Brian Krenz

User Experience Designer


Leading a Contextual Inquiry at Michigan State University

About This Project

Time of Project
  • Sep 2010–Dec 2010
Skills Applied
  • Project management
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Interviews
  • Affinity diagram
Technology Used
  • Microsoft Office
  • Google Docs
  • Emily Bowman
  • Shi Chen
  • Jeff Green

I managed a team in conducting a contextual inquiry of MATRIX, a humanities digitization center at Michigan State University.


For this project, we conducted several interviews with MATRIX staff, including technical, digitization, and managerial staff. As is important to the process of contextual inquiry, each of those interviews took place at the respondent's workplace, providing our team a view of how MATRIX staff members conduct business on a daily basis.

Model Development

When we completed all of our interviews, we created a set of models describing various elements of the organization: two cultural models, a sequence model, a communication model, and an artifact model. My team and I jointly developed the sequence model and divided the work for the remaining models evenly. I made the artifact model, which is shown below.

The model shows a screenshot of a ticket tracking tool the organization uses. I indicated ways in which the tool was not meeting the needs of the MATRIX team, and suggested design ideas for solving those problems.

Image of an artifact model that shows workflow problems with the ticket tracking software the organization uses

Affinity Wall

Photo of part of the affinity wall my team and I put together

We then took our notes from all of the interviews and built them into an affinity wall – a massive overview of all the information we obtained throughout the investigation. The goal was to organize all the individual notes into categories and subsequently formulate recommendations to address problems related to those categories.


We wrote a report in which we recommended improving communication through systematic policy changes as well as through technical adjustments to communication and task-delegation software. MATRIX expressed a great deal of gratitude for the work we had done and were impressed by our suggestions.