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Category Archives: AC4D Events

About being human…

This week is winding down. There has been, on my end, a lot of interaction with new technologies which I thought I could find some clarity in what I am trying to do. To bring the compassion of group therapy, through a vocal documentation of real people going through symptoms that the user of the book I am making may be going through. Things like introduction to taking medication, side-effects, stigma, and making it through the though times.

In my case, I just want to bring the feeling that mental illness is not uncommon, or weird to those who, say in rural west Texas.

So I did A LOT  of user testing this week. Hacking a Hallmark “talk to me book” was actually a good idea. My users loved it. I loved i, well I hated it and loved it. It served as a good testing tool in bringing the stories of a real humans, with their real voices, inflections, stutterers, all somehow making this thing, this book thing, like a token. Like a virtual companion. It was like turning the pages to different bits and pieces of information told from someone who is not you, but still is like you.

The addition of the human voice makes it for some reason somewhat more real. Yes there will always be a stigma around being open and honest about mental health, that may never change,  but hopefully this will help, one person seeking help for them self to get through that day, a little easier. Bringing the patient self contained technology and not relying on wifi or cell phones is both genius and problematic. You have to look at it from both sides. There is a lot of potential for technical difficulties. But this week is all about the content.

The second part is the medication regimen, this to my advantage had been just a part of everyone that I have user tested lives. From last week you know that the carrot to keeping to the regime is by taking the pill out of the container it is in the user get access to hear the voices talking about the subject that page is addressing.

I am currently working on the content, the layout, the design that make the most sense to the audience I am trying to reach,  and doing user testing along the way.

I am focussing on a 14 day program, focusing on the major pain points of a 2 week program on a new medication.

1. An introduction to the program, and an indication of how the program works, and an introduction to the “cast of characters” that the user will be hearing throughout the journey.

Here are some quick sketches, of Please, Keep Talking.



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These are very rough, as I said more clarity tomorrow. I can say this however, what has resonated as a means to mundane user testing vocabulary has almost captured the essence in which I am trying to give an bring to those who feel they are weird or alone in a vast being of scarceness and isolation to which on occasion I can totally identify with. The next step is to get into illustrator yet, I need to do more sketching I know.


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Policy Design: Creating Value, Getting Results

Next week’s Speaker Series features Leah Bojo speaking about “Policy Design: Creating Value, Getting Results”.

Leah, policy aide to Council Member Chris Riley, spends a lot of time thinking about how to implement innovative solutions around issues such as transportation, land-use and public space. By explaining the mechanisms by which the City of Austin governs itself, she is going to elucidate why some technology platforms thrive in Austin and why, for example, the car sharing service Uber remains prohibited by law.

Come learn about the City of Austin’s Comprehensive Plan, the “Vision” and the “Code”. Walk away with a better understanding of how to influence local policy to support and implement the innovations you think will make the city a better place to live.

Wednesday, April 9th. 6pm. Tickets are available here.


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AC4D Design for Impact Bootcamp – March 8th and 23rd, 2014

We’ve announced dates for our annual Design for Impact Bootcamp: March 8th, and March 23rd, 2014. During this event – which sells out each year – we teach a rigorous process of identifying problems, framing opportunities, and working through iterative design of solutions. You can learn more, and sign up, at

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Design for Impact Bootcamp – Dates Announced

We’re pleased to announce the dates and availability for the AC4D Design for Impact Bootcamp: March 8th, and March 23rd. Now in our fifth year, this event introduces the ideas and methods we teach at AC4D, in a single (but intense) day of workshops. We sell out each year, so if you are interested in learning more about our program and method, please join us!

Visit for more information and to sign up; hope to see you there.


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Quarter Two in Review: Research into Wicked Problems

On Saturday, December 21st, students at Austin Center for Design presented the results of their 8-week research inquiry into a large, systemic social problem. Students explored topics like disaster relief, teenage pregnancy, health records, and gender identity and safety, and presented their work in an open forum to the Austin community. You can learn more about their progress below.

James Lewis, Meghan Corbett and Anna Krachey have been doing design research around pregnancy and child birth decisions. Their research led them to speak with expectant mothers, public health workers, doulas, and social workers, and they identified three core insights that can drive their further ideation and exploration. One of their insights was “taking care of a baby gives teen moms a sense of purpose and motivates them to take care of themselves.” This idea then led to the idea of “Daddy Doula” – a service that would help “fathers become more informed of the physical and emotional challenges of birth that their partner endures and learn how they can best support and assist them during labor. Teen fathers would then be empowered to take an active, supportive role in the birth of their child.” You can learn more about this idea – and others from this team – here.

Chelsea Hostetter and Alex Wykoff have been investigating the process of gender identity, and safety, for those going through gender variant transitions. Their research has identified heart-breaking stories – and opportunity for design-led change – and as a result of their synthesis process, the team developed over 300 divergent ideas of ways to help a community in need.

One of their ideas – Pickle – is “underwear exclusively for trans-men”, while another – Find a Family – is “a location-based app that allows open-minded families and individuals who have an extra seat at the table for holidays to invite others to participate in their holiday. The app connects people based on their location and interests, and facilitates a conversation that develops into a connection over the holidays.” You can learn more about their process here.

Kurt Hanley is exploring how a city, and community, responds to a disaster to provide relief and support. During his exploration, Kurt engaged with the Red Cross, with first responders, and with those who have been displaced by the recent floods in Onion Creek. He identified a number of socioeconomic inequalities and inefficiencies, and has begun to develop a hypothesis about how to better support those in need. You can read more about this hypothesis – often called a theory of change – in his recent post, here.

Scott Gerlach, Bhavini Patel, and Jacob Rader have been immersed in the chaos that is our health record system. The team spent time with hospitals and clinics, with health providers and the recipients of care, and with the impoverished and homeless; they acquired an understanding of the challenges faced by the healthcare system, and gained empathy with the various constituents in this complex system. Through sensemaking, the team arrived at a place advocating for holistic care and patient control, and will then carry this idea framework forward during ideation and design development. You can learn more about their work here.

Next quarter, these students will further ideate and begin to iteratively develop systems, products, and services that can offer social and cultural value.

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Social Innovation and Design Education: Event 1 Recap

AC4D’s inaugural speaker series kicked off last night with a thought-provoking conversation on why our Education System is broken and most importantly, what we can do about it.

Jon Kolko, the founder and director of AC4D, framed the series by talking about the shortcomings of traditional higher learning and why it is no longer working for a large majority of people. After discussing graduation rates, costs of education, the fading demand for a formal degree and the rise of a skills-based hiring approach, he introduced the next challenge for a new kind of education: that of small-scale programs of specialization.

Stay tuned for the video from the event soon. The series continues December 11, 2013 with Kyle Bunch, Group Director of RGA. Tickets here!

Photo credit: Jacob Rader

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Presenting the Graduating Class of 2013

Please join me in congratulating Austin Center for Design’s graduating class. These students have completed thirty-two weeks of intense training, reflection, and creative production. The results of their effort are five companies, each founded around principles of social entrepreneurship: these companies generate revenue, and simultaneously drive social impact, pursuing a humanitarian theory of change. The companies, and their founders, are presented below:

Ad@pt, founded by Melissa Chapman and Willy Morgan
Ad@pt provides illustrated adoption timelines, which are designed to give families a bite-size, digestable glance at all of the adoption options. This way, when a family calls an adoption agency, they feel informed and in control. Our product hosts and helps manage digital copies of the adoption paperwork throughout the process so that, in the end, families have an easy-to-access and secure access to this important content on their mobile devices.

Spoak, founded by Callie Thompson, Eli Robinson, and Dave Gottlieb
Spoak is an app that evokes audio stories based on personal photos of artifacts, people, places and events. Transform memories into dynamic stories. Invite family and friends to record their own versions and bring shared history to life.

CareWell, founded by Eric Boggs and Chuck Hildebrand
Other caregiving task management systems are little more than bandaids. They fail to connect caregivers with long-term, motivated helpers. They fail to address the fundamental fear, anxiety, grief and guilt that are a natural part of caregiving. CareWell offers practical and emotional relief for people who are helping an ailing or aging loved one. It equips caregivers with powerful delegation and task management tools to tame overwhelming logistics of caregiving. It also addresses issues of fear, isolation, burn out and guilt through stress-free recruiting of motivated helpers, planning guides and ‘system at a glance’ tools.

Kites and Ladders, founded by Bethany Stolle and Jesse Jack
Kites and Ladders allows families with autistic children to negotiate this communication gap with a shared visual communication system. Our product includes a wearable biometric sensor for tracking emotional state, a camera app for the child to visually express their point of view, and a photo editing app that allows the child to customize photos and share them with a private network of family and caregivers.

Bring Up, founded by Will Mederski and Kevin McCann
By sending parents SMS text messages with classroom highlights each night, bringup gives parents insight into the school day so they may have meaningful conversations with their children anywhere. bringup builds a bridge between the classroom and home.

Congratulations to all eleven of our graduates. We’re extremely proud of you!

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The Design Movement in Education, at SXSWedu

On Wednesday, March 6th, Austin Center for Design co-hosted a SXSWedu party with MyEdu and Stubbs. The event – the Design Movement in Education – highlighted three themes, represented in student work:

Market research attempts to understand purchasing behavior of a small sample, in order to predict purchasing behavior of a big sample. Design research attempts to empathize with a small group, in order to identify opportunities for design-led innovation. It’s a strategic driver for new product and service functionality.

Service design considers how people change over time, and how products can evolve to meet their changing needs. It considers the multiple touchpoints people have with products as multiple opportunities to create engaging interactions, and treats people as co-creators of experience.

Technological advancement has allowed even “non-creative” people to tell their story in a way that’s meaningful and engaging. Through rich video, the nostalgia of audio, and simple creative tools, people can claim control over the way they are perceived and represented in online, social media.

You can see some great pictures of the event below. Thanks to Kim Foster for her photography, and to Stubbs for some great food!

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Design For Impact Bootcamp: March 9th, 2013

AC4D has just announced the date for our 2013 Design For Impact Bootcamp. Please join us on March 9th, 2013, to learn how to use design to address large-scale social problems. Click here to learn more. Note that this event sells out quickly each year; we encourage you to get your tickets soon.

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Design Extravaganza: A 2 Day Conference in Austin, Texas

We’re please to announce a new design event in Austin, Texas: A Mingle-Mangle Razzle-Dazzle Ragtag Design Extravaganza! Join us October 5th and 6th, 2012 in Austin, Texas, for 2 days of thought-provoking and inspirational conversations about the role of design, technology, and “user experience” in shaping the fabric of society. This design event is a conference not to be missed. Confirmed speakers include:

Our attendees at this design event include designers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and agency directors; at this conference, you’ll experience some great networking with some of the top talent in Texas.

Six more speakers will be announced in the coming weeks; for now, we encourage you to register early, as this is an event you don’t want to miss! Learn more here – we hope to see you at the Design Extravaganza!

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