/ Time management

  • Interruption/ People don't know your condition

  • Multitasking/ hard to manage

  • Internet Connection

  • Technical issues/ Learn how to use the softwares

  • Adaptive skills/ different platforms/ different user flow, guideline, system

Research Methods 📚

After the meeting with the client, we understood the vision, goals and objectives. Then we did a lot of research for the first week. We used the "Literature review", "Case Study" and "Storytelling" methods to start our project. Our team setup a "Notion" account to document all our processes and works, also we have regular video call meetings to discuss what to do and how to collaborate. We divided our works for the first week. Lee was responsible for the literature review, Ann and me were responsible for studying the IBM design thinking and doing the case study for design process research. Pat was responsible for the storytelling part in order to understand more the current designers' remote working situation.

Team meeting on online video call

Literature Review 📜

Firstly, we read some articles and theories about "Design for social presence in online communities" and "Online Collaboration Principle". Our target is to find out some profound knowledge about online collaboration. We found there is a large volume of academic paper from the perspective of online learning and online business since the internet emerged and we believe it shared a lot of similarities and we could definitely benefit from reading it.

At first, Lee had come across some old theories related to our topic. Starting with the social presence theory in 1976. It is a multi-dimensional and flexible concept that clarifies media according to how well they convey intimacy and warmth between users. It was a psychological study of the media age. Social orientation, identifying motivations, groupthink, and what inspires the feeling of being together, even through a screen. Secondly, Lee had the media richness theory in 1986, which compared the richness between different kinds of communication through media. Below are some key findings on our literature review.

About Social Presence

  • Create a community where students are fully engaged in collaboratively constructing meaningful and worthwhile knowledge

  • An online learning environment reflects a “group-centered” interaction pattern versus an “authority-centered pattern” of a face-to-face environment. There is a tendency to build on the comments of others in the online environment (higher flow of communication), compared to the “turn-taking” face-to-face environment.

  • The goal of establishing a social presence is to create a climate of trust and belonging that will support interaction and a questioning predisposition

  • students need to have an opportunity to interact formally and informally with peers. Opportunities to engage in small group discussions. The goal is to establish comfort and willingness to collaboratively engage with the community

  • From an online social presence perspective, it is important to recognize that, although the student is always in virtual contact with their community of learners, they are physically alone at the computer and the sense of independence is strong. This is why students online do not manifest the same degree of social presence as when they are in a face-to-face classroom setting. What the online experience can do is maintain and enhance a sense of group cohesion, collaboration, and support.

About Cognitive Presence

  • Cognitive presence is the process of constructing meaning through collaborative inquiry. More Cognitive presence = Better learning

  • Cognitive presence is defined by the process of inquiry that moves from problem definition to exploration of relevant content and ideas, integrating those ideas into a meaningful structure or solution, and then directly or vicariously testing the validity or usefulness of the outcome.

  • Workload must be seriously considered. If collaboration and discourse are to be at the core of the inquiry process, then students must have the time to engage other students and reflect upon these deliberations


In an online learning experience, the advantage is given to reflection in a way that is not possible in the fast and free-flowing face-to-face environment. The face-to-face classroom experience requires verbal agility, spontaneity, and confidence to express oneself in a group setting.


In the early exploratory phase of the inquiry, online learning may offer advantages in quality ideas. Rocco demonstrated that brainstorming in an online context was superior to a face-to-face context when providing solutions. Researchers have found that online conferences produced more important, justified and linked ideas; that is, there was deeper critical thinking in online discussions.

Similarly, Meyer states that online “discussions were often more ‘thoughtful,’ more reasoned, and drew evidence from other sources …” (p. 6). Finally, Hawkes & Romiszowski found that online dialogue was less interactive than face-to-face but had significantly deeper explanations. It would seem that having the opportunity to reflect before contributing to the discourse adds a qualitative dimension.


In the online environment, “time is expanded”. The online environment also has a distinct advantage of providing a permanent record that students can use to reflect upon.

Online discussion is more accessible, more specific and detailed, more open to critical challenges and disagreement, and greater potential for integration and resolution. Greater emphasis is placed on the facilitator to thread discussion, sustain commitment, encourage conversational approach, provide relevant information links, and resolve issues.

IBM Studies 🗃

After doing the literature review, we did some online research. Ann and me read through all the documents about IBM Design Thinking and its Garage Method. It helped us to understand what IBM is doing in a more comprehensive way.

For the IBM Design Thinking, we found out that they have a “Loop” system in every single layer in the process. Some key problems is that even IBM already did a Platform with a lot of Good guidelines and toolkits to teach people how to collaborate in a human-centered way. But those guidelines are like an online course( just some PowerPoint slides) , not very interactive and engaging. People are hard to read all of them. It is not fit for a remote working model.

And it is quite on a mindset and principles level, is some general stuffs. Designer may already understand well about those mindsets And principles. But for Other people who also work in the creative Industry. They also need creative mindset, like the marketer, manager, consultant... it may be difficult for them to follow the design process remotely.


Therefore, we got some insights and findings. We think it may be a potential direction to explore.

  1. How the bring "The Loop" system concept into remote working?

  2. Can we combine those guidelines or pick some useful points to adapt to our creative idea/product/design... so people can easy to learn and follow with what IBM already created

Design Process - Case Studies 📋

I also did a case study analysis with a product designer to understanding their design process. It helps us to find out what they can do remotely and what they can’t, just like some User interview and focus group, which is in the physical aspect. Below is the workflow of the product designer, which I had highlighted the physical and digital parts.

Workflow of a product designer

Face to face (Physical)

Discovery: User Interview, Experience Map, Customer Journey, Personae,

Solution: Workshop Ideation, User Tests, Lean feedback

Development: User Tests, Lean feedback


And I found out some insights and findings.

  1. Understanding users is the most important thing before starting a project. How to understand them remotely? (not only interviews but also create some innovative way, which works remotely?)

  2. How to do face to face interview/ focus group remotely?

  3. How to create the same engagement & feeling for doing remote interview/ focus group?

  4. Can we go deeply for every signal layer in doing user interviews and focus groups? And find out how to help designers to understand users remotely?

Focus Group - workflow

When considering the physical problem, I also did a research about one of the face to face workflow. By using focus group as an example and find out How designers arrange a focus group physically? Below are the basic step by step.

  1. Developing a question set

  2. Selecting the group

  3. Invitation to participants and briefing note

  4. Selecting a facilitator

  5. How Long?

  6. Location

  7. Managing expectation

  8. Running the focus group

  9. Materials

  10. Preparation/setup

  11. Welcoming participants

Workflow of doing a focus group


  1. How to turn physical items into digital?

  2. How to adjust the workflow to fit remote working?

Storytelling 🗣

For the storytelling part, Pat had set the below questions to ask the designers. Below are the questions and the findings.

Question Protocol Personal Job Position: Ages : ( To see if different ages group experiencing the same problem) Company /Team size : Role & Task :

Software / platform used For Communication : ( pros/cons ) For proper meeting : ( pros/cons ) For Collaboration : ( pros/cons ) For Task management: (Pros/cons) Collaboration Which process of collaboration do you find most challenging to complete it remotely? Which method of physical collaboration you find it cannot be replaced with digital? Duration : How often you have an internal meeting? How long does each meeting last? What is your ideal time for each meeting? Why? Space & Environment & Relation How a workspace affect your productivity? Describe? The senses that digital can not offer you and it have been lacking when you working remotely?

Health condition Does working remotely affect your mental and physical health? how?

The most What did you like the most about working remotely? What did you don't like the most when working remotely?

Time Management How has your routine changed since working remotely? How u manage ur break time?

Extra support What are the extra benefits you got from the company while working from home? What do you expect from the company? ( What material or any kind of support you need if you have to work remotely ? )

Project feedback & Reflection 🙌

After the first week's efforts, we have combined our literature review, IBM studies, design process case studies, and storytelling and presented to our professors and classmates on zoom video meeting. We got a lot of useful feedback. This week was a very good starting point even we can only communicate and work online. Our team has a strong organization and productivity. We all work smoothly. I am happy to work with them:)

Feedback for the first week

Below are the key points of the feedback, which give us various directions to explore.

Literature Review:

Look for some histories of remote working with low-tech

  • The Master Switch - Tim Wu

  • networks on networks, Kazys Varnelis Fluxus

  • Ray Johnson and the mail art tradition

Past Experience:

How people work remotely in the past?

If they don't have technology & the internet, how their working model and process will be?

  • Telephone

  • Audio

  • Letter

- networks on networks kazys varnelis fluxus art

- Ray Johnson’s Mail Art Returns to a Mailbox Near You

Case Studies & Storytelling:

  • Don't limit just designer

  • Look for physical workers, e.g. Artists, dancers...

  • Find out how they work remotely and get some inspirations for designer

  • Also, look at physical activities e.g. yoga class

  • Find out new way for physical engagement

Unexpected issues on remote working:

e.g. Video call, including kids and pets

  • it should not be avoided?

  • Can we empower the unexpected effects rather than avoiding them?

Space & Environment:

Home setting VS Office setting

Unexpected input & output VS Regular input & output

  • The switch concept

  • working at home can be great

  • can we promote it rather than changing and avoiding this model?

  • e.g. Google office (Playground and cozy office setting) (Make you feel like home and relax to work)


  • Ballon

  • Fishing Rod

  • multidimensional scene

Please have a look at the next blog for further progress.

References 📖

Garrison, D.R., 2006. Online collaboration principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 10(1), pp.25-34.

Shen, K. and Khalifa, M. (2009). Design for social presence in online communities: a multidimensional approach. AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, 1(2), 33-54.

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