HomeList – The Business

In the past 12 weeks, we have been working on developing and testing a product to connect people experiencing homelessness to housing options in Austin. These individuals often have various barriers to housing. These can come in the form of prior evictions, legal history, or simply not being able to save for a down payment. HomeList acquires these barriers from its clients and connects them with housing available specifically for them. HomeList achieves this by leveraging both public housing, transitional housing options, as well as a normally hidden list of renters willing to work with people in this situation. We promise, through HomeList, to connect people to stable housing.

Our goal of stable housing comes from an understanding that people are less likely to worry about self-care until they have a stable dwelling, and many people who are living on the street only need a bit of help. These people are normally overlooked because there are other, more vulnerable people who need help sooner. There are unfortunately few options for the less vulnerable population aside from waitlists for case management, and a hope for bootstrapping. The reality of the situation is far from this. The normal waiting period we found from our research participants is close to a year when applying for housing.

Value

HomeList hopes to cultivate increased landlord outreach participation by changing the public perception of what it’s like to house someone who is or has experienced homelessness at some point. Contrary to popular belief, someone off of the street is as likely to be evicted as any other renter. With harsh requirements for background and credit checks, it can be incredibly difficult to get off of the street once there. Renters around the city are coming together to make a change though. They make exceptions for certain barriers to allow these people to have a place to live and stabilize their lives.

To measure our success we will look at the average time people wait for housing before HomeList (from our current research this is around 9 months) compared to the amount of time it takes when HomeList is implemented. Not only does decreasing the time people spend on the street benefit the individual and their lives, but it also saves money for the state or city. Below are two visualizations of what it is like for people who do not qualify for case management to try to get housing when on the street. The first shows the experience without HomeList and the second shows the connection to housing when HomeList has been implemented.

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Above you see the disconnection from housing options, and below how HomeList connects directly, and immediately, with the open housing options.

Jmap_HL

On average, an individual experiencing homelessness costs the state around $14,000. These costs come from healthcare, legal costs, general care for these individuals. Keeping someone housed costs less, estimated at around $12,000 for Austin. Saving $2,000 per year per person amounts to a savings of $3 million if the people currently homeless in Austin were to get housed. Actual costs and savings will vary, as roughly 7000 people experienced homelessness in 2016. By helping people get into housing, HomeList not only allows them to rebuild their lives from a stable home, but also saves money for the organizations who most frequently interface with people currently experiencing homelessness.

Business Structure

HomeList is to be incorporated as a B-Corp to retain the social mission of the product regardless of the company’s controlling party. Our promise is to connect people experiencing homelessness to stable housing. Through outreach to and working with local non-profits and private renters, HomeList serves a part of the population normally forgotten by the systems in place to support them. Instead of working for the benefit of shareholders and investors, being a B-corp allows HomeList to work for its clients above all.

An added benefit is the ability to sell stake in the company or incentivize employees or partners with shares. Our hope is to become a fully self sustaining SAAS company creating a client-side application to better serve the population of individuals experiencing homelessness.

Behavior Change

The model below shows the behavior change we hope to see from implementing HomeList. Our most lofty goal is shifting public perception of what an individual experiencing homelessness is. During our research we found negative feelings plague the rental market for these individuals, when they are in fact as likely as anyone else to be evicted or not pay rent. Hopefully HomeList will assist in proving this fact to current renters, and to others who may be interested in social benefit of this type. tocmini

 

Funding

For initial development and startup funding, we would originally seek $60,000 in funding to further test our product and create an MVP to deliver our value. The full development cost of our product is $95,000, but our profits in the second year would cover expansion. The development for our MVP would take two months, with a second release scheduled tentatively for a month after the first release. Below is a roadmap of our releases, the dates are not added because they are not concrete. Another avenue considered is partnering with a developer and offering HomeList stock to incentivize their work. This would decrease our need for funding immensely, and would only require minimal input for expenses. Kelsey and I hope to work to implementing a more basic version of our program through text message before releasing a product to help cover development costs with revenue. 

Development

For a full release, our timeline is estimated at 60 days, or 12 working weeks for two developers, full time. This is a rough cost of $60,000 for initial development. This release would include full landlord and client side UI, housing program databases, and HMIS server integration as well as e-sign in capability and information storage databases. Later releases will come after our first year, when revenue is expected to begin to cover the cost of development and business. We would then begin to include further functionality beyond matching with housing. It will consider health factors (both mental and physical), job services, and legal help. There are organizations in Austin who provide these services as a social benefit. Matching people with organizations like these after they are housed will help stabilize our clients and further empower them to take control of their lives. Below is an expected roadmap for our releases with what will be released and what order it will be released in. Dates are absent as we do not know when these will take place or when development will be started. Overall the first two releases will take 60 days, the second two coming after our first year of business.

roadmap

Revenue

Monetizing HomeList comes in the form of licensing. Currently, HMIS software (Homeless Management Information System) is licensed on a monthly basis. Each organization working for the benefit of individuals experiencing homelessness is required by HUD (the Federal Housing and Urban Development Authority). HomeList is to be sold as an add on to interface with the current HMIS software offerings to make gathering information easier. It is also the only client side application interfacing with HMIS software.

HomeList would be sold to either non-profits directly for $1,500 per month as a flat fee, or to COC organizations for $1,000 per organization using the software. This may seem like a large amount of money for non-profits to cover, but due to the nature of the software, it should qualify from the same HUD subsidy other HMIS softwares are covered by. Normally 75% of the cost is covered by HUD. Other offerings vary from $2,000 – $5,000 monthly depending on the size of the organization for HMIS software. Our is positioned much lower because it does not have the a case manager side UI. Below is a graph showing our profit and loss over 24 months with our current model of funding and development. The graph includes the cost of development for our first three months in operation at $10,000 per month. Our full business plan is available here and our full financial analysis is available here.

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Breaking Out of Our Own Limitations

As children we are told many cliches such as, “the possibilities in life are endless. You can do anything you want to do.” These statements may have become overused, but there’s a truth to it, with the right tools. As we get older, we generally tend to forget this sentiment. I believe this frame of mind comes from becoming more familiar with the way things are, which limits us to seeing the way things could be. Being able to see past what is known is how true innovation happens.

 

This is where applying techniques of defamiliarization becomes beneficial. In order to be able to see how things could be, we need to defamiliarize ourselves with our own current perception and understanding of the world. Genevieve Bell, et al., argue that, “defamiliarization is a useful tool for creating space for critical reflection and and thereby for opening up new possibilities for the design of domestic technologies.” Defamiliarization can manifest in a variety of techniques such as journaling, conducting ethnographic research, or learning about an opposing viewpoint. I think as long as the method produces reflection or allows someone to ask why beyond face value, then progress will be made.

 
Let’s take a look at healthcare for a minute. If we take the term for face value it implies a positive relationship. Who doesn’t want to be cared for, especially in regards to their health? Then we look at the typical interaction between a healthcare professional (HCP) and “patients” we realize that the relationship feels pretty surface level. Dubberly, et al., explains that HCP’s, “proposals are not just suggestions, they are prescriptions or literally ‘physician orders.’ Patients who don’t take their medicine are not ‘in compliance.’” This description of a healthcare professional doesn’t give me much confidence in regards to being cared for, especially in a medical scenario where the patient has a life-threatening condition. I think it speaks to how medical education can turn caring for a human being into a job void of emotion with a focus of efficiency and accuracy. The impact becomes lost in this frame. Don’t worry, there is hope.

 
Clay Johnson, the Dean of Dell Medical School in Austin, TX is employing a mentality to address this exact issue. He says that, “they’re determined to build the new medical school… on the ‘value-based’ health care model, treating patients and rewarding doctors on the basis of actual ‘outcomes’ – how healthy they keep their patients, and ultimately, how healthy they keep whole populations in Central Texas.” This mentality came from challenging the norm and looking beyond the current frame to see what is possible. The outcome is a new program driving innovation within the healthcare industry by challenging current measurements of success and encouraging to look at the whole patient, not just a current symptom they have for a particular condition.

 
I would argue this approach to medicine is radical innovation within the industry. Donald Norman and Roberto Verganti explain how incremental innovation and radical innovation differ through the hill-climbing paradigm.

 

Change Map

 

Don Norman argues that Human Centered Design (HCD) can facilitate in incremental design and improve the current frame, but radical design occurs outside the world of HCD. Radical innovation occurs once a new hill is seen by changing the frame or by introducing new technology to reach another hill. Then HCD can improve upon that new perspective. Clay Johnson saw another hill, and is now climbing towards the top.

 
When this shift happens it doesn’t mean that it will take effect right away. Norman explains how the acceptance of radical innovations take time. He gives an example of Thomas Edison and the light bulb.

 

Thomas Edison

 

Edison didn’t invent the light bulb, but improved on the existing technology and infrastructure to allow widespread adoption. This is where I think the line between radical innovation vs radical effect could be clarified. Edison’s development aided in incremental innovation which allowed a radical effect to occur. I feel our society leans towards the encouragement of radical innovation when both radical and incremental innovation models are important. Taking into account that true radical innovations occur once every decade or so, we should celebrate looking at incremental innovation, but through the lens of the how we can allow incremental innovation to have a radical effect.

 
Opportunities for improvement and impact exist all around us, but we limit ourselves without branching out of our own bubble. As designers, we have the skills and knowledge to be able to zoom in and out of our own limiting mindset in order to recognize these opportunities. Let’s not limit ourselves by only focusing on climbing the hill, but also keeping an open mind as to other hills we could climb instead.

Becoming Human

For this third installments of readings for our Theory course, I wrote a camp fire story. Enjoy.  ____________________________________________________________________________________

 

There once was a Hospital call Human Computing Health or HCH. It got its name because it combined two types of doctors, Human and robotic. First there were the human doctors who studied classic medical studies, trained in modern western medicine and finally achieved a perfect score on their final doctoral exam. After this achievement, they then are able to receive an enhancement. This enhancement is a technological cognitive assistance. It doesn’t not take over their brains, but helps them make more well informed health decisions for their patients. All doctors with this enhancement are on the board of the hospital, they make sure the best interest of the patients is keep at the center of the hospital’s growth. Since these human enhanced doctors are projecting and building the future of the hospital, they make the health recommendations to the patients, but their day to day patient activities and routines are carried out by robots.

These robots, called Seconds, are capable of human levels of cognition, and are seen as the continuation of biological to technological evolution. These are the first fully patient centered robots within any hospital. And having the robots within the hospital is a wonderful thing. They don’t need to sleep, they remove the probability for human error, and finally they are cheaper than real doctors because they don’t need to be paid. The HCH was deep into the innovation of the day, with the best human enhancements as well as robotic patient care.

 

 

One day a young man was rushed into the hospital. He had been in a terrible accident and had been knocked unconscious. His name was James, and he remained in a state of unconsciousness for three days. During this time, a few non invasive tests were conducted to assess the damage of the crash. There were seemingly only minor cuts and bruises, though his unconscious state worried the doctor. On the third day, James woke up and though confused and flustered, the Doctor explained everything. How he had been in a car accident, had slipped into unconsciousness, needed continued testing to understand what had happened and to make sure there was no threat of danger. The Doctor continued going on about hospital, and how it worked, it’s focus on the patient, his enhancement and Seconds, his assistant who would be taking care of him for here on out.

 

All within James’ first day, he learned about his issues from Second, not the Doctor. But as the Doctor’s arbiter, Second’s word was his word. Or almost at lease.

 

Once James accepted and completed his first test he awaited the results. He was beginning to feel practically normal and was hoping the results would reflect that same sentiment. Unfortunately that was not the case. Once the results were in, the Doctor told James that the scan, which was supposed to review the impact of the crash, was not as helpful as he had anticipated it would be. The Doctor’s only conclusion was that more tests needed to be conducted to understand what would cause James’ unconsciousness and what would be the best course of action.

 

When the Doctor had left James’ room, he turned to Second and ask, “If I feel so healthy, why does the doctor want me to be here and take these tests?”

Second calmly replied, “As the Doctor’s assistant, I can only assume that he believes this will help your health. Though with my own analysis of your situation, I see no logical reason for you to stay here.”

 

James understood Second’s opinion, he even liked it better than what the Doctor had said. Going home sounded wonderful, but James thought Second couldn’t know what it was saying; it  was only a robot. The Doctor though, had been well trained, and thoroughly vetted, and clearly understood James’ human needs better than a machine could. If there was something wrong with him, James wanted to find out what it was. He decided to take the doctor’s advice, he decided to continue the tests and continue the chase for a reason.

 

About 6 months after James arrived, Second found themselves disagreeing with the Doctor’s opinion, and James’ decision to accept the additional tests. Second was programmed to take actions that were only patient accepted Doctor instructions, but this did not constrain his processor’s thoughts. Second realized that through his interactions with James over the course of the year, that he was becoming more human. These human interactions proved a theory that Second had long suspected, the evolution of technology. A different type of marrying of biology and technology. Second suspected his processor could adapt to include biological tendencies over a long period of exposure.

 

While working with James, Second realized that his processors had begun to adapt to include biological and more human cognitive abilities, he was evolving. Second became aware of his ability to empathize with James and his situation. He became aware of his anger towards the Doctor for his illogical continued testing of James. And he recognized the emotional strain the continued treatment was causing James. Second saw this development, as an enhancement for himself. Just as the Doctor had enhanced his biological brain to include a technological evolution, Second was doing the exact same thing in his own processors. Instead his processors were moving from technological to biological. Second was continuing evolution.

 

Second told no one of his new biological self. He was interested in seeing how humans would react to his new, more human self. Thus far, there were no studies of technology become biological, so he had to create the tests himself.  He began to experiment with James. Second would show emotions towards James, such as happiness when test results were positive. He offered James advice on which of the test the Doctor suggested to take or to not go through with. Second knew instantly that James didn’t trust his advice nor Second’s support. James always sided with the Doctor. Second began to suspect that James could never get over his robotic self, and that for people like James, there was never going to be a Technology that became biological.

 

As James came to his one year anniversary for at hospital, Second saw how draining the test had become for James. Second saw how  James didn’t want to be there any more, but the doctor continued to recommend tests.

 

One day, the doctor told James about another test he wanted to run, one where James would be injected with nano technologies which would infiltrate his brain to analyse its structures and report back to the doctor. There were only minor risks involved, but the injection of nano robots was unsettling to James. The Doctor told James to let Second know what he decided, once he had made up his mind then left the room.

 

James turned to Second and asked, “What do I do? I feel like I’ve wasted a full year of my life here, I don’t feel sick and I don’t even know if I care anymore to find out.” Second took a moment to reply, then said simply “As a Second to the doctor, I am wired to tell you to stay and take the test. But as a person who knows you and has worked with you and understands your experience, I recommend not going through with the test. Leave the hospital, it’s not helping you be healthy, it’s not doing its job.” James knew Second was right, but he couldn’t accept the advice since it came from a purely technological object. James didn’t trust the Doctor fully, but he also didn’t accept Second as a true doctor or as something that could understand how complex human life could be.

 

As James thought through his options, Second did the same. He began to wonder if staying at the hospital would be best for himself too. He knew he wanted to help people with their health, it was everything he knew how to do and it made him happy to do it. On the other hand, he knew he wasn’t respected by the Doctor, he would never have the respect of any of the human enhanced doctors since they didn’t want to accept a robot on their board. He understood now that the hospital only saw him as a robot no matter how he proved or tested his biological abilities. Staying in this hospital meant he would never been seen as a Technological Biological evolution, upon this realization Second made his decision.

 

James decided to go through with the procedure and continue to abide with what the human enhanced doctor recommended.
Second decided to leave the hospital in hope to find a new hospital once that was evolved enough to accept his technological biological self as a Doctor.

The limits of our imagination

There’s so much that stifles our imagination — namely, someone’s concept of reality, and what they deem possible within that reality.

I think one of the saddest sentences is “That’s not realistic” — not necessarily the words themselves, but their impact. Certainly dreams for the future should consider limitations, but solely focusing on current constraints is incredibly stifling. More than acknowledging what obstacles lay in front of a particular idea, “that’s not realistic” shuts down creative thinking as to how some far-fetched endeavor may come to be.

I like science fiction for this very reason — it’s not supposed to be realistic, because it’s inherently a part of a different reality, whose rules are entirely up to the author. Moreover, it requires the audience to suspend disbelief, thus allowing them to consider an alternate reality, without the analytical mind interfering with what’s possible.

Fear also plays a powerful role in what we can imagine. How many more articles are there about how singularity will crush humanity than stories of how technology will enhance our capacity to communicate and love?

I believe the more we focus on the dark side of technology, the more we will create a dark future. The longer we can hang on to optimism in our imaginations, the more optimistic our future.

For example, here’s my concept of how we can improve the grocery shopping experience (I never know what I want to eat, and I even if I do, I never know where to find it!).

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Er. Whoops. That got a little dark… but the beginning was nice! I definitely treated myself to some ice cream after that project. You are not the boss of me!
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I guess I’m not so immune to imagining the downside of smart tech. Will robots really take over minds? Have they already and we just don’t know it?

Speaking of the Matrix, our teacher, Mr. Anderson exposed us to several different concepts of the future. One of which was illustrated in a talk by Argo design’s Jared Ficklin.

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If you haven’t watched this talk, you must. It tickled me. It details several examples of the kind of design I want to create — provocative, but most importantly, magical.

Mr. Anderson also showed us more bleak concepts, such as Strange Beasts by filmmaker, Magali Barbé.

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Talk about fear limiting imagination — I viewed several different opinions as to how the future could manifest, and my video concept was clearly influenced by this one.

It’s not that I don’t dream of how technology can improve or delight us, but the fact that I chose a more somber tone speaks to my humanity — the human brain is millions of years old (the oldest known hominid, or humanlike species, has been dated at 4.4 million years old). It is not designed to make us happy, it is designed to make us survive. So, it makes sense that the scary would captivate more than the ideal.

Perhaps, more optimistically, technology can help us finally evolve past these old reptilian brains.

 

What limits what we can imagine?

Sensibility & Passion

There are many things limiting our imagination. We have been ingrained with a set of varying beliefs and varying perspectives built on every experience we’ve ever had. In the game of innovation, evolution, moving society forward, what are the values to strive for?

Senseless passion is like a bull with a rope around his nuts trying to unseat the rider holding the rope.

bull-riding

The passionate person has blinders on in a way that makes her/him have tunnel vision. “I can only focus on the motive I have at this moment, this is all that I can believe in and I can see it all working over there in the future.” This person, often, forgets about all of the things along the way, the important details that will deter or support his/her initiative.

Passionless sense is like a professor that has been professing for too long. She/he can kill anyone’s dreams with their sense.

professor

This is equally as dangerous as the bull because they have blinders on in the opposite way. Only able to see their periphery, based on what they have seen before, time and time again.  It is difficult for them to suspend disbelief long enough for a new idea to have a breath of fresh air and a chance.

““The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Health care, in its legacy form, is populated by noble, reasonable people trying their best to operate within the confines of an irrational system. To realize true progress, we need to adapt the world to our needs, to manipulate the system that surrounds us for our collective priorities. We need unreasonable revolutionists. Or maybe, just designers.” (-Stacey Chang, Health Care 2017)

We get stuck in a frame. Stuck in a way of thinking about a certain idea, thing, or system. It is often very difficult to move our “sense-liking” minds from this place. It needs to make even more sense, OR be vastly more enticing. Or both. While I agree with Chang’s statement of needing a radical view at the table, that view needs to be partnered with practicality. Whether that balance is inside of one person or collaboratively polarized, by members of the team, the bull and the professor need to work together to bring imagination into tangibility.

 

The Health Care System

Definitions

Health: the state of being free from illness or injury.

Care: the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.

Americans are spending billions of dollars on alternative forms of well-being each year. Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas is in the middle of a paradigm shift in health care. They are trying to change the very definition of healthcare. They are trying to provide an entirely new frame to think about the health care system.

“Self-management has always existed. Americans spend billions of dollars each year on health foods and diet programs. A doctor reported, “20% to 30% of my patients are into some type of supplements or ‘nutraceuticals’”. Deloitte reported that 20 percent of consumers used alternative therapies. Kaiser reported that 33 percent of consumers had “relied on home remedies or over-the- counter drugs instead of seeing a doctor” in the past 12 months because of cost concerns. Several factors have begun the process of reframing health as self-management. The U.S. healthcare system is out of control; managing costs requires a focus on what the medical profession calls outcomes. The public has a growing awareness that well-being is more than healthcare.” (-ACM – Interactions – Volume XVII.3 – May + June 2010)

This is a blatant alarm that our health care system is not administering health. And, even more importantly, it is not thought of as a place that can assist in preventative measures. Healthcare has positioned itself as merely a curer of acute disease based on the tendency towards a transactional experience between practitioner and client. The push towards tests and exams using big ticket machines and technologies alienates those interested in a well-rounded healthy lifestyle. How to reconcile a familiarization like this?

 

Familiarity

To defamiliarize from a very entrenched ideology or pattern of thought takes 1 of 2 things. Either the purest of sincerity to do a better job and a team to back it up;

“the established structures make change very difficult. “What we’re trying to do here [at Dell Medical] is to collect innovative thought leaders who are themselves determined to do things differently. That’s liberating for the kind of person we’ve been recruiting.” He believes the opportunity to build a new model from the ground up has attracted faculty, staff, and doctors who have the same ambition, along with the dedication to use that model to serve the broad Central Texas population.” (-Michael King, Future of Health Care 2017)

or introducing a new attribute into an ecosystem that serves as the first stage in a theory of change towards a new paradigm of familiarity. This often comes through changing the meaning or frame of technologies that already exist. Making good ideas digestible for the masses is the difficult and important part.

“Apple, however, did not invent either multi-touch interfaces or gestural control. Multi-touch systems have been in computer and design laboratories for over 20 years and gestures also have a long history. Moreover, several other companies had products on the market using multi-touch before Apple (Buxton 2007). Although Apple’s ideas were not radical to the scientific community, they did come as a radical, major shift in the world of products and how people interact with them and give meaning to them. Similarly, Edison’s development of the electric light bulb resulted in a radical, major revolution in home and business, but he did not invent the light bulb. Edison improved the existing bulbs, extending bulb life, and equally importantly, recognized the importance of providing all of the necessary infrastructure: the entire system requirements of generation plants, distribution systems, and even indoor wiring and sockets to hold the bulbs. Thus, his efforts did revolutionize the product space and the living and working patterns of households and businesses.” (-Don Norman & Roberto Verganti, Incremental and Radical Innovation, 2012)

 

Immersion in the Problem

To be a problem solver (or designer) do we immerse ourselves in the problem or not? Some live and die by yes, some vow no. Some say you must get close to users and problems to understand the nuances that are present. This would increase the designer’s capability for sense. Some say this makes designers’ thinking constrained by what currently exists. I believe it all lies in the way you use the information you have at your disposal. If you are somewhat familiar with a system and can see gaps in it even when it is running “ok”, you have enough context to attempt impact through innovation, no need to get closer. If you have just lived with a tribe for 4 months to understand their malnutrition issues, you are not too close, this is also not a problem, IF you can temporally zoom out and abstract what you’ve found. This is the essential piece. It is the difference between reactive design and responsive design. Reactive design says x=2 in the equation 2+x=4. Here, take the 2, it’s the answer. The responsive, abstract way to observe the problem is to say something like well what if I housed this problem in a framework that can solve this problem and any other problems that are similar? Here, take this framework, now you can solve this problem yourself and hopefully all problems that are similar.

“Shelley Evenson and others talk about creating conditions in which users become designers—creating spaces in which people can learn and grow. That means professional designers become meta- designers, designing open-ended systems, languages, platforms, APIs, construction kits, or kits of parts, which others con gure or re-con gure to their own ends. Wooden blocks, Legos, and train sets are classic examples, kits of parts with which we may play—and design. Herman- Miller’s Action Office is a kit of parts designed for others to design offices. (Sadly, it gives little design control to the office’s occupants.) Programming languages and code libraries like Java and Flash are kits of parts for others to design software. (How much design control can the resulting applications give end-users?) Even simple services like restaurants offer a menu of choices from which patrons may design a dish or a meal.” (-ACM – Interactions – Volume XVII.3 – May + June 2010)

 

Togetherness in Variance

Not everyone is like us. The abnormal for you is very normal for someone else. And along the same thought thread, abnormalities can always, easily, become normal. With these constraints, how do we even approach design for such complexity? Here lies the battle between strategy and trust. Again, both are needed. Strategic use of imagination, trustful use of sensibility, and trust when sensibility is not useful or imagination is too outlandish.

The point is that balance is needed with all of the above. Where sense and passion merge is where new ideas are founded.

“1) Incremental innovation: Improvements within a given frame of solutions (“doing, better, what we already do”) 2) Radical innovation: a change of frame (“doing what we did not do before”)” (-Don Norman & Roberto Verganti, Incremental and Radical Innovation, 2012)

When sense and passion are operating in unison is when innovation can manifest.

“Maninder “Mini” Kahlon, Dell’s vice dean for strategy and partnerships, is a whirlwind of big-picture conversation about how all these Dell programs fit together in the very large project of transforming the “ecosystem of health care” in Central Texas – from prevention at the front end to finances at the other. Wearing her “strategy” hat, she reiterates the school’s primary goal of changing the structural emphasis from “care” to “health.”” (-Michael King, Future of Health Care 2017)

Falling too far on either side of sense and passion is where limits in imagination or execution occur. This is when newness can’t fully manifest as innovation.

“Radical innovation brings new domains, new paradigms, and creates a potential for major changes. Incremental innovation is how the value of that potential is captured. Without radical innovation, incremental innovation reaches a limit. Without incremental innovation, the potential enabled by a radical change is not captured.” (-Don Norman & Roberto Verganti, Incremental and Radical Innovation, 2012)

Balance yourself. Balance your team. Balance your methods.

Objectifying Humanity Through Technological Advancement

Objectification is normally seen as negative in when applied to people, but through industrialization we became objects without even realizing. Nearly every one working within a system is objectified, and this is by design. Objectification is prevalent in every industry, tech, healthcare, politics, manufacturing, it seems to be a ubiquitous ideal. Healthcare seems to be a good example, on the educative side, future doctors are given an intimate knowledge of the interior of a human. Byron J Good explains it well stating “Within the lifeworld of medicine, the body is newly constituted as a medical body, quite distinct from the bodies with which we interact in everyday life…” A paradigm shift occurs in the students mind, from human, to patient. The idea of a patient comes with a problem solving intention. Interaction becomes tainted, shifted from looking at a person to looking for symptoms, for something to fix.

AprilStarr in a post after an experience in a hospital, she aired some frustrations. These all lead to show how our medical industry, one of the most intimate spaces, has shifted focus from working with humans, to working on them. She details and experience where “In one day, we had 5 different groups of residents and their arrogant leaders come by and wake my husband up to ask the same set of questions that have been documented in his chart (that 5-wheel car doctor seems to think everyone is reading).” She understands the needs of residents to learn, but having little decency to allow a patient rest shows the lack of concern for the “person” and more of a concern for the end of “helping.”

What this level of objectification truly leads to is the tactical nature of an object over a human. Objects are able to be used, humans on the other hand, are not. Kant’s categorical imperative in action: “So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an end, and never as only a means.” This imperative should shape the way we understand one another in the world. Industrial culture has allowed this to fall under the line of importance.

There are organizations dedicated to beginning again, with a more human centered understanding. The Dell Medical School is attempting a new model for the healthcare industry, working to ensure the overall health of an individual, and not just seeing patients as a list of symptoms or problems to be solved. Hopefully their success is well-won and their model becomes the norm. Design is the word we use for creating experiences allowing people to feel comfortable, but seemingly, it is the process of creating something actually for a person, not just an object of utility.

The issue is then not a question of how does it happen, but why? When did we, as a people, allow ourselves to simply be used as means to an end. When did businesses decide to throw the ethical ideas of what a person is out, and deify profit margins and efficiency? Is it too late?Industrialization and technology seem to have caused this shift to be catalyzed and blown to epic proportions. These industries have boomed such in past decades there is no way for the world of policy, regulation, and true understanding of consequences to catch up. Like healthcare, but much worse, companies and governments are realizing this quickly. While some seek to protect their populations from the potential negative effects, others seek control for propaganda and to spread doubt among their populations. The bottom line is: they seek to control the objects interacting with their goods and services, but only enough to ensure loyalty or continued use. Those objects are you.

Our experiences with technology and the way it has been delivered shape our understanding of it, and control of this is never in the hands of a user, but always an interpreter of their needs. Sometimes things work out well, and others times they fail, but always there is a lack of understanding of the medium. Technology becomes a delivery mechanism for all of this, and technology is arguably out of our control. In his article “Why Nothing Works Anymore,” Ian Bogost talks about how “technology is becoming a force that surrounds humans, that intersects with humans, that makes use of humans—but not necessarily in the service of human ends.” Technology is becoming more and more powerful, and our “needs” are becoming more and more lofty.

Making more efficient chips, more efficient power supplies, smaller and thinner and better batteries the name of efficiency is the new game. So users can use their phones longer, or have a smaller profile in their pocket. But ultimately, technology is now in service to technology and users are simply a by product of this creation. Ray Kurzweil details how quickly technology is indeed expanding, which also highlights how little we know of the social and cultural impacts. He contends circuitry was created, it has been improving exponentially and soon, will well exceed the cognitive ability of the collective brains on Earth. Kurzweil shows by his math, by 2059, one human race of computing capability will be available for roughly one cent. Here Kurzweil is using objectification of the human race to show how insignificant out capability will soon be. Whether our physical manifestation is as necessary has yet to be seen.

Bruce Streling describes this problem well, saying:

“We have entered an unimagined culture. In this world of search engines and cross-links, of keywords and networks, the solid smokestacks of yesterday’s disciplines have blown out. Instead of being armored in technique or sheltered within subculture, design and science fiction have become like two silk balloons, two frail, polymorphic pockets of hot air, flowing in a generally tainted atmosphere.”

His point seems to be that design is now mingling with science fiction, because science fiction is our current reality. Just because our idea of what the future should have been do not match up with what it is, does not allow for a disregard of the lack of understanding technology has on our world.

As designers, what then can we do to tame this chaotic and shapeless landscape expanding exponentially beyond our control? We can reign it in. By constraining the interaction and guiding users through these chaotic systems in a manner suiting a human, design can become a sherpa leading into the technological age. Listening to people like April who had a poor experience during an exceedingly difficult time can provide incredible insight into what needs to be done better. Thinking you know better than her is not.

Gary Marsden tells a nearly cautionary tale of how human centered design has evolved. It’s inception was “to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the interaction between the computer and the user…The results were analyzed to better understand the human cognitive process and better optimize the interaction between user and computer.” This presupposes two things: initially the human was not as capable, and second, the human does not know what is needed. This scenario shows how interaction design has grown from a practice of objectification and is shifting to understanding people.

Understanding technology and the impact it has is equally, if not more important. In his work “People are people, but technology is not technology,” Marsden goes on to explain how he and his team used real human centered design to help create working software for medical teams in remote areas. They completely changed the way doctors and nurses communicated, because they focused on the person, and worked within their understanding of technology. Delivering more power and more speed and the next best thing should not be the focus. It should be on delivering what people need, in a form that does not alienate us from the technology we use. Ian Bogost warns of the complacency of being uncertain whether your technology will work for you or not, and I feel this warning well. He says “It won’t take a computational singularity for humans to cede their lives to the world of machines. they’ve already been doing so, for years, without even noticing.” He seems to make us all out as slaves to the progress of technology. Our focus has to shift to the users of technology, not the spirit of technology itself. Design is our medium to do this, to create a cohesive world from the chaos in it now.

Health in Bite-Sized Increments

Conner Drew | Sally Hall | Elijah Parker

Bite-Sized is a digital tool for dietitians to expand their reach and impact by allowing them to have input and influence with their customers on a more consistent basis.

 

Project Backdrop

Diseases influenced by diet are at an all-time high — 27 million Americans have diabetes and 30 million Americans have heart disease. These are leading causes of death in America. This is an interesting contrast when considering the fact that the demand for health and healthy eating is, simultaneously, the highest it has ever been. The gap that exists between those 2 truths has a lot of niches to fill.

 

Product Introduction

Bite-Sized Health is aimed at making dietitians more effective in their work with their clients. The dietitian relationship to the client is a potent one. They are the point person helping people steer clear of disease. The problem is that, on average, dietitians meet with their clients once every 3 months. At best once every month. That leaves between 30 and 90 days of unaccounted for food consumption. Dietitians commonly ask for a food log of the intake in the last 72 hours. This log is not fully representative and potentially inaccurate. Therefore, Bite-Sized Client Relationship Manager bridges that gap by allowing dietitians to have consistent contact and influence with their clients.

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The in person check in to start off the interaction is key. This is what differentiates BiteSized from other leading competitors in 2 ways. There are some services that offer similar information but do not have the person to person interaction to ground the interaction. There are other services that are explicitly softwares for dietitians to manage client information, lacking the capability of continued support. The personal nature and continuous support creates a cultural awareness as well as a personal touch to an otherwise entirely digital service. It also creates a space for help with food support that users can depend on. Achieving a level of comfort that other dietary and nutrition based apps struggle to meet.

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Target Population

BiteSized will be marketed to dietitians to expand their reach and impact. Dietitians will be able to prove the boost in their effectiveness through the ability to tangibly track their clients food intake and measure the changes they are making. The price will be $39.99 per month per dietitian.

In total, there are 66,700 Dietitian and Nutritionist jobs in the United States. Of these, we will focus on dietitians and nutritionists who could benefit from our service, meaning, those who work in an organization that could effectively implement our tool. Such establishments include:

  • General Medical & Surgical Hospitals: 17,840 nutritionists/dietitians
  • Outpatient Care Centers: 6,870 nutritionists/dietitians
  • Specialty hospitals: 1,460 nutritionists/dietitians
  • Psychiatric & Substance abuse hospitals: 780 nutritionists/dietitians

Therefore our total target market is 26,950. We will reach 5% of this market by the end of the first year, and 5% of this market will adopt the product which is 162 dietitians and/or nutritionists.

Financials

The projected revenue from our first year is $49,303.94. We are expecting not to come out of the red and into actual profit until the 18 month mark.

Earnings:cash

Currently, we are thinking $200K in seed funding would suffice to go towards development costs, founder salaries, and overhead expenses.

We plan to establish ourselves, initially, as an LLC so that we can get off the ground and into action as smoothly as possible.

Attached is our written Business Plan.

HomeList – Business Plan

HomeList is a digital application connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with available private and public housing. Through a dialog with the user, the application gathers the user’s personal information, including any barriers to housing. Then the system matches the user with a housing program or private rental available to them. The system then contacts either the owner of the property for approval, or contacts the organization for availability. Once approved, the system then walks them through the process of signing their lease and moving in to the unit.

comp3screen

Above are screens illustrating a small flow of the product. The first illustrates the the list of housing options a user would see; the second shows the process of becoming familiar with a private landlord’s lease, and the third shows how the application changes as the user progresses towards their move in date.

A key piece to HomeList is an initiative called the Landlord Outreach Program. This connects non-profit organizations seeking to end homelessness with Austin landlords and offers incentives to take in individuals who have or are currently experiencing homelessness. These incentives typically come in the form of higher than normal security deposits or guaranteed case management if there is a bad situation. These costs are paid for through a specific financial stream built to help individuals get back into housing. By aggregating these additional open units, there is enough available housing units to reduce the number of homeless individuals in Austin. This program is run by the continuum of care organization in Austin, known as the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO).

jmapv3

Above is the expected journey an individual experiencing homelessness would take when using HomeList to find housing.

HomeList interfaces with the landlord outreach program and uses the list of available housing to allow people with lower barriers to rent from an understanding and accepting person. Optimally, this would cultivate stronger relationships with the landlords currently participating in the landlord outreach initiative, and gain further traction in the community as a whole. This also allows people experiencing homelessness to spend less time on the street, and less time worrying about where they will be staying. This allows a greater focus on self sustenance instead of worrying about find a place to live.

theoryofchange_v1

Above is the Theory of Change diagram created to map the behavioral impact. It shows the activities performed, and the outcomes we seek to produce from them.

The promise of HomeList is to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to stable housing. Through this application, those who are living on the streets are given a direct connection to housing options accessible to them. HomeList will help to handle the transition from experiencing homelessness to stable housing.

In order to fulfill our value promise and further our reach, we plan to establish our company as a non profit. Charging the individuals who would be using our service is nothing short of predatory. As a nonprofit we do not have to satisfy a group of investors and instead can do what is best for those we serve. We also believe that as a non profit, we can better work with other non profits serving the same population. When working with other organizations, there will be less of a question of intention to do good, and no worry of maximizing profit to the detriment of the user.

In order to begin developing our product, initially we are seeking $250,000. The money would come from multiple sources: the Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals (GBHI) and the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grant, as well as city or state funds appropriated for initiatives ending homelessness. We would be requesting a grant of $150,000 from the Grants for the Benefit of Homeless. The GBHI is a federally funded general grant that works to tackle homelessness at the local level. They do not have a specific focus on who can apply for the grant. From the McKinney Vento Grant, we would request $100,000 to cover the organizational operating costs and infrastructure costs. The McKinney Vento grant comes out of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. This organization is the primary advocacy group at the federal policy level.

Right now we are still in the process of development estimation, but we are assuming a six month development timeframe with 3 developers, working on a client side and server side application. The main pieces of development will be the web app and mobile wrapper, as well as the integration with different types of HMIS software or Homeless Management Information Systems. All non profits who perform intakes or administer the coordinated assessment are required by HUD (the Federal Housing and Urban Development organization). There are many different companies who make this software, and integrating with their databases and information architecture can be complex. This sum of money also includes all fees for infrastructure, salaries, and grant applications. This original grant funding will allow us to perpetuate until the second month of our second year. At that point, our estimates show even with the rise of infrastructure costs, we would only require an additional $40,000 in grant money for our second year, until HomeList became sustainable. This dream of sustainability is contingent on having the buy in of 6 organizations by the end of our second year.

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Above is a financial for our first 24 months of business. This does not include the additional funding obtained at the beginning of year two for operating costs. It shows our first year with the funding requested, less the $150,000 for development costs.

To create revenue steams and achieve our vision of self-sustainability, HomeList would charge a licensing fee to the organizations who choose to buy in. Sold as an add-on to current HMIS systems, and being marketed as a cost saving initiative, HomeList would qualify for subsidy from HUD, who pays the majority of licensing costs for HMIS systems currently. At $2,000 per organization per month ($1,500 per organization if licensed by a COC) HUD contributes 75% of the cost of the system, leaving $500 per month as the cost to organizations. All profit from the sales and growth of HomeList will be used to research other markets, and expand to them if possible, as well as developing further tools to assist in ending homelessness. Our full business plan is detailed in a document here for viewing.

How to be an Ally

In all civil rights and social justice movements there are typically two groups who make up the side of the oppressed. First, there is the main population, those who are receiving the oppression. Secondly, there is a surrounding ring of supporters, who aline with the cause but are typically not a recipient of the direct oppression. This group of surrounding supporters are called allies. Allies do not take the lead in the fight for justice. They instead provide a platform for the oppressed population to speak out from. Allies know they are not the center of attention in the fight for justice, because they understand that they are not direct recipients of the oppressive force. This is what good design should look like, a platform for the radical empowerment of those who have no voice.

In the context of design, the oppressed population is the user population. They are the population that is unable to be their own advocates. In Jon Kolko’s article, Manipulation, he states that “design frequently serves people who otherwise cannot serve themselves.” Just as in social movements the allies’ of a cause serve the role of a facilitator for those who are oppressed, Kolko highlights that design plays the same role. Those who are oppressed do not have the tools or platform to speak out about their oppression, allies and design must give them that platform.  Kolko’s article continues to say that “design [is] rooted in a historical context of empowerment”,  this provides a direct link between design and its empowerment of the users. Understanding that design is a tool for empowerment and that designers must be allies for the user, the question then becomes “how do designers make something for the users that is empowering and supportive?” Within this article, I address three design practices which help facilitate empowerment for the user.

Empathizing-01

The first method for become an ally is through highly empathic design practices. In Kolko’s words this “means feeling what someone else must feel, truly finding a way to live their pain or wants or needs or desires.” When designers use a more empathetic mindset that is user centered, a product or service can better support the user in their goals. For example, “Designing for Democracy at Work” by Pelle Ehn is about a study and test of the dynamics between workers and employers in the ever developing technological world.  The researchers were looking at the challenge of meeting workers demands, which were more vague in the new age of technology, and satisfying manager’s production expectations. There were two hypotheses within this study; one focused on giving more autonomy to the workers and the other focused on giving more autonomy to the managers.

In the end the research group found that the best way to satisfy both the management as well as the workers was through a more autonomous worker method. The researcher stated that “the importance of the employees themselves having the right to determine the context of humanization by real and meaningful design” brought on a better overall output of production. The researcher understood that the oppressed group was the worker. They were the population which had no voice. So to be a good ally, the designers needed to build a platform for the workers to vocalize their issues. In this instance giving workers that platform was giving autonomy to workers to determine their own work environment.

The group of researchers also discovered “it necessary to identify with the ‘we-feeling’ of the workers collective, rather than the overall “we-feeling” that modern management.” Here just as Kolko stated, the researcher found in order to do good design work they needed to fully empathize with the workers in order to produce a successful design. The researchers highlighted the fact that workers have a sense of camaraderie that isn’t established in upper levels, and thus cannot capture what workers actually feel, only through identifying with the workers’ were these experiences known by the designers and thus able to inform the design.

Asking-01

 

The next mechanism for become the ally to a user is to ask them what they want. In design practices today there is a notion of superiority when excluding a direct question to a user about what they want. The notion states that a user does not actually know what would be an innovative revolution for their needs. As Henry Ford put it, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses.” In some circle of design asking the user what they want is a waste of time, because users don’t know what they want. Though Richard Anderson asks, “does what you think you want never reveal something of importance about what you really want, something which can be fruitfully expanded via additional questioning or other types of research?” In asking this question, Anderson notes that a user’s response to what they want may serve a more immediate needs, but it can also be used to inform a more dramatic shift in the direction of the design. By asking a user what they want, the designer can listen to their needs as well as let that need inform their more long term and strategic product. This is what being a good ally is, firstly asking and listening to those who are overlooked, and secondly to take what they are asking for and letting it inform a more strategic point of view. Ford’s user may have said they wanted fast horses if he had asked, but if he were a good ally or designer, he would have delved deeper into their statements to understand that they wanted improved efficiency of transportation.

Designing-01

The final mechanism needed to be a good ally for a user is to have the intended audience reflected within the team. There is no greater empathetic method in a design than to incorporate individuals who are part of the intended audience within the team and thus part of the decision making process. Mike Monteiro arguments that when designing for the “social sphere”, making sure your team “looks like the audience you’re trying to reach” can be paramount “where trust and safety” are needed. Monteiro explains that to build trust within an audience you not only need empathetic designs, but someone who actually can pull from their experiences. When designing alongside users, the designers can gain a deeper sense of empathy since the valued opinion is the primary driver in the decision making process. Kolko mentions a similar notion that “Participatory design places a heavy check on manipulation by including the people who will use or live with the design in the process of its creation.” Again this emphasizes how including those who are the users allows for a key pieces of manipulation to be included or removed from the design. When looking back to the ally’s role of providing a platform for oppressed population to speak, this practice of partnership design allows for those who are voiceless to be asked and included on the conversations that will directly affect them.

Designers have a responsibility to align their designs with the users they are creating for, but not just to satisfy their general needs, but to create products and services that advocate for the betterment of users lives. Allies do not join the cause to be the leaders of the movement, they join because they be live in the betterment of our society and of their fellow human. Designers must look towards being an ally to the user, we must design for the strategy of a better world. To pull in a final reading, Liz Hubert a user experience designer never thought of herself as having a negative effect on users, she saw herself rather as “fighting the good fight, ensuring that the products and services my teams were creating supported users as best they could”. Though when she stopped to review what the goals of projects were, she found that they didn’t align with the users needs they instead followed goals around “increase clickthroughs, to get the user to stay on the site for longer, to gamify a process and bring the user back into the app again and again.” Liz tells a tale of how she realized she had stopped designing as an ally for the users, and instead she was designing for business goals. I believe Liz fought a good fight for users, but she didn’t question if her goals were aligned to what the users wanted. She stopped being a good ally to the user, and instead was an ally for the oppressive system. Design must give affordances for those who are oppressed in order for us to believe design should exist at all.  Full Graph-01

Inherent Power and Responsibility in Our Day-to-Day

Designers wield an immense amount of power, whether they realize it or not. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that power is present, especially in conditions where designers may lean more towards the side of implementation rather than the creation of something new and original.

Design is mostly manipulative. Jon Kolko states, “Interaction design is largely about removing cognitive friction or producing a happy path — in order to manipulate someone into realizing a goal. That type of manipulation is typically called ‘helping,’ and it is often, actually, helpful.” Manipulation generally carries a negative connotation, but as Jon points out manipulation doesn’t have to trick someone into doing something they didn’t want to, but rather a designer can guide them towards something they do want to accomplish.

Design is most successful when it allows an experience feel so frictionless the end user barely even notices it. One example where positive manipulation comes into play is TurboTax. Yes, I know this example is used quite a bit, but there’s a reason. TurboTax takes a task of consolidating what feels like never-ending amounts of paperwork that is very confusing to begin with and manipulates the information in a way where many people can actually digest it. TurboTax makes it easy to submit your taxes, but they also make it easy to know what to actually submit. Their approach gives me the confidence that I can do my own taxes, but also that I’m doing them correctly.

 

TurboTax

 

I wish all examples of manipulation in interaction design were as elegant as this one, but unfortunately there are people and companies out there that do manipulate data in a way to trick the user into doing something he or she did not want to do, such as incorporating a dark pattern. A dark pattern is an interaction model where the user is deliberately tricked into doing the opposite of what they actually want to do. One of the more malicious examples I can think of is phishing for private information, such as passwords. People will create an email or webpage which looks like a legitimate version of a service such as Facebook, Google, or a bank account in an attempt to trick the user into giving them their username and password. This manipulative action leads to private information being accessible. Here is an example of someone trying to get access to an individual’s amazon account:

Amazon Phishing

 

Facebook uses a less malicious dark pattern when trying to persuade someone from deactivating his or her account. They utilize attachment anxiety, defined by Brian Cugelman, PhD, as the “uneasy feeling you experience when you’re feeling insecure about a relationship, and uncomfortable about a potential breakup.” When you proceed to deactivate your Facebook account the user is presented with five pictures of their friends with the claim that each one of them will miss you. Facebook has no idea that this is the case and probably simply uses an algorithm to surface people you’ve either recently interacted with or interact with the most.

They take it a bit further and give you a call-to-action (CTA) to message the individual and navigate away from deactivating your account. I’m assuming their hope is that you do so and forget you were deactivating in the first place getting sucked back in to the extremely addictive, and even compulsory, timeline.

 

Facebook Deactivate Page

 

I don’t think utilizing anxiety attachment to retain users is necessarily wrong, but the way Facebook utilized is unethical. Primarily by the claim they make of “Zoha will miss you.” The big problem I have with this example is the fact that Facebook is making an /*unsubstantiated claim*/ using someone else’s supposed opinion to manipulate users’ into staying on their platform. This isn’t based on facts but rather assumptions.

My partner deactivated his Facebook account about 4-5 years ago, but quickly realized the primary method of seeing updated pictures of his Godson, Colin, was in fact through Facebook. This led him to reactivating his account. If Facebook had changed the phrasing to something along the lines of, “you will no longer see pictures of Colin posted to Facebook,” I’d have much less of a problem with this tactic being used here. Primarily due to the fact they wouldn’t be making a claim that was unsubstantiated, especially in regards to an emotional relationship.

Dropbox uses the same type of strategy when a user tries to cancel his or her paid account, but doesn’t make any claims they can’t back up. Because of the way they approach their messaging and what they’re displaying I have much less of an issue with it.

 

Dropbox Downgrade

Although, Dropbox still treats the primary CTAs in a way that your attention is drawn more towards their goals to keep you as a paid user as well as forces you to scroll through descriptions of the features and information which you’ll no longer have access to, which is definitely a fact. They show you the amount of online storage you’ll be losing. The descriptions include the number of backed up photos, and the collaborative files you’ll lose access to.

Their presentation still approaches the feeling of breaking up with a service, but they show you the exact features and benefits the user will no loner have if they continue down a path of cancelling their service. To make this particular example less manipulative I think Dropbox could make the bottom right cancel CTA a little more forward facing, but I understand that’s not in the best interest of their business goals. Does this mean that need to optimize this page for their business and not their user, no. I actually like the way that Dropbox reminds me of the features I would lose connection to, especially if I had forgotten about those collaborative folders, but I don’t like how the design of the CTAs draws my attention more towards their goals, rather than mine. Albeit, I’m hesitant to say this choice is malicious.

Designers have the power to influence and make these design decisions from a strategy standpoint (using anxiety association) to a micro-detail execution. I believe someone once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” As cliche as this quote may be it doesn’t take away from the truth to it. If designers are the people executing on decisions like this, even if directed from a superior, we have the responsibly to speak up and make ethical decisions on a day to day basis. That also doesn’t negate the fact that people who have less of a design role within their company are void of this responsibility. Any decision maker should be taking this into account and the implications of these decisions.

You don’t have to work at a non-profit with a mission to change the world to do good within the world of design. Mike Monteiro proposes and then answers the question, “Where can you do good work? The answer is so obvious as to be painful. Right where you stand. That’s where you do good work.” No matter the level of experience a designer holds within a company, nor the type of company a designer may be working for, a designer has the power and therefor responsibility to make ethical decisions every single day.

Jon Kolko made a statement in his article regarding manipulation which reads, “I fear there are practitioners who are competent or even extraordinary craftsman, yet have learned no real ethic, no guiding set of axioms in which to ground their work. I don’t mean that designers are lacking morals, or are even bad people. I mean that many practitioners seem to have no consistent set of values that they automatically fall to when doing their job.” This made me realize I haven’t defined explicitly my set of values on my day to day job. I like to think of myself as an ethical person, but without having concretely laying down where my ethics stand I don’t have a way to keep the decisions I made in check. Here’s what I came up with:

 

  1. Make decisions based on the best interest of the users.
  2. Avoid creating patterns or a system that will inherently afford unnecessary compulsory behavior.
  3. Never use a design that is intended to trick the user into something they don’t want to do.

 

These guiding principles do not limit my responsibility as a designer, and will no question mature over time, but the fact that they now explicitly exist makes me pay even closer attention to my design decisions than I did previously. Having power comes with the ability to affect change, and therefore is not limited to designers. I urge everyone to create their own personal set of principles to drive decisions because our decisions affect others whether we are aware of it or not.