Me doing the bodystorming activity

These methods are collectively known as Embodied Design Techniques and they are are all about acting out certain things to get your into the experience, learn new things, prove a point, and test things out.

This method has a Design Techniques nature to it, hence "Embodied Design Techniques", and you can use it in the context of helping you come up with designs, as well as prove the design works, get the designs point across, and test it.

Description of the Method

Basic description

"Bodystorming situates brainstorming in physical experience, combining role-playing and simulation to inspire new ideas and empathic, spontaneous prototyping" - Martin and Hanington, Universal Methods of design

There are many different types of Embodied Design Techniques, here are a few:

Bodystorming – Brainstorm using your body. Move around to see how it feels to do said thing. Role play what the user is experiencing on a day to day basis. Done during the brainstorming phase.

Experience prototyping - Use your own body to try to act out the interaction process. Done further down the design process then body storming.

Role-playing – Done by Designers mostly, practice of physical or social scene, with or without props. Useful after you’ve done research to better understand something, to help refine a design for example.

Informance –Done by the design researchers. Act out a particular part of the field work that they find useful in front of the stakeholders. Show important parts of your research

Performance – Done by the designers mostly, where scenarios are done in the environment. Used to evaluate the design, making sure its valid.

For any of these, you can also use props to help get you into the experience you want to act out. Actually Doing the method

I am going to go over body storming, since that is the one we did in class. The first thing you want to do is devise a good way of acting it out, that will stay somewhat true to the original thing you are trying to learn from. This can be difficult to accurately portray what you want. When you go into it, try to keep an open mind about it, and remove all your preconceptions about the activity you are doing. Figure out everyone's role in this experience as well, and give the right people the information they need to know for the experience.

After that, you try to act out the scenario or experience you want to learn more about. This could be with props, select tasks, or just free formed. Try to notice what is different about the task, as well how someone will realistically try that task in that scenario. For people watching the people acting out the scenario, also think about how it looks from your perspective.

Afterwards, Get back together and talk about what happened. Mention things you learned and what surprised you. People doing the activity should talk about how they felt, and compare that too how people watching it felt as well.

Positives and negatives


  • Can be a really fun way to gain insights
  • Is a good way to briefly step into someone's shoes
  • Gives an interesting way of looking at things
  • Good way to show off your ideas to other people\
  • Gets you into the mindset of your user


  • Is not really an ethnography, so you are only doing this for a short amount of time, and cannot account for long term problems with this
  • You may portray the actions wrong, and gain insights from the wrong stuff.
  • Could be offensive, since you are assuming that you can know what its like to be a user just by pretending to be like them for an hour or two.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use props to help sell the experience
  • Try to do this realistically as possible
  • Stay in character in between tasks if you have them and attempt to do it as long as possible, to get more insights.
  • Even though your acting stuff out and its a fun way to learn insights, do not be too goofy with it, take it seriously

Project Class we used it for

Jordan H's side of the bodystorming, he was OCD

This was the class where we did handicapped bodystorming where we got a prompt and props, having to act them out. I was a guy with a deformed hand, basically having no fingers on my dominant hand, and to show this, my team taped my hand down. After that, I had to try to do basic things like opening a peanut butter jar, zipping up my jacket, writing, tying my shoes, etc. Many of these tasks we made up on the fly. During this, I also had to try to hide my hand as much as possible.

Through this, I learned that many things can be adapted to be done with only one hand, and that the toughest thing to get around is the social side of things. The hardest moment was when a teammate asked to shake my hand, and put out his right. I countered with my left, but he wouldn't switch. I eventually got out my right, and he backed away after seeing my hand. This got me to see just the tip of the iceberg someone like that has to deal with everyday. Even if you get used to living with one hand, society may still look down on you for it.

Hughes's Corner

This was a fun one. Though I kind of felt bad after doing the bodystorming activity, since I felt like I was making insights off what it was like to be someone based off like 30 minutes to an hour activity. It just seemed wrong assuming you can understand a disability in that short of time to me.

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