i1: Introduction

Illustration of an electric guitar and amplifier

A significant part of my PhD research at Queen’s University Belfast involves the design and fabrication of bespoke assistive music technology devices. My research takes the form of four case studies. Here’s an overview of the first instrument I’m developing named i1; a virtual guitar that can be played through movement. For confidentiality reasons, I will refer to the intended user of this device as ‘the primary user’.

A common approach to Product Design is to begin by forming descriptions of hypothetical end-users. These descriptions are known as user or customer personas and are often based on market research. The purpose of user personas is to encapsulate the experience level, goals, aspirations and frustrations of a target user group, succinctly in a way that can help focus the design effort. A unique aspect of this particular product, i1, is that it’s not for a group of users, it’s for one specific person. After three conversations with the primary user I’ve been able to devise the following persona:

Primary User Persona Description – Musician/Composer

The primary user has been composing electronic music for about five years now. He does this once or twice a fortnight with a group of friends at Drake Music Northern Ireland (DMNI). Sometimes he performs live. Music is a big part of the primary user’s life. He is a fan of classic rock, country and film music but also likes contemporary styles such as rap. He likes the sound of the electric guitar and has been able to experiment with guitar sounds when composing music in the past. He enjoys trying new music technology but sometimes gets frustrated by devices which are difficult to control. He wants to be able to play electric guitar sounds comfortably and wants to be able to this both at home and when composing with friends.

Now often, when the primary user is using technology, whether that is music technology at DMNI or more general purpose technology, there is a secondary user, facilitating the use of the technology in question. In the case of i1, this secondary user could be either a family member or a Music Tutor at DMNI. I’ve decided to initially focus on the primary users’ father, in the role of facilitator.

Secondary User Persona Description – Facilitator

The secondary user knows how much his son (the primary user) loves music. He often supports his son in the use of technology at home. For example, his son is currently learning Spanish. The secondary user will set up language audio books for his son to listen to. The secondary user is not a musician himself but is keen to support his son in making music at home. The secondary user is a digital immigrant and therefore appreciates devices which are intuitive to use.

This information about the primary and secondary users was used to inform the creation of a selection of user stories. These user stories are essentially high-level descriptions of user goals.

User Stories

Primary User – Musician/Composer:

  • As a musician, I would like to perform with electric guitar sounds in a live environment. It’s essential that I’m in control of my instrument when performing and that it’s comfortable for me to play.
  •  As a composer, I would like to explore the sound of the electric guitar. It’s important that the guitar sounds authentic.
  • When musical creativity strikes, I want to be able to use my instrument regardless of whether I’m at home or at Drake Music.

Secondary User – Facilitator:

• As a digital immigrant and non-musician who helps his son to use technology at home, I want music technology devices we use to be intuitive and easy to operate.

Conclusion

Having created persona’s and user stories for both the primary and secondary primary and secondary user, I’m in a strong position to start exploring some initial design concepts.

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