Pocket Hotline Pitch – AC4D Q3 Recap

The impetus for Pocket Hotline lies deep within the research Chap and I conducted at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH). After 8+ weeks of observing, interviewing, listening and testing, we learned that there were a few breakdowns in the ARCH client service system. One particular breakdown centered around the front desk. It was always busy, no- swamped. Homeless clients were repeatedly asking the front desk staff the same group of questions over and over. As staff were repeatedly answering these questions and the phone kept interrupting the conversation with similar repeated questions. The staff was spending its time doing the same rote tasks while preventing themselves from accomplishing the tasks in which they were highly trained.
“Getting that information when you are the only one sitting at the desk and there are five people yelling at you is tough.”

More Architects, Not Firefighters

Throughout our ongoing research, Saranyan and I observed that successful teams are architects. They make plans. They lay the groundwork and build ideas. All too often we slip into reactionary mode- too busy putting out fires to realize that short-sighted focus of “getting things done” may be the biggest distraction from actually accomplishing meaningful actions. There is a degree of recklessness in following a bold directive through to the end. Goals are meant to inspire- to light a spark and orchestrate a conflagration of ideas and actions. An architect may see it through (or change course) but a firefighter will extinguish the momentum before it ever starts. Foresight gives way to formula.

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An Inquiry Into Water Usage

As a final deliverable for Lauren’s fantastically useful Design Research class, we presented findings for our self-directed projects that focused on recycling. Our team (Alex Pappas, Saranyan Vigraham & Scott Magee) chose water recycling due to the fact that it is often overlooked when thinking about recycling in the general context and it is an issue of active consciousness in Austin due to our water supply and occasional droughts. While our initial interest centered around greywater systems, we readjusted our focus to include water usage at restaurants with and without attached gardens.

Throughout the quarter we applied our newly acquired research techniques from affinity diagramming to contextual inquiries to participatory interviews with our participants. Afterward we transcribed hours of video and immersed ourselves in all the glorious data. We visualized our findings with work models and synthesized new ideas via concept models as we developed solutions for conserving water at Austin-area restaurants. Everything Lauren taught us made sense and this was a real world assignment to prove it.

The following PDF is a slightly modified version of the deliverable we presented in class.

An Inquiry Into Water Usage

2010 Edition Design Theorists – Collect'em All!

By popular demand, here are the Design Theorist Cards I presented today in class. Feel free to use it as a learning tool or the worst party game ever.

My original intent was to pair quotes with the authors, but I also liked the fact that the cards became an affinity model where I could group the the quotes into commonalities and themes I didn’t see previously. I’d really like to find out how to transcend my low-fi prototype into an interactive framework like we talked about in class. Adding the extra layers of context would really make the experience have depth and a perspective. Where should I start? Chap?

Sustainable Means Wearing It In

During my recent travels to Costa Rica I noticed a incredible collective consciousness of conservation. I saw signs stating, “Be kind. Water is life.” in nearly every bathroom and kitchen. CFL bulbs were the norm, not the exception. Multiple recycle bins stood in nearly every public place for all types of sources (although tourists participated less than the locals).

Old Range Rover truck in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

What really caught my eye was the abundance of older trucks and SUVs on the road. Costa Rica is quite mountainous and is blessed with a climate above freezing, which lays the groundwork for 4×4 demand and longevity. I was struck by the fact that these vehicles (Toyota FJ40 and Land Rover Discovery) circa 1970s and 1980s were built to last. They were built to withstand abnormal thrashings and the occasional ding or two yet keep on ticking. The simplicity of these machines renders them timeless when vehicles are designed for obsolescence within a model lifetime of 5-10 years. Sure we’ve come a long way in terms of safety, fuel economy and scale but the raw utility and personality of these vehicles is undeniable.

After returning back to the states this week, I’ve reexamined my possessions and my definition of quality with a new set of eyes. The new sustainable may actually be the old “they don’t make it like they used to…” Very cool.

Excerpts from the Cranky Creative

Chris Chandler dropped in today to interrupt our regularly scheduled day of Design Theory. He shared anecdotes about his days as Senior Creative Lead of Walt Disney Online, but more importantly, he shared the importance of crafting a story. Not just a narrative, but a story. Chris mentioned how all creativity at Disney is driven by the story. Every touchpoint and facet of every project is part of the story.

The timing of this connection was uncanny as my presentation last Monday sorta blew up due to lack of continuity (storyline) and with a classmate’s info-packed presentation after Chris left- all of which were great learning experiences. A new nugget of simplicity has become firmly embedded in my psyche, an occurrence that my high school English teacher would be pleased to know.

Turn Bricks into Bucks

Illustration: Rafael Macho for Wired

Considering our assignment for Research Methods covers recycling, I though this article in Wired was perfectly timed. A company called ecoATM has applied the ubiquitous Redbox/Coinstar presence of a box in every grocery store into recycling old mobile phones. I’ve noticed other retailers with mobile phone donation centers (Target, Best Buy) but this model may succeed where the donation kiosks failed – with the intrinsic motivation of money. That’s right, our disposition to consume more stuff (or just trying to salvage every last dollar from less fashionable/functional doo-dads) can make the ecoATM model succeed. I am also pleased to know that you can donate the value as a charitable contribution and the batteries will not find themselves in a landfill. No haggle swaps of junk for cash is tapping into consumers’ need for value with automated (and disguised) altruism.

Split Personality

Do you practice WYSIWYG for your virtual self on the internets? Justin posed this question to us asking whether you should split your social profiles: one for personal connections and one for professional connections. The transparency conundrum is increasingly valid and really depends on what works for you.

I’ve heard of people having a so-called separation of church and state when it comes to work friends and “real” friends. If you spend more time with these people than your significant other, I’m sure at least some bonds have been made so that you’re not eating Box-o-Ramen alone in the corner. Then why do we differentiate work vs. non-work friends? Is the connection less valid because we are forced to exist in the same physical space (to get paid), thus cutting down on the serendipity of finding a kindred spirit in the ether? Would that proximity and merging of similar people actually perpetuate authentic connections?

My boss just sent me a friend request! What do I do?!?This flash of fear was graced our status updates at one time or another. Does your boss need to see your party pics from two years ago? Does he/she really care that you ROTFL at every meme with Keanu? Does he/she want to make a valid personal connection with you or just try to figure out what all this Facebook stuff is about?

In a past life, I worked at a company with a very explicit social media policy stating that I was a representative of [redacted] at all times and must conduct myself in such a manner. I posted a status update one Friday afternoon that my co-workers were morons because they were just goofing off and not passing on the work I needed so I could leave at a decent time. Simple. Relatively harmless. Three weeks later my boss sent me a message one Sunday morning asking me what I meant by it and that I should remove it immediately since it violates the social media policy. At the time my posts were private only to my friends, so I was floored that a flippant reflection generated a response from a friend that also happened to be the guy that signs the checks. Ouch. From that point I learned about friend group filtering and censoring my reflection on social media. Sure that comment was about as insightful as “waiting for the bus…” but it was on a closed invite-only network where close friends could choose to ignore my inanity- at least until privacy policies changed again and all updates were free for all to see on the interweb, but that’s another post.

Sure, some of you already have a work account and a personal account. This could save face and minimize awkward water cooler moments by accepting all co-worker friend requests. But is that really you? Is the profile set up for their benefit or yours? Does a watered down connection add richness to the social dialogue? Probably not, but it’s a boundary to keep work friends at arm’s length and an extra degree of protection in case you slip up about your lazy/inept/crazy/stinky coworkers.

What if I put it all out there?Justin Petro made a great point that, “You are your own brand.” For better or worse, that means making the pixels on the screen represent your virtual self as closely as possible. Maybe you’re a jerk- good. Maybe you’re a rambling Pitchfork junky- good. Your love for I Can Has Cheezburger and Swiss Design can actually add depth to your persona (well, maybe…). Living out loud with life turned to eleven may be the best thing your brand can do for itself. Every nuance of your online persona makes you just a little bit more unique when seen in summation. I have actually won clients with my About Me page because it “adds personality” to the typically lifeless portfolio site. Publishing that page for the first time was actually a little nerve-racking, but it now proves that I’m a unique little snowflake- just like everyone else.

Per the suggestion of Jon and AC4D, I am beginning to embrace living virtually in public by posting more and more of what makes me, well… me. As Sesame Street as that sounds, the culmination of being authentic with yourself and your brand could foreseeably reap rewards down the road since you and your persona are the same person. Though a WYSIWYG world may not be the answer, authentic connection is a start.