Assignment 1 – REI

Aaron, Cristina, Christina

To begin our first assignment focused on Design Research, Synthesis and Service Design we brainstormed as a group to identify socially minded business to offer our design services. We identified portals listing co-ops, b-corps, and incubators, as well as drawing on Aarons knowledge of local Austin businesses.


We selected Tacodeli, Austin Pets Alive!, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, REI, and The Yellow Bike Project to visit. We also reached out to a local baby food company, Nurture Me, as well as a few local incubators. During each visit we participated in a typical customer experience and documented our interaction with points of service with photos. When we were able to make contact with employees we asked open ended questions about their experience in their roles, which we recorded.


We were excited to reach a verbal agreement with the manager at REI downtown to provide research on the store operations with a focus on the store warehousing and floor stocking. During our visit we spoke with a floor employee, visited the stockroom, and learned about current procedures around inventorying and restocking

View our Research Plan:




Day 3: Themes and insights

We began our lecture today by discussing themes to help make sense of data and identifying patterns by exploding our data. Our group was primed to “trust the process” because prior to beginning lecture we had neatly pinned our data into columns labeled with headers “Problems with tickets” and “purchasing methods,” along with similar buckets.

We discussed the example of a red truck and application of a lens to move away from an objective statement. The subjective statement was that vechicles carry sentimental value. I was excited to see how the variety of our backgrounds would inform our individual lenses to create different subjective statements and how we would persuade and support our unique points of view. For example, when we discussed the stigma associated with digital connections, my mind drifted to considering sensory communication that is omnipresent in the human and natural world. Communicating without physical exchange of some sort simply didn’t seem natural, a violation of some universal law that withstood millenia. Digital communications in word form remind me of an English class I once took called “Can the Narrator be Trusted” in which we read novels told by deceptive narrators. However, I quickly questioned my conclusion when I thought about the ever expanding emoji world that allows people to display emotion without words, almost referencing what we may partake from a persons body language. Taking that into account made digital communication seem less one sided; in a digital communication with visual elements interpretation is required and our own lens is applied to the words we are fed.

When we returned to our group to form insights by analyzing 2-3 interview segments it was challenging to not feel we were forcing connections. When it came time to form insights we spent a great deal of time trying to find verbiage to capture the connections. In hindsight, we probably should have focused more on arguing our individual perspectives and persuading the group to adopt them instead of trying to reach a consensus on a statement that captured elements we agreed were on point in each of our insights. It was recommended to us that we may benefit from separating the components of the insight and reverse engineering. Although frustrating at times, we shared some laughs at what was coming out of our thoughts. Sometimes laughter is a sign you are making progress as you discover  what does’t capture your message! After a break we regrouped and creating insights came with ease.

Generating concepts seemed more intuitive and I enjoyed seeing where our imaginations led us. Flexing our imaginations ended the day on a high note. I look forward to seeing the outcomes in comparison to the concepts I feel I would have developed through my own experience as a first time rider on CapMetro.

Day Two: Field work

Our design lecture today began with an image of an Eames chair and and the day ended with small group discussions about our experience speaking with public transport patrons while riding the bus. Our day truly captured the evolution of design. I was also pleased to have the opportunity to explore bus routes on my third day in Austin.
Our group’s design research today focused on the process of purchasing and using a public transport ticket. When choosing locations to speak with public transport users, we took into consideration where we would be able to approach users who would be a captive audience and decided we would speak to people at bus stops and on busses. I felt the interviews on board the bus were particularly good because we were sitting together with people and sharing a ride together. Sitting on the bus adjacent to someone seemed more natural than speaking to people who were standing and waiting for a bus. In general I don’t like to approach people and ask them questions because I am concerned about interrupting them or invading their privacy, however when I practiced inserting a pause after questions my attitude changed because I felt like the person had space to have their own experience and that I wasn’t forcing something upon them.
After our interviews, I was surprised at the valuable information we learned that I didn’t expect. Perhaps this is partly because I entered the experiment without any Austin Transit experiences; I didn’t expect a recurring topic to be about problems with paper tickets because we have debit style passes in Chicago (a.k.a. Ventra cards). I was able to empathize with people’s troubles with their bus cards because I was frustrated there are systems in other cities that don’t rely on paper tickets.
Gerald, Laura, and Vicky were great teammates and we have some good synergies in play.

Day 1 AC4D

Today we arrived at the new AC4D space where we were greeted with a big smile from Ruby at the front door. We met and chatted with our classmates and Ruby gave a thorough overview of the year, what we should expect, and what is expected from us. Whilst a lot of information, I was relieved it aligned with my expectations based on speaking to alums. We had a break for lunch and gave intros about ourselves. I am a bit rusty in the presentation department and look forward to becoming more concise. I am very excited to begin working together because I think our diverse backgrounds will lead to more comprehensive and informed designs.
I am thankful for the time the alumni took to speak to us. It was reassuring to learn about the strong alumni network and their willingness to be involved with students. I am impressed at the work they have been able to pursue after 9 months at AC4D.
Everything I learned today was exactly what I hoped to hear.