IA Summit 12: Collaging

The last presentation I attended on day 1 of the summit was Collaging: Getting Answers to the Questions You Don’t Know to Ask by Kyle Soucy. I very much enjoyed this presentation as this is not a technique I had ever thought of using in this context before. However, I now see how it could be very beneficial and it is something I definitely plan on using in the future

Live Demo

The presentation started with an exercise where we got to see Collaging in action. One of the members of the audience went on stage and chose photos that she felt reflected her experience with Facebook. While she was doing this Kyle talked to us about the technique.

It is important to have a large set of completely unrelated and undirected pictures. In the demo she was using pictures on sticker paper, but said she has had better luck with simple printouts and tape. You ask the participant, or participants to choose the pictures that speak to them about their experience. Tape the pictures they’ve chosen to a pieces of paper and write a small caption about why they chose each photo. When they are finished she recommends picking a photo and asking them to tell you about why they picked it instead of asking them to anser specific questions. This is because many of the questions that this method answers are not the types of questions that can be directly asked, they must instead be elicited.

Background and Usage

Collaging is considered a Projective Technique and has roots in psychology. Some of these roots are:

  • Rorschach Test – People tell you want they see in an inkblot.
  • Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) – The participant tells a story about the particular image of a scene being shown to them.
  • Kinetic Family Drawing – Participant, often a child, is asked to draw a picture of their entire family doing something.
  • Sentence Completion Tests –  Participants are asked to complete a sentence that starts with a lead like “I need…”, or “I like…”.
  • Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) – Similar to collaging, it uses image to understand people thoughts and feeling around particular brands to help with marketing and brand placement. – Kyle recommends the movie The Greatest Movie Ever Sold as a great example of brand placement intentions.

Collaging is also used in many other fields, such as:

  • Marketing – Used to understand feeling and responses to advertisements and brand associations.
  • Management – Used to assess and evaluate employees motivations and drives.
  • Sociology – Used to understand communities, and innovative adoptions.
  • Cultural Anthropology – Used to study and assess cultural meaning.
  • User Experience – To better understand the users perspective, and how to design for it.

Conclusion of the Live Demo

About this time the audience participant collaging on stage for the live demo was about finished so we got to see the photos she had chosen, and hear her talk about why she chose them. Here’s a summary of what she picked to illustrate her feelings about Facebook:

  • A photo of what appears to be many different colored wires coming out of a machines. She described this as security and intertwining, and talked about how she manages her security on Facebook, only letting 75 of her friends actually see the majority of what she posts.
  • A photo of two people in love. She said this reminded her of all of the engagement photos that seem to be inundating her news feed lately.
  • A photo of two people holding hands. This reminded her of her travels and the connectedness of all of the people and places she has been.

Collaging Discussion

Kyle notes that Collaging does not fit every situation, and instead is simply another tool to add to the toolbox. It is most useful with sensitive data, and information that is hard to express.

“95% of our thoughts and feelings are unconscious” – Gerald Zaltman

How to Conduct a Collaging Study

  • Choose a topic of interest
  • Create a collage board and get pictures
    • Be careful to ensure randomness and no theme
    • 11×17 paper where they can post on the left, and write captions on the right of each image
    • 150-200 images
    • Sticky images can be used, but it makes it harder for people to change their minds
  • Takes about 20 minutes
    • leave the room, and give them at least 10 minutes without feeling the pressure of being observed.
  • Conduct the Analysis
    • Doesn’t matter the pictures they choose, so much as why they chose it.
    • Be careful not to include images that are too salient, or people may pick them just because they are compelling images.
    • If they can’t relate the pictures back to the theme being reviewed, simply omit those from the analysis.

Her article on Collaging can be found here at UX Smashing Magazine: Collaging: Getting Answers To The Questions You Don’t Know To Ask.