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Methods – Intervention / Provocation

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What it is:

The designer places 2D graphic visualisations or 3D objects within an environment to stimulate discussion and elicit a response from the user. These designed elements take the form of interventions or provocations within the research process, engaging a person’s imagination and encouraging a fuller response in ways that more formal interview and questionnaire techniques cannot achieve. Interventions can include futuristic prototypes that express new ideas; provocations can include shock imagery or incongruous juxtapositions.






Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High


Greater engagement by the user and better understanding of their motivation

Best suited to:



Earlier stages of the design process – exploration and focus

Exploring subjects that could be sensitive- such as bathing or sexual health

Testing speculative design concepts with an early-stage intervention



Type of interaction:


Goes well with:

Interviews, Questionnaires, Immersive Workshops, Participation Design Games

What designers say about it

‘Interventions and provocations offer a chance to get respondents to imagine outside their scope of experience. They can be used to extrapolate informed and considered reaction by respondents to a designer’s way of thinking…’ – Matthew Harrison


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Welcoming Workplace

Interventions formed a central part of research study looking at how to design better workplaces for an ageing workforce. These included acoustic, lighting and architectural interventions to test user response in real offices.

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Digital Exclusion

Designers Cian Plumbe and Matt Harrison found it difficult to engage older people in discussion about the internet as it was a subject unfamiliar to many of them. Instead they developed six design provocations as a starting point for discussion, including a piggy bank that digitally displays your credit or debit card balance.

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Imaging Intimacy

To engage older people in discussions about their attitudes to sexual health, researcher Andy Chen used cartoons and photographs as provocations during one-to-one interviews.

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Background and further reading

Myerson J. and Bichard J. (2010), Welcoming Workplace: Rapid Design Intervention to Determine the Office Environment Needs of Older Knowledge Workers, in: Designing for the 21st Century, Interdisciplinary Methods and Findings, Gower, 214 – 222.

Eikhaug O. and Gheerawo R. Eds. (2010) Innovating with People: the Business of Inclusive Design. Norwegian Design Council pp66-67