Forms, Tools and Methods Friday, June 8th, 2018

What Designers can Learn from the Quantified Self Movement

Eugene Park, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

The Quantified Self movement can provide useful insights into designing data-driven experiences at various scales and mediums.

The Quantified Self (QS) is a series of self-monitoring activities that allow individuals to gather, analyze, and visualize data from specific personal activities that can include sleeping patterns, finances, and social media habits. In design education, QS-related projects have been useful introductory lessons that can engage students, especially at the undergraduate level, into their first lessons in data visualization due to the simplistic nature of the datasets that don’t require much technical knowledge beyond rudimentary statistics. But these practices on personal informatics are more than just idiosyncratic approaches towards data-driven self portraiture. And when implemented properly, the Quantified Self can be an important and versatile theme in data visualization that can challenge design students to draw from different specialties in the field to create meaningful experiences with data.

This short paper will go through a selection of class projects where graphic design students have been challenged to visualize their personal activities through motion graphics and interactive prototypes. From a formal level, these assignments can teach students on how to experiment with visualizations at various scales and mediums while still meeting specific user/audience needs. Moreover, these QS-related projects also provide a learning platform where the technical barriers behind data visualization are demystified to design students, which in turn can help them navigate through the complex and sometimes ambiguous challenges of creating data-driven services.