Hey What’s Up Hello, Research & Theories

The narrative of my story is based on the experience a young girl named Mary Beth has when visiting “The History of Design” Museum for a school field trip. The Museum is set up to be one room with six different pedestals, each containing a different product that tied to one of the readings. Though, in order to see these products the students had to wear special glasses. There were five pairs of glasses, each would reveal one of the products on the pedestals, except for one, which showed two. This was done because though the readings had overlaps, they ultimately were describing distinctly different methods and theories. After reading the articles and extracting their meanings and methods, I found a product that was an example of each research method and design theory. I also wanted to highlight how seeing new perspectives, brings about new products and ideas. So with each new pair of glasses, comes new products and research method.

In the story the main character goes through looking at each product with the glasses on, but is confused and doesn’t see the connection between products and their significance. Until she asks a fellow student, Claire, how she knows additional information about the products presented to them. Then Claire explains to Mary Beth, that after she put on the glasses she needed to “press a button on the side”, where an explanation for each product and its difference from the others would appear in front of the product itself. Claire then goes on to explain what Mary Beth missed in the museum.

DESK

The first of the Museum’s products was a Desk. This was supposed to be a Desk taken from Project H’s experience in Mexico City. Where Project H came into a rural community school and codesigned new furniture for the school. Claire then speaks about how Project H worked in collaboration with the school, to create a physical thing that would improve the lives and learning of the children who attended.

Peeler

The second product was OXO’s Vegetable Peeler. Here it was highlighted that Designers were moving from a tactful role to a strategic role. The product shown was developed within a design consultancy, Smart Design, they used ethnographic research methods to lay the groundwork for the project. They wanted to find the anomalies within their research participants, such as those with arthritis. Lastly they continued the project well past prototyping. All throughout the implementation of the product into the customer market was guided by the design team. This shows that designers aren’t just looking at products for their aesthetics, but going beyond that to a more strategic and business space.

ModelT

The third product was the Model T. Ford. This aligned to the idea’s Don Norman had expressed within his article “Technology First, Needs Second”. The Model T. was the first affordable car, it’s the perfect example of how technology lead to the need. First the combustible engine was invented (technology) then this brought about the car (product), next came the  popularization and affordability for the masses (people), finally we see that people cannot imagine their lives without their car (need). This linear path of technology down to people, is a pattern seen by many around Revolutionary Innovations. Don would say the Model T. was a revolutionary Innovation, that truly was lead by technology.

EU

The fourth products were a European Union Flag and a prototype for a design concept. The European Union in the 90’s started a task called “Presence Project” which revolved around elderly individuals and their interactions with technology. During this study, the researchers used cultural probes to gain insights into the participants lives. They used emotional mapping, sent postcard with prompts and sent a disposable camera to the participants. Each of these prompts were designed to evoke a playfully like experience for the participants, and later for the designers to be inspired by. This method embraces the limits of knowledge and allow the gaps left behind to be filled by the fun, play and uncertainty built into the activities.

FB

Lastly there were two products shown, Mary Beth’s Facebook Page with just the likes highlighted, and a new product called “Wave”. These two products were representations of two different theories of design, positivist and phenomenological. First the Facebook page, this perfectly exemplifies the positivist theory. In that on Facebook you can “like” different topics and activities, and then the Facebook algorithm will only show you things that are those topics and those that release to it. This algorithm shows people as being single dimensional and one sided, because it literally takes what you said you liked and only shows you those things.

Wave

The second object shows is called “Wave”. It is a made up object. The object is supposed to be a piece of art that moves in a wave constantly. Though then, when person reaches over it, the top shiny layer will react to this motion and move in the same direction as the hand. It then creates a sense that the user is creating these waves. This piece doesn’t try to predict behavior, rather it reacts to the humans around it. That is the key part that makes this phenomenological. Additionally this is due to its subjectivity to the actions of the humans around it. The piece doesn’t try to solve the humans problems, only provides a reaction.

Mary Beth ends the field trip learning that design is more than just the product created. Each and every one of those products has a long back story that deepens as she learns more.

Hey What’s Up Hello, Research Presentation

For this first quarter, my research partner and I have undertaken researching Short Term Loans and their effect on financial decision making. These Loans are categorized by three distinct features: smaller principles, shorter payback period, and extremely high interest rates.

We also decided to focus on Financial Planning to see how these two are intertwined. Payday loans often times position themselves as an alternative for unexpected costs, but we wanted to find out if this is truly how individuals were using them. A few questions we were asking ourselves included: “After an individual does borrow money, how do they pay it all back?” “What would some of their budgets look like?” Theses were our jumping off point, but we soon decided to also focus and pull on the emotional aspects of finances. How did individuals feel about their loans, how did they feel about paying it back? What situations brought them to taking the loan in the first place.

We saw each of these focus points as significant since they are both so thoroughly intertwined. Its nearly impossible to look deeply into one without the other topic spilling over. Garrette and I also felt a strong interest within the topic itself. Neither of us have experience with Short Term loans so we saw them as a new complex topic. 

As our focus became more specific we began deliberate on our execution style. Both Garrett and I wanted to keep our research as “user centered” as possible, without becoming too narrow. Keeping this in mind, we decided to conduct Contextual Inquiries for our primary method. Contextual Inquiries focus on seeing where the actual work is done. This involved being invited into our participants homes and lives for our research.

Alongside the contextual inquiries, we wanted to interview the individuals to gain knowledge beyond just what we could observe. We considered this a key aspect to our overall methodology. Speaking with our participants about their loans gave us greater insight into the story of each individual. It allowed them to speak through their emotions so we could feel as they felt during that time in their lives. As we asked open ended questions to our participants, they began to build a story for us to follow.

Finally to build up another perspective for us to view their experience from, we asked them to draw a timeline leading up to the loan, and what happened afterwards. The idea behind this was to create the emotional and logistical events of the loan. With this timeline we see the correlation between actions and emotions with an additional reference for how much time has come to pass and how much time there had been before the loan with each event. As we began our interviews, we started to see more stories come to live.

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Our first interview was for Robert. Robert is in his mid to early 60s, and has an air of punk to him. Robert took out his loan at the age of 26, he was freshly out of service, and out of college. He was beginning to “enter into the civilian workforce”. Robert was looking for work and had a wealthy woman by his side; he needed money to get his job and life started. The most accessible option for Robert to achieve these goals, was through a short term loan. He took a loan of 2,000-dollars out with a high interest rate (He couldn’t remember the specifics). Since Robert didn’t have a job, his girlfriend at that time had to cosign with him. After getting the loan Robert was on his way. He had a car, he had a steady income. Though the work of a Surveyor was seasonal, so off season was a different story. After one hard season, Robert was out of a job, with around $200 left on his loan. Which his now ex-girlfriend (the one who cosigned) had to finish paying the loan. This wasn’t ideal, but this way Robert got to keep his truck, and the loan company go their money. He later apologized, for the incident, though he still had drastic emotions tied to the event. 

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Andromeda, was only 18 when she wanted to be independent from her parents. Not just physically but financially as well. So she moved out and started making her own money. Though after a few months out she realized, payday loans weren’t the way to cover her financial miscalculations. Andromeda said she took out a few loans, two that she specifically remembered. One for a camping trip, and another for a concert. She never took out more than 100-200 dollars worth, and after her second one she began to realize the detriment these had on her budges. At one point in her life, she had “eaten only English muffins for a week because I spend my grocery budget for that week on interest”. Her loan experience taught her so much, and see she’s it as a universal transition.

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Nick was only 20 when he took out a personal loan, using his truck as collateral. The initial loan was 2200 dollars, and was designated to pay off off other debts. He said, “after getting money I felt like I was gunna have a future”. Though he did later tell us he used the leftover money to throw a kegger. Nick referred to himself as being young, didn’t care and irresponsible towards money. Towards the final few payments, his car broke down and he wasn’t able to make payments. During this time, he hid his car at his mechanics until it was fixed. Then he found work and finally paid the loan in full. He also considered himself a “professional spender”. At the time of the loan, he didn’t have a budget and didn’t care to make one. Now, his fiance  has shaped him up. She made him a budge and have encouraged responsible spending habits in him.

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Winston came upon a terrible week when he took out his loan. All within seven days, he was kick out of his home, he lost his job, and he broke his big toe. After around five days of living out of his car, looking for work and not being able to properly walk, he heard a voice in the night. It was his departed Grandfather’s voice saying, “what are you doing, get some money, get some help”. With this he took out a 2200 dollar loan. Winston used the money to pay for his first months rent, and for some legal fees he had accrued. Eventually Winston was able to find work again, and paid off his loan in full. He said he found inspiration to pay for the loan in full from his late Grandfather. Winston said his Grandfather was a hard worker and that his strong Irish/Scottish ties encouraged him to be self sufficient. Though he also regretted taking out the loan in the first place and thought it would have been better to just sell the car.

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Finally Chris has similarly been down on his luck. Within the past two years, he has been separated from his  wife, resigned from his job and been in two car wrecks. These are not cheap situations to be in. The damages for the most recent car came up to more than Chris could afford. Chris desperate to be able to see his son and have a means of transportation, cashed a 1,000 dollar loan check. The loan was used to cover car repair costs, so he could still see his son. He took out the loan in December of last year, and is currently still paying this off. He has still not found work, but is optimistic that a job will come soon. “I know i’m going through a rough patch and its really tight with all of my other obligations but I expect to work through it and come out of it.”

Throughout the process I’ve been shocked and slightly let down by the number of people who said they would call or said they would be open to the interview, though there is now follow through. It was so disheartening to speak with someone, thinking we had another participant, when really I was just counting on them too early. For the future, I will start recruiting for participants far earlier, making sure I get their contact information and give people a deadline.

I also was taken aback by how people reacted when I spoke to them about my research. Just asking individuals if they knew anyone who had taken out a Short Term loan, many of the reactions I received were jaded and almost rude. One person replied with “Those are kind of dicy and predatory, I don’t know anyone who’s taken one”. I didn’t understand how my conducting research mean they need to add any commentary on the topic. 

The research itself was exciting. I enjoined speaking with participants and seeing how they lived their lives. I think this will lessen with time though, but for now I will enjoy the newness of the activity. Additional practice will also help me not be as nervous for interviews. Overall I enjoyed the process and all that it brought to me. I do still feel unsettled by the process, but I know it will be easier with time. 

Below is the actual presentation itself.

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Hey What’s Up Hello: Theory Assignment 1

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Our first assignment for the Theory class wasn’t so much difficult, as time consuming. It was estimated to take only 10 -15 hours total, but I managed to take quite a bit more than that. A quick over view of the assignment:

  • Read the 6 articles and assess each author’s “positioning design in society”.
  • Sketch out a comic that achieves two things: First explains each Author’s view of Design and then work your own opinion into the format
  • Take your sketch and trace it into Illustrator, use Open Sans Font for captions.
  • Publish it to the Blog with a reflection
  • Present your comic in class “in a formal presentation”

The assignment did have several layers to it, but honestly it just took a ton of time. This is due to the newness of the process for myself.

Below is a list of what was new or unfamiliar to me during this assignment:

  • Create a story that integrates all six perspectives
  • Sketching out a comic
  • Tracing said comic in Illustrator
  • Formatting a comic in Illustrator
  • Download a font to my computer and adding it to a comic
  • Publishing to a Blog

This was the majority of the second half of the assignment, so it took quite a bit longer than the 10 -15 hours estimated. This doesn’t mean these tasks were hard, they are just so unfamiliar to me, that they take me a longer amount of time to get done. I was very lucky though, since I work in the creative department of an Advertising agency, when I had issues in Illustrator, I could run over and my coworkers were happy to help out.

In addition to taking more time to do these tasks, I also managed to make more work for myself though the following mistakes:

  • I drew my first sketch in far too much detail, drawing faces and mirroring the exact set of “The Dating Game”
  • I left word bubbles blank in my sketch, I figured I would add in the text on Illustrator. I should have written them out on the sketch and tracing them, it’s far easier that way.
  • I should have drawn out everything on one page of paper then traced it into Illustrator. Its far easier for me to change a word, re sketch an image or organize the frames by hand, than to do it in a program.

Though now, I know how to do more in Illustrator and I know what’s the fastest method for me to get other assignment like this done. Over all, I recognize that until I feel comfortable with these tasks and programs, I need to jump on assignments a lot faster that normally, and dedicate larger amounts of time to these assignments.

 

As for actual content of the readings, my favorite academic article was Maurizio Vitta’s “The Meaning of Design”. The theory he built around individuals and the representation they want from the products they buy was fascinating. “He or she is constrained to use these goods not for their functionality but as images of himself or herself to be projected toward the outside world as the sole contact with others”. This statement has continued to be true even within our society today. Countless individuals purchase goods not for their functions or features but to establish themselves in the same cultural position as the product. I think the best example of this is the Cross Fit program. Customers do not just take these regimented workouts as a simple activity, they change their whole lifestyle to align with the Cross Fit image. Customers no longer identify as someone apart from the Cross Fit brand.

Vitta also says “if the culture of design is meant to explain the culture of the object, it must of necessity share the object’s fate. As the object in our system is at the same time a sign of social identification… design cannot help but be an instrument of social analysis”. He so perfectly connects objects with design and society. Each object that our society highlights or deems “successful”, is a reflection on our society. This too is still so true today. One example could be the usability so heavily emphasized in the culture of the Iphone in the United States. This cultural aspect highlights our insane efficiency mindset, that everything needs to be able to be reached at any given time. It also highlights a deeper drive for constant capital gains. Efficiency has been at the core of the United States’ economic system since it was established. The parallels between the success of the Iphone and the cultural emphasis on efficiency are too strongly correlated to be dismissed. This is how Vitta can so easily draw the tied fates between the culture of design and the culture of objects.   

My favorite article outside of the academic side was Emily Pilloton’s “Depth over breadth: Designing for impact locally, and for the long haul”. I found I agreed with her three points of Proximity, Empathic Investment and Pervasiveness. The most complex of these three points was the pervasiveness. I’m struggling with viewing a problem but not focusing on all the other issues that have an effect on it. How do you look at payday loans and not get into the cycle of poverty? What makes something like “Food Stamps” a perpendicular issue instead of an issues that is part of the “Depth” of your initial issue? Even within her example I didn’t see the connection, how had the town of Hale grown? After all these programs were introduced to it, has is grown economically? I’ll have to continue to ask questions before I’ll know.

The readings were enjoyable as was the assignment. I’m getting more used to the gray space in the process.

Hey What’s up Hello, Predatory Loans

The research plan was an oddly comforting assignment. A phrase I never thought I would have around a school assignment, but it’s true. I enjoyed projecting my initial ideas around predatory loans on to paper. Reviewing questions such as, ‘what are predatory loans, who do they affect, how are these populations most affected, what is the behavior of the lender, how much say do lenders have in the application process?’ and so on and so forth.

Throughout the creation of our research plan, I found myself constantly placing qualifiers within my questions or descriptions of potential participants. For example, wondering, ‘why did I assume the person asking for a loan was under financial pressure?’ or ‘Why did I assume the person lending the money was wealthy?’. To reflect and critically engage with the assumptions I made around predatory loans and what words I was putting on the page was an arduous task, but it felt rewarding. By analyzing my own assumptions and thoughts around predatory loans, I was getting to a deeper, cleaner starting place; one that allowed me to build up my research from a less judgmental place.

The second comforting notion was the simple reminder that this is just a starting point. Previously during trial runs of this process, I was under the impression the research plan was more like a recipe. Each step needed to be completed in order to create the perfect meal. Though after actually doing the process, I’m finding that exact steps of the ‘plan’ will not matter half way through an interview as long as you stay within your focus. The research plan’s activities will change in real time during the actual research process. I now have a better understanding of what Jon meant when he said “make a plan, but know that it will go wrong”.

So let’s begin our research, and see where the observed behaviors take us.

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