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User Experience & Strategy

The Purpose of Making

User Experience & Strategy

Let us tinker, play, and explore!

Project Story

A MakerSpace is a place for students to collaborate and innovate. Since opening in 2016, NYU MakerSpace has been conducting research on how to ensure the Space truly serves its purpose. 


In fall 2017, I was hired as a Graduate Assitant to lead the qualitative part of MakerSpace's ongoing research. I spent 200 hours onsite, doing ethnographical observations and stakeholder interviews. Parts of the insights I gathered were translated into design interventions in the Space with suggestions for future project developments.



Design Research

Lead Design Researcher


3 months



NYU MakerSpace

Business Objective

Improve Innovation Rate

Ethnographical Observations

One of the challenges NYU MakerSpace faces is the low utilization rate of the machines in the Space. While we have some data from previous researchers, the data was not enough to lead us to solutions. As a result, I conducted on-site observations, aiming to understand what activities are going on in the Space at a given time of the day.

— observation photo —

— observation photo —

Some initial patterns identfied

After hours and hours of observations, below is the summary of what I found. But it was obvious to me that simply observing will not be enough because the data gathered here is only on the surface. To fully understand why people do what they do, interviews are musts! 

Stakeholder Interviews

Through 18 sessions of long and short interviews, a more clear pattern has merged. Having a purpose is what drove the making. 

Design Interventions

While observations and interviews are on-going, some small design intervention projects were also implemented. For example, the weekly Cocoa Break! From observation, we know that many people in the Space either work with the groups they already knew or simply work alone. To encourage for social interactions, we came up with this weekly event.

— Cocoa Break Table —

— people waiting to get their hot cocoa —

Some learnings

The event drew a great crowd but the level of interactions wasn't as much as we anticipated. Many people simply stood on the side while waiting or the ones that got their hot cocoa just left with it. We then came up with a few different cues to engage people, such as placing MakerSpace student staff as conversation facilitators, changing the location of the table, and leaving projects of the week on the table for perusal.  

Current Status

This research project is still on-going. There are still many design interventions we created in our project todos. In fact, moving forward, we plan to try different "themes" for workshops and events to attract students motivated by different purpose. A good example would be health technology. With all the research and synthesis I have done, I created a diagram called "Makers with Purposes". It is to help future researchers identify different types of makers in order to create an environment and programs that are useful and engaging to them. 

— Makers with Purposes —

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