Lending, Goal-achieving, and Volunteering: Feedback from 3 Early Design Ideas

This is the third installment of our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) project for our Studio and Ideation class. This project builds on the research we did with gig economy workers last Fall. While only one of the ideas listed below directly affects gig economy workers, all ideas were developed directly from our research, which you can read about here and here.

This week we started to turn our research into reality. After developing 200 unique ideas last week, we narrowed to three design ideas to start testing. This is the first step in our four-week journey to narrow and define one strong design idea that we will develop in our final quarter at AC4D.

Our progress this week:

  • We narrowed from 200 to five design ideas. To do this, we gave each idea a score of 1-5 for:

    • Viability: how likely is this idea to make money?

    • Feasibility: with current technology today and our resources, how likely could this be built?

    • Impact: does this serve the people we seek to help?

    • Differentiation: is this need already being met?

    • Interestingness: do we personally find this compelling enough to work on it for 12 weeks?

We used the rankings of the top 20 to narrow down potential options and then we each took time to reflect and surface our personal top 5. Early this week we met together and decided on a top 5 for the group.

  • Developed an Elevator Pitch, Lean Startup Canvas, and Storyboard for our top 5 ideas. To help us flesh out these concepts to get actionable feedback, we created shareable assets. This helped us hone in on core features.

  • Narrowed to three ideas. The process of creating those artifacts helped us narrow down to a top three that we would focus our interviews on.

  • Interviewed 15 people. We each owned one idea and held 50-minute interviews with five people to gather initial reactions, questions, and overall sentiment. Read below for high-level feedback and insights from our interviews.

Shake It Off

Our app makes it easy for people who want to improve transparency and accountability when they borrow money from friends or family. You can set up terms, reminders, auto-drafts, and even note cash payments or barters that happen outside the app. Unlike GoFundMe or bank loans, our product doesn’t require a good credit score and allows people to ask for temporary assistance rather than a gift.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 29-51

  • Average rating: 1.6 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Paypal already does this – sort of. Participants who had previous experience using PayPal or Venmo to share money with friends and family felt their needs were already met. They used transaction history to keep track of loans but did acknowledge that this has the potential to get messy for larger amounts over $1,000.

    • Lending friends/family money is messy. Three participants mentioned that their parents taught them to not lend money to their friends or families because it gets messy. This mentality seemed more prevalent among groups with higher socioeconomic status.

    • Tracking loans is not always desirable. Often there appears to be an expectation that if you borrow money from friends or family, they may not make you pay it back in full. This is especially true of people borrowing money from their parents.

      Key Positive Insights

    • Payment tracking needs are not currently being met. For folks living paycheck to paycheck, the desire to track exact payments was very high. This was less important for anyone with a savings cushion.

    • It’s hard to stay accountable without a tool. Self-discipline is required when borrowing money from friends and family because the consequences of default are less concrete. Participants liked that this app could help keep you accountable, and even auto-draft money so you didn’t have to think about it.

    • This is helpful for the financially excluded. Almost everyone we talked with had experienced some level of exclusion from banks. Payday loans were seen as an absolute last resort. Three participants tried to get money from a bank before borrowing from friends and family but were denied.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Edit storyboard to reflect larger dollar amounts. The current storyboard has $40 as the loan, but most participants mentioned they were typically borrowing hundreds at a time. For every participant that gave this product a 1 (would not be disappointed if it didn’t come to life), they said they would be more likely to use it if it helped facilitate larger loans ($5,000-$10,000).

    • Consider unique profit models. One successful model mentioned was Dave, a banking app, that asks for donations and is only $1.07 per month.

    • Suggest speed. The immediacy of instant cashouts has increased the expectation for products to move money quickly. Two participants felt that Venmo transfers are too slow (taking 2-3 days) and want to get paid immediately.

      Notes:

    • The financial product space is saturated. In my five conversations, the following tools were mentioned: Venmo, Paypal, CashApp, Splitwise, Zelle, Direct Transfer, Dave, Earnin, Acorn

 

Goal Grab

For gig workers who are looking to build a roadmap to achieving their dream, our platform motivates users by helping them visualize their priorities, break goals into smaller building blocks, and track progress. Users are prompted to articulate why their goals are meaningful, enabling them to develop clarity and confidence around realizing their goals. The goal-achieving platform enables community support through a ‘tip me forward’ function, allowing others to support your progress and give towards your dream.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 26-36

  • Average rating: 2 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Motivation is a moving target. Participants expressed a multitude of motivating behaviors or support systems. Each person found it meaningful to articulate the why behind their goals but most expressed distrust and uncertainty around how the platform could help.

    • People aren’t interested in features that require more work for them. As our storyboard illustrated, the tip me forward function would be separate from the in-app tipping system of Uber or Lyft, requiring users to be engaged with a physical artifact that would prompt them to inquire. Alternately, it could mean the driver has to engage their customer – the prospect of which prompted strong, negative reactions around it feeling coercive or inauthentic. “Needs to be part of an organic conversation vs being pitched at.”“It makes me feel super uncomfortable – I would never do it. If I didn’t make my goal, I would feel awful.” “It could also be infuriating if it didn’t feel genuine.”

    • Analog is the default. Each participant expressed some degree of reservation around using apps as a learning tool. “Anytime I start an app, I might start there but then I switch to ‘old school’ pen and paper – divert back to tried and true.” When talking about who this platform might benefit, participants mentioned people who have a smartphone and have a degree of fluency or ease in using them “in that way.”

      Key Positive Insights

    • More motivational to have a fluid approach. Overplanning often leads to disappointment because it doesn’t account for “the only thing constant in life is change.” While people liked the ability to see all of your goals or steps in one place, creating flexibility within tackling each step was an important quality that folks were looking for.

    • Having a trail of success behind you becomes evidence of how far you’ve come and provides motivation to push forward. Feedback was positive around the progress view. One participant noted that people can get discouraged though, if the evidence doesn’t show them as the higher achiever they want to be and could be overwhelmed if this view appeared unprompted. They also provided feedback on how it might look differently though one person said, “I like the little pie charts change a linear sense of time too. It’s not month to month or week to week but visually growing.”

    • Confidence requires as much traction as the goal itself. Participants spoke about fear as a hurdle to getting out the gate, and self-doubt as a reason why they don’t achieve their goals. In putting the effort into putting those out there, two of our participants spoke about how that alone can help clarify how invested and interested you are.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Explore the concept ‘off the screen.’ The folks we spoke with are not using the apps they download. How we can clarify what makes this better than pen and pencil version and how can we consider different contexts for this concept?

    • Explore ways to include motivation mapping. It would be interesting to consider how we might track motivation to see what patterns emerge for people so they can better develop strategy around how to build momentum when it begins to slide.

    • Group conversation about folding concepts together. We merged two ideas in coming up with this concept. Having a frank conversation will help clarify where and how these ideas do and don’t work together.

 

Re-inventing the Elk’s Lodge

For young adults (millennials) who want to be meaningfully engaged in their communities but feel limited by their financial resources. Our product matches user interests with volunteer opportunities, placing people in service tracks where they can hone their philanthropic interests and grow their social network. Unlike volunteer platforms that connect you with one organization, we introduce you to a range of projects, people and interests. Through a mix of online and in-person engagements, we are driving the premise that social health is the new individual health.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 33-39

  • Average rating: 2.6 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Progress tracking of volunteerism is “gross” and “cringey.” All participants except for one had strong negative reactions to the premise of a progress tracking function built into the app. They felt it was anathema to the ethos of volunteering.

    • It reminds people of a platform they dislike. Initial responses to our platform concept were that it sounded like it might recreate a platform that already existed and that nobody liked. The VolunteerMatch comparison and bad after-taste are something our group will have to address if we bring our product to market.

    • People prefer an on-going engagement with one organization. People didn’t like the idea of service tracks that sampled volunteerism at different organizations or the idea because it was at odds with their value of going deep with a single group to get to make meaningful connections.

      Key Positive Insights

    • Meeting other people is a central reason for volunteering. People were highly positive about the potential for a social connection function built into the app. Meeting other people is often a primary or secondary goal for becoming involved in volunteer work, and one that was often not met.

    • Finding a great organization to volunteer with is hard. People liked the idea of getting matched to an organization and having a more manageable non-profit landscape to navigate whether you were new in town or just not tuned into the local non-profit landscape.

    • The mission of the platform resonates with interviewees’ values. Jessica said, “An app like this would go a long way to fix what is wrong with my generation [a lack of social cohesion and community-mindedness]” and four of our five participants said they would be extremely disappointed if the product didn’t come to market.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Implement filtering or even curation functionality. Participants didn’t want to see organizations that hasn’t been vetted and preferred 5-10 excellent local orgs to dozens of random ones. Colin even suggested that the user should create a profile and not see more than three ‘matches’ for volunteer options.

    • Close the loop. Jessica suggested that non-profit staff should be at events to provide purpose to events. They could be there to informally chat about the org and the opportunities or even kick off an event with a more formal State of the Org presentation. This idea tested positively with subsequent interviews. This might be a good way to expand the pool of potential volunteers organically.

    • Research the other side of the ‘marketplace.’ Molly (who had experience working as a volunteer coordinator for a youth program) mentioned that if on-boarding for the non-profit partners was too complicated they just wouldn’t do it.

Next Steps

  • This upcoming week, Allison and Laura will continue to expand on these three ideas by building pitch decks and then interviewing new participants for their feedback.

  • Michelle will be in Milan competing at the IxDA Student Design Charette – wish her luck!

Designing for Makers (and More): Week 3 Update

This is part three in a series detailing updates to our research into makers working contract jobs. You can read part one here and part two here, and you can find information on our research here.

Design Team: Kyle BeckSean RedmondLauren Sands

Overview

We are in week three of our quarter-long project using our research into the financial behaviors of contract workers in creative industries (i.e., “makers”). We have made concept maps to understand our research better and sharpened our insights to become more provocative, to help us to come up with more impactful design ideas. This week we settled on three ideas to storyboard and begin sharing with potential users for feedback.

Primary Goal

This week’s goal was to determine what design ideas we wanted to pursue and create materials (Lean Canvas business model, storyboard, and interview script) to share those ideas effectively with a potential audience. We chose the following three ideas, which range from directly influenced by our research with makers to only tangentially inspired by our findings:

  1. Tinder for Food: A swipe-based program that helps you decide what to eat by showing you pictures of food that you can swipe left on (reject) or swipe right on (accept). You can decide whether to use the app to find restaurants or recipes to cook at home. If you’re eating out with friends, you can match with friends to help determine a restaurant that is of interest to everyone. You can create a profile and save favorites and share them with others, helping to build a community and encourage greater use.
    View Lean Canvas model
    View storyboard
    View script

  2. EZ Save: An invoice app for contract workers that allows you to determine what percentage of your invoice to dedicate to checking and savings accounts. It automatically sorts those funds accordingly. Furthermore, you can use the software to create savings goals by category and move funds easily between those subaccounts, without having to create actual separate bank accounts.
    View Lean Canvas model
    View storyboard
    View script

  3. Blue Apron for SNAP: This program would be modeled after the popular Blue Apron/Hello Fresh food box delivery model, but would focus on providing basic staples for cheap with refreshing recipes to keep meals varied and healthy on a tight benefit. The goal would be to keep the price low enough that people receiving SNAP benefits would be eligible and able to afford the service.
    View Lean Canvas model
    View storyboard
    View script

Methodology

We interviewed five people for the Tinder for Food and EZ Save ideas, and four for the Blue Apron for SNAP idea. Because we had not worked with a population receiving SNAP benefits for our research, it required a bit more work to find appropriate interviewees for this project idea.

For Tinder for Food, we interviewed a mix of makers and acquaintances. With an app as broadly appealing as this, we had more leeway for finding interview prospects. For EZ Save, we interviewed many of the same makers who we conducted our initial research with.

Our interviews lasted roughly 45 minutes each. We first discussed a series of questions pertaining to the problem area identified and the subject area more broadly, to gauge the participant’s perspective. We then discussed the principles of our design ideas, asking for their reaction to each core idea. Finally, we unveiled our storyboard, asking for their reaction to each step of the story specifically regarding the story’s clarity, the resonance of the identified problem, and the feasibility of the solution.

Insights

Most interview participants conveyed positive reactions to the three project ideas, but some reactions were tempered with skepticism and disinterest. Insights per project as distilled from our interview results are listed below.

Tinder for Food: Everyone we spoke to was enthusiastic about this project, but most people had questions and suggestions for how to improve the concept. We thought we had been thorough in detailing the nuances of its use, but people still raised important issues. Would users be able to outline their food preferences beforehand? Would they be able to choose the timeframe for eating at a restaurant, and then make reservations directly? Would distance play a factor in results displayed? Overall, it was clear that we would have to strike a balance between front-loading too many parameters to dictate results and taking too hands-off an approach that would provide too many unappealing options. The community component seemed especially promising, though, as people liked the idea of being able to choose places to go with friends. One person got excited for the possibility of polls to help gauge community interest and including other interactive components to drive greater engagement.

EZ Save: Most people we spoke to appreciated this idea. The more savings-oriented makers we spoke to liked the prospect of being able to put aside savings directly from their invoices. As one person put it, “anything automatic is valuable,” and they liked being able to reduce the step of having to log into their bank account to move funds around. However, as they pointed out, “It’s saving you a minute — it’s not a huge savings.” We think the greater benefit, though, would be in reminding people of the potential for saving, and making it easier to do so, perhaps encouraging more people who aren’t currently saving to start doing so. Whether this would be effective is unclear: one maker we spoke to who currently does not save said this was not relevant to his life and would not encourage him to save. He said he doesn’t make enough money to save and that he puts everything into checking. Another maker said the app would be helpful for “Type A people and people with enough money to care.” It’s not clear how many members of our target audience would see the benefits of this service. Still, even those skeptical of the idea saw its potential benefit for others. We also heard from many makers that if the program allowed for greater tax help (e.g., determining how much to put away for taxes and what tax breaks they were eligible for) then they would be very inclined to use it, and one maker expressed interest in combining scheduling with invoicing to create a unified system of booking and verifying contracts. There is significant potential for further exploring and perhaps expanding upon this service as it pertains to this specific audience.

Blue Apron for SNAP: Everyone we spoke to thought this was a noble idea, but this, too, was treated with some skepticism. One interviewee noted that SNAP users may not have regular access to electricity or gas and may not have the appropriate cooking tools to make meals (e.g., measuring cups, pans). Another noted that many older folks may not be able to use apps. One interviewee said that his Latina mother always liked to cook with the same ingredients and make the same things. She couldn’t read English and couldn’t use computers or a smart phone. While we envisioned the service to be helpful in introducing meal variety on a budget, many interviewees expressed interest in using the service to quickly and easily meal prep for a week, making large batches of just a couple dishes and storing them. Perhaps the meal plans would have to be split into different types for different users, to address the needs and desires of our audience. Finally, multiple participants also pointed out that buying junk food is often seen as a treat that can be purchased for children cheaply when there may not be much else that they can buy. Psychological factors like this will need to be considered when developing this idea and considering its appeal and likely adoption.

Next Steps

This week, we will revise our storyboards as necessary to reflect our preliminary feedback. We will then bring our storyboards to additional interviews and get more feedback on our design ideas. We hope to reach five more participants for each idea, so that we can get a stronger idea of what is working and what is still unclear, and what aspects of our ideas have the widest appeal and the greatest chance for success.

Supporting Sex Workers: Prototyping Phase One

Prototyping Phase One – Leah DiVito + Brittany Sgaliardich

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“Sometimes we arrive at good ideas before the law can support them.”

This notion, shared by an ac4d alumnus, stuck with our team as we developed concepts for future products and services that could promote the agency and safety of sex workers. 

While acknowledging the laws surrounding sex work, we also had to suspend disbelief in order to allow the richness of our ideas to rise to the surface.

This week, we began sharing our top-selected design concepts with potential users in order to vet the value and feasibility of ideas. In an opportunity space riddled by policing and stigma, the creativity and nuance of the feedback we received give our team forward momentum to challenge assumptions and further develop our design concepts.


 

Why it matters

Last week, we rapidly ideated 200 design ideas that were informed by our research insights. This week, we downselected to a top few ideas which we conceptualized through use of storyboards, lean canvases, and user interviews.

The process felt organic. And strangely specific, it felt like planting. We laid forth 200 seeds that allowed for a few budding plants to grow. By drawing, mapping, sharing, and challenging ideas, we began to breathe life into ideas that previously felt intangible.

This realization reinforces the idea that products and services, at any stage, are living and evolving. The design behind them is constantly examined, tested, and challenged. People are dynamic – so is the law. Products must be too.

 


 

What we did in FIVE steps:

  1. Strategically downselected our 200 design ideas by using a 2×2 framework where we compared the ideas’ Feasibility vs. its Potential Value
  2. Wrote ‘Madlibs’ style mission statements,  for our 10-12 most interesting ideas by grounding them in our insights. The formulaic verbal articulation of purpose, function and differentiation helped to intentionally continue to narrow our list.
  3. Built out ‘Lean Canvases’, or a visualized grounds-up tactical plans or blueprints, for our top four ideas to continue exploring the nuances that may affect follow-through of our ideas, and provide structure to the actualization of the idea.
  4. Storyboarded our top four ideas with multiple drafts and iterations as visual artifacts that articulate general functionality of the product or service.
  5. Finally, we interviewed five people – mostly contacts with which we already had established rapport and trust from previous interviews, with the addition of one person from a new craigslist ad – and asked questions. We presented our ideas and storyboards to vet their value with the real experts on the subject matter.

 

The ideas

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  • Pink Matter – a one-stop digital information tool for women working in sex and sex-related industries

For sex workers who have little support and want to connect with other women working in the industry for informed guidance, our product encourages women to share stories and advice, and exchange medical, financial, and safety resources in order to create a trusted support network of sex professionals. Unlike existing services like Yelp, or forums like Reddit, our product aims to become a safe space specifically for connecting sex workers so they may 1) build industry knowledge, 2) share stories and support, and 3) exchange vital resources while maintaining anonymity as necessary.

  • Bridge – a “Hinge”-style dating tool grounded in matching similar expectations and preferences

For sex workers struggling to make safe connections online, our product provides a platform to anticipate service expectations and screen for client safety. Although this platform would operate as a space for people to meet verified safe customers, it would ultimately empower workers to create recurring clients and build greater trust with preferred clients. Unlike MeetMe, SeekingArrangement or other apps for sourcing and communicating with potential clients, our product suggests connections based on worker and client preferences and expectations – limiting the risks associated with misaligned service expectations.  

  • Money Diaries – a physical and digital tool for tracking finances, clients, goals and schedules in one connected platform 

For sex workers who struggle to feel in control of their finances and want to reach personal goals, our product serves as a money diary to document income and clients as well as visualize progress towards goals, both financial and personal. This platform encourages women to document their schedule and income as part of their daily routine while also providing encouragement by way of affirming notifications. Unlike other planning and calendar apps, our product has both physical and digital components that prioritize the unique needs of sex industry professionals while remaining highly customizable to each individual.

  • AirHaven – “Airbnb”-style service for helping women to escape domestic violence in moments of need

For women subject to domestic violence who are seeking safe shelter, our product creates a platform for other women to open their homes and offer temporary housing to women in need. Unlike shelters, our product has the potential to scale, allowing more women to find immediate relief and sleep somewhere outside of their dangerous home.


 

Main Takeaways

Highly personal. The ways in which our ideas manifest into products is contingent on individual needs, unique to different professions across the sex industry. There is no generalized ‘catch-all’ for sex work.

Insights are weighted. The way we translate our design ideas into prototypable concepts forces us to recognize the ‘value’ of an insight from a new perspective. Because many of our insights are so complex, based in the contradictions of the human experience, our product ideas often feel ill equipped to address the challenge. Design ideas therefore fail to feel as equally transformational.

Stigma and policing. Although we’ve acknowledged the reality of the law during research and synthesis, the concept development phase of design has perhaps felt the most legally confrontational. We continue to have conversations about designing around and with the law. It will ultimately be a serious consideration as to the final product we produce.

The creative value of suggestions from experts. It is apparent that the women we interviewed are the true experts of this work. We were presented with many ideas from our interviewees that we would have never come up with on our own. Their insights continue to offer impactful, nuanced adaptations to our design ideas.

Validation.  Ultimately, the feedback we received in user testing gave us a sense of validation. The positive reception and powerful conversation generated by our design ideas was an acknowledgment of the rigor of our research. While some ideas were misses, the ideas that landed were a source of promise. Positive reception felt rewarding and step forward in our journey to make something that might make lives better.

 


 

Next Steps

Next we will continue to narrow our focus and select our top two ideas for which we will build out ‘Definition Decks’ (similar to a sales deck) in order to eventually downselect the top idea that we will run with through the end of the project.

 


 

Timelapse – Downselection Process

Testing, testing…can you hear us?

After doing 200 ideas, Dan and I downsized that amount to half, by doing a 2×2 that helped us divide ideas considering if they where functional and if they had any value, that helped us a lot to see throw away some ideas and keep the ones that interested us the most. After doing the 2×2, we still had a lot of ideas so we went and voted for each idea, considering realistic ideas bearing in mind cost, viability and feasibility of making each idea. With that, we downsized to only two ideas. We are now testing each idea doing artifacts like an elevator pitch, lean canvas and a storyboard to describe the idea much better. We also tested each idea with some participants to see if they could be potential users of our products and/or services. 

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Idea 1:
SNAP food delivery service

In our conversations with participants we found that there was a serious lack of resources. In the majority of our conversations it was time and money. Some of our participants who received aid from TANF also spoke about receiving SNAP benefits. In order to better serve these people we thought that finding a way for people to get a delivery service would be more helpful.  We spoke with Isamel, who told us about the hardship he now faced after being let go from his job.

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“It’s because of snap I don’t have to choose food. Except when I’m out and about and I need to eat, but I can’t get home fast enough.  maybe if I had my snap card with me, I might get some prepared food.” — Igor

Between two jobs and getting his child to and from school Igor found little time to visit the store. Through ideation and storyboarding exercises we were able to understand how this service might be beneficial to SNAP users who need it most.

For low income individuals who experience the inability to obtain healthy food and want to eat a well balanced nutritious diet. Our product brings healthy food to low-income families who don’t have the means to obtain it themselves. Unlike UberEats, and Postmates our product will be exclusive to SNAP users and other low income individuals in need of a healthy balanced diet.

We heard from several current SNAP users who were willing to give feedback on our design concept. The information we gained by externalizing these with those who are part of the service was extremely helpful. We found that the diverse set of people SNAP is designed to serve may be difficult to shape an auxiliary product for. We heard that some SNAP users receive far more aid than others who may have a higher need for it. Alongside some of the below takeaways we got from those who use the service themselves.

  • A SNAP delivery service would be useful for a select few within the program.
  • Are users going to pay for delivery? How often will it come?
  • Lower cost or no cost delivery would not be a determining factor
  • Being able to see what you order and spend your snap dollars on in one place could be helpful for meal planning
  • Being able to determine what locations participate in the delivery program?
  • How do I qualify for the delivery service?

It’s clear that there is work to be done into developing this service, and it’s through chatting with actual humans who use SNAP is beyond insightful. Human centered design for the win yet again. Going forward we’ll be able to distill these ideas down further into something more legitimate.

Artifacts here.

Idea 2:
Baby product/clothing recycling service

This idea came from former interviews in our research, the most interesting conversation was with Samantha, a single mother that is struggling with working, being a single mother of two daughters and having no financial aid. 

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“I needed the loans to live, you know, I need gas for my car, she (daughter) needs clothes, she’s growing, silly kids with their biology.” —Samantha

For families looking to minimize their children’s ever-growing closets whilst benefiting low income families who are unable to purchase appropriate products for their new child. Our goal is to be the mediator to people who don’t want the products to people who need them. Our product is to provide a mail in service, online platform, and physical location to those low-income families in need. Reduce carbon footprint. Unlike depop or salvation army we are utilizing existing products and clothing that is not in use and providing it to those in need.

We first did some artifacts to understand how the service will work. This was a very helpful process because the artifacts, like the lean canvas, make you think about profit or preferred users. These are things to consider while prototyping an idea. The storyboard (comic) also helped us to visualize how the service could work and what pain points we are resolving. In this case, we hope to resolve two main issues. First, we are taking baby products that families no longer need to relieve space in their homes. Second, we hope to provide cheaper baby products for the people that need them.

We have two users that could use this service, the donors (people that don’t need the stuff) and the customers (people that need the stuff). So basically, we are the mediators from people that don’t want the stuff to people that need the stuff.

We spoke to four participants that included our two types of users (donors and customers). Some of the insights we got were the following:

  • Families have boxes and closets full of clothes and toys, they don’t know what to do with them
  • Some parents complained because they buy things that their baby only used  for a couple of months (eg. bassinet)
  • Four out of five participants said that they wouldn’t donate clothes, because they can get pretty spoiled after a lot of use, however they did say that they would donate and/or rent bigger and more expensive products (eg. strollers).
  • They also said that they would prefer some kind of reward for donating (eg. $10 a piece)
  • We would have to be very strict with quality, so we don’t have broken products (we will not be a landfill)
  • One participant mentioned that he would not like to rent things, but to buy them cheaper.
  • We should make a strict list of what things we could sell (eg. strollers, cribs, etc) and what things we wouldn’t accept because of hygiene and health (eg. baby feeding bottles, pacifiers, etc)

All of these comments from future customers of our service were very helpful and we will keep them in mind during next steps. This step was crucial, because when your idea starts to become real, and you think of things that you didn’t think of before (eg. donating things like the feeding bottle would not be very hygienic).

Artifacts here.

Our progress

This week we accomplished downsizing our ideas from 200 to 2 punchy ideas, we did some artifacts that helped us understand how our services would work properly and what can be feasible. The artifact that helped us the most was the Lean Canvas, because you can start to think about the value proposition, the key metrics, the differentiations and most importantly the costs. We then tested both ideas with potential future customers to see how they react to these potential services. Overall we got pretty good reactions with some constructive criticism that helped us narrow our focus (eg. having strict quality-check with donations so we don’t become a landfill).

Next s†eps

For next steps we will be creating two kinds of sales deck for each idea and we will continue by downselecting again to end up with one final idea to work with until graduation.

Ideating with Insights from the Gig Economy

This is a progress report on our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) work with the gig-economy. For a quick look at our concept maps from last week, go check out last week’s blog post. For a better understanding of our research and the focus of this project, see posts here and here

Progress Made This Week

Identified 79 design patterns that we used to help spark inspiration when coming up with design ideas. These patterns ranged from topical trends (deep fakes and ASMR videos) to grander shifts in design and culture (pressure on organizations to take a stance on social and political issues).

Sorted 100 insights into 13 insight categories which allowed us to understand higher-level trends in our data. Our categories with the most insights are “Gig Beliefs”, “Narratives Society Tells Us” and “Access”. To help better illustrate these categories, here are top insights from each:

  • Gig Beliefs: Gig work is glamorized as a choice of freedom and a path toward autonomy. 
  • Narratives Society Tells Us: The American Dream is hostile to anything other than the pursuit of economic success. 
  • Access: Gig work creates access to the workforce for those who have historically been excluded.

insights

Developed 201 design ideas by randomly mashing up design patterns and insights and using that as inspiration. Because our design patterns went beyond “Uber” or “AirBnB” and instead focused more on behavior, we were able to come up with some very out-of-the-box ideas that were not solely rooted in popular app trends of today. A few fun nascent ideas include:

  • Flat Stanley for executives to take to their office and show students who may not have access to that world what their days are really like. 
  • Access to exclusive events and opportunities that can only be unlocked by contractors with a gig company. (Think of a stage at SXSW sponsored by Lyft where all of the performers have completed at least 30 rides as a Lyft driver.)
  • A storefront where the items are priced relative to the buyer’s hourly wage, as a commentary on inequality in society and the different meaning that status symbols have to different people.

Visit here for a complete look at our design ideas, patterns, and insights. 

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What We Learned

  • We started using a reframing process to generate ideas. This ended up being successful at generating new, useful insights, but not design ideas. Because our focus this week was on ideas, we deprioritized our work with the reframing model, but look forward to revisiting it next week or beyond.
  • While design ideas pertinent to the gig economy are still interesting to us, we generated many ideas related to the future of work generally or even more broadly, related to dominant political, social and economic paradigms.
  • Although many of our ideas were focused around technology and apps, we challenged ourselves to veer away from these comfortable tropes to explore physical products and spaces as well as experiences and events as those often yielded ideas that were more unique.
  • One of the challenges of this program is to become less precious about what we put out into the world. We do this by writing a million blog posts, generating a million post-it note ideas, delivering countless presentations and drawing innumerable figures. Ultimately, we begin to think less preciously of ourselves in the process. 
  • Participant data is still coming up in the ideation and insight process. At times it seemed we were moving further away from the research and further away from the actual people but as we wrote ideas and thought through what might be useful or meaningful or funny or bad, we recalled things our participants said and experiences they had shared with us or behavior we had observed. It feels like we are truly designing with our participants because their language, impressions, and insights remain at our fingertips. 
  • We tried a technique of mashing up a randomly generated word with insights to arrive at a new idea, which was not particularly fruitful for us.

Next Steps

  • Next week we will focus on sorting our ideas and filtering for ones that most resonate for us as a team and with the data that we found most compelling in our research phase.
  • We’d like to facilitate a round of read-throughs with the other design groups to rank up ideas that are especially resonant and add to each other’s walls. 

 

Design Criteria, Makers Project: Week 2 Update

This is part two in a series detailing updates to our research into makers working contract jobs. You can read part one here, and you can find information on our research here.

Design Team: 

Kyle Beck, Sean Redmond, Lauren Sands

Primary Goal:

This week’s goal was to reevaluate insights and use them to develop 200 design ideas using reframing and insight combination techniques. Ideas could directly address the issues we observed as they pertain to makers or be free-association ideas inspired by our observations.

Outcome:

We were successfully able to brainstorm 200 ideas for new products or services that could be created to address problems identified.

Methodology:

Ideation was performed by examining insights and then grouped into the following themes:

  • Health
  • Business
  • Money Management
  • Agency
  • Art
  • Networking
  • Support Systems
  • Education

In addition, a “Miscellaneous” category was created to capture free-association ideas not directly related to makers.

Using the reframing technique, we took observations and filtered them through different environments, perspectives, and embodiments. For instance, we thought about the concept of taxes from the perspective of students, accountants, and CEOs, and each perspective brought different nuance to the idea. We thought about what a maker’s job would like in a city versus a rural area versus a space colony, and we thought about what tools might look like if they were swapped for other materials (e.g., plant plateware).

Using insight combination, we identified existing trends and popular applications (i.e., prevailing design patterns) and applied them to our observations to come up with new design ideas. This led to a number of ideas such as “Tinder for art,” “Tom’s Shoes for health insurance,” “Skymiles for artists,” “Airbnb for art studios,” and other concepts.

Highlights:

Some of our favorite ideas include the following:

  • A virtual reality relaxation program
  • Wearable tech that monitors and helps treat anxiety
  • Art leasing for events
  • Invoice and/or banking software that allows income to be split into different shadow accounts for planning purposes
  • A discipline-building program that encourages repetition of small tasks over time to increase resolve
  • “Tinder for art,” to allow prospective buyers to browse and purchase art via swiping
  • A communal dream network where you can share dreams and help each other achieve goals
  • Voice assistant technology that can produce invoices and help with administrative work

A spreadsheet of the full list of ideas can be found here.

Takeaways:

Many of our design ideas focused on business development, money management, and support networks. This is probably because we were conditioned to think about our research from these perspectives when working with JUST in the previous quarter. However, some of our most fruitful ideas came from approaching our research from health and agency angles. Such ideas have potential for more widespread adoption.

The simpler an idea, the more promising it appears to be. This is the hallmark of good design: something that seems obvious in retrospect because its usefulness is so intuitive.

It was easy to come up with variations of ideas for programs and apps, but we have some skepticism about how well used they would be. Given the saturation of applications in our everyday lives, the barrier for creating one that will be used with regularity by a large group of people seems high. In addition, it was hard for us to know if our ideas had already been created, given how many apps exist that few people use. We will need to conduct further research in the next phase.

Insight combination led to more immediate design ideas, while the reframing technique led more to reconceptualizations that were mainly helpful in redirecting the flow of our ideas.

Next Steps:

This week, we will evaluate our list of 200 design ideas and determine our five best ideas, based upon 2×2 comparison graphing. With this technique, we will choose two important attributes of our design ideas (e.g., ease of implementation, significance of impact) and then graph our ideas along an X-Y grid with each attribute plotted along an axis. Ideas that have the most positive potential will be chosen for further ideation and development.

Ideating Services For Families Who Need Them

This week Ana and I continued to push our research around non-traditional families towards developing concepts for products. Our task this week was to generate 200 design concepts for products and services that could actually see the light of day to help the humans we spoke with. It was a large task, and as this is our first time doing this, it proved difficult but a beneficial exercise! We were told volume is key for this assignment. Amidst this mass of ideas we’ve generated, we feel we can relate to the phrase “There’s gold in them thar hills”.

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We struggled to navigate through our research initially, as being a parent and having a child is such a personal journey. A parent is to provide encouragement, support, and access to their child to develop into the best version of themselves. A parent is a child’s first teacher, and ideally, their best. We listened to the words of the parents we spoke with as best we could. Recalling thought provoking moments around prioritizing their child’s well being over their own. We also reflected on tears we witnessed during interviews talking about health issues their child faced, in turn affecting the whole family.

Through revisiting our initial breakdown of the data and artifacts we had collected and created we were able to start chipping away at some initial ideas. We pushed the conversations we had to the brink. Through reframing, insight combination, and iterating on things we had heard things began to come to light. Through these processes we began to generate ideas for products to be.

Our Method

Deriving information from our interviews, some of our design ideas were truly off the wall.  We found reframing to be our most preferred method of ideation, as we were able to imagine our participants in different environments, looked at them from new perspectives, and what they embodied in scenarios unknown.

We’ll start with, a daycare, for example, in a new environment, say a prison! (Note that there are no criticisms in ideation!) Primary user goal; to provide respite for prison/state employees. Implications and insights

Reframing forced a shift in our semantic perspective around all parts of our research. This was so helpful and made us think quickly. At some point we started to feel like we were watching paint dry looking at our existing data, it was exciting to get new ideas on the wall. Neither Ana and I are parents, and at times it’s been difficult to communicate our research to others that think we’re covering well explored territory. There’s always room for more.

Insight combination was another method of ideation that we ultimately struggled with. As a team of two, we possessed a body of data that reflects our team size. We felt that under our timeline amidst juggling other projects we weren’t able to experiment in this part of the process as much. Through asking why, we found our wheels spinning in reflection to our dataset. Insight combination also took quite more time than reframing. We gave it our best go, but ultimately found it more helpful for revisiting and fine tuning insights. Throughout these two processes, and generating useful thoughts from our ideas that sums up how we got our vast set of design concepts.

Why So Many Design Concepts?

I found that through exhausting all sorts of avenues of possible products or services the ideas that mattered stood out that much more. The viable design ideas are the gold in our hill of ideas. It’s evident that in certain facets of product and service design this rapid, exhaustive ideation process does not happen. Companies carry themselves far down the line of developing (and in some cases creating) a product without understanding and investigating their user as deeply as they should. Although certain things sell, their life expectancy isn’t very long. Take bottled clean air  for example. Bottle it, market it, sell it, and then have the residual waste last for years on end. While we may not be able to actually implement our hotel/resort that is ran by children for children, we sure do see value in providing a free food delivery service for SNAP users.

Next Steps

In the coming week we’ll be trimming the fat off our design concepts. We hope to bring in our classmate and others to see which ideas stick or sound the most useful. With this set of “gold” we’ll be able to develop and visualize the ideas further and test them as best we can. We look forward to feedback, developing a pitch of sorts and starting to create something that could maybe be ready to market. We’re excited going forward as the quarter continues on. It’s exciting to be in this phase of AC4D. Designing products that are made to better humankind. We hope to create something that can save future families from stress and suffering.

supporting sex workers: rapid ideation

The goal of our research is to support the agency and safety of women working in the sex industry. This week, we were challenged with generating  200+ ideas for potential products and services that aim to work towards this mission.

SEX WORK TODAY.

We began by revisiting secondary research surrounding sex work in the US. According to economist studying prostitution, Scott Cunningham, sex work is the most dangerous job for a woman in the United States. In an episode of ReplyAll, he shares that it actually has a homicide rate of over 200 per 100,000 people. The second most dangerous job for a female is a liquor store employee and that has a homicide rate of four per 100,000.

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Image 1. Pocket knife that Leila keeps on her during work

After the introduction of the “Erotic Services” section of Craigslist – later replaced by other websites including Backpage.com – the total female homicide rate went down nearly 20 percent in a given city on average. Not just sex worker homicides, but total female homicides. 

Since the disintegration of Backpage, after the passing of FOSTA/SESTA laws, sex workers are forced to operate in a world before the internet. Imagine trying to run a business without having access to email, web-based advertising or interaction with customers. Access to digital products and services empowers women to screen clients from the safety of their homes, where they are far less vulnerable and have greater control. 

As we move into the ideation phase of our project, we used our research and insights to create new ideas for products and services that may increase the safety and autonomy in a post-FOSTA/SESTA America.

FINDINGS.

Our net new knowledge from rapid ideation included some of the following ideas.

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Tapping into Blockchain.

  • We spoke with an industry expert working in blockchain technology in San Francisco in order to improve our ideation around encrypted services that could provide sex workers with secure and private communication online. This allowed us to generate new ideas around blockchain encrypted “endorsement” services that sex workers and clients could both use as vetting tools.
    • Links: Web of Trust, Monero

Sex workers are small business owners.

  • Our research led us to believe that like entrepreneurs, sex workers value creative control and take serious pride in self-reliance. With this in mind, we generated ideas that foster this inherent creativity. For example, web-camming platforms with built-in filters and prompts. We also found value in strategic networking and saw opportunity in partnerships with successful entrepreneurs, influencers, and sex brands.

Ensuring safety is important.

  • Sex workers have to create their own safety systems because no one else will for them, so we want to bridge the gap by creating systems that better ensure the safety of sex workers. Recurring clients are one consistent way that sex workers build trust with reliable clients, so we would like to create products that incentivize this connection, such as a “Sky Miles” type service with points and awards.
    • Other ideas: VR immersion experiences, pre-packaged “Airbnb” style sexual encounter experiences

Let’s play a game.

  • We realized that sex work and the entertainment industry in general lends itself well to gamified experiences that may not only create a better client experience, but ultimately increase sex worker income and expand client base. Building off of the current trends of bars themed around playing games (ping pong bars, bowling bars, axe throwing bars, put-put bars), we toyed with the idea of strip poker bars and role-playing bars.
    • Other ideas: Make it digital with gamified webcamming

Sex workers are providing therapy.

  • Through our research, we found that because clients often seek validation under the guise of sex, sex workers come to realize that they have also signed up to be therapists. This insight inspired multiple ideas for services that treat sex workers similarly to therapists. Ideas like wellness practices and training in counseling supporting this side of their work and challenging society’s definition of sex work and its associated skill sets.
    • Other ideas: Health and wellness center that incorporates sex work into therapy services, all-encompassing intimacy services platform, training in counseling, wellness practices

Informal money management: dresser banking.

  • Many of the women we spoke to frequently dealt with money in the form of physical cash. The dancers we met expressed particularly negative experiences with banks, associating them with fear and judgment. As a result, women often stored and hid money in dressers and clothing. Sometimes thinking it is better to spend than stow away. This inspired deas like smart safes, cash labeling systems, and savings tools.
    • Other ideas: service that helps women prove their income, financial planning tool for predicting income (e.g. house fees, client meetings)

CHALLENGES.


Even being as informed and as excited to jump in as we were, we immediately realized that ideating for wicked problems is no easy task. Here are some of the difficulties that we faced.

  • Imposter syndrome. Attempting to address problem spaces that we feel unqualified for 
  • Diversity of ideas. Generating a range of concepts that are unique from one another
  • Value of ideas. Holding space for ideas that may feel silly or impractical 
  • Legality. Ideating solutions that may not be legal 
  • Emotional quality. Working in problems related to the ‘human condition’ that don’t have one-size-fits-all answers

NEXT STEPS.

Next week, we will be building concepts. We plan to narrow down to our strongest ideas and develop them into concepts that can be further illustrated by vignettes, storyboards, and theories of change. We look forward to expanding and challenging our insights and hope to develop concepts with the capacity for creating a positive impact on the lives of sex workers.

If you’re interested in connecting with us, please reach out design4women@ac4d.com

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The Laziness of Hubris

It’s pretty arrogant to use the word hubris in the first place, no? Has a sort of smug feeling about it. Which is what I want to talk about. Last week I fell in love with the idea of developing features to support a fail forward mentality – normalizing failure while also embracing failure as a necessary condition for growth. I wanted to lean into the program values of autonomy and one of the key tenets of this school – to make inferences and trust your intuition.

I put together a pretty off the mark presentation that painted a grim portrait of my client, Under Armour, to help me get to my point that a failing company (Shares plummet! Shit happens!) should take up the mantle of present circumstances and embody a fail forward mentality from the inside out. The deck was, rightly, called out for being a brand strategy brief rather than a design strategy brief. Why was it hard to stick to the task and tackle the specific charge – to create viable concepts that help a user visualize progress towards their goals. Where were my missteps?

Day after presentation I’m in the back room at work – washing dishes, doing prep work, and listening to Liv Boeree talk about Analytics and Intuition on JGL’s podcast on creativity. A professional poker player, she talked about intuition being a mostly unconscious process best suited for those components that can’t be broken down into smaller, constituent parts. And for situations where we have tons and tons of experience – decisions we’ve made many times.

Misstep #1: I’m not an experienced designer! I got no skin in the game to say a company is having an identity crisis. I think intuition is useful, in an early stage, to identify what piques my interest within a problem space but it’s not a credible foundation to design from. This for me serves as an example of why it’s imperative to think and work collaboratively, and reminds me why it’s important to talk with the people you’re designing for.

Speaking about the impulse to ‘go with your gut’, Boeree spoke about how “People tend to do that because people don’t want to do the hard work of looking at the data and doing a cost-benefit analysis.” Hmmm… calling my bluff. Misstep #2: I got lazy.

So, I’m fixing the project brief to more accurately tackle the task at hand – narrowing back into the problem itself and asking more questions. Why is it helpful to visualize progress? What are some well-executed examples of this? Why is it difficult to have empathy for our future selves? How can we make data meaningful? What needs to be measured, codified, arranged, displayed to sustain people’s momentum?How do we help people stay engaged, curious, motivated to achieve their health and fitness goals?

Lastly – to counter my impulse to kick back-relax, Boeree advises checking yourself with this question: Am I shrugging my shoulders and going with my gut because genuinely there is no data out there to use or am I actually just being lazy? 

Design Brief for AT&T Universal Search

The task presented for us in our new class “Communication in Design”, was to create a design brief based off of a fictional scenario randomly given to small groups in the class. The purpose was to make a compelling argument which would provide confidence to the client about our process and approach to tackling design challenges.

The challenge I received was from AT&T to help dissolve the issues that surround a universal search option for Over The Top (OTT) content. OTT content bypasses traditional channels and provides media to the user via the internet. Think Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc. This is massive emerging market and AT&T has found it’s way onto the playing field with it’s service called AT&T TV.

The goal for AT&T is to become the “go-to” provider for regular watching needs, such as live TV, news, and sports. It understands that Netflix and Disney+ are more specialized in the content, but that is not where it is choosing to attack. Instead, it’s maximizing it’s position as a traditional content provider to do the same in the OTT scene.

The challenge became clear when I started to think about the different type of content that can be provided in this scenario. Live television, recorded television, On-Demand shows and movies, as well as Premium channels like HBO that are incorporated int their platform. The search function will hold the responsibility of filtering through all of these titles and presenting them to the user in a way that is easily deciphered. This led to questions such as what visual cues will be given to designate each type of content? What kind of hierarchy will be set when a search could bring back options for shows On-Demand, but also live episodes that don’t run until 11pm tonight? The next question I wanted t incorporate into the design approach was how forgiving will the search command be? And lastly, with a database this big, how do you ensure that relevant and trending shows are prioritized and not forced into a deep dive by the user?

These questions all fed into the design brief that outlined the approach for tackling this scenario with AT&T.

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