We're doing some paper prototyping right now and, while sketching some potential ideas, I'm using my 'acting skills' to put myself in the place of a potential user.  I'll take some cues from our user interviews, but for small decisions (or to confirm assumptions) I'll step into a different mindset for a minute and 'see what I'd do'.  (Personas really help with this.) For this specific project, it's not too hard for me to become the user because I really can see myself accomplishing the task at hand (listening to some music).

Apparently, acting troupes are being hired by design groups in corporations in the West.  It's not a bad idea - and it could very cheap to hire a group of students from the Beijing Drama Academy to come by for some auditions.

One of this year's DUX tutorials is all about using acting and improvisation to help you design.  This year at DUX, we'll be presenting a paper about designing for the Chinese migrant worker population.  I wish I had taken this tutorial before our project because putting ourselves in the place of our intended users proved difficult indeed.  Hmm.  Perhaps those are the most rewarding projects of all.

-neema