Affinity Diagraming to Improve ARTECA design

by Shruthy Sreepathy

Working at ArtSciLab is so much fun because I am always encouraged to explore and try new UX research methods. I thought we should try affinity diagramming exercise and in preparation for this exercise, I read Karen Holtzblatt’s Contextual Design and Universal Methods of Design by Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington. According to Martin, affinity diagramming “…is a process used to externalize and meaningfully cluster observations and insights from research, keeping design teams grounded in data as they design.”

The goal of this exercise was to make sense of the data gathered through usability testing of the ARTECA project to understand areas of concern, major problems that need to be addressed immediately, and see some common issues across participants. This exercise helped us group observations and comments from usability tests into meaningful clusters, which guide us through to understand the area of concern. We slightly modified the activity by using different color sticky notes to represent different participants, since we did not have enough sticky notes to put up all the points from five usability test reports. It was an amazing experience to see patterns emerge from this activity.

In February, Professor Cassini Nazir, Joel Ewing, Duncan Gallagher, and I decided to try this activity for the first time for the ARTECA project. We gathered five usability test reports (usability testing is an enriching observational research method for the ARTECA project. Read my Usability test blog post to know more about it), cleared out the whiteboard, printed all the test reports, gathered sharpies and sticky notes to begin the activity. We had an hour to complete the activity so we decided to time box the activity. We had 20 minutes to scribble quotes and findings from reports and stick them up on the wall.

In the next 20 minutes, without discussing we moved the sticky notes to form affinity of the points put up on the wall. There were few loner points, a few that had to be grouped into smaller affinity, and some that required reconsideration. We utilized the last 20 minutes to discuss and iterate on the process to come to a logical conclusion. At the end of the hour we had little clusters that highlighted about multiple issues.

So what did we learn from this activity?

  • Use of different color notes to represent different usability test participants helped us see at a broader level how many participants faced similar issues or the same problem.
  • Similar issues were faced by multiple test participants. For example, the patterns gave us a solid evidence that search feature is an area of concern- it was not just multiple problems faced by one participant, but different color notes informed us that almost all participants had similar issues.
  • Test participants couldn’t find grey literature page, pricing information, and ARTECA branding on search page. Working up the hierarchy of affinity diagram we figured that discoverability is an area of concern.

When we completed the exercise we identified functionality, discoverability, and look & feel were some of the overarching areas that need to be addressed. Now the next step is to figure out solutions and improve the design.

Shruthy Sreepathy is a M.S neuroscience graduate student specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. She is involved with UT Dallas ArtSciLab since Fall 2016 as a designer and Drupal developer for ARTECA. Her focus is in UX design and development.

Call for Curriculum of Art/Science/Humanities

Kathryn Evans, Roger Malina and Eun Ah Lee of the ArtSciLab at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) are announcing the launch of CDASH 2.0, a new website for curriculum in the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities.

The CDASH project is interested in the collection of a broad range of curriculum that combines the performing and visual arts (music, dance, theatre, film, visual arts and new media) and the sciences. Of most particular interest are curriculum submissions of in-person, on-line and hybrid blended courses taught during formal graduate, undergraduate, primary/secondary and informal education.
This new website allows teachers and professors to easily enter the details of their course(s). Users must register and create a login before submitting a course and those who submit syllabi will gain entry to the Cloud Curriculum, where they have access to view/download other syllabi, find resources, and participate in on-line discussions and projects.
Please submit your course today!
For more information, contact us at
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Our international collaborators are Robert Root-Bernstein (Univ. of Michigan, USA), Paul Thomas (Univ. of New South Wales, Australia), Annick Bureaud (OLATS, France), Lucinda Presley (Innovation Collaborative, USA), Meredith Tromble (San Francisco Art Institute, USA), Julia Buntaine (Rutgers Univ and Exec. Ed., ScuArt Magazine, USA), Jane Prophet ( Univ. of London, UK), Laurie Baefsky (Exec. Editor, A2RU, Univ. of Michigan, USA), Joao Silveira (Univ. Fed. do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Alex Garcia-Topete (UTD, USA and Mexico), Yvan Tina (UTD, USA and France), and Sharath Chandra Ram (UTD, USA and Bangalore).


This project is co-sponsored by The ArtSciLab at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), the UTD School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, and The UTD Center for Teaching and Learning.


My Clark Research Reflections

by Joel Ewing

In 2016, the summer before my freshman year at UT Dallas, I participated in UT Dallas’ Clark Summer Research Program. The Clark Summer Research Program is a unique opportunity that pairs incoming freshmen at UT Dallas with research groups to gain hands-on experience for nine weeks while they work alongside talented students and faculty. For many students, myself included, it is the first exposure to academic research.
When I arrived on campus at the beginning of that summer, I was not sure what to expect.  Making the jump from my home in Kentucky to UT Dallas had unique challenges. I did not know anyone in the area, and the campus and city were unfamiliar to me.  Fortunately, I befriended several of my fellow “Clarkies” who helped me to adjust and remain some of my closest friends. Continue reading “My Clark Research Reflections”

Exploring Visual Poetry: ArtSide Workshop at the 2018 RAW Conference

by Kuo-Wei Lee, Shruthy Sreepathy, Yusra Khan

Students from the ArtSciLab hosted on ArtSide,at the 10th annual RAW: Research-Art-Writing Conference at The University of Texas at Dallas in February.
Kuo-Wei Lee (M.A. ’18, Arts and Technology), Shruthy Sreepathy, and Yusra Khan (both M.S. ’18, Applied Cognition and Neuroscience) presented ArtSide: Enhancing the Connection Between Cities and Communities. ArtSide—Lee’s master’s thesis, first prototyped in Professor Cassini Nazir’s Creating Interactive Media course—aims to enhance the social experience of public art through social and technological and strengthen the relationship between city and its communities. Continue reading “Exploring Visual Poetry: ArtSide Workshop at the 2018 RAW Conference”