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.


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.


Civic Engagement Project Wall Presentation


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!

Wireframe Iterations

Schedule Payment Flow@3x

We continue to make iterations for our mobile banking app wireframes. Much like my last blog post I performed usability testing on complete strangers. This time, however, I tested with five individuals instead of three and I focused mainly on the overall navigation of the interface. Last week, as mentioned in the previous post, I focused on a specific flow: Scheduling a payment.

I felt that in that round of usability testing I scratch the surface of the navigation problems by identifying certain issues regarding poor affordance of certain features and issues with prior experience coming into play. I moved around certain button and considered hiding a few things within the hamburger and decided to hold off on changing more until doing another round of testing.

Usability Testing Round 2

Instead of focusing on the flow of the “Scheduling a Payment” feature, I used that flow to instruct my users to examine each screen they were on in the flow and verbally describe each feature they see. IN this round of usability testing I used my same flow but on each page I would give them short, simple tasks like: locate the menu button, locate the transfer button, locate the amount being paid, locate the “go back” button, etc. These tasks were all listed out on a document and the user was instructed to go through them on each page. They were instructed that they should not move on until they believed they had successfully located each icon or feature correctly as instructed on the page. Through this method I received very rich feedback that was not limited to a distinct flow. Users were highly encouraged to verbally say what they liked or disliked about certain aspects of each page which lead to suggestions and conversations after each test that I ended up implementing into the app’s design.

Home Page

Home @3x

The Home page is the center of navigation for the app. The app is designed so that the user has access to frequently used features as soon as they open the app. The two things I changed on this screen was the location of the menu button and the name of “Bill Pay” to “Pay/Request.” Many factor came into play in my decision to shift the Menu button to right side of the screen. I decided that because of many struggles like not being able to have a “Go back” icon and a “Menu” icon on the same screen due to the proximity of them, that I would mitigate this worry by simply putting it to the right. I got direct feedback from a user who said, “…my bank has this [the hamburger] on the right side.” This contributed to my decision in part. Afterwards I went to look over many other banking apps and found that many of them, in fact, placed there on the right side of the screen, perhaps for the same reasons.

Bill Pay vs. Pay/Request

Pay Request@3x

A simple but powerful change was completely re-creating the “Bill Pay” page. I received feedback that this page was confusing and many felt that the sections were unnecessary. I decided that I wanted the usability to foster a quick, on the go type flow to it much like Venmo, Cash, and Mint. The feedback I received that many of the sections like, Send Paper Check, Recent Spending, and My Contacts were unhelpful, plus this idea that I wanted it to be quick app resulted in the omission of these pages. I chose to make a screen that provided these simple buttons that give a straightforward navigation to a variety of functions.

Tutorial Toasts

Enter Recipient@3x

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here.” One change I decided to implement, because many users found this screen to be confusing, was the initial “Schedule Payment” screen. The screen made people feel they had been dropped into a feature with no direction of where to go. I used this as an opportunity to implement the newly designed top nav bar with the hamburger and top navigations still visible. I also used a tutorial “toast” that appears upon first use in the app that tells the user what they need to do to get started.

Scheduled Payments

Come back to@3x

A big question that was brought up in our class critique last week was, “Where does the app take you after the “Your Payment Has Been Schedule!” screen? It didn’t make sense to just drop the user back in the “Pay/Request” screen because there was nothing there that showed them what they’ve just done. There is this idea of wanting to re-confirm what they just did. Not many of my users mentioned this but I attribute that to the idea that they were just happy they finished the task. After one of my user tests I ask the user if she had any thoughts about things I left out. She said that, “…is there a place that I can edit this payment?” At the time I said there was, but it was in the original main screen on Bill Pay, now renamed to Pay/Request. I took that feedback and decided combine the screens Schedule Payment  and Recent Spending. This simplifies the app and makes it easier for the user to view and edit payments by having it all in one place.

Informational Architecture Map

Ideal Concept Map-01

There were not many changes to the information architecture map, just the ones to my changes in screens. I also omitted “Profile” in the map because the bubbles nested under it were, “Alerts and Notifications,” and “Messages.” I ungroup them and just have the two under the menu drop down. I anticipate more changes to the map after next the round of testing.

Next Steps

I plan to step up my usability testing by recruiting more people. I went from three to five people in these first two rounds and I would like to have up to ten. I am confident in how the navigation is turning out even though I know it needs more work. I will branch out my testing to different flows and try prototyping in a different way to see what that method brings.

Mobile Banking App Redesign


In our Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving class we are focusing on redesigning a mobile banking application. My design focuses on the Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union mobile banking app. In previous blog posts, I highlight making concept maps and wireframes in order to understand how the current app works and what areas need to be thought out or changed.

Usability Testing

This weeks process focused around usability testing and iterations to our existing wireframes and concept maps.Some important guidelines of usability testing are: to perform each test with strangers, instruct each person to verbally say their thoughts as they go through the task(s) given, and to not give input in any way during the test. We would do this by not answering any question or concerns during the test other than simply saying, “Please keep talking.” The usability testing process has these guidelines in order to minimize any biases or outside factor that might factor the feedback given.

Navigation Feedback

The feedback from these test was almost completely unanimous that once they were in the “Schedule Payment” feature the app was fairly intuitive. However each of them experienced confusion getting from the “Home” screen to the “Schedule Payment” screen. Two of the participants pressed either the “$ icon” or the “menu” button first to begin the task. The feedback was that it was a decision based on prior experience that they chose those first initially because that’s the way they usually start to do a task in an app.

Schedule Payment Usability Testing 1 Problems-01

Perception of Utility

Another issue was that, because of the complexity of the home page, many clicked on the checking and savings buttons before choosing the “Bill Pay” Function. When asked why they made those decisions a majority of people said it was because it afforded clicking to open up for that accounts options. Many people also said that was how they schedule payments in their app.

Schedule Payment Usability Testing 1 Problems-03

“Where Do I Go From Here?”

Once they were in the “Schedule Payments” feature most of the participants were able to flow through the task seamlessly, however the first screen did give some pause to certain people. In the ideal flow the user would then click the text box at the top of the screen and input the mobile number, first and last name, or account number of the person they wish to pay. Participants became confused at this point because there was no indication for why they were doing that or how that relates to scheduling the payment.

Schedule Payment Usability Testing 1 Problems-02



Ideal Concept Map-01

The revisions based on this feedback as well as overall impressions of how center aspects of the app work started by changing the informational architecture concept map for the redesigned app. The map details options on each screen for how to progress through tasks. Based on the impressions of the first round of usability testing I learned that people did enjoy the layout of the interface and, with that in mind, I highlighted the key pages in the app, “Home” and, “Menu.” From these two screens the user will have access to every page in the app. The feedback given on the function of these two screens were that the complexities gave misguided perceptions. There are icons and sections within the “Home” page, specifically, that afforded clicking to perform a task when that’s not what they are used for.

Next Steps

I need to do more testing into the overall navigation of the app. As I mentioned earlier, most of the users I tested with gave specific feedback on changes within the actual features and many responded positively to how the app functioned in those cases. I will continue creating my features with this in mind. The main problems lie in the navigations. In order to understand what exact changes I need to make I will continue my usability testing this coming week but I will frame the test to focus on using the navigations.




The second assignment in Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem solving was creating wireframes. I started this process by creating three distinct people. John, Elle and Frank. By creating three individuals with individual backgrounds and characteristics I was able to understand what goals they (and potential users like them) may have in interacting with the mobile app.

John is a Freshman at the University of Texas and works a waiter at Red Lobster. He has students loans that give hime funds for books, tuition and school related materials. All other expenses are funded through his job’s income. He has used mobile banking for many years but just signed up for account at New bank and does not have knowledge of this particular mobile baking app.

Elle is a middle aged woman working as an RN with two kids and a husband that works for IBM. They have a joint checking account. She has used mobile banking for years.

Frank is an elderly man who is retired and living on a fixed income from his retirement accounts. Does not use mobile banking often and instead relies on in person interactions with banking personnel for many of his banking needs.


I was able to understand and identify key goals that each person might have in using the app and I used those goals to create stories that played out many different scenarios for each person. I chose to focus on seven scenarios


  • Learn how to make monthly payments to landlord.
  • Edit and change recurring payment
  • Pay a friend for dinner


  • Deposit a check
  • Check account balance


  • Report stolen phone
  • Sign up to get fraud alerts

The next step in the process laid out in the assignment sheet was to create UI Storyboard, however, as I began this process I found that sketching the screen flows out proved to be more beneficial for me. I decided to write out my scenarios as a screen by screen dialog. An example scenario is the “Pay a friend for dinner” story written for John. It reads,

  1. John opens app,
  2. Fingerprint login comes up
  3. Puts finger on sensor
  4. “Validating” screen
  5. “Home Page”
  6. John clicks “Menu”
  7. “Menu”
  8. John clicks “Bill Pay”
  9. “Bill Pay”
  10. John clicks “Send $ to Friend”
  11. “Pay amount screen”
  12. John types in 30
  13. John presses pay
  14. “To” “For” “account” screen comes up
  15. John types in HIs friend’s first and last name.
  16. Results comes with nothing. Shows “Add to Contacts”
  17. Shadow box comes up with “add to contacts” “Create Contact” and Update existing
  18. He clicks Create contact
  19. Edit contact page comes up and asks for mobile phone number, person or company drop down
  20. John types in phone number
  21. Chooses “person”
  22. Clicks “Save contact” at top of page.
  23. “To” “For” “What account” screen comes up
  24. Clicks “Savings x55655” drop down
  25. Savings and Checking shadow box comes up
  26. Chooses Account “Checking – X5656”
  27. Shadow box goes away
  28. clicks “For:”
  29. Types in “Dinner”
  30. Clicks “Send $30”
  31. Check mark screen saying “Sent! $30 will be deposited once [Friends name] accepts this payment.

I felt that by laying out each screen in a plain way I was able to then transfer those dictations into sketch wireframes that I used to create the flows. From the flows I created through sketching on graph paper I then had a clear, concise idea of what I needed to create in Adobe XD.20171105_230307

I found the most useful tool in this process was mapping the screens out with each action taken. It made the transition from ideas and concepts to artifacts by way of digital wireframes. In the future I will attempt more of the storyboarding technique to see if there is value in that part. Wireframing is a difficult task because there are so many screen and scenarios, and often it can see overwhelming to start crafting screens. These tools: sketching, writing scenarios, creating people, and giving them goals, is a very useful tool to wrap your brain around the subject when things seem very scattered.



Trust the Process & Always Be Moving Forward


I went into the first assignment of Rapid Ideation and Problem Solving feeling great about my role as a designer. I knew then, as I know now, that I have a great amount of work ahead of me if I want to achieve the goals I have set for my career. One of those goals is to be autonomous in my work as a designer; Start projects, make proposals, create wonderful and exciting things that benefit the world.

A big part of how I am becoming autonomous comes from the feedback I received from my peers and faculty at the conclusion of quarter one. I was given feedback on my behavior interacting within conversations and presentations, criticism on my time management skills, and my inability to take complex information and synthesize it into digestible stories or visual representations. A member of the faculty gave me this feedback,

“Perhaps ​the ​weakest ​part ​of ​your ​work ​this ​quarter ​was ​your ​ability ​to ​synthesize ​the complex ​readings ​into ​a ​single, ​simple ​whole. ​This ​is ​the ​most ​important ​part ​of considering ​complex ​ideas ​- ​not ​simply ​taking ​them ​at ​face ​value, ​but ​assigning ​meaning to ​them ​and ​then ​integrating ​them ​into ​a ​larger ​philosophy ​or ​story. ​To ​synthesize complex ​ideas, ​you’ll ​need ​to ​utilize ​all ​of ​the ​methods ​you ​are ​learning ​in ​other ​classes. Externalize ​the ​data ​by ​using ​the ​theme/pattern ​process.”

I took this feedback and began the second quarter determined to focus on these three key aspect of my work: Approaching all my interactions with a curiosity to learn from those I am engaging in conversation and not seeking to share my opinions as often; Time-boxing my assignments and deadlines; and focusing more on using tools  like concept maps, affinity diagrams, and sketching that I am learning in my courses to better synthesize data into uncomplicated information.

Monday: Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving. It is the first day of the second quarter and we are told to create three visual concept maps (Relationship & Informational Architecture current/ideal) around the concept of “Banking” and a mobile app of a bank.  My anxiety levels have come back up to their resting level right between my eyes after the week long break between quarters. I knew going into the quarter that I would be tested on my three areas of focus but  Austin Center for Design has a way of getting you out of your comfort zone before you even know where to find it.

I started to get to work right away. I knew I had a bunch of things I needed to do before the deadline and not very much time to get them done. I had recently done an interview with the owner of a local auto body shop and he gave me some good advice, “Eat the Frog. The frog is the one thing you have to do today that makes you sick thinking about doing it. Get it done and the rest of the day is gravy.” What was I dreading doing in this project? What did I want to get out of the way?”

As part of the assignment we were told to take screenshot of every possible screen of the app by scouring through it. I found that to be the most dull and time consuming so I did that first. My process was going great after that was through. I got the hard part (or, at that time what I thought was the hard part) out of the way and now I could focus on sensemaking.

The second task was creating an relationship matrix. Jon Kolko (our teacher/advisor for the course) mentioned that the relationship matrix was very time consuming, so we should try to focus on that.

Screenshot 2017-10-30 21.26.52

This was where I began to struggle within the process. Because I had spent the first four hours of my project on my screenshots I started creating my matrix when my other research assignments for my other two classes started up. I quickly saw my windows for working on the Banking assignment go from eight hours to one to two hours. It was difficult because knowing my focus was to improve my time management skills, I did not want to give half measures on processing the complex data.


I finished the two maps with little time for much else, Both maps are highly thought out and are the result of many hours of diagramming and sketching I was unable to submit them by the deadline instructed.Untitled-3_Relationship Concept Map Informational Architecture Map

It was clear from this assignment that my time management skills have still much to be desired. However, after four days of non-stop sketching and sticky notes I felt, and still feel, great about the amount of work I put into the assignment. A big struggle I deal with is going straight to Adobe Illustrator or computer applications and shying away from sketching and putting pen to paper. I knew that my time management suffered but I focused heavily on staying out illustrator and going through the process of diagramming and sketching out my thoughts and process when making sense of all the data.

What I have learned through this assignment and what I will take ownership of going forward in my goal to become an autonomous Designer is that processing the complex information is ideally done through using techniques like quickly sketching ideas, going to the whiteboard, and making iterations after iterations. However, if I miss deadlines or fail to present complete work then all that work means very little in the scope of large goals, so I need to focus harder on moving on quickly from activities. Sometimes a portions may need another iteration or two but it is best to move to next part and if possible come back to make changes.


Poverty = Profit

Comic #3-02It’s December. Rick is laying in bed at his window looking out at the night sky as the cars go by. He can hear city lights and faint noises just off in the distance. Just then he sees tiny snow flakes fall from the sky. It’s beautiful. Rick pull the covers closer and snuggle in tight as he slowly drifts off to sleep.

It’s January. Rick is laying on a blanket just outside of the community library on the sidewalk. He looks up at the night sky as a car drives by and honks the horn loudly. As Rick tries to sleep he notice that it is beginning to snow. Now he needs to pack his things up and find a place that shields him from getting snowed on.

I just described a scenario that many people experiencing homeless have to deal with from day to day. My intention isn’t to make you, as the reader, feel pity for Rick but actually relate to him. Rick, like many people experiencing was not always homeless and he was not always poor. We often think of people like Rick as “Homeless People” as if they are different from us in some manner. We put them in a box and pretend that we know what is best for them. It is because of this thinking that we often fail to give these individuals the aid they actually need. This brings us to the main problem: many people currently are experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness, and it is because of this poverty they lack the ability to get themselves out of it. Comic #3-06I am proposing a solution. We need to do two things. First, we start to see these people as potential customers and leaders rather than charity cases. Second, use the five lessons in building a social business that Muhammad Yunus states in his article,”Building Social Business Models: Lessons from the Grameen Experience,” to design with and empower these people to take charge of their situation and have them create a way out of their situation but in a way that suits them individually.Comic #3-10

Challenging the Way We Think

So let’s talk about poverty. People experiencing homelessness are usually in the throes of extreme poverty. Many would view their situation as the result of bad decision making but Dean Spears would say the contrary. In three studies done in various context with several people both rich and poor Spears concludes that it is because of poverty that people make bad decision and not the other way around. In other words, poverty cause low cognitive control and bad decision making to those affected by it. After reading his findings and results I concur with his findings and agree that we need to take this into account when dealing with those experiencing homelessness.

No matter how you approach this issue you are still working with human beings and that means they have max potential and minimal potential just like the rest of us. In both their articles, C.K. Prahalad and Chris Le Dantec talk about this idea that there is more to these people that are experiencing hardship. Prahalad talks about how poor people have a place as  customers with substantial buying power.Comic #3-04

“Surveys show that poor households spend most of their income on housing, food, healthcare, education, finance charges, communications, and consumer goods. Multinational corporations have largely failed to tap this market, even though the rewards for doing so could be substantial…[and]… In some developing economies such as China and India, poor households control a significant portion of national income.”

and, his article “Designs on Dignity: Perceptions of Technology Among the Homeless,” Le Dantec does research into the social implications that technology has on those experiencing homelessness. Overall in his article it is clear that the people they speak with are just that, people. In both cases these people have been overlooked by the rest of society because of their situation. Whether it’s that companies aren’t creating products for them or that programs are designed FOR them and not WITH them.

Now Chris LeDantec does this is in his other article, “A Tale of Two Publics: Democratizing Design at the Margins.” He, along with his group of researchers set out to create a product designed to help the homeless. Instead of just interviewing and asking the people they get several of them to “co-design” the product with them. They ask their input and the result is a much more well designed product. The product is a program called Community Resource Messenger (CRM). Comic #3-12It’s main function is to support, “…both those in need and those attempting to provide care in a challenging environment.” The goal of the program is to generate opportunities for participants, and action. But, given what we know now about poverty from Dean Spears we can assume that, for the majority of cases, the CRM will not be utilized in such a way that generates ample opportunities for these impoverished individuals. So what is next? How do we get these people to make good decisions in the face of such adversity?

Creating an Entrepreneur

If we look at Rick, this man who is experiencing homelessness and apply what we’ve learned so far about homelessness and poverty and the way he thinks given his state of poverty. We can then use the lessons Muhammad Yunus gives in his articles that illustrate how to build a business that is not engaged in contest or financial gain but rather social issues and serving society’s betterment. We use these five lessons because we are, in a way, investing in the social business that is Rick. We are empowering him in the hopes that he will embrace entrepreneurship and learn skills that allow him to create products or services that will help his community. Comic #3-11

Lesson 1: Challenging conventional wisdom

Don’t assume every person experiencing homelessness is a loner, outside of a community. Le Dantec points out several instances in his article of people clinging to social status and having a community of peers and status in those communities. Take advantage of this empowerment and social status. It can be powerful.Comic #3-14

In this lesson we need to also challenge the work of Le Dantec. If we look at his work, while it was great that he used co-design tactics, we need to take it a step further by focusing on the right questions.

Roger Martin talks about the Social Entrepreneur in his article “Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition” and how they are people that are inspired, creative, courageous, who take direct action and have fortitude. They identify instances of injustice towards people or groups and work to create balance when those people have no means to do it for themselves.

We can ask Rick and other members of his community to talk about what makes them inspired? What makes them creative? When was a time that they took direct action or had fortitude?Comic #3-08 Then once we have those utterances and informations these people and we can synthesize design ideas to create together. This will take these people away from the state of poverty that, because of the desperation that come with poverty, causes bad decision making and low performance and gives them the tools to create something useful for them and their community. Overall it will give them a chance to make real money, if their product takes off, and it will give them purpose.

Lessons 2: Finding complementary partners

This is a process that requires the input from many people in the community. Rick’s idea may not work but if we get a lot of people working on ideas and a lot of people helping when an idea gets some traction then we will provide that community support that will help keep people engaged. Rick may fail but unlike what Roger Martin may view I believe that he is still an entrepreneur. Even if Rick never makes a successful product or service I still believe that as long as he is finding ways to help others and tries to be innovative then he is an entrepreneur.

Lesson 3: Undertaking continuous experimentation

Always be testing out ideas on other people and continue to be a source of help. The only way we can go from a good idea to a great idea is through many many drafts.

Comic #3-16

Lesson 4: Favoring social profit-oriented shareholders

Comic #3-17If companies like Dell or Indeed.com had a hand in this program it would open up opportunities to present ideas to them, providing a mutually beneficial partnership. The people would be given the opportunity to present their ideas to these companies and could potentially get funding if an idea gets picked up. Dell and Indeed could become shareholders in the program and benefit off any profits the ideas that come out of the program generate.

Lesson 5: Specifying social profit objectives clearly

We want these people out of poverty and not to remain homeless but we are focusing on launching their ideas and making sure they take off. We are wanting to make money from that. It is important to distinguish between those two focuses because if we start to focus on getting people out of poverty then we fall back into the same trap that we are in at the present moment.Comic #3-18

Reflecting on Methods After Four Weeks

Our focus at this point in our research process is,

We are focusing our research on learning which factors influence consumers’ purchasing and eating of different cuts of meat. In asking consumers to describe how they make choices surrounding their selection, preparation, consumption, and disposal of meat products, we hope to find out how consumers make decisions about which parts of animals they eat, what can influence them to redefine which parts of animals are desirable as food, and what happens to those pieces they do not eat.

Initially we focused on the “bits and pieces” of meat leftover from cooking certain cuts of meat. We were looking to understand how culture and background played into eating certain meats and why certain people ate typical meats and others ate meats that the majority would see as “undesirable.”

Our team came to a crossroad about midway through week 3 about where our focus was shifting. Two members of our group were still interested in our initial focus while I was finding out new pains and needs from many of our participants. This caused me to rethink our focus to something I, personally, felt was far more interesting: education in buying and eating the meat. I felt that many of the customers, butchers, and chef’s/owners were exhibiting feeling towards a lack of education in the consumer end. Many of the butcher, owners, and chef we spoke to knew so much about what goes into presenting and selling meat, as well as all things that go into the quality of meat the affect price. Then, as we spoke to customers, many expressed they buying meat based on familiarity of cuts, and sometimes price. It may be an insight at this point on my end but I saw a pattern that many of these people were just buying the meats they had grown up knowing and it was only when someone told them of something new or educated them on how to properly cook a certain meat that they broaden their tastes to new types meat and cuts.

A lady we interviewed this Tuesday told us a story about a kind of fish she now loves to eat called Drum. It should be noted that this lady used to be cooking teacher for years before she retired, so she is not even the layman when it comes to preparing many types of meat. According to her, it is common practice for her to ask the fish mongers about the meat or fish she is buying. So one day while she was talking with a fishmonger that she was now familiar with the employee mentioned that Drum, often referred to as a “trash fish” is actually a pretty tasty fish when prepared in a certain way. The lady took this reference from her acquaintance and prepared a meal from this “trash fish,” and much to her surprise it was enjoyable.

This story just demonstrates that certain factors influence a person’s decisions when choosing meats. Hopefully I am not getting ahead of myself in saying this, but I believe that education and easier access to first hand knowledge on  meats can be a possible solution to that. I am excited to be on the same page with my group mates and that we were able to work through our difference and come to a mutually interesting focus going forward into the next phase of this process.

Ed & Sofia Creating Value

Ed is a popular musician. He’s written songs that have touched millions of people all over the world. People love his music but, after so many years of fame, the inspiration isn’t there anymore and he has yet to write a new song this year.
Ed’s manager, Rick, comes to him one day and tells him that the label is thinking of dropping him because he hasn’t written anything good in a long time. Rick says, “They’re going to drop you at the end of this month unless you come up with a song geared toward the female audience. Their market research says that most woman like upbeat songs so try to do that.” “But that’s only 7 days away!” Rick says, “Well you’re going to have to come up with something. My hands are tied, bro.” Ed says to himself, “What do I do now? I don’t know what songs girls like! I need to find some way to get inspired!” After two days of working and coming up with nothing Ed has an idea! What he needs is to get away from the city and go somewhere he has never been in order to be inspired to write his new song. “I’ll go to Italy. That’ll make me come up with something good!”
The next day he arrives in Rome, but even though he is in this beautiful city it might be too late. Ed only has 5 days left to come up with revolutionary song that female audience will like.

Day 1 (Liz Sanders)

Ed wakes up early and ready to get to work. “I think I’ll bring my guitar down to the cafe downstairs and play the tune I came up with while drinking an espresso. That should get the juices flowing.”After sitting at the cafe for two hours Ed begins to think that he will never find any inspiration for this song. He starts to hum the tune he has for the song but he can’t think up any words. Just then he hears a girl behind him singing words to his melody.
“When your legs don’t work like they used to before…”
“That was amazing how’d you come up with that?” Ed says. “I just came up with it.. I don’t know.” “Aren’t you Ed, the famous musician?” She asks. Ed nods and they start to talk more in depth. He tells her that  he’s working on an upbeat song for girls but he’s having trouble coming up with the perfect lyrics. He then has a thought. “What if we wrote the song together?” He asks. “Are you serious?” “Yeah I read in this article that rather than creating for people you should be creating things with them.”

Ed goes on to convince her that “Co-creation” as Liz Sanders puts it,  “…puts tools for communication and creativity in the hands of the people who will benefit directly from the results.” Ed remembers that he had bookmarked the article on his phone and he pulls it up to show her. Ed says, “Liz Sanders would say that If we work together to create the song rather than me just creating a song for you we can potentially accomplish three things:

  1. Monetary value: My song will be way more successful because more girls with relate to it, so therefore I’ll make a lot of money.
  2. Use/Experience value: Creating the song with you will make it a great sounding song than if I had just written it for you.
  3. Social value: We could potentially create a song that really helps people coping with love and the feelings of heartache. We can create something together than helps people handle those emotions.”
The girl agrees to work with him but she owns the cafe they are at and she can’t go away. So  comes up with the idea that he could help her out around the Cafe while he is visiting and in exchange she will help him create this song. She agrees and they shake hands on it. “I didn’t catch your name.” Ed says.
“It’s Sofia.”

Day 2 (Jon Kolko) 

Ed comes down to the store early the next morning. Sofia is busy helping customers so rather than asking what he needs to start doing he goes into the back and looks for an apron. In the back room there is a woman sitting down reading the paper and drinking coffee. He introduces himself and she tells him that she is Sofia’s sister, Greta. She asks him why he is helping them. Ed tells her about the arrangement that he and Sofia had set up the day before. He tells her about what they are doing. and how they are going to create a song for girls. They will be talking to the girls that come in and getting feedback for the song as it gets better during the week. Greta seems intrigued and wants to know more as to why he decided to have Sofia create the song with him instead of just interviewing her or something. Ed talks about co-creation and the value it has in his process. This is makes Greta think about a designer she met once named Jon Kolko and how his points on design research and the value of design synthesis very much pertains to this subject of creating music. Ed asks, “Tell me more about synthesis…maybe it’ll help us in the next few days.”
“Ed, you are a musician and just like many designers you have a boss or a group of higher ups that make strategic goals for the company you work for. Your boss is expecting you to create a song for girls based on the strategic goals of your label. They decide that it is best that you create a song for girls because that’s what will sell or that’s what will allow them to reach into different markets. You still need to write a song for girls, because you’ll get fired if you don’t, but what  if, instead of just writing a few notes and scribbling a few words, you actually figure out what woman want to hear and how they want to hear it.
Maybe you’ll figure out that girls don’t want an upbeat song, maybe they want something different. I don’t know and you don’t know but you should find out. It’s not enough these days to be a great artists, you have to think like the label does by doing one on one research and synthesizing that research in order to create music that not only is revolutionary but also is done is such a way that people can be ready to hear it.”
She suggests that Ed focus on Sofia and really try to get to know her. Then together they can create something amazing.

Day 3 (Don Norman)

Ed is working with Sofia at the coffee shop and is getting frustrated because every time he starts to bring up the song she gives him tasks to do and pretty much ignores him. Near the end of the work day Ed finally confronts Sofia.
“I thought you promised to help me! I figured we would have the song done by now, but instead we have wasted an entire day!”
Sofia says, “Ed, I don’t know if it’s a good idea to strive to create this revolutionary song that you are so desperate for. because I don’t think it’s possible to do that in 5 days.”
“Back at University we had a guest lecturer come to speak during one of my classes. His name was Don Norman. Contrary to what my sister told you yesterday, Norman believes that revolutionary breakthroughs do not come from research at all they come from scientist and engineers in labs. They do it because they are just looking to create, they aren’t trying to fix some need of the public. Design research is more helpful in producing incremental innovations which are slow, small enhancements improving upon these revolutionary products or services.”
 “He was talking about technological innovations, obviously, but I believe it applies to writing musical lyrics.” You are wanting to create the next top song and you think you’re going to be able to do it through getting to know me and creating it with my collaboration, but most often that’s not how great songs are written. They are written in the moment and not for a group of people but for the personal reasons of the artist.”
Ed says, “well what was the song you were humming when I first met you?” “That was pretty revolutionary to me!” Why don’t we just incrementally innovated to create a better, longer, and more pleasant sounding version of that song?”
Sofia agrees!

Day 4 (Bill Gaver)

It’s day 4 and Ed and Sofia are making progress on the song but they’ve gotten writers block. Greta mentions to Sofia that it is the day usually go to the market to buy bread and spices for the cafe shop. Ed and Sofia decide to use this as an opportunity to use a technique that Ed saw at the University of London in a lecture by Bill Gaver a few years back.
Ed goes out and buys a disposable camera for Sofia’s sister Greta. He tells her to take pictures of things she likes and things she dislikes at the market. Sofia ask him why he is asking her to do this? Ed says, “It’s a technique I learned awhile back from this design professor. He calls it, “Cultural Probes.” It’s an approach that stresses empathy and engagement for participants. It’s meant to elicit inspirational responses from Greta.
When they both meet up back at the Cafe Sofia asks Ed. “Are we going talk about why she chose to take these photos?” Ed says, “No.” Bill Gaver says that when you try to interpret these cultural probes scientifically they lose their value. They are simply meant to make Greta think creatively and engage her in our process.
Sofia and Ed then spend the rest of the evening talking with Greta. They then stay up all night writing the rest of the song and in the morning they finish.

Day 5 (Paul Dourish)

Ed and Sofia realize it’s their last day together and they are really happy with the song they’ve created. Sofia asks, “Do you really think your label will fire you if it doesn’t get popular?” Ed says, “I hope not. Luckily I know the main guy that make those decisions.He used to be computer scientist. His name is Paul Dourish.
He told me about a band he just signed named Capital Cities that wrote a really beautiful song years ago called Safe and Sound. They were dropped from their last label because the song didn’t do well when it was first released. But now that Paul signed them it’s one of the biggest songs in America. Sofia asks him,“Why didn’t the song do well back when it was first released?”
“Paul told me once that he believes it’s all about context and there are different ways of viewing these scenarios. There are:
  • Positivist who think in technical notions i.e. software developers (if, then)
  • Phenomenological thinkers that believe the the world as we perceive it is essentially a consensus of interpretationHe said that Capital Cities style of music was not famous at the time it was released because there were not that many bands at that time that sounded like them and thus audiences were not ready to hear their sound. He said that each year the music industry is rapidly shifting and changing. Preferences are changing and bands that once were famous are dying out and bands that were unpopular are now beginning to emerge as stars. Those that continue to survive are those that adapt and change based on the changing context.”
Sofia says, “So Capital Cities’ song Safe and Sound was kind of like a revolutionary innovation and the audience wasn’t ready for it when it was first released??” “Exactly!” Says Ed.
Ed kisses Sofia goodbye and the next week “Thinking out Loud” was the #1 song in the world. The end.
Comic-01 Comic-02 Comic-03 Comic-04

Peeling the Onion of Design Research

“It has often felt like I am an infant taking steps without knowing where the other foot will land.”

We are in the third week of Austin Center for Design however, at this point, I feel like it has been three months. That is not to say that those three weeks have been terrible but it has often felt like I am an infant taking steps without knowing where the other foot will land.

Design research is such a fascinating subject to be learning but it is completely foreign to the type of research I learned while attending business school as an undergrad. In undergrad I focused on market research and statistical analysis, methods that are closely related to this type of research but are used for very different reasons,  and in design research it is more based on “gut feelings” and, sometimes even throwing out the rules entirely.

I make it sounds like I am put off by this way of doing things but, when I take a step back from it, I am actually enjoying myself a great deal. Some of the interviews and inquiries I’ve done have been so profound and interesting that it almost pains me that I have but five more weeks in IDSE101 and only a few more days left in research before switching to synthesis. My team and I have gone on some great interviews and I have learned so much about animal food products that I would have otherwise never known.

“For the first time since the beginning of the program it made me feel like a great designer…”

Today’s research was particularly interesting. I was given the opportunity to tag along with two other AC4D members on a contextual inquiry they had arranged with a local rancher over in Bastrop, Texas that supplies meat for restaurants in Austin. For the first time since the beginning of the program it made me feel like a great designer and it gave me perspective of what we are attempting to understand through the research process. The first hour or so of the interaction we discussed several things about her ranch and the processes that she goes through on a day to day. As the interview went on She became even more comfortable (and way more talkative!) and she opened up about the difference between European to American cultures in terms of buying foods. She pointed out many interesting accounts, like that people in European cultures buy meat based on quality and ask questions about their meat, while most Americans want consistency with their food, specifically their meat. She spoke many concerns regarding this topic and the back and forth we had created a rapport that I hadn’t yet had with a participant. This is one interview out of the many we have done as a group so far but it was a turning point for me at a point where I was beginning to feel run down and unenthusiastic about the process.

I am glad to see some progress in my abilities to facilitate interviews and even more than that I like the fact that I can see what my work is building towards in the design process. I am excited to further my progression in design research and I know that I have a long way to go before I can start getting really good data for designing great products and services, but it’s encouraging to finally take a step and not fall on my face. I am not great at research, by nature I am probably better at creating graphics and visual design, but I am not discouraged by my inadequacy. I am eager to learn more because I have confidence that at the end of it I will be self-assured in my ability to perform design research at a high level.