Visual Questionnaires


Research objects made by participants Mackenzie Orr & Kazuhide Shibata

I’ve explored idea of visual questionnaires in some of my workshops recently because they seem to hold a nice middle ground between qualitative and quantitative research and are also a powerful avenue for dissemination of knowledge through interacting with publics, and discussing early ideas and assumptions. When you are still exploring your subject, sometimes you want to go for the open questions to get access to all the between-the-lines information. You want to find out what’s at stake below the surface, rather than assume. A great benefit is that these visual questionnaires also immediately show some results and provide a quick way to make a first interpretation. The fact that they look appealing helps as well. These could be very handy tools for conferences as well: to measure the impact an event is having on an audience and how ideas are shaping in their head for example.

Below are a few discussion starters/visual questionnaire objects I’ve developed or students have designed in my classes.

This visual questionnaire below lets people self-assess their drawing along two axes: how well they draw and how often they do it. Immediately patterns arise pointing at correlations between practice and perfection ;)



Below is visual questionnaire to help people discuss which type of tasks they think robots could and should do in the context of collaboration apps. These workshop participants from MediaLAB Amsterdam picked up on the visual questionnaire idea and executed a very nice example of it!  The visualization starts with all human (yellow boxes), and people can replace a human with a bot (grey box). Researchers will discuss their answer with them on the spot and capture relevant soft and hard data.



Questionnaire developed by participants Lynn Ika & Inge van Ee in one of my workshops

This colorful example is connected to research tools as they are used in for example play therapy and psychotherapy (references needed). Research objects can be used for research, and creative processes as well. We can note similarities with the visual ideation kits as developed by Smit et. al. (2016 & 2016), see also the example on Doenja Oogjes’ webpage. Embodied sensemaking is well-researched by Hummels & Van Dijk (2015) and is worth looking at. Also Lego Serious Play methodology is strongly related: in with this method, facilitators scaffold discussion, problem-solving and leveraging expertise n organisations by letting participants imagine and build with Lego bricks.

The students in this workshop wanted to interview KLM (Dutch Royal Airlines) employees to find out how they see their organisation, how they structure their thinking about the organisations, what they make important or not important, and what emotions and values are underlying that perception. They created a toolkit with abstract shapes in several colors and sizes and asked participants to use the objects to describe their organisation (or an aspect of it, depending on the questions asked, they may vary). The results were very rich organisations, where properties of the objects came to symbolize judgements and emotions regarding the organization that could be explored in the conversation.


Research tool made by participants Mackenzie Orr & Kazuhide Shibata


A more ‘closed’ approach to questionnaires within that same KLM project is this weaving board, inspired by Domestic Data Streamers‘ yarn boards. In this example the students predefined certain categories to ask interviewees about their emotions regarding the aspect of the company. The example below can be re-used in many different ways whereas this design is more limited and focused. In terms of using and wasting materials it might be useful to think about thinking objects that can be repurposed for different questions and contexts.


Research tool made by participants James Joyce, Suzanne Klooster, Sebastian Langer


In this example students created a set of discussion objects to support interviews regarding the travel experiences of people flying from Schiphol and the emotions attached. They also wanted to use these objects to map out the perception of time in the different stages of the airport experience. They created six pies that each represent an emotion, and would ask interviewees to make an emotional pie chart for each stage of the journey and their experience at the airport (security, check-in, waiting in the terminal etc). The also created objects for interviewees to visualize their perception of time for each stage. The student-researchers assumed that traveler’s perception of time would deviate from the actual time spent in each stage. These participants were clever in that they created separate ‘legend’ objects, describing what each pie stands for. In that way they can refine the design of their discussion object at a later stage: all they have to do is change the labels, to optimize their research tool or re-use it for other questions or contexts.


Research object made by participants Johanna Cubillos & Loraine Hoogendoorn



Hummels, C., & van Dijk, J. (2015, January). Seven principles to design for embodied sensemaking. In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (pp. 21-28). ACM.

Smit, D., Oogjes, D., De Rocha, B. G., Trotto, A., Hur, Y., & Hummels, C. (2016, February). Ideating in Skills: Developing Tools for Embodied Co-Design. In Proceedings of the TEI’16: Tenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (pp. 78-85). ACM.

Lego© Serious Play. Retrieved March 3rd 2017:

Smit, D., Oogjes, D. J., Rocha, D., Goveia, B., Trotto, A., Hur, Y., & Hummels, C. C. M. (2016). Ideating in skills.