Video Killed the Interview Star

by New Idiom


Ok, try to follow me here, but the other day I was interviewing a couple second-year students about their project on interviewing, where they were interviewing expert interviewers. Let me explain…

Kristy Scovel and Gabe Biller are graduating in a few weeks, and to cap off their Institute of Design careers, they wanted to do a project that could be used as a tool to help future students learn not only the value of user interviews, but the process of doing them well. After being influenced by last semester’s “Story In Motion” class, they decided a video would be a powerful medium to tell the story. So Gabe talked to Jeremy Alexis about doing the video as an independent study project, enlisted Kristy (who has a small background in film studies) to help, and set off to make the project: “Best Practices in User Research” also known as: “Video Project.”

The video project sets out to help people discover and understand the “real story” of ethnographic interviews, helping students learn about why we interview, what it looks like, how to make the interview effective, what looks good, what looks bad and all the other stuff you would normally find out through trial and error, only hopefully now there will be less error.

The project has led Kristy and Gabe to talk to experts on the subject of ethnographic interviews including Dori Tunstall, a design anthropologist at UIC, and Colleen Murray, an ID Alum who works at Jump Associates. Their interviews serve as the narration to examples of different situations such as in-home, man on the street, shop-alongs, and expert interviews. Besides the experts, other students were asked to contribute stories of good and bad user interviews they have been involved with as well as tips and tricks they’ve learned.

The shooting is done, and the two have about 20 hours of footage to mine through and edit before the end of the semester, prompting Gabe to joke about a repetitive stress injury he thinks he’ll receive from mouse clicking. After it’s finished, they hope to put the video up on the ID Wiki as a resource to all students, and possibly make it available to the public. They would also like it to be a jumping-off point to build a library of resources that pass down through the classes from student to student. Of course, all this depends on whether Jeremy Alexis deems the video as time well spent.

“While not so artsy” Gabe says, making the video is “certainly in the Bauhaus tradition of sink or swim. Plus it’s also been great getting all the classmates involved.”