Prototyping Everyday Chef

This week’s assignment was to create a prototype of a mobile application for our business/service that we developed two weeks ago. We created this prototype using rough sketchs called wireframes that would illustrate the basic features and functionality of each screen.

For those not following this blog religiously, last week we were given the task of coming up with a business idea based on research we had conducted thus far at farmer’s markets and other food related sites. We then competed against one another  in a business pitch battle where we talked about our ideas with random people at the Farmer’s Market and had them select the business they would put their money on. I lost.

To quickly summarize my business idea, I would like to create a platform that allows people to sell and share food with their friends and neighbors. Users will create profiles that identify what they can cook, and then post meals or foods they would like to share or sell to individuals in their network. This network can either be anyone living nearby  or just friends. People that are hungry and don’t want to cook can use this platform to see what food/meals are available and buy or share them.

In my preliminary prototype sketches, I started mapping out what a user profile screens would look like. I quickly realized the first thing I had to do was create a series of login screens that would get users set up in within the network. This proved to be harder than I initially thought.

To test the prototype I asked three random people to walk though my sketches then grade me on the following questions, “How easy was it to use?” “How intuitive was it to use?” “How informed to you feel about the purpose of the app” and “What would you change?”

The two key takeaways were: easy and intuitive are pretty much the same thing and less is more. During the login sequence, the feedback I was consistently given was to pair down the information required of the user and leave the majority of personal preferences to be set once a user had already created their profile.

Below is a video of my final user test.

For a PDF of all prototype screens click here: Everyday Chef Prototpye



Business Pitches at the Farmer's Market

This week’s assignment for our studio class was to come up with a business model based on research we have done thus far. To test our ideas we went to the Farmer’s Market and had a business pitch competition.

6 students, 9 pitches, one winner.

Congratulations to a Ms. Jamie Karakowiak, next time you’re going down!

PowerPoint presentation of my idea is below.


A call to re-contextualize "design-with" thinking

Ethnography is a qualitative research method birthed in the social sciences that seeks to obtain a thick description and deep understanding of a particular group of people. In the social sciences, ethnography includes but is not limited to: immersing oneself in the culture that is being studied, open-ended interview sessions using tactile activities, and analysis and observation of literature, films and other art forms deemed significant by said culture . 

Over the past four decades, the design community, seeing value in this form of research, has sought to use and modify ethnographic methods to better understand the users they are designing for. Designers have transitioned from producing something based solely on intuition, to rigorous ethnographic research prior to ideation and development of products, to co-creation where users are involved in the beginning, middle and end of the design process. The increasing list of methods where users are directly involved in the creative process have been put by the design community under the umbrella term of “design with.” This term is appropriate especially when juxtaposed with another method of design, “design for” where users are not involved during the creative process.

Practitioners of “design-with” can be found in Emily Piloton’s Project H design firm located in rural North Carolina. Piloton asserts that in order to “design-with” the designer must be “present, in a place, and part of the [end user’s] community.” Other examples include Christopher La Dantec’s work with urban computing and urban homless, and Bill Gaver’s cultural probes.

Because of rising prominence of these and other practitioners, design-with, especially among the design for social good community, has been elevated to being the “holy grail” of all design methods. It is viewed as that which both empowers the end user while simultaneously eliminating the possibility of designing some atrocity that will make a mess of everything. This is evident in the starry-eyed discussions held by idealistic design students and by the prevalence of featuring design-with practitioners in media such as TED talks, the reality-TV-show equivalent for socially conscious geeks. This elevation of design-with is unmerited. 

To illustrate our point, we can look at one of the examples cited previously, Project H Design. One of Project H’s projects is Studio H, “a public high school “design/build” program based in Bertie County, NC, that sparks rural community development through real-world, built projects.” Whether Studio H has had an impact  is irrelevant. In fact it probably has experienced and will continue to experience great success. However, it is important that we as a design community recognize that even a model as poetically beautiful as Studio H is still massively influenced, possibly even negatively influenced, by the designers who created the curriculum, teach the classes and assist with development. This is not so much a flaw in methodology but an acknowledgement of an inherent truth that we have stereotypes and preferences that we bring into everything we touch. While there are things we can do to try and minimize the influence of these biases, they still exist and present themselves at some point in anything we create or “co-create.”

So where does that leave us? Does this render design-with methods useless? The answer is a resounding, “NO.” Design-with methods are invaluable at developing insight and empathy that can act as great fodder for innovation and at the same time provide an empowering experience for the end-user. However, it is important that we, as socially conscious designers re-contextualize design-with. Instead of being the epitome of design methods, design-with is an umbrella term used to describe a specific subset of ethnographic tools. It is one of many ways of understanding users, and can sometimes guard against creating something awful. However, the harm or power of designers cannot be harnessed for good by any one particular method. Instead, we as designers need to always approach problems with a posture of humility while not being afraid to trust the gut intuition that enables us to make abductive leaps that can lead to revolutionary innovation.

-Ben Franck and Jonathan Lewis

Contextual Inquiry at the H.O.P.E Farmer's Market

Cheyenne and I did our first contextual inquiry this past Sunday at the H.O.P.E. Farmer’s Market. After reviewing our video footage, I feel it’s safe to say that we are the Batman and Robin equivalent of contextual interviewers (I am Batman, in case you were wondering).

In all seriousness, it was a great experience for both of us, and a big shout out to the folks at Johnson’s Backyard Garden who were gracious enough to let us film them for a few hours.

We chose the H.O.P.E farmer’s market and Johnson’s Backyard Garden because we were both interested in the relationship that food has with community eating, and lifestyle choices. Because farmer’s markets are not only linked to the consumption of healthy food but also a space for community connection and cultural exploration we thought it would be a great place to start. Our specific focus was on the point of transaction between the farmer’s market vendor and the consumer. We felt this would give us an event discrete enough for some great flow diagram action but rich enough to provide insight into various biopsychosocial* components of locally growing, buying and consuming fruits and vegetables.

We’re looking forward to seeing what comes of it!



*Biopsychosocial is typically a term used in medicine and psychology. The biopsychosocial model is a way of conceptualizing the various factors that play into human illness and disease at the individual and collective level; biologicial, psychological, and social. It was first coined by psychiatrist George Engel. Even though the most common usage of the word may not directly apply to design-thinking, when put in context with Richard Buchanan’s definition of wicked problems it is another efficient way to describe various complex factors that play into experience, interaction and choice.

Ben's Story and My Process

Benjamin D. Franck (I’m not sure if his middle name really starts with a D), is a super interesting dude. Prior to coming to AC4D he worked for a non-profit in Canada that served the homeless. From scratch, he created a data management system for multiple service sites that ended up tremendously helping both the organization’s clients and employees. While there, he was also able to create awesome augmented reality visuals during some of the organizations’ experiential marketing efforts.

As part of our studio class’ focus on telling stories, I interviewed Ben and synthesized the information I gathered to ultimately create my own version of Ben’s brand statement. Below is a description of my process.

Step 1: Interview Ben at…

While it may seem like a strange choice for an interview location, especially since this year’s AC4D humanitarian focus is food, Popeye’s chicken is damn good and I hoped the absurdity of a fast food chain would create a fun interview environment.

During the interview, my goal was to have Ben talk or reminisce about something that really made him smile. I felt that in order to create an authentic brand I had to get beyond the technical or specific talk of what he was interested in (I already had a pretty good understanding of this) and find some anecdote that showed Ben’s heart and personality.

Step 2: Create a romanticized character sketch

All good brands have some sort of inherent drama. To find the drama in Ben’s brand I created a character sketch much like an author would do before writing a play or a novel. My character sketch was really inspired by the part of the interview where Ben talked about his first computer.

Step 3: Write Ben’s brand statement

After creating the character sketch and watching the interview a few more times, I sat down to write Ben’s brand statement. This step was more fluid than the previous steps (a nice way of saying messy). There were many iterations or as Anne Lamott would call them shitty first drafts, and lots of sticky notes containing key points, characteristics, metaphors and half-baked ideas. Ultimately, I arrived at the brand statement below. Ben, I hope this is helpful…

My name is Ben and I want to use technology to change how those in need experience life. Yes, this slightly nebulous, partly because given enough time I feel that I can create just about anything. Ultimately what differentiates me from other people with similar skill sets is my story and my heart. I was born in the 80’s and can’t remember life without a computer. My dad repaired electronics and I remember being five or six and messing around with old desktop models. When our family bought our first computer it had very basic programming software which I taught myself. I used to tell my friends that I could make my own video games, and when they told me to put my code where my mouth was I had to run home and throw something together. Usually the games were stupid, but technically they were video games, so I felt like I won. The first time I witnessed how technology could be used to change someone was during the summer I was part of church drama troupe. I was in charge of all things audio-visual. Looking back, I’m not sure if I agree with all that we were “selling,” but nonetheless seeing how a few lines of code could cause something to fundamentally change in a kids life was powerful. My life has never been the same since.



I am vs. I am about…

You have to move from “I am” to “I am about.”

This was the sound bite I took away from last week’s studio as we discussed our personal brands.

“What am I about?”

This is a tough question because I want my answer to be something that is super concrete and directly leads to a job that will provide the type of security where I know I will never have to move in with my parents.

To try to wrap my head around what it is that I am about, I made sticky notes with pictures on them. Since my handwriting hasn’t changed since the second grade and I am still perfecting my sketching skills, I turned the sticky notes into a video. Big thanks to the band SUNBEARS! from Jacksonville, Florida, for letting me use their song Fingerbumps and Gumdrops as epic background music.

After bathing in sticky notes for another week I came up with a revised brand statement (below).

My name is Jonathan Lewis. I am about asking questions, discovering purpose, affecting change and occasionally making people smile. To me it’s more important to deeply know what you want to do, why you want to do it, and whether the answers to those two questions are contributing to making things better. I try to bring this ethos to whatever I do. Inherent to this rather ethereal passion of mine is a belief that most people, including the satisfied, the oppressed, the oblivious or even the asleep want something better, they want real change. Sometimes all it takes is a question to wake us up.



Hey man, what's your brand?

Refining the Jonathan Lewis (that’s me) brand has been interesting to say the least. After a Klout score of 10, it will definitely be a challenge to improve my reach/influence (my goal is a score of 30 or higher in the next 56 days). This past week, I’ve been combining intense periods of introspection with bouts of re-tweeting like nobody’s business and searching for the perfect websites and twitter handles to keep tabs on. Below is a summary of my top revelations and discoveries…

My brand statement:

Always in search of the perfect question to ask, Jonathan brings a sense of humor and a healthy dose of skepticism to his passion for deeply knowing the world around him while dreaming up ways to change life for the better…

I arrived at this rather long sentence after sitting in front of my computer for two hours staring at virtual sticky notes of words that describe Jonathan. See below for a picture of the sticky notes arranged to spell a secret message to my classmates and professors (I’ll give y’all a hint…HI!!!!!).

Top ten websites and twitter handles to follow:

  1. @BrainPicker: Maria Popova, curator of the blog Brain Pickings. Great for creative and vocational inspiration as well as wasting time.
  2. @SportsGuy33: Even if you don’t like sports you can’t deny its influence on our world. Bill Simmons is an excellent sports-writer whose interview rolodex includes non-athletes such as Chuck Klosterman and Jason Reitman.
  3. @AJEnglish: Al Jazeera’s English Feed. Helps me stay somewhat up to speed on the ever-changing world that is the Middle East.
  4. DesignMind: Desires to ingratiate myself with the folks at Frog Design aside, this is an excellent blog for all things design, business and technology.
  5. Osocio: Blog highlighting social marketing and non-profit campaigns. Even though many of the campaigns and organizations featured are in my opinion not effective, it’s a great place to learn about a variety of different NGO’s.
  6. NPR.Org: Another favorite news site.
  7. Great blog showcasing the latest on the intersection of technology and social good.
  8. WoosterCollective.Com: I have a soft spot in my heart for street art.
  9. Great site for those interested in organic farming/gardening.
  10. Collaborative consumption is the shiznit and so is this website.

For the full list of twitter handles, find me on twitter and search for my “top” list.

For a full list of websites vist my posterous site.

And yes, I am using you to increase my Klout score.

-Jonathan Lewis



how look smart in school & the intellectualization of design

(Picture by Dunechaser, "Bill Gates," downloaded via flickr 9/6/11, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I really like being thought of as intelligent; you could even say I “idolize” being thought of as intelligent. Because I often find myself in situations where I am talking with people who are much smarter than me about a topic I have a very cursory understanding of (e.g. the first few days at AC4D), I have come up with several tactics to position myself as one of the “smart-ones” in whatever situation I find myself in…

  1. Wear glasses as often as possible. Note, sunglasses don’t count and are in fact a recipe for disaster. While they can make you look like a badass from the matrix, they oftentimes suggest laziness.
  2. Make sure people see you recycle, extra points for asking if there is a compost bin around. Smart people care about the environment and are very intentional about their waste.
  3. Shower regularly…enough said.
  4. Use small references to classic literature in casual conversation. Be careful when doing this, as one can sound like a dummy if people are not familiar with the plot line or artifact you are referencing. A good rule of thumb is to stick to books on the reading list for public school English classes – these rarely change. This will ensure that people are familiar with the reference but rarely remember enough of about the novel to call your bluff. One of my favorites is the Lord of the Flies “conch shell” reference: “Oh sorry I interrupted you, pass me the conch shell when you are done.”)
  5. Take a chance and make up words by adding suffixes like “ism” and “ize” to the end of words you’re not sure actually exist. This is a win-win situation. Either the word you choose actually does exist, or people think you are intentionally making up a word to better describe what you are talking about.

Feel free to comment below on other tricks of the trade to assert oneself as an expert in new situations.

On a more serious note, I have enjoyed all I have learned and experienced thus far at AC4D. One of the topics  that I look forward to thinking/talking about is the affect of the “Intellectualization of Design” (is intellectualization a real word?…I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, see tactic #5 above).

From what I have read so far, it appears over the past 10 years the profession/discipline of design and in-particular interaction design have popularized words like abductive reasoning, synthesis and ideation within industry vernacular in order to describe processes that occur internally, subconsciously or organically. This is to serve multiple purposes, two of which are: to make ideas and thoughts public allowing for greater collaboration and to provide justification for new ideas.

While I think intellectualization can oftentimes be a good thing, I’m curious if there could be negative consequences. In looking at some of the disciplines that have made their way to the top of the ivory tower of academia such as psychology, biology and mathematics one can see that intellectualization can sometimes lead to separation and irrelevance as understanding and keeping a pulse on the literature of disciplines is difficult and time consuming.  In many cases disciplines and professions oftentimes have “diplomats,” or more commonly referred to as “consultants” that can act as a bridge between the trenches of discipline related-literature and the outside world.

So in applying design thinking to design literature (as well as literature of other disciplines), what does user-centered writing and presenting look like?

More to thoughts to come…

-Jonathan Lewis, @jtomylew