How We Arrived At Comedy As A Concept

Understanding Civic Engagement

It is our understanding that voting, volunteering and being a sustainable member within neighborhoods and communities are all ways that residents can give their voice back, find resources for aid, and lean on their community for help in trying times. By focusing on how residents currently participate civically, or if they even do so at all, we can begin to find what problems, if any, residents are experiencing in this area. To do so, my team and I collaborated with the City of Austin Innovation office with the goal of understanding how low income residents articulate their viewpoints towards government and uncover more inclusive ways to enable civic engagement and representation.

We conducted research by speaking with residents in their homes, and in places like libraries and community events that presented opportunities to participate civically. During these immersive activities we heard stories from people like Diego who said, “The government is a kings sport. You need to be wealthy to play.” and people like Ellen who had this to say about interacting with government officials, ”It’s irritating. [people parking on the street] That was one of my concerns I told the councilman but he was like oh yeah I’ll get to it but he never has.”

Ellen@3x

Our team found that residents were hesitant to articulate viewpoints to government, and more than that, they were fencing themselves off from participating civically all together. After speaking in-depth with participant we saw that most residents carried distrust towards, not only government, but other members of their community.

“This is the most convenient spot that the whites let the blacks hold for a while, until they wanted it back.”  -Hancock, long time resident living in East Austin.

 

Absorbing Behavioral Patterns  

We noticed patterns between the stories and observations gathered from our participants, and as we went into synthesis we began to see unfold how the seeds of distrust and barrier to participation were planted.

Diego, who said himself that resident’s needed to be wealthy to participated in government, didn’t actually believe that himself; as he was an activist and has lobbied for and against  issues he cared about with much success. We asked ourselves how was it that this man, a person of low income for many years, managed to break these barriers that we were seeing. When it seemed at first that a resident’s lower economic status had a direct effect on whether they were able to engage.

Our team surmised that, in fact, it wasn’t resident’s lower economic status that was causing them to see no results from participation but the very idea that they perceived that because they were poor they wouldn’t have a voice. When, in fact, in Austin this is largely untrue because large majority of government funding goes to funding programs specifically created to perform outreach towards the lower income communities. However, these programs are struggling to perform outreach because lower income individuals have put up barriers to participating due to their previously stated negative perceptions.

The problem is that lower income residents don’t feel that participating civically is worth their effort because Austin does not value lower income residents as much as they do the wealthy residents. These negative perceptions towards government and community are damaging to the current system because they actually create self perpetuated realities due to lack of representation within the city. Put simply, because residents feel they don’t get equal representation they don’t  participate; and because theydon’t participate they don’t get equal representation.

After understanding that we couldn’t shape the way residents think and behave right off we asked ourselves how might we change the ways in which members of the community participate so that negative feelings towards interacting within local civics shifts towards greater connection and sociability.

Artboard 11@3x

What are ways we can change the way people participate? How do we shift the negative feelings about civic engagement into become feelings of belonging and sociability?

 

Using Humor To Shift Perceptions

We asked ourselves are their organizations and designs already doing this? Are their things happening right now that we can replicate or gain insights from? Yes, and many use humor as a way to communicate political and communal messages in a positive manner.

A big thing we are seeing in the world is the emergence of political comedy. (The Daily Show; Last Week Tonight With John Oliver; The Colbert Report) Our culture is more open to the idea of mixing politics and comedy than ever before. The idea that we can shift how we view a certain topic by the form it’s communicate lead our team to ask: What participating civically and getting involved was fun? What if it was something people did because they enjoyed it and not because of necessity or moral obligation.

Comedy can have a powerful effect on how people absorb and evaluate contrary or new information, and nowadays is often used as a communication tool to inform and engage without adhering to the same negative perception of the current system of political and communal topics.

civic night@3x

We began testing a concept that involved a weekly event at neighborhood bars consisting of information and entertainment based on civic affairs and political topics. The idea was that by gathering people in casual bar setting for a night of local political trivia, topical comedy, and civically centered conversation people could engage civically while having fun with neighbors and other members of the community. Our assumption was that by offering an alternative to typical forms of getting involved residents would be far more willing for discussions with their community and local officials.

 

Testing Interest In The Concept   

It was our assumption that people would be interested in this concept as a possible solution, and would be willing to participate in pilot type event at some point. Our first experiment consisted of creating a website landing page with informative content about our concept and measuring how many email subscribers we could get within a seven day period. We surmised that in order for the experiment to be successful we needed to get greater than 25 email sign ups on our website landing page. Within twelve hours 25 people provided an email address and at the conclusion of the seven day period we had received over 77 subscriptions.

Webiste Civic Night

Testing Concept Format and Expectations

Before we went to prototyping the concept for a pilot test we still needed to understand what format people felt was best suited for this type of concept. A big thing that we found is people equated it towards daily show and last week tonight, both shows that mix humor and politics that don’t require much active participation from the users. So, our next step was to test to see if people would actually attend a live event. We looked for signals from user centered participatory activities that suggested our participants preferred the concept to come in the form of a live event.

In this experiment, we hoped to understand what people found attractive about Civic Night with the hopes of co-creating our pilot with them. We explored what they expect the night to feel like with regards to the place, the atmosphere, and the content. We wanted to know what residents hope to achieve by participating, what format they wanted it to be in, how much they wanted to participate, and what they hoped to gain through participating in this event.

We spoke with 27 people to test the format of the concept and their expectations based on four separate variations of the concept with scenario hero flows played out in each format. We focused the experiment on speaking to people who were middle or lower income.

drea@3x

We held an in-depth interview with one individual. She performed an act of placing thoughtful image stimuli into categories of topics to be covered, format, environment, style and personality, type of participation, sentiment, and what she hoped to achieve by participating. We then did ad hoc participatory interviews, wherein customers reviewed the formats (comedy show, salon,  trivia, radio show) and were asked to think out loud as they went through the scenario flows.

Josh, Maria, Scott Presentation_ Civic Night (3)

The experiment indicated that a majority prefered a live show over other formats, and having it be delivered in a comedy show format with an interactive component that sparks community engagement. The only measure that wasn’t conclusive was the type of venue for this event. We inferred through behavioral patterns that most didn’t want it to be in a bar, but many felt they would expect it in a community center, brewery, or typical comedy venue.

 

Designing The Minimal Viable Product

We felt that after this last round of experiments our team had enough positive feedback to start prototyping a minimal viable product for testing. To do that we first needed to see if we could actually mix comedy and local civics and still have them be funny and effective at informing. Several comedians in the Austin area agreed to take part in co-creation sessions with us to see what was possible in their eyes as far as crafting this material. Through these sessions we concluded that crafting these jokes would take a great amount of time and effort on their part which meant more compensation. This lead our team to compromise our creative control for the pilot testing which in turn made us rethink what our minimal viable product could be.

The fact that we couldn’t pay comedians to write original material, combining local civics and humor, was something we didn’t account for. In order for our concept to work it needed to address the question, “how might we change the ways we participate so that perceptions towards articulating viewpoints and interacting within community shifts towards greater connection and sociability.”

We needed to find new ways in which we could have our event mix comedy and local civics without relying solely on our comedians.

After weeks of synthesis activities and ideations we used service design tools to map out a service blueprint and customer journey map to understand how to design for each touchpoint within the night. We prototyped interactive concepts like conversation cards, community games, informative stickers and artifacts, and we brought on outside civic organizations like The League of Women Voters and Open austin to provide actionable engagement activities (registering people to vote, signing up people to volunteer) during the event. The comedians were still apart of our pilot, however, we understood that by not having creative control over what their jokes were the success of our pilot needed to be on how the event itself mixed humor and civics.

TO

Testing With People

We devise ways to test our pilot and each touch point within the event through a contextual survey, tally sheets for each booth to measure conversion rates from approaching the booth to actively engaging, a sparkline sheet, and qualitative contextual research done during the event with two seperate participants.

Feedback

At this point we have yet to completely process our data from the pilot, however from an initial debrief our team has surmised that from our tally sheets from each civic booth that we were able to create actionable civic engagement from our participants.

Pulse of Austin: 24 Interactions; 14 Beta User Sign Up; 58% conversion

League of Women Voters: 12 interactions; 9 registered to vote – 75% conversion

Open Austin: 20 interactions: 10 signed up to volunteers – 50% conversion

A Functional Democracy: 15 interactions; 10 signed up for book – 67% conversion

Our team continues to process feedback from our pilot and going forward we plan on following up with participants to perform qualitative research so we can better improve the service design and experience of the event. We cannot, at this time, say whether this pilot test was a success or not. However, it is the feeling of our team that this concept has weight and merit given that we were able to bring over 90 people into this unique experience. It was purposefully not an ideal state. We feel that going forward we cannot iterate on many of the concepts and begin finding new ways to minimize the risk of creating original content for the comedians.

 

Going Forward

In conclusion, our shortcomings came from not thinking forward on crafting these original jokes, however we found new ways to combine local civics and humor that proved effective on a smaller scale. Next step  are finding new ways to measure and test future events, designing better interactions for follow up testing, and ways to reduce time and effort of planning entire events.

Designers Are Just Doctors With Different Tech

What limits what we (as designers) can imagine?

 

To answer that we have to defamiliarize ourselves from the constructs of profession and what a “Designer” truly is. I’ll do this by focusing on a separate but equally relevant profession. Doctors.

 

Far back to when doctors first came around they didn’t start off by calling themselves doctors, they were just people that healed other people. The idea that someone would call themselves a doctor was far fetched. They served a purpose and they identified by that purpose.

 

It was through that overwhelming purpose and identity that these people started to think up new ways to better heal people. They started to think outside the box and they invented new tools and technology that allowed them to perform healing practices much easier. These radical innovations changed the field. People began to view these people as miracle workers. They became saints ordained by holy means to do things that normal people couldn’t comprehend. However, in actuality they were the same type of people that came before. They were just people who healed other people. It was only through the innovative technology that they were able to transcend this identity and become more than that.

 

“I don’t believe that new needs have been created,” says Charles Purdy, senior editor for Monster.com “We’ve just created new ways and adopted new technologies to get them done.”

 

Fast forward to healing becoming a global industry. The rise of these innovations create power and influence and these once called healers become what we know as doctors and with the adoption of this new identity comes a sense of tribalism. These “Doctors” stop identify as people who heal people and instead become people who use these radical forms of technology and procedure to heal people. They start to lose their human centered approach and stop creating new and innovative ways to heal.

 

“The problem with healthcare is that doctor’s are a stage 3 (of 5) tribe, a group of people who think, “I am great and you are not.” -Dave Logan

 

The profession begins to be more about being a doctor than it is about helping people. These once radical innovations couple with adoption have poisoned these people into thinking they are so powerful, and none of them want to give up that power by taking a risk to think laterally. Instead, most doctors nowadays are taught how to do something a certain way and anyone who tries to think or do it another way is deemed as unfit or unqualified. So we are left with an industry full of people who claim to heal people, but are actually just relying on past healers innovations and methods. They are not adapting as healers did in the past, and eventually our culture of medicine with outgrow them. Meanwhile the patients will continue to suffer.

 

“If you’re and outside the box thinker this doesn’t last long in medical school or residency. The egos of your superiors are too threatened.” Rethinking healthcare, Jay Parkinson M.D.

 

Now take that same narrative and apply it to Designers. Designers started out being people who created experiences. Only recently, within the last fifty years, has the name Designer been used to define this role. IN actuality, anyone can be a designer. Just like anyone can heal people, we as human have untapped knowledge and creativity that allows all of us to create for others. Yet, somehow in the last few years Designers have stopped identifying as people who create things for people and instead focus more on creating things to impress other designers.

 

IDEO, Frog, Google, Apple, are all huge companies that started thinking about how they were going to create something to improve our experiences. However, as we’ve seen with Doctors, success and power from radical innovations in digital technology creates tribalism among designers. Designers may not like hearing it, but we have become just like Doctors, full of ourselves and out of touch with our roots. There are exceptions, yes, but we can see that young designers (like myself and my classmates) are getting out of schools and ultimately ending up at these big companies. We like to think that we aren’t like designers because as Robert Sterling states in his articles Design Fiction, “Design is busily inventing new ways to blows itself up. Taking more risks.”

 

This quote should be changed to, “Design WAS busily inventing new ways to blow itself up.” Now that we’ve  got Chief Design Officers and Creative Directors making big leaps for big companies you’d think we’d be in the perfect place to make actual change. But we’re not. No, we’ve fallen victim to the same hubris that Doctors have. We think that because we have been taught by Designers new ways to think and find problems that we know how  to solve them. We don’t. We could, if we weren’t so busy trying to impress other designers with flashy visuals and high paying jobs with fancy Creative Director titles. What happened to being people that create experiences? When did it stop being about people and start being about us?

 

In 2017 there were over four million apps on the App Store and Google Play combined. In April, 2018 over 24,000 apps were added to Google play (AppBrain.com).

 

Why then are designers telling us that we need to have a digital component in our portfolios? Why, when we present ideas like our civic comedy show MVP do people tell us that it’s not design and it needs to have some digital component? A likely answer is probably that we are not doing a good job at explaining our vision and conveying how much testing and development has gone into the minimal viable product state. However, it often feels like designers have a way of doing things that works right now. Digital products are a radical innovation that came out recently and everyone of us is trying to harness that power while it’s still ours. Yet, most of us are identifying as these digital products. We live in a world of digital decks and presentations where the pretty presentation wins. We identify as our macs, our illustrator, and our digital products because that’s what gave us power. We have take off these blinders and start to imagine new ways to create meaningful experience.  

 

So, what limits what we as designers can imagine?

 

Power. Tribalism. Technology.

 

How do we remove ourselves from these limitations?

 

Get back to the basics. Defamiliarize ourselves with what it means to be a designer. Start using our natural skills and stop relying solely on our digital tools.  

 

Slicing Flows To Ship Minimal Loveable Product

After the developer meetings I had a few weeks ago and putting together our estimates for my  mobile banking application I was instructed to take my mobile banking application redesign wireframes and “Thin Slice” the hero flows in order to ship a minimal viable product.

Artboard 4@3x

Then I was asked to create a product roadmap illustrating which flows I was prioritizing. I created a road map based on the features and components that Chap (the developer I spoke with) gave me estimates for. The estimation to ship for my flows, according to Chap, would take around 127 days. I needed to look at each of my flows and see what I could take out  and still have a functionable and differentiated app.

Road Map@3x

What Could I Live Without?

 

I started by asking myself, “What features I could live without, while still giving the user a great experience?” I wanted to prioritize features that the developers said they could easily do in order to provide the most value up front by not making my developers get burnt out. I rationalized that by having the developers work on the easier and more straightforward parts of the app like navigation and accounts.

 

The main thing was that I needed to ship an app that functioned well at the beginning by doing one or two things really well, rather than trying to work on the more complex things at the beginning and shipping a product that was full of bugs. In my experience, apps that have a lot of errors upon initial release lose a lot of users. There were things like Spending analysis and transaction analysis that I thought the app could live without and actually might be better for in the beginning. I still do feel they are valuable, but having them in the initial shipment would just slow things down and take time away from the core navigation.

 

Prioritized Flows

Artboard 1 copy 4@3x

Login (With Touch ID)

 

I decided to ship the login capabilities as they were first because: 1. I understood that you can’t have a banking app without first logging in; 2. I found that, based on my usability testing, that Touch ID is a huge convenience thing for mobile banking. Many people hate having to continue typing passwords, especially the long passwords that most people have for their banking accounts.

 

Checking Account Balance

 

This flow was especially important because I purposefully designed the app to be minimized for the user by having them be able to navigate within one or two clicks away from the homepage to get to the majority of features within the app. So, having this flow and the components and capabilities developed for this flow to work would be a huge win for the entire app. Basically once this flow is done, I can just get developers to work on quick flows away from the home that, from the conversation I had with Chap, shouldn’t take much time at all.

 

Schedule Payments

 

This is another flow that I didn’t cut much from as it housed many of the core functions needed for future flows. Similar to the Checking Account Balance flow I chose to ship this early and keep most of the features because it was important that the developers create this flow, so when it’s time to create the other Bill pay features they know what works and doesn’t. This way I’ll be able to wireframe taking into account to their preferences.

 

Thin Slices

First Flow@3x

Deposit Checks

 

Many people would say that waiting to ship the Deposit Checks flow until week 7 would be unwise, but I felt that given the core functionality and value that my other flows had that waiting until week 7 was a smart move. For the MVP I also decided to cut certain features like: Edge Detection, Viewfinder Transparent Photo, and OCR – Amount.

 

I chose to cut Edge Detection and Viewfinder Transparent Photo because I felt they were a nice to have in terms of improving the user experience. Most of the users I tested with were intuitive enough to understand how depositing a check works and they relied on prior experience and trying and failing to understand the flow. Most, if not all, went through the paper prototypes fine without the edge detection and some even got confused by the viewfinder transparent photo.

 

I struggled with The OCR – Amount feature (A feature that automatically put amount from check in it’s field by analyzing the checks amount that is written down) because it eliminated so many more steps within the flow, which was a key design principle I had while creating the app. In the end I chose to cut the OCR – Amount feature because I knew I had to pick my battles when working on a banking app. I figured that as long as I can get minimum feature of depositing a check shipping then I can implement improvement later. In the end it might even be a good things because users would be excited later on that they get this new feature.

 

Spending Analysis

 

I cut this because it was initially supposed to be a differentiating feature that would set this new redesign away from most other apps that are out there. After thinking about the MVP and shipping my product I realized that the current app for my credit union is absolutely terrible and just the navigation and simplicity would make it a far better product than is offered currently.

Second Flow@3x

I cut most features within the flow with the exception of the optimized loading feature. This was because Chap told me this was a good way to minimize the times I needed to use an API and by actually have the app work within itself it can reduce security risks. The only reason against working within the app is that it requires a lot of processing power and sometimes takes more time that users are used to. The optimized loading screens would make it so that app can process within and the users will get to see colorful loading screens which will make it so they don’t mind the wait time as much.

 

Transaction Analysis

Artboard 4@3x

I cut this flow and the features within it for the MVP because, much like the Spending Analysis flow I felt like they were a “Nice to Have.” It didn’t provide enough value to the users experience, based on the scenarios I mapped out in quarter two, to include it in a v1 shipment.

 

 

 

Be sure to read my last blog post Communication and The Process of Shipping Products, and feel free to read more of my blog posts from my other projects and class while studying at Austin Center For Design.

 

It’s Not Personal. It’s Just Design.

We are taught as designers that we should not ask the user what they want because, in the words of Henry Ford, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they’d have said faster horses.” I love that quote and to me it sums up the value of a designer. A designer has the ability to understand and thinking creatively and critically about patterns and find new and innovative solutions that will turn into things that shape our lives. Things like the internet and the smartphone have completely changed the way we interact with each other, make money, spend money, etc. and designers are in part responsible for these incremental innovations.

This what I like to call the “Hero Flow” of being a designer. It’s what happens when things go perfectly. You get a bit of luck and traction from your concept and your pieces line up oh so nicely that you end up being able to turn water into wine and dirt into gold. It’s what we are taught we should aspire towards and it’s what we are taught to think about when approaching an area of focus.

At AC4D we learn to always be thinking about innovation and how to forge new paths and products in order to enrich users lives for the better. As social entrepreneurs we have to think about how those designs can scale. This presents a quandary.

What happens when the user says, “I want cleaner water?” Well, we are taught that it is our job to keep searching and synthesizing to see if clean water is actually their real need. It might be that they do need clean water but it stems from a larger issue of marginalization from their government. We might need to fix something else or it is possible the clean water problem will continue happening over time. This may be true, but then again shouldn’t we just go get them clean water first and worrying about the large systemic issue once this basic human necessity has been fulfilled?

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I get torn on this because, on the one hand I think there is far greater value to doing something to actionably and quickly help people, rather than trying to come up with the next great scalable design solution. However, it seems like we forget that we are designing for humans that are just like us and don’t need us to think about everything for them. Sometimes humans don’t need a thoughtful design. Sometimes they just need a simple solution so they can go on living. 

I’m not saying the Henry Ford way of designing things is wrong, because it is good to keep digging and finding new innovations. That’s how our economy and our society grows and progresses. It is just a shame that far too often designers get caught up in colonizing new users to do things their ways and learn brand new ideas, when this type of complex design often unwanted by the users and seeded in corruption from anterior motives.

When does synthesizing behavior and designing concepts stop being about the user and start being about the designs themselves? When a designer starts relying too much on their “design mind” and not enough on the actual humans the design is for. Research is just one part of the design process and after months of creating concepts and testing ideas and insights it can be easy to go with the design that pleases your superiors or strokes your visual design ego. You can rationalize and connect the dots back to the research you did if you have to and put on flashy powerpoint presentations that looks good in a room full of executives but in the end the users don’t benefit and nothing changes except your status as a top designer. It’s a vicious circle that the business world perpetuates far too often.

If we want to remain effective in businesses more designers need to get in the habit of designing the experience for our users rather than a solution or product. George Aye notes that his studio shares this ideal and says, “We’ve shifted from design solution to designing engagements.” Designing the engagement that user has is something that requires ongoing thought and care at every step in the process. It requires including the users as often as we can into our designs, not just during our research phase. Remember that we are creating things that affect human lives (hopefully for the better), and even when designers do nothing that is actually affecting the user’s lives, but in a negative way.

Example Scenario #1:

If a doctor learns about a dark spot in a patient’s x-ray and they don’t tell you because they think it will upset them. it’s a breach in trust, but essentially not illegal or going against any lawful duty the doctor has in our society. The doctor has the power to do with that information as he or she sees fit. That is their prerogative because they are the qualified professional. The arrangement is that, since the patient knows very little about these things, they willingly give their power to the doctor. In many cases it in more beneficial that way. We like having those that are more knowledgeable make the hard decisions for us. However, because that is the relationship that our culture has deemed the most fitting and the most appropriate, it’s caused doctors to lose sight of what is best for the patient long term.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 5.03.35 PM

 

Example Scenario #2:

If a designer spends time with participants doing in-depth and empathy building research but ends up dropping the project half way through, half-assing the work that’s being done, or losing sight down the line, they breach that same established trust. It’s the same scenario as with the doctor because what we have here is a imbalance of power, however in both cases the imbalance is done willingly because (and this is the key) it’s easier that way.

It’s Unethical, but It’s Just How Things Are

The problem is that this is how our society actually works. Going back to last weeks readings, we are selfish beings. We can only physically and mentally deal with things that affect us directly or indirectly. As soon as things start to go outside our blinders we lose focus and fall back into things we know that pertain to us. This is a problem because, as Richard Buchanan says that a designer’s ethics are tied to an array of decisions like character and value, personal integrity, integrity of the design, and ultimate goals for your design, and when we start to lose focus we can lose the integrity of ourselves and our designs. Aside from the glaring issue that this is just poor behavior on our part, it is affecting the people that really need solutions to these big wicked problems and fast.

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An Alternative Solution

 

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The alternative is that we level the power and create solutions together with equal say and equal authority. Sounds easy? If it were easy then we would be doing it. No, this way takes time, effort, patience, and collaboration from the user as well as the designer. Doctors and Designer have power over users because they went to school for years and became highly proficient in their fields. In order to weigh-in affectively the users would need a similar amount of knowledge, or the designers and doctors would have to spend more time with individuals routinely and learn methods to convey data and the logic behind decisions in a way that creates shared meaning. That’s not the way businesses run or how most of our society works. Businesses are efficient and think in multiples. They ask, “How can we provide the most value for the least cost in the quickest way?” In our capitalistic society competition increases the need for quick results, and things like understanding and true empathy for users falls short.

So, do we give up? No, we start by asking ourselves what can we fix quickly and effectively. We can fix ourselves. We can take it upon ourselves as designers to stand up to design engagements and experiences rather than one off products and solutions that look good on our portfolio. We can bring the users in more and more at any opportunity and stand up for this method in the face of business executives. If we focus on doing things to actually help people in a real way, rather than designing things that do it for us then we’ll change our professional and hopefully our society will follow suit.

 

Communication and The Process of Shipping Products

Shipping My Banking Application
 
I have returned to my Randolph Brooks Wireframes for the first assignment in our Product Management class of Q4. The class teaches us the fundamental methods of product management and what it takes to understand the scope of big workings like taking a product from wireframe to market. It’s a big step taking our flows that we created in Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving during Q2, and create component sheets and estimations to know how and what is needed to ship all the features and components within the application. 
 
This week our task was to set up a meeting with a developer and discuss our flows in depth to see how long it would take to ship the components and features we created in our wireframes. I met with Chap Ambrose: a former alumni and our Q1 Studio professor. It was a great experience to talk with Chap about the app and get a little more understanding about the complexities that  are involved in developing a mobile application. After our meeting I took my flows and the estimation that Chap provided me and created several deliverables that I will be presenting in an informal walk-the-wall presentation to my classmates and professor, Ruby Ku. The deliverables I created include all of my flows for the app that I have completed so far, the individual components and features that Chap and I discussed and estimated time for completion, and a spreadsheet of each component labeled with notes from my discussion with Chap. 
 
Meeting With Chap
 
I met with Chap, the developer, last Wednesday for about an hour. In our meet we discussed the wireframes I presented and the key components and features needed to perform a “hero flow.” Chap advised that we should create a “Hybrid HTML app” instead of using an API (Application Programming Interface) because it was much faster and because of the nature of this app using API wasn’t really needed. To my knowledge, the reasoning Chap suggested this is that just developing the app via HTML/CSS/Javascript is sufficient unless you are developing an application that requires a lot of processing power. If not, then you can just develop it like you would a website and just make it function the way a mobile application does. Now, I’m no developer so I may have gotten that wrong, and Chap, if you’re reading this, hopefully I didn’t butcher your words. 
 
The big takeaways that I got from our conversation were that I should use Android’s Material Design UI and I learned the value co-designing with developers. Using Design Principles from Android’s Material Design makes creating the app a lot simpler and easier to ship. The reason being is that I created my app to reduce the amount of clicks for navigation as much as possible, and after looking over the Android development page I found that all my features and components except only a few can be swapped with Androids UI designs. 
 
My second big takeaway from my conversation with Chap was that co-designing the app with a developer is the best case scenario to shoot for when I get into a designer role after school. I learned how valuable that connection and communication is between a developer and a designer, and I can see how if have a great connection you are able to create things faster, more efficiently, and ship better products. 
 
We ended up saying that in total, from what I had in wireframes at this point, it would take him around 135 days to ship the app. I felt like this was a reasonable number given the complexities of some of my features. I learned that I need to think about things like, “What happens if there’s an error?” “How many items should appear in lists?” “How do I want my numbers to populate?” I learned that reusable components can be a powerful thing for shipping products more quickly and even in usability testing with users, because the more times a user encounters a component the more they can navigate using prior experience rather than trial and error. 
 
Identifying Components
 
I created six wireframe hero flows that present most of the key features and components of the app. The Assignment instructed us to also Identify unique features; give them names and label them.You can view each identified component in the image below. The components identified in these images are the core features that Chap gave me estimations for shipping. Components like “Back Arrows” and “Radio Boxes” have been excluded from these sheets simply because in the hour that we had for discussion we wanted to get estimation on the more complex components. For smaller components such as these I need to have another conversation with Chap to see how much longer it will take to ship the app in its entirety including these components.
Assuming this was a real product and I was actually going to created this app I would want to set up times for Chap and I to go over these smaller components and  overall the function of the app. Since the complete flows for the app have not yet been created I feel that co-designing with him would be a way to test and iterate in real time to provide a back and forth with him that would really bring out the most creative end result. It would also hold Chap and myself accountable for time and efficiency because we’d have weekly meetups to discuss features.
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Overall I am happy with this experience. I feel like I learned a great deal and I have a greater respect for the communication between developers and designers. I had the insight during this assignment that I should not spend a lot of time trying to learn code, and instead spend that time with developers learning how to speak with them about developing and design. I am not opposed to learning some developing skills down the line, but I feel that the most important thing in being designer is that I am able to communicate with developer so we both end up getting what we want out of the experience. I am excited going forward and this assignment has given me more confidence in my abilities to lead teams and learn from my peers. 
 
 

Wireframe Hero Flows

 
 
Spending Health Analysis
Flows and Components-13 Flows and Components-14 Flows and Components-15
Login (First time User)
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Login With Touch ID
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Deposit: Depositing A Check
Flows and Components-08 Flows and Components-09 Flows and Components-10 Flows and Components-11 Flows and Components-12
Bill Pay: Schedule a Payment
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Flows and Components-17 Flows and Components-18 Flows and Components-19 Flows and Components-20
Alerts: Updating ATM withdrawal amount and notification settings
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Transaction Analysis
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 Component Spreadsheet

Masquerading as a Social Entreprenuer

What If I Cave?

 The most provocative that the readings brought up in my mind was this idea that Jessi Hempel mentioned in her article. She writes, “The only thing worse than not asking the questions, is not paying attention to the answers that don’t fit into their world view, because it’s inconvenient.”
 
The overall message in Hedel’s article in my mind is that when designers go out looking for solution to a problem that we define, we will usually find it. The issue here is that, without taking the time to understand the people, scope, and context of the system, we may end up focusing on the wrong thing. Therefore the solution, while it may work for that particular problem, won’t actually provide any usefulness to the target users. People and businesses often miss this because it becomes inconvenient to their current strategy.
 
This really hit home for me. It’s been a big fear that when I go out into the workforce, unsure of my ethics and my design theory, and I’ll end up just caving to business theory or side with how other designers view the world. I want to have the moral backbone to stick up for my own values and the ways I’ve been taught in AC4D about how to create thoughtful and usable design. 
 
AC4D has presented opportunities to me as a student that might be contrary to points articulated in the readings. Like, for example, the articles that talk about design competitions and hackathons. The point that Joyojeet Pal makes is that hackathons or design-for-good competitions aren’t doing near what they are trying because they set out to reach these blue sky ideas without considering how this thing could become a reality or really whether it is even useful. In fact, the result of these events favors us designers rather than the people it’s supposably for and by attending programs like AC4D or competitions like IxDA we get that sense of selfish altruism and practice at doing these type of projects. In a way it’s dishonest of us to masquerade as designers that practice social entrepreneurship and design for social good when, the minute we that we are out of here, we will pick the role that provides the top dollar. 
 

Scaling As A Designer

 I feel like new designers have so much pressure to do well quickly then it’s harder for us to choose what direct we want to go right now. Then once we get good enough to actually pave our own path we have gone too deep into agency work or consulting and our lives force us to stick to a paycheck. 
 
It’s just like the Red Cross vs. New Home. New Home, because they were a startup company, was able to focus more on design research methods like participatory design that enabled them to create more empathetic and tailored products to their users. Red Cross, while they tried to helped, their methods failed because the problem required a more focused method approach that they couldn’t provide at the level they were at. 
 
When you’re just starting out it’s easier to focus on the empathy and the individual, but scaling your design is another trick. Then once you get to the level of Red Cross you can’t do the same type of design because it doesn’t work that way. The Red Cross failed because with the thousands of things they do daily it is hard to really narrow in their focus to give the detail needed to thoughtful design.
 
I compare this to being a senior designer at a company like Frog or even Goodpatch. Chelsea, when she came to speak, mentioned in passing that 60% of their work is presentations and only 40% is actual design work. It’s not that this is inherently bad but, just like Red Cross finds it difficult to be effective at their scale, I feel like it would be hard to solve these wicked problem at that level. 
 

I Guess We’ll See

The problem that scares me is that I am one of the designers we read about in Theory class. I can see myself being the type of designer that graduates and goes straight for the money, even though I know that I find working on these issues more fulfilling. I know long term I would want to make the monetary sacrifice, but I haven’t been one to have great foresight. I guess we will see in April. 
 
 
 

 

The Value Of The Comedian

Overview

The main assignment for this week was to map out the concept from start to finish in a service blueprint that included all key customer touch points and the players involved. However, in addition to that assignment, we needed to accomplish some things from last week that we did not successfully run through. We still needed to know pricing and availability for the venues we were interested in, and we needed to connect with the comedians we had in our pipeline to see if they would be interested in participating in our event. We also wanted to test our assumption that these local civic issues could be made funny by co-designing with a comedian and performing in a live show.

Connecting With Comedians

Scott took point on contacting the comedians this week and did a great job of setting up interviews and phone calls to gauge the interest for bringing them on board. Two artists we have been in close contact with lately are Dana: a popular comedian here in Austin, has been doing stand and hosting gigs for several years; and Craig; another well known comedian that not only performs stand but also co-hosts a monthly showcase and a comedy podcast. We are looking to bring both Dana and Craig on board as potential host or comedic acts. Scott managed to connect us with three other comedians this week and we have two interviews setup for next week. In an interview we did Friday night we spoke with a comedian that expressed great interest in the event and wants to be apart of it. We set up a co-design session to go over the service blueprint with him on Monday afternoon.

Co-Designing With Dana

Dana did come into the school to look over our service blueprint of the event and gave us tips on how to optimize it based on her professional experience. An idea that we were thinking around the acts within the show was to have improv or sketch artists come up and perform, as a way to mix it up from just stand up comedy. Dana informed us that this had some drawbacks and among those was the overwhelming fact that because improv artists usually worked in teams, that would mean we would need to pay several improv artists instead of just one comedian.

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We have not yet decided on whether we will include improv or sketch artist into the show but at this point with our current service blueprint we only have a host and four comedians performing.

Goals

Our goal is to find a comedian that can host the show for us and to have at least four comedians that are willing to perform for our first show. We have discussed payment for the comedians and host as a group and at this time we have decided that it is in our and the talent’s best interest to pay them monetarily. We are also currently discussing the possibility of filming the acts for our website, so that could serve as a non-monetary currency for the talent as well since we have learned that many comedians are seeking well produced videos of their segments.

Understanding Their Art

One point that Dana made during our co-designing session that I wanted to mention here was that she is really pushing for comedians to get paid for their work. She told us that many comedians nowadays are eager to get gigs and some are willing to do it for free. The problem is that then it is more difficult for comedians to ask for money to perform their acts and thus it continues this cycle of devaluing the professional. Scott, Maria, and I agree that we need to pay our host and comedians something other than just free beer, or exposure because the comedic talent is something that leverages our business concept.

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We are realizing just how difficult and time-consuming it is to write and perform comedy. We understand that in order to provide value to residents by hosting an event to encourage civic participation we need great comedians that can make our night special and memorable.

Failing To Onboard

The one thing we did not set out to do was successfully convince Dana to help test out our hypothesis that jokes with local civic themes can be funny. After our co-design session we asked her if it was something she would be able to do and she mentioned that it would probably take a lot of work, due to that she would not do it without compensation. We agreed to her suggestion and sent her some information about what she should include in the act. We are still waiting to hear back from her at this point so I might be jumping the gun by saying we did not accomplish this goal, but it has been a few days and we as group are preparing a back up plan to quickly test the assumption in other ways.
 

Mapping Out The Event

This week’s primary assignment was to have a service blueprint of our business concept from start to finish. In our case the concept is an event held at a comedy venue, bar, or brewery.
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Arrival

Customers will get free food with the price of admission and be able to purchase beer and wine at the bar. The event will be civically themed with facilitated interactions pre-show in the forms of videos, conversation cards, civic night hashtag photo mirrors, etc. The show itself will consist of a host, four comedians, and an organization/speaker that introduces and briefly discusses a civic topic (affordable housing, CodeNext, registering to vote, etc.).

Watching The Show

During the acts, customers will sit and listen to the comedians and the host. Only when the speaker is finished giving their lecture will customer have a quick 3-5 minute to ask questions on the topic. Then, after the show ends, the customers have the options to stay and chit chat, leave, or approach the booth(s) that we set up set up with ways to be involved in civic topics. These topics will range from the topic that the speaker will address to broad civic themes like registering to vote.

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Post Show

During the experience we encourage customers to view our website to find out more about how to be involved. We give calls to actions at every touchpoint with our facilitators (coordinators, speakers, greeters) that give customers the push to be civically engaged and provide the website as a safe alternative to biased news-sources. The customer go the website or instagram page after leaving the event and it is there that they become informed and engaged in local politics and community issues in a way that is non-committal, non-biased, and light and fun.

Going To Market

This week we learned the value of our comedians and that it is important that we treat them with the same level of professionalism as you would any artist or specialist. We found new ways to introduce our civic topics into our event using the service blueprint as a sense making tools, and we were able to understand exactly how the event is shaped. However, there are things that we did not accomplish; We still need to test whether this material can be funny. The plan for the coming week is to develop our go to market plan which will consist of the actions and resources we need to acquire in order to make this concept into and actual thing that we put on. Our group is confident that we will be able to put this event on. We are hopeful that this type of event will provide an important starting point for residents of Austin who are otherwise disengaged from their community and government to become civically involved.
Come back next week to read about our go to market plan.

Last Week Tonight With Josh, Scott, and Maria

We decided to venture into our idea from last week, Civic Night. The high-level concept of the idea is Trivia Night + The Daily Show. The goal is to create an event that brings people together on the issues surrounding Austin but in a fun, light, and entertaining way. We have several assumptions about this business model some of whom include: people are interested in this type of event and would therefore attend, resources like talent would be interested in hosting something like this from a comedic standpoint, etc.

Hypothesis

his week we set out to test one of our many assumptions by gaining email subscriptions via a prototype landing page. We hypothesize that people will show interest in attending an event such as this. We measured to see if this hypothesis was correct by setting a goal of 25 email subscribers to our website. Our goal was to simply perform outreach in outbound channels like Nextdoor, local Facebook groups, paper flyers, and in-person meetings to gage if it was something interesting enough that they would want to know more.

 

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Prototype

We chose a website landing page to be our prototype for this experiment. In our experience with IDSE301 – Quarter 3 Methods we are learning that by creating a landing page online you have access to email subscribers, wider audiences, and rapid change making. Our landing page needed to be simple, straightforward and give high-level conceptual examples to gage the view right off.

In the beginning stages of developing our prototype, our group struggled to agree on how we should target our content. We could not decide on whether the copy should be focused on entertainment or educational and informative. Instead of spending much time on assuming what our potential audience would want we decide created another prototype to test initial reactions from people. We created a brochure with copy focused more on entertainment, and we went to Haymaker bar and spoke to five groups of people about the brochure.

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We received praise on the idea, and one group mentioned they would like it if it was something informative, “ ..trivia night is always just drunk people making a bunch of noise. I would go to something if interesting discussions were going on.” So we decided that it would be best to play up the informative content while keeping the theme around fun and entertainment.  

Experiments

To test our hypothesis we ran experiments like posting to various online channels, performing interviews with people in community centers, bars, and restaurants. Our reactions from these experiments were overall positive and we ended up getting twenty-five email subscriptions from our website in under twelve hours. At this point of experiments were primarily run through outbound channels. However we did put up tear off flyers at several community centers throughout East Austin. We are expecting more email subscribers to come from this channel. We will measure the effectiveness of this experiment by coming back next week to see how many pull-off tabs are removed.

 

Image uploaded from iOS

 

Lean Canvas

In this phase, we created Lean Canvas models as a precursor to actual business plan. Our reason for this is because we are still testing our idea to see if people want it, if there is a way for monetization it, and what works and doesn’t. We do not want to spend the time and effort it would take to write out a complete business plan in the likely and hopeful event that our idea is reframed and shifted as we test our assumptions. The canvas lets us think big picture about our business model now and into the future. It helps us frame the business so that we aren’t leaving essential aspects out, and so that we take the time to think about key metrics and resources needed to help our business grow and thrive.

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Results

Our results from our website prototype and our interviews that we conducted to confirm our assumption that people are interested in an event such as this and it is possible they would attend given the right marketing and location. We receive 33 email subscribers to our site, and we spoke with over 15 people about the business idea.

Next Steps

This phase was very reassuring, and uplifting, however, we have seen areas were our business model needs to adapt and shift. We initially set out to hold our events primarily at local bars, but we are seeing from several sources that we risk alienating certain groups when introducing the exclusivity of alcohol-serving establishment. We will workshop concept and talk to people to better understand our audience and ways to bring different people together and talk about sensitive topics in respectful and fun manner.

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I would also add that we found that not everybody liked the format and, given this information, we will take it into account as we shift and reframe our business model. We will be testing other assumptions this following week and hopefully get closer to our audience and start to gain feedback more conclusively.

Where We Need Help

As we continue to reflect on this research and shift our idea into something desirable and tangible, we welcome any outside help from AC4D alumni or professional connections. What we want to do next is understand how comedy works in these tough subject and to see if there are people doing similar things that might be able to give us tips or help if asked.

 

A Shift In Scope

This week, instead of wrapping up the remaining screens needed for the app we were given a scenario. Our task was to implement new features from a company that our bank had acquired. The features revolved around financial modeling, statistical trends, and managing spending habits. To create these screens I looked at several apps and secondary sources to create an experience for the user that allows them gain valuable insights into their spending habits. The app also gives recommendations on these insights that present ways the user might save money or change habitual excessive spending.

Testing This Week

Last week in class we learned about Cognitive Walkthroughs and Heuristic Evaluation, both of which are tools a designer uses to gather feedback. Cognitive Walkthrough is defined as, “A method for evaluating the learnability of a product, based on a theory of problem solving in unfamiliar situations.” Heuristic Evaluation is where you, “compare an interface to an established list of best practices to identify usability problems.” Much like Usability testing the methods focus on a user and whether not the interface makes sense to the user. The difference between cognitive walkthroughs and heuristic evaluation, and Usability testing is they do not require testing with a person. Our faculty urged us in class to lean more towards Usability Testing going forward into roles outside the school because the data you gather from açtual people is always going to be richer. That being said, I was curious to try Cognitive Walkthrough to see if it proved to be useful.

Getting Ideas

I started by sketching out my new screens and I quickly began to go no where. I was not in the space to create up something from scratch. So I went to Mint, a budgeting app I have on my phone that allows me to see trends and budgets I have set up for my spending. I personally have never really like Mint because after the initial download and the cool visuals have worn off, there’s no real value in simply seeing that I am going over budget. I have always wanted to have the app tell me specific ways to reduce spending habits and because of this assignment I was given an opportunity to create a feature that did just that.

Molding Two Ideas

You might remember in my previous blog post that I decide to focus the user interface of my banking app around the idea of an in-and-out framework. I admire baking apps like Venmo or Cash that allow its users to get into the app and quickly perform their task and be done with it. The current Randolph Brooks app is confusing and it’s a long winded journey doing even the simplest of tasks like checking your actual Checking balance. So, I decided that instead of creating a new page or section dedicated to optimizing spending and seeing trends, that I would just modify the existing Accounts page to include these trends. I created an accounts page similar to home page in Mint with transactions and budget snapshots being on the first page. However, I made sure to ask “Will the user try to achieve the right affect?” with each goal the user is trying to accomplish, as part of my cognitive walkthrough testing. I found that if their goal was hard to pinpoint with regards to optimizing spending habits. If my goal was to have my app be a quick in and out functionality, then crafting it around Mint would not be beneficial because everything takes several steps to set up in Mint before you can have actual snapshots of your data.

Optimized Spending

After asking more of these structured questions in my cognitive walkthrough I decided on the screens you see below.

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I created an accounts page with snapshots of first glance spending trends in each account. Upon clicking into an account you see a circular chart much like the one in Mint and just below you see the recent transactions going in and coming out of your account. If the user comes into the app wishing to see how they might optimize a certain category of  their spending they are prompted to click on that part of the circular chart and it will tell them whether their spending is excessive, fair, or optimal already. Then they click the button, “Optimize” and the app starts working. They are left with a screen that shows history of spending in a graph, detailing the highest spending period and lowest spending in the past six months. Then through algorithmic data the app would give a recommendation on how to reduce excessive spending based on this historical data.

Going Forward

In the end I created three flows related to fixing spending habits, each of whom I would like to go out and perform actual Usability Testing on because I feel the overall framework will stand up to criticism but I know that it may not flow as seamlessly as I would like. Going forward I will continue to create the rest of the screens and I will use this shift in scope as an opportunity to branch out into new ideas that I might use in this banking app to improve the experience for the user.

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Civic Engagement Project Wall Presentation

Background

In the past six weeks Nicole Nagel, Scott Reed and I have focus on how low-income citizens articulate their viewpoints through city government. Our research started on the subject of civic engagement as given to us as a topic of research for our quarter two Studio project. Our team focused primarily on those citizens currently living in the Austin area that are less than 200% of the federal poverty line. Every Saturday we are instructed to externalize our research to our classmates in the form of a fifteen minute presentation using our large foam board walls to display our diagrams, participants, and research data.

Video Presentation

The video shown is a presentation of our findings to our classmates, a faculty member of the school and an alumni. Our goal was to communicate what kind of research we had done that week, what we learned and next steps going forward in our project. We articulate that our focus has not since shifted, however our data lead us to create three insightful thoughts we perceive to be problems in this area, based on themes and patterns that came forth once we began to piece together our data. In the video we detail these thoughts in a cohesive narrative and we conclude by proposing an area of opportunity where we might try to solve for these provocations.

 

Want to see more?

If you enjoyed the video and would like to know more about this project check out the school’s recent blog post entitled City of Austin partners with Austin Center for Design to tackle Civic Engagement. If are interested in knowing more about the other types of projects our team is working on during the program feel free to check out Nicole Nagel and Scott Reed‘s blog pages. Thanks!