This website is the basic entry to contextmapping. You can find news, basics, background and contact institutions, agencies and experts of contextmapping for more information.
What is Contextmapping?
Contextmapping is an approach to design in which designers use people’s everyday lives to inform and inspire themselves for ideation.
In contextmapping users and designers work together on the basis of expertise: designers are experts of the innovation process, whereas users are experts of their own experiences. The methodology is developed at Delft University of Technology and is nowadays spread in design practice worldwide. Explorative techniques are used to learn about the needs, wishes, motivations and experiences of everyday people and use this in designing. It makes mainly use of qualitative research, analysis and conceptualization methods and supports empathy with the end-users and inspiration for better solutions.
procedure of contextmapping (Sleeswijk Visser et al, 2005)
In practice, this procedure is often more loosely used. The approach fits any co-design process, because it helps teams in clearly defining the roles, aims, and in eliciting deeper needs of every participating stakeholder. Be it the client, the end-user, the customer, the employee, the caregiver, the designer, the researcher etc. The procedure can also be applied beyond the fuzzy front end to explore and evaluate new concepts with end users and stakeholders.
Contextmapping can be used for various purposes in the design process
There are many ways to conduct design research. We are talking about contextmapping if the approach contains the following three elements:
- Sensitizing people. Sensitizing means literally ‘making people sensitive for….’ People are often not aware of their everyday experiences and what exactly is meaningful to them. Also other stakeholders might benefit from sensiziting to find out their true needs and wishes in an innovation project.
- Making use of generative tools. Whether you do interviews or group sessions, generative tools will always help to make the implicit more explicit.
- Used for design purposes. It is in the end an approach for designing, not research per se. It might look quite similar to ethnographic studies, and it is! But the purpose is different: In ethnography the aim is to document the entire situation as detailed as possible, so all insights are relevant. In contextmapping, the aim is to come with new solutions. A complete set of insights are not gathered, often just a few of them are taken along into the design process to inspire new product and or service ideas.
A little bit background:
The contextmapping procedure is developed at ID-StudioLab, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands by Froukje Sleeswijk Visser and Pieter Jan Stappers.
Stappers started a project with industrial design student Froukje Sleeswijk Visser to explore the potential of generative tools as a design research method for inspiration in the fuzzy front end.
In her graduation project Froukje developed a procedure in which generative tools are part of the approach and she coined the term contextmapping.
They were so triggered by the potential of this approach that soon a PhD project was formulated to develop the approach into further detail and to develop educational material to embed it into education of Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology.
Since 2003, students are taught contextmapping at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. Since 2006, the first graduates started deploying their contextmapping skills in design practice. Moreover other design schools started teaching contextmapping as well. Nowadays it is well infused in design practice internationally:
- Product and service development companies appreciate the value of finding the right solutions for their end-users
- Design agencies and consultancies appreciate the quick check with real users
- Governmental institutions are helped to create more user-centred services
- For organisations in general it helps to better collaborate with various stakeholders
Check the partners page to see example projects.