Izzan Bacharrudin Soedarsono

User Experience and Games
Designer / Researcher







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Izzan Bacharrudin  Soedarsono

Product, Experience,Games Designer
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Using Games as Learning Tools for Design Research Planning

UI UX Design

Master Thesis

2018 -2019 - 1 year Project

Design Goal
Finding out issues and potential ideas that happen in design research process based on practitioners to improve better outcome.

Propose a game that can be used as a learning tool to further understanding a design research process.

Final Thesis for Aalto Collaborative and Industrial Master Degree


Designers are required to understand human behavior and people’s needs to design solutions. According to Muratovsky (2015), society today demands designers to not only design products and communications, but also a system for living. Therefore, the current demands become the reason cross-disciplinary studies are a required skill for designers to become strategic planners and thinkers who can work across disciplines.

This thesis explores how to create games that help the designer to plan research to guide designers to understand better the design research context. This knowledge can help designers to expand their emphasis based on individual creativity towards conceptualization, configuration, and implementation of new ideas. The outcome of this thesis is games that help designers to plan design research.


Learning design research takes time and requires experience in order to have a better understanding on how to conduct and plan a design research process. As most things in life, learning how to do research will take time, and designers will need some guidance along the way. Even though each designer has a slightly different approach, and different designers also have their ways of working, there are some specific processes that are typical to designers.

To explain the designers’ general standard practices, the Design Council (2015) created the ‘ Double Diamond ‘ which illustrates how the design process progresses from points where ideas and possibilities are as broad as possible to circumstances where they are intentionally narrowed down and centered on distinct targets separated into four distinct phases: Discover Define, Develop and Deliver.

Double Diamond Model

Presenting a clear research plan is required, so that designers can avoid misunderstanding. In a cross-disciplinary working environment, a great communication skill is important so that the team can reach a mutual understanding about the plan. Designers should be able to present a research proposal and document to other people at any stage who do not understand the details of the project or have no opportunity to talk directly about what designers are doing and why (Muratovsky, 2015). In conclusion, in order to present research project, designer need to understand on how to visualize the research project to others.

To visualize research project, logic model becomes a way that enable designers to present the research project that can be understood by others. Logic models explain the action anticipated, and the results predicted (Cited in Fretchling, Knowlton and Phillips, 2015). To elaborate how logic model can be used as activity representative in research, McCawley (2001) explains that logic models are graphical or narrative descriptions of real-life processes that convey the underlying assumptions that an activity is expected to result in a specific outcome

Logic Model, a model that can be used to represent the action and the results.

Games as Tools

Games can be used for designers as an activity to learn the planning design research experimenting method by knowing what is a better plan in a particular case. Design games enable design actions to be studied in a manipulable and well-bounded environment that creates situations similar to real-life situations (Habraken & Gross, as cited in Vaajakallio, 2012). Games can be used as a tool or medium in a cross-disciplinary team for having engaging discussions and collaboration processes.

Games that use games element in non-games contextual, or real world can be called as serious games or gamification. Chou (2015) explains, gamification is the craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found typically in games and thoughtfully applying them to real-world or productive activities. Related with serious games, according to Deterding (2011), gamification, together with serious games, uses games for purposes other than their normal use for entertainment.

Differentiation between Gamification and Serious Games. 

By crafting a fun and engaging element, hopefully designers can, not only serve an entertainment, but also improve learning experience in real world. By crafting a fun and engaging element, hopefully designers can, not only serve an entertainment, but also improve learning experience in real world.


In order to obtain insights, interviews should generate attractive, diverse, and specific perspectives by asking the right people with the right questions in the right context (Chipchase, 2017). Semi-structured interviews were used as a data collection method, providing a powerful and flexible means to capture the interviewees’ personal opinions. Semi-structured interviews provide opportunities for individualized conversations to be linked to the topic. 

Author conducted interviews with 9 participants; 6 participants master design students  and 3 participants design researchers and product designers from company based in Indonesia. All participants were interviewed with the same questions about their experience and thoughts in conducting design research. During the interview process, the author the recorded all the conversation and noted down directly some inspiring quotes from the interviewees by using simple keywords.

The findings give a broad view of what kind of elements that are affecting the design research process, what kind of methods and tools that are being used, and what are their expectation toward improving the quality of research. It also examined the difficulties and circumstances that occur when the research is in progress.

Design Drivers

Defining timeline of project by having agreement with Client

In some project cases, designers need to know the requirement and suggestions from the client before they define the timeline of the project. By acknowledging the time that designers have, it helps them to define the methods that they can take. 

Communicate Design Process

Having a concise and clear communication to present design process that can easily be understandable for teams or clients to communicate the design process is required in order to achieve mutual understanding between designers, team, and clients.

Mutual Understanding in Cross-Disciplinary Team

There are needs to bringing everybody in the team regardless of their background into one understanding and understand what has to be done to create a mutual understanding among cross disciplinary team.

Guide for conducting research

The guide can help designers to know what steps they should take when running a design research project, and how to properly run methods by having a proper guide on how to get designers to retrieve insightful results.

Ideation & Test

The development of design research planning games was inspired by the author’s need to understand the method of design analysis and connect with other team members with different expertise. I begin aim to create an interactive, engaging, and collaborative platform that would fit better to communicate the complexities of a conversation on the design process in a cross-disciplinary team. To start with, I creating a three iteration prototype based on a literature review about design research and game design follows by findings that were achieved from interviews with design students and design professionals.

Playtest of First Prototype

Playtest of Second Prototype  

Playtest of Final Prototype


Through three iterations of the prototype, the results shows:

  • Design Research Planning game can be useful for creating plans and also able to transferring knowledge between in cross-disciplinary team.

    Implementation of the logic model framework in the prototype able to help the participant understand the phase of research step by step.By revealing the content one by one, it is help participant to understand the reasoning of choosing a particular method and what the impact of it.

  • Learn design research is taking time and requires guidance along the way in order to have a better understanding.

    To acknowledge which methods and methodologies can be used and planning research are some of the challenging tasks for designers. By having experienced and a wider scope of knowledge about methods, designers will be able to plan the design research by choosing methods that are aligned to the objectives and also can differentiate between objectives and subjective results.

  • Games can be used for designers as an activity to learn plan design research experimenting methods by understands what is the better plan in a particular case.

    Design games enable design actions to be studied in a manipulable and well-bounded environment that creates situations similar to real-life situations (Habraken & Gross, as cited in Vaajakallio, 2012), and it similar with what Chipchase (2012) idea to develop a pilot project to perform a small, low-risk study to identify research methodology gaps and weaknesses. Games can be used as a tool or medium in the cross-disciplinary team for having engaging discussion and collaboration processes.

Prototype 2
Second Prototype  

Final Prototype


Considering with the research question in this study which focuses on share complex knowledge in a design research activity that can be understandable by peer participants, the prototype results shows:

  • Implementation of the logic model and facilitated by games design, able to visualize a complex knowledge in design research and create a mutual understanding in a cross-disciplinary working environment.

Even though several issues need to be solved, such as the game material visual, the rules of the game, the real challenge is how to embedded playfulness in-game.

  • Playfulness is essential to be considered when designing game-based learning because it can create an engaging conversation, make facilitation condusive and focus, and motivated to learning for participants.

Based on studies by giving realistic experience-based, such as unexpected obstacles or events that represented in wild cards in the game, it shows able to create challenges for participant and playfulness.

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