Less is harder than more

During an exercise in brevity, I found a little inspiration in Hemingway. He once said, “I am trying to make, before I get through, a picture of the world-or as much of it as I have seen. Boiling it down always, rather than spreading it out thin.” And without further ado, here is my brand statement, boiled down.

Getting uncomfortable with what's comfortable

“You have to get comfortable with what you’re comfortable with, and get uncomfortable with what’s comfortable.” That was some of the advice given to us last class, and in that spirit, I’ve been trying to get uncomfortable with words and more comfortable with visuals. Thus, I’m resisting the temptation to launch into a lengthy preamble to this week’s assignments, and just get straight to the pictures.

The latest iteration of my brand statement, in (sort of) poster form:


And, some stories about how food gets from a local farm to the table:

a kid’s story about brussel sprouts

a critic’s story about brussel sprouts

a CSA member’s story about brussel sprouts

Less is More

In the spirit of iteration, we’ve been asked to address our brand with an economy of words. The result should be illustrated in poster format, using Helvetica type and proper rules of typography.

Our second task was to visualize one story from three perspectives through the use of story-boarding on Post-it notes. Our story is “how food gets to the table from a local farm.”
So without further adieu…

1. This first perspective is from someone making a dish for a potluck dinner.

2. The second perspective is from a farm volunteer who kills and prepares a hog for roasting, unsuccessfully.

3. And the third perspective is from a dog.

CSAs & the Community: a Contextual Inquiry

In the past few weeks, we’ve begun our design research process, looking into the overarching topic of food as a social issue. For the contextual inquiry phase of our research, Ben and I chose to look at trends in locally-grown food, and within that topic, we established as our specific research focus the goal of exploring the role that CSAs play in the food culture of the community, and vice versa, the role that the community plays in the operation of CSAs. By observing community relations and outreach at various CSAs, we hoped to discover why people are drawn to engage in local agriculture practices and how the CSA facilitates that engagement.

We chose to seek farm operators as the participants in our contextual inquiry in order to learn about the different methods and avenues they use to engage members and volunteers. We contacted various CSAs in the community and arranged visits to three farms; Natural Springs Garden, near Lake Travis, Tecolote Farms in Webberville, and Springdale Farms in East Austin.

By going through these contextual inquiries, we discovered that it’s important to be flexible and not carry too many expectations into the process. While we had told the participants that our focus was around their community relations, it was hard for them to grasp what exactly we wanted to see. The challenge for us was to convince the farm operators that it was interesting and worthwhile for us to actually watch them, for example, go through the process of writing a tweet or posting to facebook or their blogs. It took a lot of gentle persistence to get them to show us their computers and office spaces at all. It took a few tries for us to learn the art of said persistence, requiring a trial and error process of asking, rephrasing, and asking again to be shown what we were interested in seeing. On the other hand, we learned that by asking open questions we could learn a lot; people love to share their story and what they’re passionate about.

Although we both went into the contextual inquiry phase with minor trepidations, we found that it was not as intimidating as we’d imagined. The process was both interesting and exciting for its opportunities to get a glimpse into people’s lives and livelihoods, particularly since the farmers we spoke with were generous with their time and knowledge, and passionate in communicating their experiences and values. We’re looking forward to the chance to continue our research and refine our interviewing skills during the next phase of our research.

Contextual Inquiry at the H.O.P.E Farmer's Market

Cheyenne and I did our first contextual inquiry this past Sunday at the H.O.P.E. Farmer’s Market. After reviewing our video footage, I feel it’s safe to say that we are the Batman and Robin equivalent of contextual interviewers (I am Batman, in case you were wondering).

In all seriousness, it was a great experience for both of us, and a big shout out to the folks at Johnson’s Backyard Garden who were gracious enough to let us film them for a few hours.

We chose the H.O.P.E farmer’s market and Johnson’s Backyard Garden because we were both interested in the relationship that food has with community eating, and lifestyle choices. Because farmer’s markets are not only linked to the consumption of healthy food but also a space for community connection and cultural exploration we thought it would be a great place to start. Our specific focus was on the point of transaction between the farmer’s market vendor and the consumer. We felt this would give us an event discrete enough for some great flow diagram action but rich enough to provide insight into various biopsychosocial* components of locally growing, buying and consuming fruits and vegetables.

We’re looking forward to seeing what comes of it!



*Biopsychosocial is typically a term used in medicine and psychology. The biopsychosocial model is a way of conceptualizing the various factors that play into human illness and disease at the individual and collective level; biologicial, psychological, and social. It was first coined by psychiatrist George Engel. Even though the most common usage of the word may not directly apply to design-thinking, when put in context with Richard Buchanan’s definition of wicked problems it is another efficient way to describe various complex factors that play into experience, interaction and choice.