When Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective known for his powers of observation and deductive reasoning, tells his friend Dr. Watson “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” what do you suppose he means? That we see things all the time without really noticing them?
Learning by observing is harder than it sounds...it requires focus, curiosity, attention to detail, and an ability to set aside preconceived notions so you can see a situation with fresh eyes and an open mind. Find the materials in your kit and use them to practice your powers of observation. The pictures on the cards were taken by photographer Gregg Segal, who visited nine countries over three years to photograph children with a week’s worth of the food they eat. What can you learn from a close examination of the pictures?
Now turn your powers of observation to your own project. Take a few photos that capture aspects of the problem you’re working on and study them closely. What do you notice? Try to set aside what you think or know and focus on what you see. Does observing help you learn in ways that are different from interviews or surveys? Observing in a focused way—even in situations that are familiar to you—and analyzing what you see is a good way to challenge your assumptions and uncover new insights.
Speaking of assumptions, did you make any about the photos you looked at in the first half of this activity? If you have the time, visit the website listed on the card to learn about the children in the pictures. Are you surprised by anything you learned? Share the photo(s) of your design problem and some observations you made or insights you had for both parts of this activity.