Ideating Off Of Existing Insights

We’ve started off our Q3 Studio course full of insight re-definition and pushing provocations. These new provocations are the jumping off point and will eventually be the backbone for products we develop and possibly pitch to outside stakeholders. Through our insights we’ve been able to more clearly group together the commonalities and differences we heard throughout our interviews. Our concept maps are allowing us to infer further information from our rather diverse set of participant interviews.

One of the first concepts we began to dissect was the division of labor within the home. Ana created the below diagram highlighting the cycle of a day of one of our participants in contrast to her spouse.

It’s clear, even in our smaller data set, the stereotype of women doing the household work stands true. Women simply do more than men in the household, some of which, in addition to a full time job. There simply are not enough hours in the day or week in order to complete everything for some of these figures.

An additional concept we began to map out was access to federal assistance. Throughout our interviews we heard from single parents or couples that were reliant on a system for food or funding. These systems ultimately did more harm than good at various points in a family’s journey. We realized through examining TANF that welfare has taken on an entirely new, convoluted identity that is hard to make sense of. The below graphic highlights the rather basic yet invasive eligibility determination process a family must go through in order to receive benefits. The additional map show’s the many names of TANF across the United States, each with their own set of requirements and application processes. Confusing? I thought so too.


We’re learning more about the diverse set of hurdles non-traditional families and even traditional families encounter on a day to day basis. Whether it be from societal norms, or their desire to try and provide a better life for themselves and their kin. We’re focusing more on the motherly – woman powered side of things.

This week we fell short on developing concepts for a future product, we more so explored bigger ideas that we found interesting in our conversations throughout interviews.  Going forward we’ll be ideating about products and services that can actually provide aid to these people, not just ideas themselves. In all, it was a beneficial start to our Saturday classes.

Access to concept models:


The First Phase Of An Ethical Framework

Being part of something new has always felt like a gift. As part of the first proper ethic’s class at AC4D I knew I would be able to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned through experience that have helped me through an ethically challenging place. Four values I want to remain in my ethical framework are empathy, openness, humility, and self-awareness. In no particular order…

I viewed this assignment as something that I wanted to carry with me well past the program. I hope to continue doing research into areas unfamiliar to me. I thought about things that have served me well in hindsight of experiencing hardship in job’s I’ve had.

I believe that ethics are something you carry with you, they’re inherent. They are based in values that were instilled in you as a child. Others come from experiences you have that forcibly change how you have to view your current situation. I think that they should be adapted and improved upon, at times forgotten, and then put into practice again. I shared four values I feel that are integral pieces of my framework. To be improved upon and practiced whenever possible. After discussion with one of the teachers of this class I was encouraged to have more questions than answers, I hope that you’ll read them and know that this is not prescriptive. Just things I want to carry forward in my life and work.

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I feel it can pave a path for emotive conversation. Through empathy we can gain informational results of higher quality. Through empathy grows trustworthiness and through trust is a better relationship. This is something I’ve learned through loss groups. I have lost close loved ones to suicide. In turn, I have been a part of many loss groups and conversations with other survivors of suicide. When meeting in these groups a primary rule is to listen. It’s through listening where I feel we can begin to put empathy the most.

It’s important to be cognizant of where you’re coming from in a project. What has your pathway provided to you in your current position? Are you aware of privilege? Are you familiar with bias? Are you aware of privilege to even consider these factors? I believe being able to recognize yourself as an individual separately from others you are working alongside is a benefit to the environment and others.

Remembering that you’re a part of something bigger is integral to a project. No matter what title you wear, pay-grade you possess, or school you went to, the ability to speak with everyone on the same plane is of utmost importance. Whatever you bring to a project is important, but it’s also important to recognize you’re trying to identify and bring to light is not for you. It’s for the user you’re designing for. No passing judgement for the persons you aim to benefit

Exposure to new things can benefit a human being. Experiencing a lifestyle different than your own, interacting in a language you’re not familiar with can force you to view a situation differently. Openness and attentiveness to your inner feelings, ability to adapt and curiosity into things outside your norm can all help you identify.

Challenging My Framework
I gained and have challenged these values through some of my own experiences. In 2015 I worked for a now defunct English language school in Shanghai, China. It was a charade of sorts. Daily I was asked to sing and dance in front of random families who were pulled in off the street for the sale of english classes. The curriculum felt very sales oriented, and ultimately the most effort was put into the showcases for the parents of the students, not on actual learning. I felt humiliated at times, literally singing and dancing in front of 2 and 3 year olds and sometimes their parents. However, I had to do this job. My visa was attached to this, and I was in over my head with student debt. I found myself practicing humility. What made me think I was above this job? Why did I feel this type of way? I was forcibly challenging myself to readjust my personal view on what this organization was doing.

The second situation I found myself challenged in was the job I worked after Happy Goal Kids, as a contractor for the Department of Defense, in the Pentagon. I was working on contracts and papers to have military uniforms changed in Afghanistan. It felt strange to be contributing to the development of something that I couldn’t fully grasp. I felt I was exercising self-awareness. It took a moment (months) to realize how strange and out of place I felt. I learned through self assessment that I wanted to benefit people, not support divide.

Through our current research with JUST – our capstone partner I have had to exercise all of these values. My team-mate Ana and I have had to speak with quite a number of parents to understand their additional responsibilities that come along with having a child. I felt so scared, uncomfortable, and unsure as to what to ask this group of humans. I had bias, I had ideas of what the conversations would be like, and I had to check them at the door. Throughout some of our interviews Ana and I were referred to as “us” or equals to these parents. Realizing that my own distorted views of parents vs not parents brought me right back to assessing these values I shared with you here. Alongside a very, very simple graphic of my values on ‘pillars’.

Below I share a visual from one of our participants in the JUST capstone research project. We asked our participant to write down a paycheck timeline for us, and then write where their major bills were due. Screen Shot 2019-12-13 at 4.07.46 PM

It was through this participants explanation of their timeline where they explained that despite their hardships, and overall feelings toward their grim financial situations that their family was the most important thing to them. They valued love, giving, and gratefulness over any monetary value they did or didn’t have. It was here where I remembered that these values or ethical nuggets are far more important than many other things.

Emergent Technologies And Thumb Scanning Out Of Work

Throughout this quarter we’ve been working on constructing our own ethical framework to better guide us through complex problems. I encountered an ethical dilemma I can’t seem to shake while living in China. I taught at a for profit school called Happy Goal Kids. It felt like working at the McDonald’s of English schools in Shanghai. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Throughout my time at Happy Goal my privacy was challenged quite often. I recall one point most specifically, a thumb scanner to get into work. I was required to scan in, and out, each time I left the facility. It felt like quite a risk to me. This company, who I already didn’t trust had the ability to know my whereabouts within their building. It felt strange.

China is even more prevalent in the news today in regards to it’s treatment towards Uighur people in the Xinjiang region. A new technology is being used against a group of people, for reasons that just don’t line up.

Something I wanted to pose to my ethics class at AC4D was their tolerance to low and high risk situations in emergent technologies. While China is using facial recognition to track Uighur people, we are logging into our phones, retinal scanning into schools, and thumb scanning ourselves out of work. Our physical attributes are being used as identifying factors. The things we are being asked to opt into may pose more risk than we’re able to recognize at this point in time.

I gave each member of the class the below strips of paper
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I then asked people to write down where they would feel comfortable using these factors of identification. Whether it be civic, personal, or professional use. From there I asked the class to get up and place where they felt each piece fell on a low-risk high-risk axis.

JUST Capstone Research Update: Part 3 – Understanding Non-Traditional Familial Decisions

This is part three in our ongoing Capstone project with JUST whose mission is to invest in low-income, female entrepreneurs to create more resilient communities in America and therefore to create a more just world where people have the chance to live with less stress and more joy. Ana and I shifted our focus to better understand the continued challenges women face today

Our Focus
We are looking to focus on non-traditional families and how they decide, navigate, and communicate financial decisions and division of labor within their home. Children limit a parent’s ability to work, there is a constraint on the actual amount of money a parent is able to bring in due to having less time.

Our Objectives
Our main interest was to learn and understand how non-traditional families go about making financial decisions and how they divide the household labors. We have found that the costs of housing, health care and education are consuming ever larger shares of household budgets, and have risen faster than incomes. Today’s middle-class families are working longer, managing new kinds of stress and shouldering greater financial risks than previous generations did. They’re also making different kinds of tradeoffs, like some that we found in our research like having part time jobs or no jobs at all because of the cost of Childcare, they prefer staying at home and taking care of their kids, but that has financial consequences, and other types of tradeoffs that we are going to find in the themes we mention in this blog post.

The objectives of this research are:
To understand how value is perceived in non-traditional families.
To identify and understand the emotional and monetary journey of parents.
To explore how a non-traditional family decides, navigates and communicates their monthly expenditures.
To explore how non-traditional families divide labor in regards to household tasks.
To understand how a non-traditional family’s access to their network benefits their livelihood.
To empathize in the decision-making process of a non-traditional family.

We spoke to ten participants in order to start doing the themes phase, which are patterns that emerged through the contextual interviews we conducted. We have stories that support the themes we have found.

Theme 1: There is an unarticulated gap between low and middle class

Many of our participants told us how much they struggle to get government aid because of the amount of money they make or having aid taken away because of a small income raise. They are expressing their concerns when it comes to food, health, education and other types of aid. We found that this is the case for many participants.

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Mary: She lives with her boyfriend Nate and they have a 2-year-old boy Eric. She has been living in Austin for ten years, after moving from southern Alabama, where she was born. She is the main bread-winner of the family, working for Government and Nate works part time at a bar, during the day he is a stay at home dad and takes care of little Eric. Childcare is very expensive and it makes more sense for him to stay home than to have him in a daycare. Mary expressed how saavy she is in looking for deals and other ways to save money. However, she and her family is having a lot of trouble because of where she falls in the “income bracket”.

“When I first got this job, Eric was six months old. And I did look into a lot of daycare options, and we make too much money to qualify for government assistance.”

Samantha: She is a single mom with two daughters, one is 17 years old and the other 7 years old. She lives in Austin, but had lived her entire teenage life in the Czech Republic where she got married to a marine, moved to the United States and had her first daughter. After a series of difficulties in her life she now has a full-time job that gives her the flexibility to work and also take care of her two daughters, which she is very grateful. However Samantha has experienced this government assistance issue many times. She told us a story of how she was granted a raise which rescinded her access to SNAP benefits. The minute raise did not add up, and she was left shortchanged in being able to provide adequately for her children., “That raise put me $50 a year over the poverty level. So, they canceled the $120 I was getting for food stamps.” She currently volunteers and works at her daughters’ school to offset the cost they have for attending.

Theme 2: I feel I’m stuck in the cycle of living in ‘survival mode’

Many of our participants expressed living in this constant cycle of ‘survival mode’. The money they make each paycheck disappears in the first few days because of the expensive debt, rent, insurance, childcare and other things they have to take care of. They feel stuck in this cycle of never having enough money, regardless of how many jobs they have.

Sara: She is a new single mother with three kids that she has 50% custody of. The oldest is 12 years old, then the middle is 10 and her youngest is 7 years old. She just got separated but expressed that her ex-husband and her had good terms and worked together for their children’s sake. She currently has three sources of income, one part-time job at an independent bookstore in Austin, as a local children’s musician and monthly support from her ex-husband.
“Between that [singing] and book people in my monthly support from my ex husband, I’m able to survive. I’m not able to take a bunch of vacations or buy myself a new car or anything like that but I’m able to not be worried too much about paying my rent.”

Ivan: Ivan is the male part of a marriage in which his wife is the primary earner, together they have a 3 year old named Brian. Ivan had been in the music industry in Austin and had a fair bit of responsibility at a popular establishment in town. The establishment unexpectedly closed shop and Ivan was left without a job. He is now working two jobs and seeks stability amongst him not being able to make ends meet. He juggles these two jobs and still struggles to make ends meet while not being able to be around his family.

We’re excited to continue our research and learn more about this unseen societal gap. As we continue we’ll update our themes and start formulating insights. Keep your eyes peeled for progress updates as we continue.

Ethical Implications on Data Rights in the Future

Having just moved to Austin it felt like a right of passage to check out Austin City Limits. I’m not one for big crowds, but I did it regardless. I purchased my ticket via their online platform and waited for it to arrive in the mail. Upon receipt I got a rather colorful wristband, with a chip inside. Alongside it were instructions to plug my credit card information in for easy checkout at the festival, less lines, more time… Our recent discussions in AC4D’s newest ethics class really got me thinking.

For my presentation this week I wanted to imagine the AC4D class of 2020 at South by Southwest 2030. A future Austin, full of even more bike lanes and driverless cars, scooters are more commonplace and hopefully safer than ever. I imagine our class is in full swing of the massive event. Ride-sharing, purchasing, and swiping our way through the event. This new cashless experience at south by is nothing out of the ordinary in future Austin. My classmates and I have our financial information, government identification, and personal information baked into our personal devices. These devices grant us access to and from venues, enable us to purchase things, and allow us to verify our identity at event check-in’s. It’s simple, it’s seamless, it’s easy.

future austin

South by Southwest comes to an end, and we’re back to normalcy. People return to work, fly home, and continue school.

Just a week later the SXSW servers have been hacked and we get the email. Your data has been compromised. Our banking, government and personal information has been hacked and is out and amongst the dark forces of the internet to use it at will. What do you do?

I posed the class with the chance to save only one of the three options posed above, and to share a bit about why. No matter what option people choose there are a myriad of things that could prove problematic later down the line with their other pieces of information out in the ether.

General Data Protection Rights are present in Europe and enable a person to know where and why their data is being used or stored. Did anyone signing up for ACL wristbands understand where and why their data is being stored?

Is There HOPE for HOPE Farmer’s Market?

Learning design methodology is a lot about trusting the process. When gathering data, it is not clear what will come of it. When patterns emerge, it is not clear if they matter.

Our project with HOPE Farmers Market was the first design project that Leah, Dan, and I have embarked on, and it has been a learning experience for all of us. This week, we were really excited to get to the why.

Throughout our first quarter at AC4D we developed a research plan and began interviewing with as many folks involved with the market we could speak with, eventually reaching 17. Our goal by having these conversations with people from the market helped us to see patterns.
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Surrounded by intense amounts of utterances at the studio we whittled down our data into more refined themes. We then moved to the service slicing portion of our research to further dissect conversations we had to make sense of the data line by line.
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Our insights:

Design insights are breakthroughs that reveal behavior patterns and drive bold decisions. Insights tell us not just what people do and when, but why.

We started with what we know:

The Vendor Experience
For vendors, the fee to get into HOPE market is low, and with this low barrier to entry attracts vendors with little experience. Vendors are paying HOPE to provide access to customers , currently the market is unable to provide an adequate amount of customers that come to the market.

A story we found compelling was from a longstanding vendor; Janet. Janet has a strong customer base and makes some fantastic juice. However, Janet’s story goes far beyond her product. Coming from the caribbean Janet is a single mother who started her business not just out of passion, but out of need. She was approaching a divorce and knew additional income was needed to support her child. Janet works full time in the mental health field but pours passion into her juice recipe, which she inherited from her grandmother. She saw her juice as an extension of her heritage, that she brings to market and benefits from. However, with the uncertainty of traffic that HOPE receives she realizes she could make more elsewhere.

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The Customer Experience
Customers of HOPE FM expect to see an abundance of fruit and vegetables, it being a farmers market and all. However, that’s not exactly what’s present in the market today. We heard from a variety of customers who were confused by the experience. We had loyal customers seeking their favorite item, which wasn’t there on any given Sunday. We spoke with someone who used to attend Mueller market but moved into the neighborhood and found the market to be sad. Something that isn’t being fulfilled. The market lacks actual produce, there is plenty of expensive snacks and an array of friendly faces, however this doesn’t entirely satiate the expectation of fruits and vegetables people have been bred to expect at a market.

People want to be a part of something that is thriving, not something that asks them to suspend their expectations about their imagined experience. In a society where “the customer is always right”, HOPE does not prioritize them.

These vendor and customer insights brought us to our problem statement; By calling this a farmers market, there is an inherent value promise being made and broken to the customers and the vendors.

We’ve synthesized several appropriate options for the market’s potential future. We realize that if the market is going the direction that is has been, there is no hope for its future. It is suffering and dying. It would be a viable option to simply let it run it’s full course and die. We are, however, aware that as design thinkers, generating alternative options is essential to our ability to provide value to their situation. So we have been working to take a step back and assess the larger picture that HOPE operates within.

We’ve been working closely with market leadership and have cultivated some real relationships. However, as our research and narrative around this project continues we can’t help but address the massive shift that’s happening in the area surrounding the market at Plaza Saltillo. Austin is weird, there’s no doubt about it. However it seems to be getting harder and harder to find weird along 6th street amongst the changing East Austin scene.

HOPE farmer’s market was housed in an abandoned artist’s warehouse not far from its current location, ten years ago. East Austin was a drastically different place then, with a high crime rate, and not nearly as many shiny condos in view. The condo’s that surround Plaza Saltillo house thousands of new-to-Austin residents and an entirely different lifestyle than the homes that surround it.

The entire neighborhood is growing and changing at a pace unmatched by any other city in the nation right now. The challenges this small market faces are in part, societal. If the market wants to be successful going forward you need to understand who the people are who are the new majority of residents in the neighborhood.

The competitive environment in which the market lives enables an exciting new space for the market to operate in. The concrete proof of growth in the area is changing the narrative of old Austin. We want to find out how the business’ of old have integrated into the community and find out what is working for them.

Here is what we want to know and who we would want to talk to in going forward with rebirthing HOPE in its new contextualized environment:

What do other old businesses do in this area? They didn’t all die, how have they survived?
Who lives in this neighborhood now? What do they want? What are the needs of the community that need to be met now?
It’s a controversial but time for change for the neighborhood’s economy and culture. We want to better understand what this means for businesses in East Austin in general.
What are some ways that budding entrepreneurs are being supported in Austin? What are the gaps in the current offerings?

Parent’s Please! – AC4D Capstone Research Project

Hey there,

My name is Dan and I am a current student at the Austin Center for Design (AC4D). For the next 8 weeks my team mate Ana and I want to learn more about financial inclusion. We’re interested in learning more about the day to day lives of parents and how they operate in today’s world. We we want to hear the stories only a parent can offer! Car seats, formula, and child-care are a few different things I don’t account for in my budget that’s for sure.

JUST partnered with AC4D to find other communities they can serve and to understand how other communities behave when it comes to financial inclusion.

JUST is a non-profit organization whose mission is to invest in low-income, female entrepreneurs to create more resilient communities throughout America. Through their work they create a more just world where people have the chance to live with less stress and more joy. To further their mission JUST wants to change the narrative around the potential of low-income communities to be their own change agents. JUST provides loans exclusively based on trust to female, Spanish-speaking, entrepreneurs.

We are looking to focus on non-traditional families and how they decide, navigate, and communicate financial decisions and division of labor within their home. Children limit a parent’s ability to work, there is a constraint on the actual amount of money a parent is able to bring in due to having less time.

We are looking to learn more about non-traditional families and how they decide, navigate, and communicate financial decisions and division of labor within their home. Having a child limits a parent’s ability to work, there is a constraint on the actual amount of money a parent is able to bring in due to having less time. Non-traditional in regards to our research means we’re looking to hear from single parents, LGBTQ parents, or families where the female is the primary income earner.

We need help connecting with parent participants! If you or someone you know may be interested in chatting with us, please reach out to to get in touch. Your perspective is incredibly valuable and will ultimately help in designing solutions for this unique group of people.

As students working with a nonprofit, we appreciate your willingness to help both us and our community.

Dan O’Halloran & Ana Toca

Designing With Addiction’s In Mind

Through facilitating this exercise in ethics I was able to cultivate an understanding of my small design team. I posed questions for discussion to identify addictions people have faced in their personal life. We talked about spending too much time on instagram, to stalking ex boyfriends, to smoking. I strived to construct a discussion that highlighted personal experience to addictive behaviors that are implemented in services we use throughout our daily lives. We talked about overcoming our own addictions with things and feeling good about them, behaviors that had been construct that weren’t conducive to our well being, ultimately realized, and later deconstructed to live a healthier and happier life. Unfortunately we can’t always remove the addictive patterns engrained in our phone applications and other services that we use to make our lives easier.

We talked about establishing our values as a team to design for good. We created a discussion around self-awareness, meaningful connections, and good health. Self awareness brought people time and control of their day. Meaningful connections meant not swiping left and right on an app that claims to be designed to meet people, but to have a pleasant interaction while waiting in line. A healthier and happier life meant being able to go for a run and breathe clearly, instead of itching for something that does you more harm than good.

We brought our discussion towards prevalent services and organizations that capitalize from addictive behaviors. I posed two questions after developing our set of values the first was “Why Do Users Come To The Product Or Service In The First Place? followed by “How Can We Change an Organization’s Value?”. It’s easy to highlight the things that are wrong on an individual level, but putting minds together to work towards an actionable goal is far more beneficial in the design process. We brainstormed and white boarded through a myriad of solution spaces. Something that came to mind was changing the revenue stream or model of these services to better provide for their users. To developing check-in boxes in opposition to infinite play loops on video websites.

I hope to add more visual cues to explain my facilitation process in the coming days, but I truly found identifying with my team to have been extremely important in further the discussion around a hard topic. Addiction’s are tough, no matter what they are. It became clear and important that it’s important to recognize our own in order to better benefit the services and things we’re designing for.

If You’re Not Digitally Ready, Will You Be Digitally Robbed?

As we delved into patterns in design in the initial weeks of quarter two here at the Austin Center for Design an experience at a job I had came to mind. I hope you’ll read on to hear my story and learn as to how these patterns and your own experiences with systems can prove to be essential tools for a more moral framework.

I worked at a publication company that had a massive user base. The encyclopedias were in classroom’s all over the country, used for collegiate level research and even utilized by government agencies. This company had been putting a lot of focus on their digital platform and services. Through rapid expansion into the digital sphere things grew rather quickly, and from my view without much thought. In turn this once beneficial organization created a mess of a pay-per-use service that clients had no idea they were signing up for. Signed up for the free trial and didn’t cancel within the appropriate time frame? Too bad! The company clearly stated in tiny text at the bottom of the page that you had a seven-day window to opt out. How would a deduction of 120 dollars feel on your bank account as a broke student doing research? Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 5.45.34 PM

My day’s at work were filled with responding to questions via email for refunds from students who did not know what they were being billed for. I heard from confused elderly persons who didn’t quite understand where they could opt out of the service, they didn’t even know they signed up for anything at times. They explained that they wanted to access the information online and inputting their billing information was simply a step for them to do so. I even recall a conversation from a woman who had just found out after three years that she had been paying for the service, as her son needed credible and citable source for a school project years ago.

This robbed these people of their time and their money. Whereas my role in speaking with these people provided me with a steady paycheck, on company time. I couldn’t help but feel conflicted at the end of my days explaining why this happened over and over again. This dark pattern I identified through direct experience as a customer service representative early on has stuck with me and become a vital tool in my toolkit. My entire role was to try and make a system that abused peoples trust, trustworthy again. It was cyclical and unhealthy. This service was excluding people who were unable to digest the “read between the lines” approach to providing a service. These users wanted to learn from a credible source, not be taken advantage of.

These people were being taken advantage of and according to some of the insightful readings in 2C I was able to see who I was speaking with on a day to day basis at this job in hindsight.

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Ethics to me is something that comes through one’s own experience. I’ve been putting things in and taking things out of my “ethical toolkit” for some time now. It’s in this quarter’s ethic’s class where formal construction is taking place and being talked about thoroughly with good intention.

It’s here where I’ve been able to assess what I want to bring to a future project. Do I want to carry a mindset driven by sales and growth? Or a mentally sound frame of reasoning and inclusion that supports a product or service. This experience at said company was something I’ve seen over and over again throughout other professions and stories. It’s something that I’ll always use to test my framework behind something I’m helping design.

An Improved Intellectual Toolkit

No designer’s toolkit is truly empty.

Throughout quarter one I’ve experienced a massive shift in how I’ve had to behave, think, and analyze. The term thrown in the deep end doesn’t even come close to how this program has worked in my experience. I’ve struggled a great deal in theory with the terminology used around design. The walls constructed around design in some of these readings I found entirely unnecessary. Some of these readings have been thick, and difficult to digest. At times I’ve felt better diving into the dictionary for readable material….

However, as we wrap up our theory course I now see the value in the readings we were presented with, most especially these unit four readings. Something that the readings before these have not explored was a space for inclusivity. I believe that design can be used to benefit humankind and should be accessible to all. I did my best to interweave the readings that spoke to me throughout my own experiences. After our last presentation our teacher, Scott, posed to me several questions that I could get much more value out of than the rubric that was presented to us.

The questions were;
What are the questions I am asking?
What are criteria I see for decision making?
What new intellectual tools have I picked up?

I start out my writing to with a story and photo about my voyage to Australia. I took this photograph north of Newcastle whilst “duning” with two friends of mine. The photo captures a woman with a board that we used to slide down massive hills of sand on. The photo represents what I think to be a common view of Australia, a beach, a board, a truck, and the ocean in the distance. I was sold on going to Australia for work from these friends of mine. I heard things about how easy it was to find a job, with an economy that strong, I could get a fruit picking job by just showing up somewhere. This to me, now sounds like the instagram version of my experience. What you might see on the surface is not exactly what is going on in reality….
My second photo contains a blurred view of a dog chomping on the leg of a kangaroo. This was my reality of Australia. Several months in Surat, Queensland in the middle of nowhere on a cattle ranch feeding the dogs and herding cattle. As I looked through my photos, I thought of defining the problem space I encountered abroad. This seemed to me like an ill structured problem I had created for myself. I was knee deep in a problem space that had no simple solution. There was no eject button.

A quote that spoke to me from Chris Pacione’s reading was “I’ll go a step further and say that design is like reading, writing, and arithmetic, something everyone should do, everyone can and should be taught to do, and many are starting to do.” I share the photo below of a child learning how to assemble a laser cut lamp I helped construct during my time at a fabrication lab in Spain. We held an open house, and all were welcome to assemble the flat cardboard lamp into a functioning 3-dimensional lamp in a matter of minutes! It’s activities like these that solidify my belief that design really is for all, it’s just a matter of how one is able to digest it.

Jocelyn Wyatt stated that “ One of the biggest impediments to adopting design thinking is fear of failure. I did my best to convey my failures above and in class. I’ve tried many “professions” and given career paths a go, however nothing has seemed to stick. The last two years I was able to participate in the construction of a temporary city in the Black Rock Desert two hours north of Reno, Nevada. I worked amongst a team of people who construct the Burning Man event. Essentially we’re posed with no guidance, only a single GPS point, to create a grid to house 70,000 participants. I feel my experience here relates to Richard Buchanan’s explanation of design is for all.

I reached a point where I’m able to understand and digest the readings in unit 4. I’m walking away from theory excited about being able to finally digest these readings. It took a long time but I feel confident about my newfound abilities in design literacy.