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Meaning of Home for Different Generations

Project Type

Ethnographic research project
Kesu Wang, HyunJin Kim, YongJoon Jhoo
14 weeks

Project Goal

Reveal and compare the different beliefs, values, and attitudes about home among young generation, middle age, and mature generation. 

Identify, synthesize, and translate findings into insights and opportunities that can lead to possible concepts. 

An ethnographic research project about the meaning of home who are in different life phases


Coordinate ethnographic research from planning to practicing activities with team members and qualified participants


Actively participated in team discussion and fulfilled commitments that contribute to the team's overall success

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While home is an important source of life-time influeces, memories, and supports, the generation gap is a problem in most families. Maintaining the communication and the understanding of different perceptions is critical for future home experience design. 

What Does Home Mean to You?

We recognized that the form of a "home" has changed overtimes. Living in a big city like Los Angeles, most people around us left their families for school, work, or hopefully a better life. 

We wondered, "What is considered a home?"

"Why do people in different life phases treat their homes differently?"




Qualitative Understanding of each Generation







Young + Middle




Middle Age








Young + Middle





In order to have an in-depth understanding of each generation, we interviewed five people from different generations. Each interview was approximately an hour long. 

The separation of each generation was based on their life experiences, but not necessarily their age. 

Initiate psychological knowledge for the analysis process came from the expert's interpretation of the participants' behaviors and mental process. 

After learning from the highlights of the information we collected, I was responsible for interviewing and putting together a special list of questions for the expert. 

Primary Research Planning

In order to let our participants open their minds within an hour, we designed the interview and activities ahead of time. 

Setting our knowledge goals was our first step, and then we plugged in the suitable methods. 

Our participants' rights were clarified and protected with consent forms before the interview starts. 



x1 interviewer

x1 note taker

x1 video taker

x1 photographer

(Click here to see the detail of our job distribution and the responsibility of each job)



   Guided tour and observation



  • A common ice breaker

  • Broad and open-ended

  • Let the participant feel that they are in control while getting comfortable talking to us

  • Slowly narrow down the conversation

  • Understand their activities, feelings, and attachment at home

Knowledge Goals


"How the experience of living in the present home affects his/her life?"

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  1. A Understand and observe the environment of our participant's home with their lead

   2. Ask the participants to introduce his/her

       "favorite" and "least favorite" spot at home

"What is the participant's character at home?

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   Dixid card picking



  • Avoid surface-level information while reaching the deeper meaning

  • Maintain a relaxing and fun mood

  • Allowing participants to turn abstract feelings into metaphorical stories ease the communication process

  • Critique themselves in a harmless way

  • A new/ different perspective



  1. Provide a pile of selected Dixit cards (without houses and furniture) to the participants

   2. Ask the participants to pick two cards

       base on our questions and talk about them

       Q1. "How do you see your home?"

      Q2. "How do you think your home sees you?"

"Which part of their homes does not satisfy them?"







  • Drop the limitation of participant's confidence and abilities on drawing

  • Keep the research process fun with engaging activities

  • Has no constraints and helps the participant to communicate his/her thoughts



  1. Provide a sheet of 11x17" paper, colored markers, and stickers

   2. Ask participants to create an image of

       "How his/her ideal home would be?"

   3. Ask the participants to talk about the image

       that he/she created

Analyze and Visualize the Process


Explain Abstract Relationships with Diagrams

Laying out the data in different diagrams allows us to focus on one aspect at a time and think deeper. These diagrams help us explain various abstract relationships. This process makes more sense of the information we collected during the ethnographic interviews. 

The diagrams below show the activities, interactions, people, objects, environment, the transformation of messages that are involved at home, and the system that enable the activities.

A&I + POEMS Framework 

(Activity & Interaction) + (People, Object, Environment, Message, Service)

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User Experience Framework 

(Physical, Cognitive, Social, Culture, Emotion)

Physical, cognitive, social, culture, and emotion are five human factors. We captured the human values of our participants with the data we collected and five analytical diagrams. 

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The Ethnographer's Questions 

(Meaning, Pattern, Sense of Order, Roles)

Answering a set of questions per diagram allows us to think and analyze the believes and behaviors of different generations with empathy. 

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Social Order

This diagram allows us to think through the hierarchy among different generations. Who is at the top and who is at the bottom? Who is in? Who is out? How do you know? How do you join the "in" crowd? Is there a rite of passage? Are there barriers to entry? What are they?

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User Experience Journey Map

(Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Context, Devices)

This diagram allows us to think through the hierarchy among different generations. Who is at the top and who is at the bottom? Who is in? Who is out? How do you know? How do you join the "in" crowd? Is there a rite of passage? Are there barriers to entry? What are they?