OneUp and Q3

This quarter was all about synthesizing, making and revising. It is a familiar process to designers, but we were introduced to the concept of business as a layer within the process. We were asked to consider the building blocks of a business as we were iterating our design ideas. This became an integral part of our conversations for research and testing. This led to a more detailed and holistic definition of our design ideas, which came through in the presentations last week and our ability to answer questions from the audience. The audience definitely gave us useful feedback to incorporate as we move forward. Once again this highlights the belief that it is important to go public with design throughout the process.

In the spirit of that idea here is some information about my specific project. The research that we did the second quarter highlighted the invisibility of the fastest growing homeless population, women and children. We learned that there is a connection between homelessness and foster care.

  • Roughly 30-40% of the entire homeless population was in foster care at one point in their life and many young women exiting foster care need government assistance to meet their basic needs.

This was of particular interest to me given my history of working with youth organizations. I wanted to design something that would empower the youth to make choices and recognize their achievements. I believe helping them build confidence will lead to future success. I wanted to build on what we learned has been working—positive feedback and choices that allow the youth to establish their independence.

This led to the development of a new online tool that provides action plans for youth as they exit foster care to learn about financial ­planning. The plans help the youth build their confidence while gaining skills. OneUp offers support by providing options to connect with peers and experts.

This is based on the model pictured above. This model builds on current behavior as this is the generation of digital natives. The youth have grown up using computers—chatting with friends online and playing games. The new model removes some of the challenges that current programs face—fear of not meeting expectations, scheduled meetings and no formal way to involve peers.

Keeping this model in mind I began to design the online tool and share it with some 18-25 year olds for feedback. One of the screens is pictured above and highlights the key pieces of the tool.

  • choice—youth are choosing action plans based on the level they are on and their personal goals
  • easy—steps are kept short to encourage participation
  • support—the youth are empowered to reach out for the type of support they want when they want it including online chats with experts for questions that might be embarrassing to ask in person, the ability to invite friends to cheer them on and tips and warnings for more facts
  • community—share achievements with social networks, invite friends to participate with you, see what your peers are accomplishing in the feeds
  • tracking progress—see progress as steps are completed with the tracking bar at the top
  • achievements—earn badges as steps are completed, gain points as entire plans are completed that can be redeemed for real world rewards (ex. itune gift cards), complete enough action plans and move up a level exposing new opportunities

Continue to follow the blog to see how all of us work this quarter to refine our ideas and develop business plans around them. More making and revising….

change and play

My project this quarter has been focussed on using play and community to build confidence and change behaviors. I have been looking at life-skills and youth aging out of foster care. The research we did last quarter changed my perspective on homelessness. I was unaware that women and children were the fastest growing population, many young women aging out of foster care.  I felt a need to try to DO SOMETHING…

At the moment this has taken the form of an online tool that incorporates concepts of “play” and community to encourage the youth to get involved. As a designer I feel immersed in play regularly, but I am not a game designer trained in the theories and mechanics applied in the industry. So, I have been trying to absorb as much as possible looking at other models and watching videos. Yesterday I watched the video at the beginning of this post and thought again about why I chose a “play” model for my project.

  • influence and status—Everyone needs to feel like a winner, which helps build confidence. The video spoke about this in the way I am hoping to implement it. The youth will have “bragging rights” as they complete tasks, but there is no failing. It is focussed on their accomplishments.
  • communal dynamic—It is easier to accomplish things with peer support. This is a model that many fitness programs have been successfully built upon. I am hoping to build upon this and connect the youth back to the community and caring adults.

These are some of the theories, but I think that “play” encourages people to take risks with less fear and without being as overwhelmed by expectations. It is that license to be silly or try something new.

How has “play” or community connections played a role in making changes in your life? What rewards have you created for yourself based on behavior? Would you take 20 minutes out of your day to log on and answer questions to help your community? Does your answer change if rewards are involved?

user vs. standards

The past couple of weeks we have been doing Think Aloud usability testing on the iphone applications that we built wireframes for last quarter. It was great to take the prototypes out and experience a range of reactions to both the application as well as the UI.

We were charged with documenting “critical issues”. In some cases this proved surprising….The iphone is intuitive and easy to use? Following standards make the applications easier to use?

  • Words matter.Tags are something most designers and developers are familiar with (standard), but only one case manager understood what that meant. Once I explained what Tags were they stated wow that would be really useful. In their words keywords so I can easily search through notes by topic.
  • Symbols can be confusing. The section where the case manager is able to add clients was modeled after the address book on the iphone. There is a plus button to “add” a new client. It was interesting to see that this was not intuitive to the case managers including those that were familiar with iphones. I thought I was following the “standard”, but I would much rather give the users what they were all looking for a “new client” button. I realize there are language issues and that the plus does not require translating, but this is why context is always important.

I am not sure what the answer is for user vs. standards, but feel testing is important to understand the decisions we are making as designers.

Project managers can we please build a little time in the schedule for testing?

spaces and places

We are all busy rushing around to work on our final presentation for our research findings. We are building a new story based on the various stories we have heard and shared throughout the research/synthesis process. The listening has taken all of us to different spaces and many places. We have been to shelters around Austin, parks, foundations, and church held under a bridge to name a few. We have been to new spaces as we have heard stories of isolation, hope and prejudice. Through all  of this I find myself asking what does “home” mean? There are the comforts and shelter that come with the place of home, but it seems like the intangibles are part of the emerging themes from our research. How does the idea of safety reach beyond the physical space as we think about home?  Is the space that it creates in our daily lives as important as the physical shelter—space to reflect, space to relax and let our guard down, a place to gather with our friends or family? What role do our homes play in creating community or belonging in our lives?

This leads to new questions. Can we create services or products that incorporate the qualities of safety? Do the physical spaces create a sense of belonging or community, are they welcoming? How can we empower individuals, so that they can develop more confidence? Can we facilitate opportunities for individuals to explore goals and share their dreams? What support do they need to continue working towards their goals? How can we empower individuals to help each other? What do individuals have to offer instead of what do they need? Where is the space in the day to escape the stress of coping with daily challenges?

These are some of the questions we are asking as we look back at all the information we have gathered, examine opportunity  areas, develop design criteria and explore new ideas for products and services. We are reaching the end of this research phase, but in many ways it feels like just the beginning…

chaos to community

Synthesis and data sorting can often look like chaos to those not involved. Walls of post-it notes, lots of sharpie drawings, maps or models on brown paper, and pictures. But this wall for all of us involved in the design community represents a treasure chest. We spend hours sorting through our data, adding to the wall and reviewing what others have added. Each point on the wall represents a new opportunity or insight to someone in our community. The wall becomes a safe place for us to share far-fetched ideas, insights, and stories we have encountered. Our understanding and shared knowledge around the project transforms this wall of “chaos” into a project and community wall. The various drawings, pictures and post-its have helped all of us discover new opportunities and use different perspectives to gain understanding of another community.

It has come up for many of us that at first glance all we could see is chaos—people hanging out, locations for services, schedules, bags, and noise. But as we listen to the stories of the individuals involved in services both staff and clients we begin to understand their system. We begin to understand more about their community with every story we hear, share and observe. We learn what some of their tattoos mean, what is important to them and why they carry it, what the various services around town offer and mean to them as well as the stories they share through marks on their clothing and bags.

How do we build on the community that exists?What is shared within the community?What creates a sense of trust and safety within the community?Is there an equivalent to our wall for their community?

This is just the beginning and there is much more, so check back as we continue to try to make sense of what others may view as chaos…

It's just the beginning

Reflecting on the first quarter over the weekend made me realize how much we have done in a short time. There have been great discussions, papers, research and lots of making as well as presenting in our studio class. This video is a short recap of the work I did in our studio class. It was great to experiment with all the methods and mediums throughout the quarter. I can’t wait to apply some of it to new client projects and our work with ARCH.

Check out the video and follow the blog to see what is next.

keep moving

This has been a theme in our studio class this quarter. Just start working, get your ideas out there—sketching, info. graphics, building stories, writing blogs, tweets, pitches, sites and now this week exploring mobile applications. We do not stop once we get the idea down on paper or translated into pixels, but we present, critique and then go back and do it all again. It is a reminder that there simply is no substitute for doing….

It all began with an affinity exercise in our research class. My team decided to research waste systems at a small farmer’s market. The research process has been great. It is amazing how working with all the data and diagrams how many design opportunities start to bubble up from the data. I started experimenting with a few in the studio class.

This was an early attempt. I wanted to address the communication of the system and how it works. I tried creating a game surrounding the waste stations. The visitors get tickets when they recycle that give them little facts about recycling and can be used later for discounts with the various vendors at the market. It was a start, but as we moved forward I began to think more about the business model and arrived at a service that manages waste for events.

This is a sample home page for a marketing site for the service idea I have been exploring. The service is a consulting group that will manage all of the logistics for waste management systems at events. They will work with the organizers to understand their needs as well as implement and manage the system including removal of the waste at the end of the event. There is a network included for all the vendors to source eco-friendly packaging for their products and a DIY kit for smaller events.

This week is a custom iphone application for the events. There is a map showing all the waste stations and vendors, twitter stream, photo gallery and check ins. The check-ins are for vendors using eco-friendly packaging and the visitors accrue eco-points that can be redeemed with the vendors for products.

Just keep moving and making stuff…..

design and play

I have always been interested in the concept of “play” and often feel that my best design work happens when I let go and simply “play” rather than focus on what needs to happen and expectations. “Play” seems to create the freedom and room for exploration and discovery. Perhaps it traces back to childhood memories and experiences of “play”. See the video below.

Teaching Design Play to Kids in Extreme Environments

Some of my favorite “play” activities as a child included  legos, making stories, and dance.

What did you enjoy? Does it relate to the work you do as a designer? Does understanding “play” help create better educational opportunities?

chart resources

Here are a few links that might be helpful as we all work on our models and charts.

Communicating Designwireframes, flowcharts and personas and other UX deliverables

Concept Models—A Tool for planning Websitessome great tips at the end of the post

MindMap Inspirationgreat examples of mindmaps + info.

Cool Infographicscool infographics samples

Small Labscollection of NY TImes infographics

FlowingDataanother collection of data visualizations

Strange Mapscollection unique maps

visual complexitycollection data visualizations

infostheticscollection data visualizations

many eyescollection, tools and info. about data visualization