Day in the life

Engineering Area
Analysis & problem definition, Assessment & evaluation, Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or Individual
Group, Individual
Amount of People
Up to 15
Type of Class
Duration of Activity
More than 2 hours
Type of Activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity, Self-work by students


What is this technique about

A day in the life is used to elicit the interaction points of a user and the solution in the context of their daily life. The method helps gain insight into the needs, behaviour and goals of the user.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

A day in the life can be a powerful educational tool for equipping students with empathy and human-centred innovation thinking. In this method, individuals who are representative of a user are followed and observed to understand how they spend their typical day and the activities involved in it.

There are several pros and cons to this method:


      1. The method can create an in-depth understanding of a typical user behaviour
      2. The method aid in human-centred designing
      3. It takes in an expert opinion from the user for who a product/service is to be made


      1. The method is time-consuming
      2. It can create diverse viewpoints as different users have different activities in a typical day
      3. There is a chance of the user altering the daily routine and behaviour due to direct observation from a third party

How to use it

In this method the student is asked to follow and observe a user on how he spends a normal day and take notes. The notes can then be analysed for creating user pain points and opportunities for innovation.

A day in the life may be used in:

    1. Exploring the experiences of a customer/user.
    2. Identifying opportunities.
    3. Testing ideas to see how a customer/user would respond.

How to implement this techniques online

A day in life has two phases – the research phase and the observation phase, for which two different tools may be used. First, the teacher can decide if the activity needs to be a group or an individual activity. If the task is assigned individually, it is suggested that the teacher indicate the user to be observed. This reduces the overall tasks’ focus on the research phase which is suggested in a group assignment. The teacher may suggest the user group if the task is a group project.

During the research phase, a whiteboard tool like Miro or Mural may be used so that the participants can activelcreate an interview questionnaire and collect data on the selected group. To take the field notes, an application like Evernote may be utilised. The application also allows for collaboration and has tablet PC and mobile phone versions, which improves the observer’s mobility and ease of handling.

Preparation, what do before the session
    1. Prepare a time schedule and clarify for yourself the purpose of using the method. You will then be better able to explain the activity to the students.
    2. Identify and define the target person or group. This may be a single person or a generic class, such as “customers” or “users”. When selecting a group, identifying a homogeneous group is essential to create a map that would be true for most people.
    3. Make a guideline for the students and describe the target group and what they shall do during the research and the observation phase.
    4. Create a template that the students/student groups can use to document their insights from research and observation, and a template for the narrative. Be specific: Provide them with categories and topics to guide their research and observation, and what the narrative shall involve – define different sections based on timeline or activity type can help structure the observations.
    5. Upload all documents to a shared folder so that all students can access them.
    6. Inform the participants that they need to access the documents on the day of the session (if they have never used the platform before, ask them to test whether they can access it.)
    7. Students can do this task individually or in groups. If you want to allocate them to groups, prepare a document that assigns them to groups, and upload this document also.

During application, i.e., while giving the session

    1. Introduce the session by giving the participants basic information about the exercise (e.g., timeline, guidelines, templates)
    2. Ask the students to first research the selected user group or individual using a preliminary interview or survey following the questions given in the template to supplement the data collected during the observation.
    3. Ask the students to observe a day in the life of the selected group or individual.
    4. Ask the students to create a narrative that describes their typical day following the narrative template.
    5. Ask the students to present their narratives in an online class session. Then discuss major insights.

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

    1. Make sure that all narratives are uploaded and shared on a shared platform.
    2. You may want to create a summary with the main insights, and upload this as well.
    3. Use the insights for developing and prototyping solutions.

Examples and/or testimonials

Creating Minds. (n. D.). Day In The Life. Available at:

Hao. (2021). A Day in the Life: Software Engineer. Balance the Grind pty ltd. Available at:

Tools needed

For applying the technique in an online setting, the following tools are required:

    • A shared whiteboard platform or templates in Word or PowerPoint. This may be used only if a research phase precedes the actual observation phase. Example of tools:
      • Mural
      • Miro
      • Concept Board
    • A note organiser tool – such as:
      • Evernote



Creating Minds. (n. D.). Day In The Life. Available at:

Goobich, J. (2021, September 22). Make Your Product Feel Real By Creating ‘Day In The Life’ Content. Forbes Media LLC. Retrieved October 14, 2022, from