Service Design: Team British Tofu & Farmhouse Delivery

For the past eight weeks, Team British Tofu has been diligently working alongside Farmhouse Delivery to more fully understand their service and how it could be improved.

Two key issues we found were that:

1) Farmhouse Delivery does not communicate to the customer what quality “real food” looks like — customers expect perfect, waxy produce that they see at the grocery store, and when produce looks less than perfect, they are disappointed.

2) Customers find it difficult to cook all their produce. Customers feel guilty about the resulting wasted food and money.

From these two breakdowns, we prototyped an “ugly produce” card, which would inform clients why their “real” produce might look a little different than what they normally see in the grocery store; and a cooking poster, which would help customers cook with ease, and help eliminate food waste.

We picked these two for the following reasons:

  • Limited impact/work needed by Farmhouse Delivery to integrate
  • Illustrator and paper were accessible tools and materials to create these ideas
  • It would have a high impact on the customer

The “Ugly Produce” Card: Prototype & Results

For the card, we reached out to Farmhouse and asked if there were any issues with the produce that week. The CEO quickly replied, saying the broccoli was purple, which was caused by cold damage. She said that she was concerned that customers would not understand that the quality was just as high as green broccoli, it simply looked different.

With this, we designed the copy for the card. We strived to create something that was informative yet still pushing the idea of “this food is okay to eat!”. We had so carefully crafted this copy, but when we brought it to the client asking if the literature was okay to use, they completely changed the feel of the card. Unfortunately we had to change our copy to accommodate the client and the time restraints we were working under. This experience of pushing back with the client was interesting, but something that require a lot of skill that we still need to refine.

Once printed, we placed the card in 22 bins and called customers to see if these cards made an impact. While some got value out of the card, the majority of those we contacted didn’t even see it. One customer said “I didn’t get purple broccoli, so I guess it doesn’t matter?” 

As we reflected on the feedback, we realized we had made some assumptions. For example, we assumed, since Farmhouse already regularly placed recipe cards in the bins, that a paper card would be the best information delivery mechanism. However, during our customer calls, we realized that customers actually have lives outside veggie delivery. Go figure.

Taking into account that customers still need education around their produce, we recommend that Farmhouse deliver this information via text. A quick photo and message will prepare customers for what to expect, and the text will broaden customers’ understanding of fragility of local farming.

Broccoli Text

The Cooking Poster: Prototype & Results

We worked with Farmhouse to develop simple cooking instructions to help customers cook any veggie in their bin. While there are many methods, we narrowed down the cooking options to saute and roast.

We also provided spice recommendations to help customers make their veggies even tastier.

We placed these posters in 22 bins and called customers to gather feedback the next day. Many of the customers said they “already knew this information.” One also remarked that size of the poster was too large — she was remodeling her kitchen and just didn’t have space for it.

While a cooking aid may not have been the most valuable, we also heard from multiple customers that they kept receiving produce they didn’t want and didn’t receive the veggies they really wanted. From this feedback, we realized that, more so than underdeveloped cooking skills, a lack of personalization was the true reason why customers did not use their full bushel.

To enable customization, we suggest that Farmhouse Delivery allow customers to indicate unlimited produce “super likes” and “dislikes.” As of now, customers can only choose three dislikes, and have no way of communicating what they really want.

Farmhouse Website Dislikes Farmhouse Website SUPER LIKES

The Customer Feedback Card

Lastly, through these most recent conversations with customers, we realized that there is no regular customer feedback mechanism. We suggest that Farmhouse include “customer feedback” cards in every bushel. These cards would allow customers to easily change their order size or frequency, and also communicate any issues or desires.

Change Bushel Card

Next Steps

We will be meeting with the CEO to discuss our findings and present our suggestions for the company’s future.

To see our full findings, prototypes, and process, please see our Design Brief here.

Final Thoughts On Service Design

The past eight weeks have flown by, and as our work for service design comes to an end Conner and I have been looking back over the course to reflect on what we did well, and where we missed opportunities. Although we didn’t test our prototypes yet due to missed opportunities on our part, we learned a significant amount going through the process. Mostly that service design is both challenging and exciting. The tangible result of the work speaks volumes to what we have learned over the past four months at AC4D. We have an ongoing conversation with We Are Blood, so the future is still hopeful for the final result of the project, and we are hoping to continue with them sometime in the new year.

When we received this project, we had no idea where we wanted to go, and through canvasing businesses and organizations in Austin, we decided to partner with We Are Blood. We chose to work with We Are Blood because their mission is to help the community, and because they were going through a rebrand at the time and were very open to help on their journey to reach as many people as possible.

Our first days at We Are Blood were spent researching, talking to donors to understand why they donate, where they started, and what keeps them coming back. We also spoke with the phlebotomists of We Are Blood to learn about their point of view. Most of what we heard from our participants is this: they like to know they are helping people with their work and their time.


When we were working with donors at the donation center on South Lamar, we met John, who is the poster child for blood donation. He sees himself as a part of the organization and knows he is providing life for someone at the end of the day. He donates platelets every two weeks unless he’s sick. He works towards making the maximum 24 donations per year as a personal goal. He told us it’s a small action and a small commitment to make such a huge difference in another person’s life. John really helped to solidify our mission, and helped give us the motivation to work through all of the details.
After research, we worked on creating a customer journey from our donors plotting their feelings and thoughts on the map to see where pain points exist in the donation process. Creating a journey map was in my opinion the most effective synthesis we have done so far. Seeing people’s actions mixed with their feelings within a journey very tangibly shows where opportunities arise for the organization. We found nine areas where people either felt uncomfortable, or were largely not considered when the service was designed. The main points we decided to focus on were the lack of understanding donors have during the donation process, the misperception on the donor’s part of how continuous the need for blood is, and the opportunity We Are Blood has to create an empathetic connection between the donor and the recipient.


When we spoke with our donors, we asked them what would make donation better, or what would make donation more tangible for them. We heard they didn’t have any idea what happened to their blood when they left the organization. When we saw all of the steps and tests the blood goes through, we wondered why there wasn’t more transparency into this process. The organization does so much to make sure people who need blood get clean and processed blood to help them heal. And the employees know where the blood goes and know that it is used to help people, but donors are unaware of what happens once they leave.

Getting to these insights was easy once we had met John, and felt the connection to the organization and their mission to make a community of blood donors in central Texas. While we were focused on creating empathy for the donors, we began to feel empathy for the mission and became more connected to the problems they were experiencing. During our meetings with We Are Blood, they found our insights to be valuable to what they are doing and the direction they’re heading in now. Having a client tell us our work was valuable was the first step to feeling like we were providing genuine value. Our work was not over yet, however. We thought of many different ways we could deliver the value we promised (connecting donors to the recipient of their blood) and created an email that would help us to show when their blood was at a hospital waiting to be used.

Unfortunately, this is where our journey has ended to this point. Due to our later than planned delivery of our prototypes, coupled with a lack of forethought on their potential obligations caused us to not be able to test our solutions. Though we have been unable to test, we think what we have proposed would create the value promised to We Are Blood, and help to connect a larger potion of the community to their cause, and hopefully increase their blood and platelet donations.

Overall the project feels successful. We accomplished most of what we set out to do. We established ourselves as designers and provided valuable insights into an organization’s service offering. We found the breakdowns and created simple and effective solutions to help resolve the pain points existent in the system. Most importantly, Conner and I walk away from this project knowing we did our best to help an organization better reach their clientele and make a more tangible connection to them.


Our final presentation deck can be found here, and our other design briefs that detail our process and findings are in the previous posts for this class.

Designing for Civic Impact: An Interview with Celine Thibault

Celine Thibault graduated from Austin Center for Design (AC4D) in 2016, and soon after joined the City of Austin as a Design, Technology and Innovation Fellow. Read on to learn about her experience at AC4D —and how participating in and learning a human centered design process through projects on sex education, teenage self-expression, and (even) a “pitch-and-putt” service design shaped her ability to communicate ideas and build value for the communities she is a part of.

How did you find out about Austin Center for Design?

I learned about AC4D through Dave Gottlieb, who was a student at the time. I never considered AC4D for myself because I didn’t consider myself a technologist, but Dave would invite me to AC4D events, and I was always sparked by the conversations I had with students and alum. At work, I felt limited in what I could do and after a few more frustrating years, AC4D presented itself as an alternative. It was a way for me to use more of my skills and go further in my work.

What were you doing before attending Austin Center for Design?

I worked in sales for Juniper Ridge, a small perfumer in California, and as the Visual Director at Treehouse, a sustainable home improvement store here in Austin. Before that, I worked in service, retail management and fashion design. I worked primarily for small companies by choice.

What did you see that AC4D would provide you?

I saw that it would help me articulate, develop, and sell my ideas, if that makes sense. In previous roles, I was sort of banging my head against the wall — I had great ideas but I couldn’t articulate them to the people that mattered. It created not only this frustration with myself, but this frustration across my work environment. AC4D presented an opportunity for me to do that — and a way out of my creative frustration.

Tell me more about your year at AC4D.

At ac4d I worked on two big projects. I partnered with Meg McLaughlin and David Bill on the first. We researched sex education by interviewing women in Austin. Right away I realized that after 3 years of living in the same city, I had a very narrow view of the people who lived here. Research changed that. During interviews, the conversation turned toward other topics. For example, one woman talked about her community being broken up on the East side from so many people moving in, real estate prices soaring, and childhood friends being pushed further out. I had a lot of rich discussions.

Celine interviewing a women in downtown Austin, TX.

The second project spanned 6 months and focused on self-expression among teens. Some of the adults we interviewed assumed teenagers were lost in social media, but we discovered something different. Teens are trying to figure out who they are and they’re trying to do it as carefully as possible because social media is now this permanent thing. Ultimately, we wanted to create a solution where teenagers would feel safe expressing themselves. We designed an app called Realme that teens could use in their school to post anonymous messages within 100 feet of their current position. Other teenagers using the app and in radius can discover and comment on these messages. What that means is if Allie is standing in her high school and she wants to post something that’s important to her peer group, she can post and dictate when the message will disappear from that spot. Nobody off-campus can read it and now Allie has shared something important or reached out to someone else and they have the opportunity to write back.

Celine interviewing a teen in Austin, TX.

We tested the app with one of the teenagers that we’d interviewed, and I remember the moment where she “got it” and started inventing ways she’d use Realme, “There are all these things I want to do with this!” She was actually struggling to meet other people in her school who were gay and this gave her a potential gateway. She was also really into certain shows, but she didn’t have anyone she could talk to about it so she could put those conversation starters out there.

Tell me about the options for anonymous expression. What was the thought around these options?

We wanted to give teens as much control as possible over what they put out into the world. We don’t realize how limiting our current digital applications can be, they really guide the style of the communication we’re expressing. So, if you can create something that puts control in the hands of the person that’s going to use it, that’s better because they are able to articulate themselves as best they can. I don’t think there is any greater power than being able to articulate your own feelings, especially amongst your peers.

Celine evaluating concepts with designer, Sophie Kwok

I know you also worked on a really interesting service design project — full disclosure, I ask because I love pitch and putt!

The Service Design class at AC4D gives students an opportunity to work with an organization in the community. The goal is to create value for the business, their clients and for other stakeholders.

My team wanted to work with a business that gave us the opportunity to really dig in and make an impact. Someone suggested Butler Park Pitch & Putt because they had a connection to the owner, Lee, and she was open to working with designers to improve her business. Lee adopted the business from her step-dad after helping him run it for years. She was totally open to everything. We began by interviewing Lee, then customers, the food truck guys that park there, and employees. We learned that because she had adopted this business from family, there were legacy decisions that were affecting her ability to run the business and there was also a feeling on the golf course that you needed to be a “member of the club” to have a good time. There are a lot of people that come and don’t talk to anyone else, play a round and it’s fun! For people who like to come regularly, there is an established old club and you need to fit in there.

We focused our service recommendations on making it more casual and welcoming for newcomers. We started by making it more approachable at the entrance for new guests. We ended up implementing two of the three solutions that we recommended. Our solutions consisted of updating her menu services, re-configuring the inside of the building and making it easier for newcomers to move around the course. In sum, these solutions lowered the barrier to entry and made people feel like they knew where they were going versus feeling lost. We went back a few weeks after implementation and observed that the desired outcomes were there. New guests felt more confident, the staff’s frustrations had lifted, and Lee was using our recommendations to help her negotiate spending with the city who owns the property she leases.

How did you test or prototype your solutions?

We reorganized the clubhouse layouts, and built temporary signage, paths, and course maps, and then watched customers interact with them. We knew that they were working because, for example, new customers flowed through the purchasing process at the clubhouse more easily because they understood the options, the basics of what equipment was provided to them, and where to tee off.

We came back two or three days after the round of clubhouse prototyping and asked the employees how it was going, too, and they said “It’s a lot better. Things are so much easier for people!”

What are you doing today professionally?

I work with the City of Austin as part of their Design, Technology and Innovation Fellows program. It’s a year-long position with the city, and the largest fellowship program in the country focused on civic technology and services.

Since starting the fellowship, I have been a part of two projects. The first project that I was on was redesigning the Austin Convention Center and Palmer Event Center’s websites. We worked with a great team at ACC and PEC, who guided us on conducting research at events and connected us to event planners, US-based and international, to interview and become familiar with their needs and challenges. We developed research learnings and defined opportunity areas for improving the content and organization of the site. Myself and designer, Charlie Elwonger, drafted user scenarios which helped guide our initial wireframe sketches. We began usability testing two weeks into design, getting great feedback from planners. This helped us iterate quickly. It took a close working team to move so fast — we had a front end developer, back end developer, a project manager and a designer. Soon after usability testing began, I shifted to another project with Austin Resource Recovery, the city department managing Austin waste services.

Austin resident contextual interview focused on recycling and composting.
Austin resident contextual interview focused on recycling and composting.

I’m in the middle of a 6 month project with ARR, wrapping up research and moving into design and prototyping. ARR wants to improve their diversion rate, meaning you are sending less recyclables to the landfill. ARR is an award-winning department. They run innovative pilot programs, testing ideas to help people recycle more. Their primary strategy has been ‘let’s get people recycling correctly, and then we can focus on higher-level ideas.’ That other stuff, like teaching people how to creatively repurpose things, or showing people how their personal recycling habits impact greater efforts are also big motivators. ARR wants to reach a 90% recycling diversion rate by 2040, and we believe to that to do that, we’ll need to work with them to design solutions that play off those big motivators.

Research share out for ARR.

We interviewed 48 residents in the city, and 4 property managers and owners. We formulated our research learning and opportunity areas based on that data and are preparing to share them with our team at ARR next week. The most interesting thing about the project and this program is that we’ve had a core team that includes a member from ARR, as well as individuals on rotation — people from Keep Austin Beautiful, from the Office of Sustainability — and we’re all working together. Everyone has been open to talking and providing feedback, and nobody gets their feelings hurt. It’s been a real eye opening experience for me.

How has your AC4D experience influenced you and your current work?

There are a couple of really big things that my experience at AC4D taught me. One of them is learning how to provide actionable feedback — the critique sessions that we have from quarter 1 to quarter 4, both public and not, are one of the most valuable tools that I learned at AC4D. Forcing yourself to take your work, put it in some sort of medium and putting it up so that other people can come and provide feedback is something that I think most workplaces go without.

Because of this, it slows down the progression of the work, it makes people more attached to their work than they need to be and it holds them back from sharing. Another thing that the AC4D program does well is teaching you to become comfortable in chaos. There are a lot of times in a work environment where everyone feels like we aren’t getting anywhere. We are conditioned to have all the answers and to never be uncertain. AC4D prepared me to know that we are making progress even when it feels like we don’t have all of the answers, because we don’t; but we’ll conduct research, make something, test it, and improve from there.

What do you want to do after this 1 year fellowship experience?

I’ll continue doing work like this. My peers came in with different expertise and private sector experiences and it’s been stellar working with them, learning from them. Everyone wants to work in civic tech and serve the people around us. I’ve never been happier than I am right now in my job. I love going to work, working with the fellows, and I have the tools I need to work through challenges.

What advice would you give someone around how to become involved in design for social impact?

If you find yourself working and not being able to express yourself really well, not being able to sell your ideas, not being able to get as much done as you want to — then AC4D can give you the tools and the peer network to help get you over those barriers. You’re learning methods that help you overcome your own work barriers, as well as the barriers the work environment naturally provides.

Austin Center for Design is a not-for-profit educational institution on the East Side of Austin, Texas that exists to transform society through design.

Flows, Fidelity, and Testing

Over the past quarter, we have been working to redesign the overall experience of the AT&T account management application. When we started, we gathered the pain points of the application by asking uses to express what they would like to do with the app, and what they were unable to do. This was done with actual users of the application, but also many points were taken from reviews of the newest releases of the applications on their respective app stores. Many people thought the app was confusing, or limited in functionality. While this seemed to be true, once working through the application, I found most of what people would like to do is there, but not displayed in an understandable capacity. The multitude of options and paths a user is able to take to get to the same screen is baffling. The application ultimately seemed to be trying to do too much for the way it was laid out. The hamburger menu is full of headings that lead to different spaces, and having the menu weighted on the right, while nice for some people, shies away from an accepted industry standard. Navigating through the application is tedious as it is simply a gui laid over a custom html browser optimized for mobile views.
What does all of this mean? It seems the actual user experience was not fully considered while the application was being developed, these pain points potentially rise from a lack of user centered design processes for the application. While undertaking the basic redesign of the application, we started by sketching simple mocks on sticky notes, just to show the flow and understand what would drive a user to move through the application to accomplish a specific task. This lead to the creation of the concept model (which is explained in an earlier post). From the concept model of the current state, I thought of what would make using the application a better experience.  A few things came through for this; a simpler navigation scheme, less busy screens, and a smaller amount of functionality. The trade off in functionality gives a much cleaner user experience and removed much of the unnecessary fluff.
When I moved to creating the first digital prototype, I wanted to make a simple navigation function for the application. My idea was initially a hidden bottom menu, allowing for a larger viewing screen. Feedback on this was negative though, and the navigation should persist for easy access and simplicity of navigation. The sketches of this are below, they were in the rougher stages of sketching out screens, so the idea didn’t make it too far. IMG_0202

There were a lot of edits, and a lot of pointers of things to change in the following iterations. The next set was still pretty rough, and I didn’t do myself any favors trying to keep things within a small frame, but liked the idea of having screens where everything was laid out and didn’t need to be scrolled. Using Wroeblewski’s idea of the bottom navigation, I changed my initial system a bit to have a consistent icon bar on the bottoms of the different screens. These were the screens I did a first round of user test with. By and large the navigation went well, other than missing a few screens that felt necessary, I had only a few pieces of feed back on the overall experience. The user told me going directly from a plan change to a confirmation felt too final for changes or purchases. This was resolved in the next iteration. I learned that things should be well accessible and spaced with weights on the more important texts.


This set of screens was also when I was given feedback on the text sizes and buttonlessness of my buttons. They were quite small and not very articulated from the background of the application. My next iteration shored this up, and added the screens I felt were missing. This set below was also user tested with no hangups in navigating to complete the tasks requested. Of the user test in the first round, the same in the second commended the improvement of the visual style and ease of use. Which made me feel great.

The subsequent revisions have been more superficial, adding proper pop up menus, text sizes and coloring buttons to set them further apart from the background. The user test for these have gone over well, too. I’ve used my roommates for testing this whole time, and the best piece of feedback on the final iteration was that “it feels more fluid now.” Which was a nice confidence boost. By and large though, text still feels a bit cramped, mostly because I have tried to stay within a single screen size. Which overall was challenging, but also limiting, but I refused to let go of my first idea, and ended up holding myself back with that worrying more about formatting for clarity than a proper spacing for all of the text on the screen. Below are some shots of the main screens in the final pass.

changepassword 31 change plan 2 change plan 1

During the time we have off, I plan on revising and testing more, to have a solid set of screens for the beginning of next quarter. I’m happy with them and they function as designed according to testing, but it still feels lacking. Doing this again, I would have to say I would certainly use longer screens to as not to constrain myself to a small size and try to normalize a text size and reposition after it’s been formatted once. I would also make grouped pieces and paste them to all artboards to have a well a laid framework throughout the application.

Finding the Gap

For the past week I’ve been running circles in my head about the Coordinated Assessment (CA), wondering if it’s benefiting individuals experiencing homelessness or if it’s perpetuating people’s homelessness for longer than necessary. The Coordinated Assessment is a 50 question test that evaluates an individual experiencing homelessness’ vulnerability while living on the street; their “likelihood of dying”. The idea is that with this standardized assessment the right resources can be effectively and efficiently directed to the right individuals. The test  presents itself as serving the popular of homeless in the same manner as an emergency room serves their population. An emergency rooms will prioritize who to treat as they come in the doors, the most vulnerable at the top of the list and those with less severe issues are deprioritized. The CA does the same thing, it prioritized those who are most likely to die on the streets, and the others who could survive on the street for a little while longer are deprioritized.

Coordinated Assessment also claims that it saves the government money by housing the ‘most costly individuals to the state’. An individual that is costly to the state will accrue the most costs in two budgets: emergency room visits and incarceration. An individual may visit an emergency room because of accidents or general sickness, these costs since the individuals cannot pay them back fall to the state. An individuals is also likely to be take into jail while experiencing homelessness as well due to any number of reasons. By housing an individual, they have fewer emergency room visits and are less likely to become incarcerated. By reducing the number of individuals experiencing homelessness, the state then will see a reduction in these two budgets. This cost efficiency was part of the City of Austin’s motivation to implement the CA in the first place.

When we spoke with actual individual’s experiencing homelessness, we found the CA is doing what it was designed to do. It saves the state money and it houses those most likely to die on the street. One of these individuals we spoke with took the CA and scored high enough to be placed in a program offered by ARCH called “Rapid Rehousing”. This is a program designed to take those that are most likely to die on the street and put them in whatever housing facility the caseworker can find as soon as possible. So he was able to be housed within in a few weeks after taking the assessment. In his case, the CA was able to get him in contact with the individuals he needed to receive his housing. For individuals like him, the CA is working.

We also spoke with a woman who is staying at the Salvation Army with her child. She’s been there for 60 days, she’s only allowed to stay there for 90 days. As her time there is coming to an end, she’s been furiously thinking about what she will do next. This women has taken the CA, but she did not scored high enough to qualify for any program that would put her into immediate housing. Based on the CA’s judgement, she should be able to survive out on the street a little while longer. She’s healthy, young, working, has no drug issues, mental health issues, or criminal record, all of these things for the CA support the claim that she can self resolve. In reality, she feels she cannot self resolve and that she doesn’t have any other options after she is let go from Salvation Army.

Previously I keep comparing the two stories, the women who is facing the loss of so much in her life because she’s too healthy/clean/high-functioning to qualify for rapid rehousing, and the man who almost haphazardly received housing after being convinced to take the CA. How can there be a system in place that gets both individuals housed? You can’t dismissed either individual’s needs to be housed, but through a series of questions the CA prioritizes their needs.

I came to something of the conclusion that there is a gap of individuals who aren’t being served by the CA. The individuals who are too high functioning are within this gap. ARCH and the CA are meant to serve those who most ‘need’ housing based on who will die on the streets, but there are others who aren’t seen as ‘needing’ housing because their not in a high enough state of vulnerability.These are the individuals who aren’t being served in the current system. I believe Garrett and I can design for these individuals.

Week 7 : Reflection

Looking back over this quarter, if I had it to do over, there would certainly be some major changes in process flow and starting things earlier than I had thought necessary. It was naive to think our insights would be easily won. This point however, does not make the work any less powerful or rewarding. We are still getting to the understanding we wished to ascertain, albeit slower than originally planned.

Mainly what I’ve found is a need for better management of multiple projects and setting clear goals for each piece of each project. Today in the research class, a guest from Aunt Bertha came to talk with us about the theory of change, and the value arising from mapping the path of influence to get a handle on where impact could be made, and if that impact would be worth pursuing. Theory of change is still something I have not fully grasped, but it seemingly can apply to many different pieces of work. Making these diagrams can help lay out what impact you are trying to make with any deliverable or any artifact created and help you get to the meat much quicker than without a plan. Thinking back over my life and the things I have worked on, I realized that I have never really done this. Never truly set goals to fulfill or asked myself what it will take to achieve those goals. It’s a strange thing to be pulled out of my world in this way and to be looking to something as simple as a diagram to help guide me in everyday life.

Looking at the past six weeks, I wish I had been more specific setting goals and deadlines for them to be met. I’ve gotten all of the work done that’s required, but I can’t help but think to myself, “What if you had time for another iteration,” or “what if you had done this differently.” While reflection is a necessary part of learning, it seems as though more often than not, it comes later than is advantageous. Since it has been such a rush this quarter to complete work and complete research, I have not had much time to reflect on what I’ve done, but spending time in the data this week and looking over the groupings, I am beginning to feel like this is what I should be doing. My mind took its time in thinking I could do this, and do it well, but I am feeling better about the process overall and believing in the value human centered design has on the world. It has been a difficult road, and I never thought such a short amount of time—four months—would simultaneously pass so quickly, yet feel like an eternity.

It has however, solidified my belief this is the proper path for me. Working with people, but more so for them has always been my goal. I know there is difficulty and I know there is opportunity to help, but until now I felt helpless to affect change.One thing I’ve found has helped was learning how to keep a continual conversation with participants even after the interview has ended. I can hear these people giving me answers to questions I have for them now, even though we spoke weeks ago, consistently and clearly. Wanting to know how they would feel about certain things, or what they would tell me if I asked them where we should be looking. The sentiments expressed behind vocabulary and spoken language are increasingly more important. It reminds me of Derrida’s The Work of Mourning, where he contends that after death, we continue conversations with people and are able to hear their active voice from beyond their existence. Working with utterances feels very much like this, like a continued conversation with a person after their physical representation is less than immediately accessible. While these participants are still alive, the ideal holds true. Joan Kirkby calls this the remembrance of the future, she posits their words are a call for transformation and responsibility to them, and in the cases of our participants, I feel this more and more. I feel their needs and their goals and dreams as if they were with me now. While their motivations for certain actions will remain a mystery, their words and hopes and what they wish to achieve is fresh and pressing in my mind. This conversation wills me to work hard to make a difference, it makes me want to make a change for them, not to leave a mark, not for myself, but through others is the true fulfillment.

Research: Food Choices & Eating Habits

My team and I have spent the past six weeks researching eating habits among individuals from a wide range of income levels and backgrounds. At the beginning of our research, we looked at access to healthy food among low-income individuals. However, after speaking to experts at the Sustainable Food Center and the Central Texas Food Bank, we learned that even when people have access to healthy food, they still not might take advantage of it (I’m actually a perfect example of this – sorry, Mom!).

We then changed our focus to understand why people don’t eat a balanced diet even when they have have access to nutritious food and a cause (e.g. depression, diabetes) to eat nutritious food. Some initial reasons we’ve found are lack of time, convenience, motivation, and/or education; peer, environmental, familial, and/or cultural influence; and food addiction.

Process: Finding Patterns

We interviewed 20 people who were gracious enough to allow us into their homes and let us ask them questions. We transcribed each interview, and then printed out “utterances” (1-3 sentences describing a particular idea or event).


We then dug into the data and began to notice patterns between the participants.


Three patterns I’ll highlight here are:

  1. A catastrophic event can motivate a diet change
  2. Food labels are meaningless
  3. Food is used as a drug

A catastrophic event can motivate a diet change

Some of the people we spoke to changed their diet after being diagnosed with diabetes, depression, Celiacs, or Crohn’s Disease.

Taylor told us that “getting pregnant was [enough to change my mindset about smoking]. When I found out I was pregnant, I had a guilty conscience. I was already 3 months pregnant, I was drinking and smoking. I felt super bad. I just stopped smoking.”

Food labels are meaningless

Many people we spoke to expressed confusion over terms like “natural,” “organic,” and “free-range.” More than confusion, some were deeply skeptical, saying that labels were used purely for marketing purposes.

Even diet “trends” are manipulative — Jolene told us, “You’ll see ‘gluten-free,’ and people think that’s healthy. Like a Hershey’s chocolate bar is gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean that should be the staple of your breakfast.”

Food is used as a drug

Several interviewees were recovering addicts and described their relationship with food as a substitute for their former drug of choice.

Delilah, a recovering crack addict, said that within her first year of sobriety, she “didn’t care how fat [she] got, as long as [she] was sober.” Only once she was diagnosed with diabetes did she start to change her eating habits.

One individual in particular told us that cheese is five times more addictive than heroin. We resolved that whatever comes of this research, we will make cheese illegal. (All I’ve eaten this semester is pasta and parmesan cheese. Not sure what I’ll do…)

Next Steps

While these findings are interesting, we must dig more deeply into the data to find meaningful behavioral insights.


One AC4D alum pointed out that our “war room” is an externalization of our brains. Given that there are still so many unorganized utterances, we clearly have not made sense of all the data available. We will take the next two weeks to do so.   


Week 6: Understanding

Moving through our research project has been an interesting experience. From speaking with our participants, to the focus shift we’ve had in the past weeks of synthesis, everything seems to be fitting into place. Our shift came when we unknowingly moved from the topic of understanding affordable housing in Austin and the barriers to getting into affordable units, to exploring the barriers to entry into transitional and temporary housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. While there is an issue of affordable housing all over the city, at the bottom, there seems to be less and less availability for a growing population of people disenfranchised by the city’s growth. Many of these people have jobs and are doing what they can to get services through the city to assist them, but there simply are not enough open units for these people to live in. We’ve found a few key things in our research, seemingly all worth exploring.
Kelsey and I found quite a few interesting patterns in our participant’s words and stories. Many feel like the city doesn’t do enough to help them, or that there is corruption at some level that is preventing all of the money from trickling to where it should go. Eddie calls out specifically the types of cars people working for the arch drive, and Francine told us about the case workers going through boxes at Salvation Army before giving the clothes to the women who need them. These people feel like the system they’re interacting with is not there to help them, it’s there to keep them separated and keep them down. This may not be the reality, obviously many of the organizations working with individuals experiencing homelessness in the city are doing their best, or at least what they can, to help these individuals find stable housing. But with the lack of housing available, and the ubiquity of wait lists on nearly all rent controlled or income based communities in the city, hope can be depleted quickly.
Todd is a good example of how the system should work, and how it doesn’t. A few years ago, Todd found himself in a similar situation to the one he is in now. He was living on the street, and working with case workers at the ARCH and other organizations to get housing. In 2010, he was able to find housing and get himself a job to sustain that unit himself with a bit of help. Now Todd says that case work and services like this have changed. They’re no longer working, specifically Todd told us that case management has gone down hill and you’re lucky to even be paired with a case manager if you’re not high risk. This is a common sentiment based on the way case workers and services are assigned. Stepping back from this, I can see the difficulty in how to ascertain who gets housing and who does not. From a top down view and from a perspective of ethics, how does one put a value, or a risk analysis on a human being?
The coordinated assessment test tries to do just that. It uses yes or no questions to put a numerical risk value on how likely an individual will be to die or have trouble living on the street. The higher the number, the higher your risk. People without physical or mental disabilities, or people who are able to work consistently have a difficult time even getting onto case management through ARCH. What is difficult for me to understand with the coordinated assessment is how someone went about creating a cost/risk analysis of a human life that does not also take into account a volition for change, or the basic drive to change a situation. The entire process, when it comes to putting a survival rating on these humans, is sterile and industrial. There’s no account of a person, just of a human.
Ethically, it makes sense, looking out for those who are most “vulnerable” but hearing Francine’s story of struggle to find shelter for herself and her daughter, and her unborn child, and hearing how she’s not a substance abuser, she has a full time job, but she’s unable to find a place to live without assistance. Escaping an abusive relationship was her utmost priority and now she’s facing having to return or live on the street and risk losing her children. Right now for Francine, there’s no answer, nowhere to turn she hasn’t already, and time is running out.
But people get housed from ARCH all the time, people who are higher risk and higher “need.” People like David, who’s had a rough go. He was displaced during Katrina and In the first weeks of 2008 found himself homeless in Austin after losing his FEMA money and losing his job. Since then, David was living on the street, spending most of his days drinking 12 packs of Lone Star tall boys, until he decided to have a “fight with the concrete” as he said. He ended up breaking his wrist and getting a bit battered up and going to the ER. After this visit, he was made to take the coordinate assessment again, and it said he was a high risk and he qualified for rapid rehousing and was placed into a unit.
It seems like some people with an equally, or arguably higher, level of need are being passed over. The city is doing what it can to house all people who don’t have a place to go by creating programs for housing, new buildings with donations from the state to nonprofit developers, and land grants to help build those properties, but there’s still not enough space. It seems as the problem is solved, it just continues to grow.
As Kelsey and I narrow our insights down, there’s certainly an opportunity here. Looking at the way people are rated for cost to the state and not their likelihood of self-sustaining is baffling. The solutions are still muddy though. Is it build more housing for people in these types of situations? Is it set up more programs or even better transit from places that are less expensive to live? We’re working to come up with ideas to help ease this tension and ease the difficulties people have while seeking housing.

Divergent Thinking & Storyboarding

Previously within our Rapid Ideation class we worked on creating a concept map for the AT&T mobile app. This illustrates how the app functions and how various pieces of the app are connected together. When I was going through each screen to pick up these sections and their connection, I noticed a lot of overlap. From any screen you could practically do all the same things. There was no distinctions of actions when going to the “Plan” page from the “Usage” page. This thought stuck with me as we continued to develop our flows.

After we created our concept map we narrowed our scope of work based on user research. Instead of working on the full app’s abilities we were just going to focus on the top six activities our user research highlighted:

  • Viewing the Plan/usage
  • Changing the Plan
  • Suspending service
  • Paying a Bill
  • Setting up Autopay
  • Changing the password

After establishing these activities, we practice divergent thinking and applying this to the AT&T app to create a new experience. I used the “random word” method as a jumping off point. I developed a list of around 50 words then started pulling in various ones to begin generating ideas. I also started imagining how I wanted the app to feel like, to imagine the experience I wanted it to design. From this point I knew I wanted less pieces on the screen to declutter it and I knew I wanted to create something with specific direction for each page. With this filter, I began to envision a whole new experience for phone service providers. What if, a customer set their own plan amounts, rather than selecting preconceived amounts. What if the app created a recommended plan based off your usage, so the customer never has to go over. What if when you cancel your service you were allowed 24 hours of free service, incase you need your phone again. What would happen if you could just use your fingerprint instead of a passcode, or if you didn’t have to have the passcode at all? Each of these ideas were filtered through the notion of creating an app that would generate a more usable experience and lessen the burden of options. Some of these ideas were worked into my flows, but some were cut. 

When practicing divergent thinking methods, I realized my brain, like most others, will rapidly disregard more outlandish and inconceivable ideas. It is more likely to perceive a divergent idea as not possible more so than possible. When practicing divergent thinking it was hard to get away from ‘normal’ methods of thinking, but it wasn’t impossible. In the future I’ll have to be more cognizant of when I prematurely disregarding ideas.

After developing these ideas of how the app should work, we began storyboarding. The challenge here was to create stories that weren’t too complicated, but still illustrated the screens and flow of the new app. The stories were fun and simple and they made me focus on what I wanted on each screen. I had to go back to my original ideas and rework how and where I wanted to implement them into this new app. This was the first time the app making felt more solidified for me. Ultimately when creating flows, the narrative took a backseat to illustrating my ideas of how the app should look and how a user would interact with it. Illustrating these ideas made my concepts more permanent and helped me easily identify holes. 

When looking at the skills in this class I’ve already started applying them in the Studio class, where Garrett and I are diving into Affordable Housing in Austin. We’ve created concept maps to better understand the systems and players of the space. It felt productive to draw out all the players and their connections to different aspect. To finally see all the pieces and relationship I was holding in my head was profound. It also greatly helps our audience understand the relationships and players of the space when we are presenting our findings. 

I’m excited to pull both the divergent thinking and storyboards into the Affordable Housing space too. I know divergent thinking will come in handy when ideating about the possible solutions for Affordable Housing. The systems in place in the Affordable Housing sector are broken, divergent thinking will help to bring in new life and hopefully solve a few of the issues. Storyboarding will also help myself and the audience communicate better. Once we have an idea, when I illustrate it, then my audience can better understand it. I’m excited to pull in these new skills into a space like Affordable Housing, to see what new systems or process can be applied to it.

#TeamBritishTofu – A Briefing on Service Design, Round 3

In our Service Design class, we’re applying our emerging design skills to help improve the service delivery of a local business in Austin.

Our collective passion for sustainable food systems drove our partnership with a company that delivers local produce directly to a customer’s doorstep. More information about the company and its service model can be found in the Appendix.

This blog post presents our third design brief (our first and second briefs can be found here and here, respectively), which includes service breakdowns, opportunities for improvement, and proposed solutions.

'our client Proto .001

This service design project spans seven weeks, and includes three phases: Discover, Understand, and Design.

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To fully understand the customer experience, we interviewed:

  1. four new customers to get a sense for the entire process from start to finish, with specific attention towards any frustration during the sign-up process;
  2.  three past customers, with focus on why they cancelled their service; and
  3. one current customer to understand what it’s like to interact with the service on a consistent basis.

We then spoke to the company’s CEO and Head of Customer Service to examine our client’s understanding of the customer’s experience.

We synthesized this data into two customer journey maps that presented the actual customer experience and the perceived experience.

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In comparing the actual and perceived customer journey maps, we found several breakdowns, specifically during sign-up, the unpacking of the veggies, and cooking.'our client Proto .006

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Ultimately, these breakdowns culminated in one key finding: a lack of effective communication between the company and the customer.

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We took this data and paired it with the company’s mission and culture to create design principles. These principles guided potential solutions for service breakdowns. 'our client Proto .009

These design principles created a frame for our ideas, out of which we generated vignettes – one-page illustrations that present the moment of the proposed solution’s value.

'our client Proto .010

We came up with 30-40 ideas to address service breakdowns and add value to the customer’s experience.

To determine which ideas to pursue, we plotted each on a matrix, with the x axis being value to the customer (high to low), and the y axis being value to the company (high to low).


We then realized that even if highly valuable to both the company and the customer, the idea will not be implemented if not feasible. We therefore redid the exercise, changing the y axis to level of company effort.

Lastly, we considered the environmental impact of each proposed idea. Minimal waste is core to the company’s mission. In fact, they cool their bushels with reusable, frozen water bottles, and create only 55 gallons of compost per week.

This design brief does not include solutions for the sign-up process as we will not be able to test wireframes during the class period. However,  we will provide wireframes for the company to consider for their website’s next iteration (to launch in early 2017).

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This assessment brought us to our top ideas:

Idea #1: Addressing Ease of Cooking & Food Waste

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This idea capitalizes on an existing behavior among some customers — some customers received their storage instructions, they would put them on the refrigerator.

Idea #2: Addressing Food Waste and Non-Intuitive Website Interactions'our client Proto .017

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We view the Bushel Card as an intermediary solution to a lack of customer customization. The customer should be able to more easily customize their order online once the company updates their website.

Idea #3: Addressing Lack of Connection to Farms & Farmers

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Next, we will create prototypes of our top ideas, and test these prototypes with real customers. We will use feedback from these tests to create additional iterations for each idea.

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