Contextual Research Project

Coronavirus Pandemic

This group project focused on methods of contextual research including interviews with community members and experts, fly-on-the-wall observation around mask behavior, and traditional survey responses. The broad and timely topic of the Coronavirus Pandemic yielded 200+ research participants and 1,800 data points.

Extensive data analysis resulted in 8 key insights from mental health impacts to political polarization.

Researcher, Visual Designer

Pandemic Awareness Research Team

Learning Outcomes

This project is designed to take you through the entire contextual-research process. You will collect and organize data about a specific culture or population or environment; then as a team, you will analyze and identify patterns, breakdowns, and anomalies, and synthesize your work into design opportunities.


Research Development Plan

Problem Statement
Since the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the public has gone through numerous new issues. As a society we are still learning how the pandemic is affecting us, mentally, physically, in the community, and our environment. Not only is the situation a health crisis but it is also fluid and changes every day; including what we hear from leadership and how our government responds to these issues.

Opportunity Statement
To identify patterns of thought, behavior and attitudes towards various aspects of the Coronavirus Pandemic through conducting contextual research.

Umbrella Question
How might we explore and analyze different user groups' attitudes and behaviors around the Coronavirus Pandemic involving well-being, adoption of health and safety protocols and associated waste production?

Team members Stakeholder map
Project timeline Research matrix

Field Research & Experiments

Interviews and Surveys
We developed a short screener survey to send to a wide audience with the aim of inviting a subset of respondents to participate in in-depth Zoom interviews.

The survey was sent to 2,000+ candidates through social media, Slack groups, and email.

With a 9.5% response rate, we collected 189 survey responses. The survey concluded with a request for participants to provide contact information if they were interested in participating in further Zoom interviews. With 56 interview volunteers, we conducted 39 in-depth interviews over Zoom.

In-depth interview participants included teachers, healthcare workers, students, several health and emergency management experts, and more.

Experiments and Observation

  • The effect of wearing a mask on the heart rate of outdoor athletes
  • Exploring people wearing masks for outdoor sports
  • Percentage of people discarding masks as litter
  • Social Distancing Adoption at Local Businesses

Map of interview participant locations Masks become litter
Survey results Social distancing

Research Analysis

Development of Key Learnings
We affinitized 1,800 points of data down to 8 key topics. The affinitization process was completed as a group over Zoom, sorting data points using Miro.

  • Mental health impacts of the pandemic
  • Polarization of issues
  • Politicization of pandemic topics
  • A group of individuals that have experienced no challenges
  • Hardships of the Pandemic
  • Concern over safety measures
  • The new normal of life in the pandemic
  • Disruption of normal life

Miro working wall Pink data groups
Blue data groups Completed affinity diagramming

Out of 39 in-depth interviews conducted over Zoom, we sorted those interviewees down to 6 personas. Our outcome was to "prepare models and visualizations to distinguish the stakeholder group, describe any issues found, and characterize the problem and target users.

The Student The Emergency Management Specialist The HR Manager
The Pediatric nurse The Professor The Creative Director

Key Insights

Through analyzing all collected data, we arrived at 8 key insights. Each insight outlined key quotes, an overview, and a design opportunity.

Mental health impacts Politicization of issues Hardships Disruption of everyday life
Polarization of issues Life hasn't changed The new normal Concern of safety measures

Design Solution

In the end, we chose to focus on the negative impacts of disposable masks as an area of opportunity to craft a design solution. Problem areas were defined as discomfort, lack of biodegradability, and lack of recycling procedures. Our design solution produced a comfortable, environmentally friendly mask.

Negative impacts of disposable masks Design solution life cycle Developing a comfortable, environmentally friendly alternative