Developing Usage Guidelines for a Card-Based Design Tool

A Case of the Positive Emotional Granularity Cards

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Background Card-based design tools have gained popularity as a means to communicate
research insights and to make them usable in a design process. There are various examples of card
tools and guidelines for developing a card set itself, yet there has been little research into how the
usage of card tools can be systematically formulated. Although the existing literature on card tools
often presents certain usages, it rarely explicates how the usage was structured, and provides few
references to the underlying decisions.

Methods Through a case study of the positive emotional granularity cards, this paper presents
a bottom-up approach in which designers’ needs and their own techniques to use the cards are
reflected in formulating new card usage guidelines. Three design workshops were conducted, each
of which explored how designers made use of the cards in the three design activities respectively: (1)
assimilating nuances of positive emotions; (2) specifying emotional intentions; and (3) generating
product ideas. In a creative session with design researchers, the workshop findings were translated
into usage guidelines.

Results There were individual differences in designers’ ability to make use of the PEG cards.
At one end of the spectrum was the designer who immediately started to play and explore the cards,
creating his or her own usage rules. At the other end of the spectrum was the designer who needed
instructions to get started. Most designers explored usage, but at the same time they felt insecure
about getting value without having some guidance. The workshops allowed us to spot the benefits
and drawbacks of the techniques the designers used, and to identify their needs in using the PEG
cards. The creative session resulted in the PEG card guidelines that assist and inspire designers in
the three design activities.

Conclusions Provisional usage guidelines can considerably contribute to a card tool’s usefulness,
even if the card usage is envisioned to be open-ended and versatile. The bottom-up approach proved
valuable to generate new insights into how a card set can best be used and how designers can be
guided when using the card set.