Conversational Design method

I have been working on several legal designs over the past few months — scoping out how new interactive tech products should behave, what kind of experiences users should ideally have with them, and how they should be branded to engage their target audience.

As I reflect back on how I have been designing, I realize I have been playing around with a design method that I’ll call ‘Conversational Design’.

Conversational Design method Conversational Design method Conversational Design method

This Conversational Design method relates back to a passage from Donald Schon’s book The Reflective Practitioner, about the relationship between designer, product and user. Schon writes that ideally, the designer will talk to the user through the product with a distinct and convincing message. Then the user will talk to the product, investing it with a character, personality, and other anthropomorphic traits. And then, the product will talk back to the user, responding and reflecting in a way that jibes with the character the user expects from it.

I find this fanciful narrative very instructive as I design. It forces me to consider:

  • What does the user want to ‘talk to my product about’? What are the questions they are coming to the experience with?
  • And then, how will my product talk back? What kind of conversation will it offer to the user?
  • And finally, how can I build the product to make this conversation engaging, lively & satisfying? How do I start the conversation, sustain it, and direct it in the right directions for both my motives as the designer (getting good legal support and information out) and my user’s motives too (getting answers to their questions, and having a good experience).