Making MB into YB (your bank)

This week we headed into the field to test our wireframes with users. To recruit participants I asked ppl I encountered if they were available for 40 minutes. The first interview with a neighbor and only took 20 min. Thereafter I asked for 30 min and interviewed 2 Uber drivers, a receptionist at the doctor, and a peer. Four of the participants went through 3 flows on my cellphone: check balance, deposit a check, pay a friend.

Checking account balance
Of the three tasks, this is the only one that I was able to complete within my existing banking app…. and this had the most intriguing results! I set up my test with 2 paths to check the balance: one was the traditional path of logging in: typing username, then password to arrive at a welcome screen with the account balance. Additional screens shows transactions and then details of a single transaction.

The second route to see the balance is right on the login screen as text labeled “instant balance”. This is my favorite part of the MB banking app! I appreciate the clean layout of the app so kept the login screen the same. BUT… not one of the users noticed this first off. One hesitated and read the entire screen but then continued the login.

Design considerations: I will look to find a balance to make the instant balance feature more prominent.

Depositing a check
It’s important for ppl to know they photographed their checks right. People fear getting to the end and only then being told they were not successful.

Design considerations: Change the image capture for checks to make it clearer that the image is acceptable. It would be very nice to use green color!

Paying a friend
The deposit check feature didn’t work for me in the MB app so I wasn’t able to progress through the flow in the existing app. MB does not offer bill pay, external transfer, or send money to a friend in the existing app. That meant this feature required me to build another screen into the “move money” tab and I became worried about the feature becoming long and clunky.

Users were confused by the pay today vs schedule in the future vs repeating payments.

Design considerations: Feedback was all over the place here so I didn’t hear the same recommendations from anyone. I suspect this is because I referenced a bunch of sources for examples and so my design lacked some element of consistency. My next steps will be to make quick iterations and get feedback in the studio.

My takeaways from overall user testing:
Some of my flows ended by returning to the section main screen and some ended with a confirmation. I want to give a more thorough analysis of when a user benefits to going back to the section home versus the welcome screen.

Users each liked different phrasing for the actions I had identified. People are accustomed to how things are designated in their own app.

I had some physical constraints this week so had to be creative in the way I recruited participants (hello Uber drivers and doctor receptionists!) Next round will be a different approach! I feel my data would have been richer being able to preschedule.

This was our first time conducting user testing interviews. Over the previous 2 quarters making data useful for design inspiration has come through distilling patterns in behavior. Generally, users were serious, some users talked about worries they had during flows based on previous bad experiences and fear of something going wrong. I couldn’t help but consider how user behavior would change if we were testing a recipe app or a game. In further iterations I would like to consider how in app banking can be a more ‘enriching experience’.

MB Financial: Updated Features and Wireframes

After creating concept maps for the current and future state of the MB Financial banking app, I’ve worked on making flows to create new tasks. I’ll be discussing two of the flows I’ve created, checking you balance and depositing a check, in this post.

The current MB app is very clean and simple to navigate although it is light on features. For me, this meant using imagination and referencing other apps that perform similar tasks was crucial in building out flows.

The first flow is checking your balance. One of the features I most appreciate about the MB app is the “instant balance” feature you can activate so that you can view your balance without logging in. For the sake of the assignment and future user testing, I built out the traditional process for checking balance. The first 4 screens are for entering in your user name and your password. Once you have logged in to the site you will be greeted by name and can choose your account. To access additional information the user can press an arrow next to the account to see the list of transactions. In my user scenario the person next deposits a check by selecting the deposit tab to reach the next screen.


The second flow is going to begin with login and once the user lands on the welcome screen with balance, they will click deposits in the bottom menu bar (icons coming for user testing). The deposits screen begins with selecting an account and the user selects an arrow which will initiate a pop-up window to select and confirm an account. The screen is darkened and the pop up is bright white to maintain a users orientation by not going back and forth between screens. Once the account is confirmed the user returns to the main deposit screen and enters in the amount, which is in a large dark font. After entering in the amount, the next step is to take a photo. Pressing the photo button takes you to the camera and the screen contains a grid line and re-iterates what and how you are shooting. When I tried to do this in the MB app it just showed a black screen instead of alerting me to give the camera permission in the app settings (and after I changed the settings there was an error message my check could not be sent).The steps are repeated for the backside of the check. I added fields that auto populate the account number and routing number that appears on the check. The confirmation screen is again a popup against a shaded out screen. The final screen is a confirmation with a visual check mark. One of the challenges in this section was keeping the process streamlined and to minimal screens while still enforcing enough ‘check-points’ to confirm actions.


This assignment has been enjoyable because a) mapping the screens feels like a scavenger hunt and b) it is empowering when you find frustrations in the app (the pot of gold!?) with the goal of redesigning. I mentioned earlier about the app not alerting me to adjust the security settings to allow access to the camera. I’ve also given consideration to where the flows end. For example, when I click “log out” the app currently takes me to my geographic location (Austin) in Apple maps. When I click on the link for the bank mailing address, I am sent to Apple maps again and given 18 hours of driving directions to the bank headquarters in Illinois. It has been fun to find these anomalies and provided good lessons on thinking of the entire flow.

MB Means Business

Just as promised in their ads, MB Financial gets strait to business in their mobile banking ap. The app has three main areas: Accounts, ‘Move Money’ & Deposits. The app performs the bare essentials and it does a good job at that.

Two or the five features of the app can be accessed without logging in. Why should a user need a password to find a branch location or reach customer service? When the instant balance feature is active users can view their account balance with a tap.





Access to the core features from the ‘Logged Out’ position are illustrated in the Existing State Concept Map.


For the update to the App, I will add additional services to the app. In the upcoming version, it will be possible to set alerts and notifications from the accounts menu. There will also be an option to freeze your account in this section. The move money tab will introduce 3 new transfer options: Apple Pay, payment to friends, and Mobile Cash (ATM withdrawal from your smartphone). A new option will in-app scheduling for recurring payments & frequency. In the redesign, the final action in a screen will redirect you to the starting page for that area. The future state is depicted below:


Our next steps are to begin building screens for the new features. This will begin by creating scenarios and use cases to describe the user and identify when, where, and under what circumstances the users are interacting with the app. Watch the AC4D instagram feed for some snaps of us having a practice run and illustrating Rainbow’s journey selling her baby stroller (and eventually other baby items cluttering her garage) on Craigslist. We had a great time writing and illustrating and I’m looking forward to this next step.

The Ambiguity of a Focus Statement: Starting Research

Team members: Christina Davis and Kay Wyman

We’ve embarked on our capstone project we will complete over the next 24 weeks!

As a class, we are focused on the topic: College Persistence and Completion for Post- Traditional Students. We are partnering with Peloton U, a local organization dedicated to the mission of providing working students a pathway and support to graduate from college on-time and debt-free.

In the week following our first studio class of Q2, Kay and I have researched (and researched), created a focus statement, and crafted a research plan… with many iterations of the latter two in the last 7 days. Our research will focus on understanding how prospective post-traditional students make educational decisions to achieve a degree and what types of resources and information are used in the process. We are focusing our research on students who have taken active steps to enroll in college, including students who were previously enrolled and plan re-enroll. We chose to focus on people making decisions around attending school because, in addition to identifying resources future students access to inform their decisions, we can identify and gain insight into other life circumstances that influence educational decisions.

On Friday we set out into the field and had our first meeting with an advisory stakeholder, College Forward. During our meeting we learned about the support services they provide to students in the 11th grade thru college. Aside from the in-person support provided, College Forward is doing remarkable work to increase student success rates across the country through technology they have created for tracking student progress and outcomes, which is available for free.  I love that College Forward is focused on scalability as they attempt to solve student completion rates.

On Saturday we immersed ourselves at ACC Fest, an event at Austin Community College providing information on career paths. The entire experience was engaging and provided a handful of learning opportunities:


  1. Pay attention to your surroundings outside of class: As a habitual billboard reader, this event was screaming in my face as I turned onto Springdale Rd!
  2. Be ready to improvise: We arrived ready with a tape recorder, gift card incentives, and consent forms in case we found an immediate interview opportunity, although anticipated we would mostly set up appointments. Approaching people in a large atrium with a band playing proved tough and we took a minute to regroup next to a table, an empty table. Like lightning, we realized we had found the perfect opportunity to stand behind a table like all the ‘official’ information providers and the students/ prospective students began to come to us!
  3. Watch and wait: We were most successful when we observed people’s behavior and activities for a while before approaching. People who stopped at the tables to chat with representatives and people who were smiling proved most interested in providing us their contact information for follow up screening. This was also beneficial in helping us to determine which attendees seemed truly interested in enrolling in college as opposed to the crowds surrounding the table handing out rubber duckies.

Today, Kay and I had a notable experience that we felt captured an essence of why we are here at AC4d and the work we will be doing as designers. We had great discussions (in a team-ly fashion) and evolved our research plan together, including narrowing our participants from students and potential students to (very serious) potential students and past students seeking to re-engage. As we expressed our ideas around the pros and cons of the options, we both had hesitations to eliminate people we had met at ACC to whom we already felt a connection, shared empathy, and had a deep desire to help.





Here we are at our last theory presentation and an opportune moment to reflect back on the past 7 weeks. In theory class, we began with readings on Ethics & Responsibility, continued on to The Role of Research, Design & Poverty, and finished on Design Thinking. Reading Design Theory is intended to not just inform us as designers, but help us to determine who we are as designers. In my Statement of Purpose when applying to AC4D, I spoke of why design was important to me by discussing design as it showed up throughout my life outside of traditional design roles. One enjoyable aspect of Theory class has been putting concepts and language around those experiences.

For our final presentation, we are presenting on how designers think. We were encouraged to approach something we would like to improve and for me that is storytelling and, not just processing and synthesizing our readings, but how that applies to me as a designer.

namibia table sunrise

Throughout this section of readings, I have been thinking back to a moment when I broadened my sense of design. The setting for the conversation was quite dramatic; sunrise atop a mountain in the Namibian desert. I was working as a Safari Guide at time and on this specific day I was off duty as a guide and tasked with setting up a surprise breakfast for a group of guests. While overlooking the otherworldly landscape along the Kunene River into Angola, I made what started as small talk with a guest who informed me he was a designer. Prior to this I had studied fashion design and construction, worked for an interior design firm, and read glossy design magazines with people sharply dressed, often in black. I was taken aback because nothing about this guest indicated to me he was what I identified as a designer. He explained to me that he had worked for Apple many moons ago and was part of the design team for one of their early model computers. In his description of the work he told me that the 12 designers signatures were etched into the mold for the hardware just as an artist signed their painting. I have never found literature to support his story, but for me the idea of a signature on a piece of hardware INSIDE of a computer broadened my definition of the art of design. As our conversation continued it turned into a discussion of technology in the world today and, as I would describe now, the wicked problems that have resulted. Elements of the conversation included the renaissance and the enlightenment and a future where qualitative human thought is of the greatest value. Wyatt’s article was poignant as she discussed the transition from design based on aesthetics to design providing solutions to complex problems, and human experience at a local level to identify user needs and perspectives.

Artboard 1

The period of industrialization marked an increase in technology that moved us away from being an agrarian society and gave birth to social problems, which Horst Rittel termed “Wicked Problems.” A frustrated urban planner, Rittel defines the nature of problems and identifies quantitative solutions cannot resolve social problems because each problem leads to a new problem. Another one of our authors, Herb Simon, defines well structured problems solvable by artificial intelligence and brute force and Ill-structured problems which require qualitative information. Ill structured problems are unpredictable and therefore the best approach to a solution is to MAKE something. He introduces problem solving as an iterative cycle that evolves forward based off of the external environment and long term memory. Nigel Cross discusses making things and the role of abductive reasoning, and the need for designers to intentionally inform their intuition.


Just as industrialization changed society through technology producing more efficiently than humans, computers are able to outperform humans in deductive reasoning. Chris Paccione argues for the need for universal design skills as a human literacy to be taught in school by following the societal benefits of the spread of math literacy that resulted not from Fibonacci making math accessible to people through his teaching methods. There will always be space for design as a specialized profession because we live in a world of wicked problems. Buchanan explores design as a discipline at a micro level where there can be cross contamination between design arenas of signs, things, actions, and thoughts. He proposes that instead of organizing around outputs, we organize around process.

Artboard 2

DeBono explores the creative process by pairing it with the constructs of humor to describe lateral thinking, the process of jumping from a rational line of thought to an unexpected parallel line of thinking. One of the ways he proposes transitioning between lines is through provacation; he describes a project with cigarettes and opening the dictionary, and randomly selecting the word stoplight. While this seemed absurd to me it reminded me of the statement of purpose I mentioned earlier, design is ubiquitous and interconnected because it is purposeful.

Artboard 3

In the context of this story, it was ironic that we were in a desert occupied by one of the last nomadic tribes in the world, the Himba. During a week off work I headed to Windhoek, and escorted a local Himba working in the lodge to ‘the big city’ for a dental appointment. To me this was a moment of two worlds colliding because I had assumed the tribe to live in a bubble and not be going to town for dentistry but instead applying a solution passed through generations. The two worlds collided when Ben and I drank beer in a cafe and he asked me to make a facebook account for him, which first involved setting up an email account, and then lots of explanation about why and eventually discussion about our digital identities of today’s information age. And thus a nomadic Himba was now part of the digital era where computers have the answers to all our questions… just not the answers to the true problems. I’ve always wondered about Ben’s facebook journey and its purposes: What value did facebook provide him? Did he find ‘friends’? What sort of advertising targeted him?!

My thoughts have changed and instead of thinking of technology as the driver of good or bad change I am thinking about design as the driver of positive change… Hobbe’s water wheels, Yunus’ social businesses, Pilloton’s call for immersion to address the real problems.

When writing a blog post about theory class at the beginning of the term I referenced what level of physical torture I would be willing to endure to not have to do the theory readings. I am happy to report that I now look forward to our readings; I liken it to how the first month or two back at the gym is miserable but as you build up those muscles again the tables turn and it can feel miserable when you DON’T get to the gym. What are we going to do without Tuesdays and Thursdays with Scott next term?! As Scott’s first set of students, I consider us fortunate that we had intellectual discussions brought to life with his amazing sense of humor and had the benefit of learning from somebody that had been in our shoes as an AC4D student not too many years ago. Thanks for an awesome term, Scott!


A Voyage in Design Thinking….

During our last unit in theory, we focused on Design and Poverty. The authors covered a vast range of opinions from Prahalad who proposes converting the poor into consumers to Pilloton who personally moved to the sites of her projects. The reading group was a healthy mix of idealism and capitalism.

Our assignment was to create a storyboard including the opinions of all the authors. Although we were not plotting the authors to a scale like usual, I found this was still a helpful exercise for processing. What I loved about creating a story was that it provided a clear opportunity to identify a hero.


Part 1

Artboard 8

Artboard 9

Artboard 10

Artboard 12

Artboard 12_1

Artboard 13

Artboard 14

Artboard 15

Perspectives in Austin

During the past two weeks in IDSE 103, we focused on drawing perspectives and figures. I find perspective drawing to be a bit meditative so I was looking forward to spending some time putting a different part of my brain to work in between reading, interviewing, transcribing, and presenting. Pat mentioned a few places in Austin that sounded iconic and I imagined sitting on a bench by a lake, sketchpad in hand, enjoying the fresh air. The assignment seemed like an opportune time to see a bit of Austin since I have had little time to do that in the month since I moved here.

My pleasurable vision of sketching in the park was soon swept away by the realty of our schedules here at AC4D. Instead of the assignment serving me a chance to explore Austin, I had the opportunity to capture what Austin is to me! Below are perspectives of where I spend my time. For reference, I’ve arranged them clockwise from the lower left, beginning with where I spend the most time and ending with where I spend the least time:

Springdale General, the new home of AC4D (and the view of the final construction work from my desk) // My group work area at the AC4D Studio (…including our walls now covered countless utterances and post-its) // An Airbnb // and Cuvee Coffee on 6th (I have only been there twice but that seems like a lot comparatively).

Although my sketching did not take me off the beaten path, I enjoyed visually taking in the spaces where I spend time and having time to appreciate my days here.

IDSE 103 Davis


The Role of Design Research

We live in a world that is constantly evolving & in flux, and that makes design research relevant today. As AC4D students, we account for this in developing our designs:

Our design research to date is focused on capturing the experiences of the outliers, painting a picture of the people who sit on the outside of the norm.

We are tasked with developing probes and exercises that allow our participants to give definition to their personal experiences. We conduct interviews with questions formed around “why do you” and “show me”  instead open ended questions and directives to perform tasks.

The most recent module of our theory class focused on the different ways of describing the role of design research and included 3 sections: Designing With, Designing For // Participatory Design // Synthesis & Value

The following diagram allocates the 8 authors of our readings along the x-axis according to the role of the end user in the design research methods they describe. The authors on the far left side of the axis practice design research that includes users during research and design development. The authors on the far right axis engage users to obtain research and then move forward with the design phase independently. For they y-axis, I initially labeled my line to represent the predictability of users’ behavior with a range of ‘People are Predictable’ to ‘People Do Crazy Stuff’ – I kept the language clean for the presentation. After feedback from the group, I decided to update the axis to a range of ‘People Are Predictable’ and ‘People are Autonomous.

IDSE_102_As 2_blog_png

As illustrated in the table, most of our authors view people as unpredictable and that is something we as designers should take into consideration at all stages of the design process.

Our assignment began as imagining these 8 authors having a conversation about their perspective on design research. After determining the authors opinion on designing with and designing for a user and how they view the users that user’s behavior I  evolved my analysis to include how the final design artifact fits into the construct. Below is a diagram representing the influences for change of an artifact.

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Week 3 Recap

Another week of jam-packed mental gymnastics has passed! I’ve been focusing hard on getting ahead of assignments and have finally entered a rythm where I find opportunities to begin assignments when (or close to when) they are assigned. On Sunday, I sat down at a coffee shop to read more of our theory assignment, which although I enjoy the messages the reading poses, it is a long and painful process for me. Sometimes I even make a mental list of what torture I would endure if it meant I didn’t have to read; one particular set of readings, I mentally agreed I would be willing to have my toenails ripped out! Luckily the degree of torture is decreasing closer to a stubbed toe. As I mentioned I sat down to do my readings, at a coffee shop to do the readings and after 2 hours, I had sketched the coffee shop as a start to drawing my studio assignment, read 2 pages of theory, and then wrote my blog post. It is comical to me that procrastination is not about cleaning the house or doing errands, but about doing a different assignment. Did I mention I had completed only 2 pages of the theory article when writing the blog?

Starting assignments as they come works well in theory but with demanding assignments I still end up in “fire drill mode” and imagine there will always be those moments at AC4D, that is a reality we are being equipped to survive in the working world. When I step back from school work, I remind myself I am immersed in a 9 month program of expanding knowledge, training of new thought patterns, building communication skills (within group and visual-verbal bridge) and increasing self-awareness. Even when I wish there were 28 hours in a day to finish assignments, I am remiss the days are passing and even 3 weeks in, I am cognizant each week that passes is one week less of the explosion of knowledge and experience we have 9 months to experience. I am so excited to be challenged again and hope the path will continue after completion of our course. It is a real privilege to be at AC4D and learning from accomplished  industry professional who share their passion by taking time to teach us.
Some highlights of the week:

Stories of APA!
Gaining clarity on the different organizational functions and viewing the business in new perspectives. For example, is the kitten nursery’s main mission to “process” as many kittens through to fosters in order to maximize cage availiability?

It was hard to find 100mobjects to sketch…It was a priceless moment when I found my classmate sitting on a stool in the middle of the bathroom sketching the toilet!

Week 2 Recap


A discussion following Week 2 at AC4D with Adam and Catherine:

Week 2 was no different from the preceding two weeks in that we faced a lot of new information to not only digest, but to put into action. It was satisfying to get into the field and conduct a couple of interviews at Austin Pets Alive! with my partner, Aaron. A benchmark of Week 2 was that we have now completed assignments for all of our courses. Juggling three balls and making sure one does not drop requires a rhythm; now that we’ve completed our first round of assignments, time blocking will be the key to keeping those balls off the floor.