Dissertation Defense: Embodiment Design Cartography


Jesse Velleu
Doctoral Candidate | Design Science


Friday, August 5, 12:00pm EST


Remote on Zoom


Embodiment Design Cartography: A Conceptual Framework for Design Space Mapping to Support the Development of Physically-Interactive Products


Professor Richard Gonzalez (Co-Chair), Associate Research Scientist Jonathan E. Luntz (Co-Chair), Professor Eytan Adar, Professor Diann Erbschole Brei


Embodiment design is the process of taking an idea for a product and bringing it into the real world by specifying key parameters. In this process, numerous decisions are made that ultimately lead to a solution. By entering the real world, however, a host of complexities are introduced to the design problem by external actors. The different people that physically interact with the product, as well as the situations for these interactions, may all factor into shaping the way this solution is received in a manner that is outside of the designer’s control. To truly understand the outcomes of the options that exist within this solution space, there is a web of considerations that must be navigated in the problem space. Together, the considerations in this problem space and the relations between them, as well as the options in the solution space comprise the overall design space. The term ‘cartography’ refers to the creation of maps—this dissertation presents a conceptual framework for systematically mapping out this design space such that the paths along this web of considerations may be navigated, and the resulting outcomes that may be achieved are understood. There are existing methods from different design disciplines that can help understand the solution space, however each imparts a distinct, fixed perspective on how it conceives the problem space and therefore only recognizes the portion it considers to be important. The Embodiment Design Cartography framework developed in this dissertation is illustrated by mapping out these methods on a uniform scale that enables their direct comparison and combination. 

New design methods are also constructed within this framework, which may be tailored to the problem at hand, and more holistically cover the design space without the limiting preconceptions of existing methods. This practice is employed in two case studies for products that exemplify questions in embodiment design. The first regards how tradeoffs between competing outcomes may be successfully negotiated. The second regards how products may be efficiently personalized on a mass scale. For each case study, a suite of modeling, experimental, and design methods are developed within the framework tailored to the specific needs of the problem. These are used to mathematically model and validate design space maps through empirical user studies. In the first study, the design space map was used to develop a linear algebraic approach for examining tradeoffs, which informed actionable design adjustments to achieve a more favorable balance. In the second study, the design space map was used to examine how physiological responses may provide latent information on individual differences, which informed the efficient implementation of mass personalizations without conscious engagement from the user. This dissertation has made important contributions in providing designers with the language, tools, and procedures necessary for developing design methods that may be tailored to their specific needs within a structured framework, and promotes a higher level understanding of the various decision paths that may be navigated in the design space. This represents a new paradigm for methodological development in embodiment design.