Learn through careful observation.
Observation and intuition are critical design tools. This exercise helps you leverage both. Find clues about the context you're designing for that may be hidden in plain sight.
1. Go to a busy place. This could be a place that's specific to your design challenge or not ( think a market, a major street, a cafe).
2. Take 30 minutes, sit silently, and observe. Focus your visual field on one spot at a time. Pay attention to details. How are people interacting? Notice facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal cues.
3. Jot down observations, starting with the word "I noticed". Write down one thought or curiosity each observation brings up, starting with the words "I wonder" (e.g. I noticed children in the market looking after their siblings; I wonder if this is typical?)
4. Review your notes. What stands out? What have you learned? What do you want to investigate more through interviews?
While designing health service in Nigeria, our design team wrote observations of the people they spoke to and their home environment. This helped us to take note of details in their space we might otherwise have missed.