13 Interview Techniques

November 27, 2009

Tips for conducting a good interview

#1 – Find a good location

Avoid Starbucks! It’s often easiest to suggest a centrally located corporate coffee shop but if there is any way you can interview in a place that has some relevance to the story or your subject you’ll have much greater success.

Not only because you’ll gain a further sense of context, people are often more comfortable (and open) when they’re in a familiar place or what feels like “their territory.”

Ask to meet at your subject’s house, work, or the location of an incident relevant to the story. Even meeting at the interviewee’s favorite restaurant is more interesting than a Starbucks.

#2 – Prepare Your Goals Ahead

Know what questions you’re going to ask and why you’re going to ask them.

Heading to an interview with a sense of what you want to get out of it (a colorful re-enactment of an event, an on-the-record opinion on the issue you’re covering, general background, etc.) is critical to conducting a successful interview.

You should already be thinking about what you want your piece to look like and what you need from this interview to get your article closer to that end result.

#3 – Write down your questions

Be sure and bring prepared questions with you. I usually go into an interview with twice as many questions than I expect to ask. The security of knowing that I’m not going to get stuck helps my confidence and you never know what question will get you the information you’re really looking for.

#4 – Work on your flow

This is probably the most challenging, but also the most important interview skill you can develop.

You want to strike a balance between a conversation (which helps make your subject feel comfortable and aids candor) and getting the job done. As your subject is answering your question, be thinking about what you’ll ask next and why.

The flow of questions needs to seem natural and conversational, don’t spin your subject off on a completely different topic just because that’s the next question on your list-think about segue’s and transitions.

This way your subject doesn’t feel forced to give you sound bites and may open up a little (particularly important for anyone working on an audio piece where you may need blocks of the raw interview).

#5 – Think about the medium

Interviewing techniques defiantly vary for different mediums. If you’re interviewing for audio or video you want to ask two part questions which encourages subjects to talk for longer blocks of time.

Conversely, when you’re interviewing for print, try and break questions up so you can get shorter and more concise answers (easier for taking notes and for quoting later). You can be more conversational with interviews for print, you can say “yeah,” and “uh-huh,” etc.

Not doing this is one of the biggest challenges when you’re interviewing for audio. Nodding and smiling accomplishes the same sort of conversational encouragement and keeps your tape clean.

Another great trick for audio interviews is to have your subject re-enact the story. It makes for good sound and helps you avoid having too much of your own narration later on.

#6 – Bring a buddy

I find having a second person as a note taker and extra set of ears can be very useful.

If you don’t think another person will overwhelm or distract your subject (I find that is pretty rare) it can be a lifesaver to have that second set of notes to check your quotes and information.

#7 – Avoid Obsessing

While good notes and recording are very important, you can do yourself a disservice by obsessing about recording every little detail of what your subject says.

As you’re interviewing you should be able to discern the gems from the chatter-focus on the quotes and info you know you’re going to use and make sure you get that right!

#8 – Be a little annoying

Don’t be afraid to relentlessly revisit a question or topic that you feel hasn’t been properly addressed by the interviewee. Sometimes people need time to warm up to you or a topic, or will respond better if your question is worded differently. Keep trying.

#9 – Be a little sneaky

Continue taking notes even after the interview is officially over. Sometimes people say the most revealing or intimate things when they feel that they’re out of the “hot seat.” If they don’t say “off the record,” it’s all game.

#10 – Empower them

A great question to ask if you don’t fully understand the perspective of your interviewee is “what is your ideal solution/resolution?” Obviously this only works in certain circumstances, but when appropriate it can help clarify a person’s point of view or opinion.

#11 – Work them up

Another great question is “Why do you care about this issue?” This can be an effective way to get a strong and emotional quote about why the topic you’re covering is so important.

You can also ask for the turning point in a story, the moment when everything changed or catalyzed. This can help you shape the narrative of your story as well.

#12 – Endure awkward silences

I know this is totally counterintuitive. My instinct is to keep chattering and asking questions to keep people feeling comfortable, but sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with sensitive subjects, you need to shut up and wait.

Ask your question, let them give you the rehearsed and generic answer, then sit there quietly and see what comes next. You’d be amazed how often this technique yields powerful results.

#13 – Ask for what you need

Seriously, sometimes interviewees are frustrating not because they’re trying to bust your chops but just don’t understand what you want from them.

I find that many interview subjects get a kick out of having you “pull back the curtain” a little and tell them about your process.

You can say, “Listen, I really need a quote from you encapsulating your feelings on this issue,” or “I really need you to walk me through the chronology of this,” or even, “I really need you to take me to a location that is relevant to this issue so I can set a scene.”

For the most part people want to be helpful and you just need to tell them how they can.


DMC2 Planning

November 26, 2009

Planning aid for S1 audio visual projects for Digital Media Computing level 5

College Life Project

November 26, 2009

Audio visual project brief  for HN Unit Audio & Video 1 DF66 34

Camerawork – still images 1

November 26, 2009

Take 8 shots using a still image camera.

They have to demonstrate the following techniques

3 images showing examples of the Rule of thirds

3 – Images showing use of framing – ie close up; medium close up ; long shot.

2 – Angled shots – ie high angle, low angle, dutch tilt.

Size the images to have a maximum width of 800 pixels

Put the images into a presentation demonstrating the different techniques you have used.

Word Picture Story

November 25, 2009

Can you create a short sentence using only photographs of signs?

There are lots of different signs around the College.

Carefully take some photographs, make sure they are in focus and well exposed.  You may need to use a tripod.

Edit the images in an appplication like Photoshop, use the rectangular marquee tool or similar to crop out words from the sign image.  Save images as jpg files maximum width 800 pixels and maximum height 600 pixels.

See if you can make a short sentence.

Envisioning The Design

November 16, 2009

Envisioning is about:

  • Understanding : clients & users
  • Communicating
  • Evaluating and Selecting

Techniques for doing this

  • Restating client requirements
  • Scenarios of use
  • End user profiling
  • Mood boards
  • Storyboards
  • Navigation maps
  • Flow diagrams
  • Sketching
  • Design space analysis

Restating client requirements (brief)

  • Different words = different perspectives
  • Clients don’t always know what they want
  • Client’s don’t always know what is possible
  • Restating their requirements:
    • provides opportunity for discussion
    • clarifies misunderstandings
    • better basis for a  contractual agreement

End user profiling

  • Not enough to say ‘anyone’, or ‘children’,etc
be specific (anyone interested in buying a car and with the money to do it, children between 7-12 in the London area, etc)
address any issues users might have (kids – feel safe, feel cool, etc)
  • If your interface/website/object has multiple audiences:
profiling will reveal potential clashes of interest
you have a place from which to start making decisions/trade-offs
Alternative methods for gathering data about users and for presenting profiles
Observation: ethnographic approaches; ethical issues (discussed later in module)
Using cultural probe
Creating fictional ‘personas’ to use in scenarios

Mood/Style Boards

  • Widely used in interior design/advertising http://www.bbc.co.uk/homes/design/colour_moodboard.shtml
  • You can generate them, or you can get users/clients to generate them
  • Capture feelings of a place or of a design:
  • anything goes (images, text, colours, textures, website screen shots, etc)
  • use removable sticky stuff so you can alter board


Technique from film-making:
scenes/frames from the user experience point of view
communicate the feel of the ‘flow’ of the design
Can be used in prototypes/scenarios (see later weeks..)
storyboard normally contain a sketch of the visual elements + descriptions of animations, interactions (e.g. dialog boxes), sounds, and any other media.

Navigation Maps

Represent how the user navigates through the design:
not same thing as directory structure!
Box per page/key moment:
where can you go from here
include backwards as well as forwards flows
Frequently, drawing them helps spot:
orphan pages
dead ends
structure is getting too complex and users will get lost

The process in general terms

  • Understand problem and its context
    Generate possible solutions
    Concretise the possible solutions
    Evaluate them
    Selection of possible solutions until one emerges
    Realise that one
    Continue or start again!

Put the user at the center

Understanding the user: a recurring theme, there are different aspects to this
  • asking users
  • observing users
  • involving users
  • using theory (about users) to inform designs and design practice
  • asking users
  • observing users
  • involving users
  • using theory (about users) to inform designs and design practice

User-centric View of Design Problems: PACT Analysis

  • PACT makes a good ‘user-centric’ framework for thinking about a design problem/brief
  • Take each category and work through it
  • Use the analysis to help focus/orient early design thinking
  • Important: revisit the analysis:
  • As you get deeper into the problem the analysis should change and/or get richer


  • Consider range of characteristics of people
  • Physiologically
  • Age differences, physical abilities
  • Psychologically
  • Attention, perception, memory
  • Forming the right ‘mental model’
  • Socially and Culturally


in general think of..

  • Goals, tasks and actions
  • Regular or unusual, weekly? Yearly?
  • Individual or distributed, involving others
  • Well-defined or vague
  • Continuous or interrupted



  • Physical environments for the activities
  • Social environments
  • Circumstances under which activities happen (time, place, pressure of work/time)
  • Amount and type of support for activities


  • Input
  • Getting data in; getting commands; security
  • Output
  • Characteristics of different displays (e.g. video vs. photographs; speech vs. screen)
  • Communications
  • Between people, between devices, speed, etc.
  • Always keeping one eye on the future

Doing a PACT analysis

  • Brainstorm the variety of P, A, C and Ts that are possible
  • Explore design implications
  • Write as detailed concrete stories…
  • …then group together into general scenes
  • Look for trade-offs between combinations of PACT
  • Think about how these might effect design

Design Awareness Exercise

In groups identify:

of an in-flight entertainment system

What are the design implications?

UID Lesson Nov 11 09

November 11, 2009


Finish Evaluation of Style Board

Lo Fi prototype -paper based; at least two variations

Hi Fi prototype – screen based, final design version

Evaluate user interaction with both

Relating content and interface design with Hi Fi prototype

The object of this exercise is to concentrate on the audio layers within a movie. To do this you are going to work with some still images and imagine the sounds that you would hear within the scene. In this case use three cards from the Mars Attacks bubblegum card set.

Pick card scenes that are going to allow you a lot of scope to create a densely layered soundtrack. Remember there are three basic layers in a soundtrack

Sound Effects

Insert your choice of cards into a word document and write about what you think would be heard within the scene. This becomes your plan for sourcing and editing your audio sample files

As usual, create a project folder to keep all your files in and then create a project in Premier Pro. Create three scenes on the timeline each lasting approximately 20 seconds. Include titles and credits. Export your final movie in DV AVI format.



November 2, 2009

January exhibition brief 2010


Interactive exhibition of student work

Screen and paper based

Themes are 10 and retro technology

Held in Media Space foyer and online


CRT TVs and monitors – various sizes

Video players

DVD players


Sound systems

Black exhibition screens