When products create a new ecosystem

he last several weeks in India have been very insightful and busy. There is a lot to write about when I get some time. This place is full of energy, stories of survival, entrepreneurship and wonders. Product development here will be successful if that product fosters a new ecosystem. It is even better when the same product helps tackle wicked problems (in the context of AC4D). The following product is a great example of a truly green product that also gives thousands of low income families employment – a clay disposable cup. Several places have started serving beverages in this.


Jennifer Shine Dyer: Social media&healthcare

I heard about Jennifer Shine Dyer via Leah McDougald’s tweets from TedxColumbus, where Dyer was presenting.

Dyer is a pediatric endocrinologist (who went into med school with a literature and journalism background). She is currently using social media to provide support to her teenage diabetic patients between visits, since diabetes never sleeps. It was a bold step when she moved from fax to email communications, and now many teens use texts and Facebook and tweets more often than email — they think “only old people use email.”

Here is a good audio interview with Dyer about the future of the patient experiencemeeting them where they are instead of forcing them to play by old standards, looking at integrating the technology they are already using to enhance the services we need to provide. This not only helps her patients, it also reconnected Dyer with what she loved about the medical profession (direct patient contact) in the first place. She also touches on privacy and HIPA concerns in the interview.

Additionally, Dyer went further to develop an iPhone app to send automated, personalized texts. The doctor needs an iPhone, but the patients just need texting capabilities. She talks about all this in her TedXColumbus presentation:


(Good storytelling in the beginning: 1 patient//2 paths. One path where she took her insulin regularly in her 20s and the other where she didn’t: Paris vs. blindness. Also good storytelling in the “how to use the app” with iphone wireframe/screenshots told through a narrative.)

And for those interested in food and childhood obesity, her full bio also says she is “developing a medical program in connection with the ongoing ‘Food is Elementary’ 28-week nutrition literacy program for young children through a non-profit organization Local Matters…in an effort to prevent childhood obesity progression at the community level.” Dunno much more than that, but you can ask her more about it!

Dyer’s online @EndoGoddess.

I’m loving:

  • the use of social media to “meet people where they are” in providing a social service such as healthcare.
  • the user-centered thinking behind this kind of story — from both medical provider and patient sides
  • the collaboration between Dyer and a programmer who contacted her through Twitter; and that they leveraged existing software and online tools to build the app
  • the “design thinking” they went through without their ever having a Designer involved.
  • AND the enormous opportunities we have as designers if we can collaborate with people, experts in their own fields — who either provide or benefit from these services

How to finish baking ideas


Above is my video recap of our Interaction Design Prototyping studio class. The goal of the studio is to introduce us to methods and processes of rapid prototyping in order to effectively communicate ideas – a critical step toward successful implementation.

Haven’t had much background in a lot of what we did in the studio, my sketch, pitch, wireframes, and screencast aren’t always fully baked. But along the way, I’ve picked up a lot of methods to finish baking them. For anyone else who’s also starting out, I’ve also found the following resources particularly helpful:

Visual thinking: http://www.xplane.com/xblog/Business models: http://www.businessmodelalchemist.com/Wireframes: http://wireframes.linowski.ca/Social media strategy: http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/Personal brand: http://modite.com/blog/

My favorite blog of all-time for anything from visual thinking to social media to prototype to public speaking to being productivity to…etc: http://www.sachachua.com

Really excited to apply these newly developed skills to quarter 2 with our Arch project.

IDSE_103 Interaction Design Prototyping roundup

Our first studio class, IDSE_103,  centered around the theme of storytelling.  The first story we had to tell was about ourselves as we were tasked with going all in on the social media scene.  For me this was a big jump as I started off quite ‘unconnected’. 

It turned out, however, that being unconnected simply meant that I had a blank canvas to work with, and diving in allowed me to begin to tell my story.  As the quarter progressed we used these social media sites not only to tell our story, but to begin to create networks to distribute ideas.

We also learned a variety of tools and frameworks that helped us support these stories. These tools varied in fidelity in order to match the state of an idea. We started off with low fidelity visualization techniques: quick sketches on post it notes that we used to anchor our storytelling. 

These low fidelity sketches became the starting point with which to begin telling a story.  Their value lies in their simplicity.  I can walk up to a whiteboard and sketch out these anchors as I give an impromptu presentation.  Here’s an example:

As the quarter progressed we learned how to take these rough ides and formulate them into more formal business pitches.  We drew on some of the research from Lauren’s class to generate ideas which we then shared with the class.  We represented our ideas visually with concept maps that described complex systems:

Then as the ideas took shape we were able to formulate business plans around these ideas.  We learned how to pitch these ideas, and created multiple pitch decks to support our story.  Every assignment told a story, and as we moved through the quarter the fidelity of the supporting material increased.  We created mobile applications to support our ideas, choosing hero elements and building on some of the visualization and rapid prototyping techniques we had already learned.

From there we built basic wireframes to begin to create the interactions and desired function of our sites.

And finally we learned how to tell stories when we are not even there.  Below is a video pitching YAWYE, a service I designed for this class.

Ideas are virtually worthless if you don’t share them early and often.  This class gave me many tools and frameworks to do just that.  I now have multiple frameworks to pick from when prototyping an idea and telling a story.  I think most importantly it pushed me to focus on the story, own the whiteboard, and share everything…. Think, Make, Share.

The prototype project above has been pitched to several possible partners, and will be beta tested at a restaurant in San Francisco shortly.  Stay tuned on the AC4D blog for updates on how the beta test goes.

Three steps to executing ideas

n IDSE103, we learnt three steps to executing ideas. This video serves as a recap of the course and how ideas should be executed. This is also part of the final class project.



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.

Systems Thinkers Needed

Been doing research on different kinds of “design” processes, how designers work vs. engineers vs. social workers vs. computer scientists, etc. (which is conveniently proving to bridge my thinking from IDSE102’s wicked problems to IDSE202’s systems & service design.)

Found this video of Don Norman who says we need more “systems thinkers” who can think broadly across a variety of specialized disciplines to help them talk to each other and to orchestrate their collaboration.

YouTube: Don Norman on Engineering Design Education

I think the same critique applies to Design Education as well, since we train “graphic designers” or “industrial designers” or “fashion designers.” We’ve had some debates in class about generalists vs. specialists, T-shaped designers, etc.

While I think there is value in specializing in something, and our culture definitely values it more (you get paid more if you are a specialist), I’m wondering if you can specialize in being a generalist? if you become a good systems thinker, does that become your specialty? Even though a systems thinker works and knows across a broad range of fields?

In other words, can I get paid eventually to be a generalist? Or do I still need a value-added specialist knowledge silo?

Here’s more Don Norman talking about systems thinking: “A product is more than a product.”

In reality a product is all about the experience. It is about discovery, purchase, anticipation, opening the package, the very first usage. It is also about continued usage, learning, the need for assistance, updating, maintenance, supplies, and eventual renewal in the form of disposal or exchange. Most companies treat every stage as a different process, done by a different division of the company: R&D, manufacturing, packaging, sales, and then as a necessary afterthought, service. As a result there is seldom any coherence. Instead, there are contradictions. If you think of the product as a service, then the separate parts make no sense–the point of a product is to offer great experiences to its owner, which means that it offers a service. And that experience, that service, is the result of the coherence of the parts. The real value of a product consists of far more than the product’s components.

…the most important aspect for the delivery of a cohesive experience is systems thinking. It is amazing how few companies understand and practice this.

And any product or service in the social sector (shelter for the night, free books for kids, mobile Care-A-Van) is a part of a larger system. And we need systems thinkers to coordinate the delivery of cohesive experiences (home ownership, education, healthcare).

How do you train/educate systems thinkers? And/or how do you focus the systems thinkers that do exist in the world toward social issues? And how do they then make a living doing important work?