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Extreme Experience Interviews For Innovative Designs: Classroom Assessment Of A New Needs Gathering Method

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Outstanding Contributions - Mechanical Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.571.1 - 15.571.19



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Paper Authors


Matthew Green LeTourneau University

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Dr. Matthew G. Green is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at LeTourneau University, Longview. His objective is to practice and promote engineering as a serving profession, with special interest in improving the quality of life in developing countries. Focus areas include remote power generation, design methods for frontier environments, and assistive devices for persons with disabilities. Contact:

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Carolyn Conner Seepersad University of Texas, Austin

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Dr. Carolyn C. Seepersad is an assisstant professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Katja Holtta-Otto University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

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Dr. Katja Holtta-Otto is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Extreme Experience Interviews for Innovative Designs: Classroom Assessment of a New Needs-Gathering Method

Abstract A recently published “Extreme Experience Design1” method places interviewees in simulations that parallel physical disabilities (such as wearing dark glasses to simulate low vision) in order to elicit normally-hidden product needs. This new needs-gathering technique equips students with awareness and skills to design for persons with disabilities, as well as an interview method leading to breakthrough design innovations through uncovering latent (hidden) needs. Traditionally-taught needs gathering interviews typically lead to parametric needs and thus incremental design changes; however, the latent needs uncovered with extreme experience interviews are often non-parametric and offer greater potential for breakthrough innovations.

We implemented the new extreme experience interview technique in 1st year Cornerstones Design and 3rd year Design Methods courses through a slide-based lecture and a live demonstration of the interview method. We then surveyed ~100 students from both classes across two semesters in order to assess student learning and the effectiveness of the interview method for uncovering user needs. We also analyzed a subset of 26 design team interview transcripts for new information elicited by extreme experience interviews following a “benchmark” articulated use interview.

Building upon previously reported work2, results include a summary of student surveys, analysis of customer needs before and after extreme experience interviews, and a qualitative review of re- design ideas generated. The surveys show students understand and like both the “normal” benchmark articulated-use interviews and the extreme experience interview technique and would like to re-use them on future projects. Surveys also indicate strong agreement that extreme experience interviews “inspired ideas that are better for average users as well.” An examination of interview transcripts shows the extreme experience interviews are valuable not only for uncovering a much more comprehensive set of customer needs, especially with respect to product-user interactions, but also for obtaining innovative redesign suggestions from customers themselves. The results collectively show extreme experience interviews are an effective and valuable addition to the design process in these courses, with additional room for improvement in teaching technique.

1 Introduction In the last decade the engineering design community has shown tremendous interest in design for such “frontier contexts” as persons with disabilities and rural villagers. Recent design research not only acknowledges the importance of accounting for persons with disabilities in the design process, but further suggests the resulting insights may benefit the larger community and lead to breakthrough innovations. A new “Extreme Experience Design” method at the forefront of this exciting theme places interviewees in simulations that parallel physical disabilities (such as wearing dark glasses to simulate low vision), in order to elicit ideas and needs that are normally hidden and known as “latent needs.”

Green, M., & Seepersad, C. C., & Holtta-Otto, K. (2010, June), Extreme Experience Interviews For Innovative Designs: Classroom Assessment Of A New Needs Gathering Method Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16147

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