I set out to find out more about using blankets during winter through my ethnographic research.
I wanted to follow a simple interrogative process by which I could understand the experience, preferences and needs of my interviewees. I framed three open-ended questions:
1. What springs to your mind when you think of blankets in the context of winter?
2. What has your experience been with using blankets during winter? Have you faced
any problems while using blankets during winter?
3. Let us assume that I am a futuristic blanket designer and you are a
stakeholder. You would like me to design a blanket for you to use during winter. What
would your requirements be? (Please note that I have not included the responses from question 3 in this week's blog post. This will be included in next week's content).
Other leading questions:
I usually resorted to leading questions such as 'could you explain that further?' during these circumstances:
a) The interviewee provided a brief response that required further explanation
b) The interviewee uncovered something interesting that I could question further.
I interviewed three people from the apparel domain, since I realized that their technical knowledge would help in developing a good concept. The rest of the interviews were from people spread out in various regions where winters are known to range from moderate to severe.
I have summarized my interview responses below. I have organized the responses in the form of designation of the interviewee, evocation (the act of bringing something into the mind), issues and problem statement.
Designation: Professor, Apparel Design Program, University of Minnesota
Evocation: Cocooning, hibernating and cuddle up in blankets
Teaching class in spring studio- Wiesman Museum- we have dealt with how can we put blankets in clothing.
Issues: electric blankets- without weight. My husband grew up with heavy things-- heavy weight meant feeling good. It is a question of what the user is conditioned to. 3M - came up with the insulated lining- it was lightweight-- however, psychologically it did not induce the feeling of warmth initially--weight and how much you feel you're warm are related.
Interviewee 1 needs a way to ensure that her blanket provided psychological comfort, because she found that to be lacking in an existing blanket.
Designation: Undergraduate Student, Apparel Design, University of Minnesota.
Evocation: Cozy- couch/bed-hiding away from the cold--put a ton of blankets- like to snuggle--think of cats- drinking hot chocolate, watching holiday/ Christmas movies, mom made blankets for me.
Issues: Comfort - maintaining room temperature
--piling on a ton of blankets --restrictive in movement sometimes.
Interviewee 2 needs a way to ensure that her blanket provides optimum thermal regulation, because she has had a problem with maintaining thermal comfort.
Designation: PhD student, Apparel Merchandising and Design, Iowa State University
Issues: Some stinky ones .. a few years ago I was on this trip to a cold place....the hotel blankets reeked.
Interviewee 3 needs a way to ensure that his blankets don't stink, because he has experienced discomfort from using blankets that reeked.
Designation: Computer Science Grad Student, University of Minnesota
Evocation: Wrapped up in a blanket with a romantic movie--lots of tissue paper in the side (to cry from all the emotion) -reading a book--I like to read/watch a movie under my blanket.
Issues: Suffocation when the head is covered. Because it's cold and sometimes bright, I would prefer to cover my head with a blanket-- all the same, I cannot suffocate under it. So, I mostly end up switching.
Interviewee 4 needs a way to be well ventilated in the head, because she has experienced stuffiness and suffocation from blankets.
Designation: Biotechnology, Grad Student, Offenburg University
Evocation: When I first moved to Germany, i remember sleeping during my first day of winter with my dear heater not working and my landlord gave me towels and curtains to keep me warm ! so since then i got blankets esp winter blankets with a lot of fur for making me feel warm and cozy!
Issues: Problems like sweating sometimes because heater and the fur both make me feel hot on the inside ....sometimes it feels like as though I got out of the sauna.
Interviewee 5 needs a way to experience optimum thermal regulation under his blanket, because he has experienced extremes of temperatures from either being inadequately blanketed or overly blanketed.
Designation: Biotechnology, Grad Student, University of Alberta, Canada
Evocation: Slumber under the cozy comforter.
Issues: Switching between a thin blanket and a comforter from temperature extremes.
Interviewee 6 needs a way to experience optimum thermal regulation under her blanket, because in cases of temperature extremes, she has had to swtich between her thin blanket and comforter.
Designation: Human Factors and Ergonomics, Grad Student, University of Minnesota
Evocation: fuzzy, reading books by a fire, hot tea, cuddling
Issues: STATIC!!!!! overheating (especially when sharing with another person), fuzz transfer to clothing, little fleece balls after washing the blanket, cold upper body and arms while working on my computer (I bought a snuggie to fix this), the blanket I keep in my car gets too cold so I never use it, and the fact that it isn't socially acceptable to bring blankets with me to class
Interviewee 7 needs a way to overcome static, overheating and fuzz transfer from her blanket because she has experienced discomfort from these issues.
Interviewee 7 also needs a way to use a socially acceptable blanket because she would like to be able to take it to her classes and use it.
Designation: Electrical Engineering Grad Student, University of Minnesota
Evocation: Cozy, warm sleep inducing, comfortable. During cold times, I curl up in my blanket, read a book and drink hot tea.
Issues: Winters in Minnesota are very harsh that I wish my blanket would be warmer. I end up wearing an additional layer and socks especially before I go to sleep.
Interviewee 8 needs a way to ensure that her blanket keeps her adequately warm during Minnesota winters because she has had to wear additional layers under her existing blanket.
Designation: Electrical Engineering Undergrad Student, University of Minnesota
Evocation:Hands being left out--being cold-- I wrap myself with at the end of the day. Something that I don't want to leave behind--going to be cold and will have to wake up.
Issues: Hard to carry around with you--I use a bathrobe--even that gets cumbersome. Either staying in bed and out freezing. I don't have the best circulation as well. Drags on the ground--gets caught on things
Interviewee 9 needs a way to feel warm while on the move because he either ends up staying in bed or is out freezing.
Summary of Evocations:
Summary of Issues:
These images were screenshots taken from the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gly9PLM9-hk
I thought it provided a nice overarching summary of the thermo-physiological comfort associated with using blankets:
Here is an interesting use sequence that caught my attention:
Incorporating blankets in clothing
I observed in some settings that people sat down with their blankets wrapped around their legs.
This is a picture of how I use my blanket. I observed how I swathe myself.
Also, I found a market research of 9 throws from this link-- http://nymag.com/shopping/features/62640/
Market Research of 9 throws (ranked from 1-9)
1. Faux-fur throw-So velvety warm you could couch-surf inside an igloo. One flaw: could be larger.
2. Down-and-fleece throwNo-nonsense, survival-ready wrap takes you from 98.6 degrees to a raging furnace in seconds.
3. Waffle blanket Appealingly oversize, so you can swaddle yourself like a burrito--twice.
4. Donna Karan knit throw
Shed-free and ultrasoft; still, too lightweight for January cold snaps.
5. Cashmere cable-knit throwLooks and feels (and even smells a little) like a go-to winter sweater.
6. Synchilla blanket Essentially a Snuggie without armholes. Points for the "bonfire orange" hue.
7. Peacock stripe throw Scratchier than it looks. After a few minutes, you're itchy and covered in Technicolor fuzz.
8. Molteni Home throw Appealingly décor-neutral; good for drafty apartments.
9. Performance fleece blanket More like a flannel sheet than a blanket. It is cheap though.
Overall, I had several interesting takeaways from this. It was really an eye-opening experience for me.