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Category Archives: Classes

Studio: You are MY sunshine

Even on the dreariest days, in a town where droplets falling from the sky is never a thing you are prepared for, umbrella service is here.

You are my sunshine…


The Result…



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Studio: I’ve Made a huge mistake….

The days are long, the nights are sometimes longer. And just when you think you can get a quick second to do a little reflection to some Peter Bjorn & John on the old headphones….

Introducing, the Opa house guitar….


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Studio: Objects & Gestures

Not even a small glimpse of the hundreds of drawings that week… :) boxes.. no problem.

Slide1Slide2 Slide3 Slide4 Slide5

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Studio: Sew now what

EPSON MFP image — and imagine the rest of your life, narrated by Alec Baldwin

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Picture a single plastic bag of groceries for an extended family of eight, and imagine that it took five and a half hours standing in line at a local food pantry to acquire.


Now picture a bushel box of freshly harvested produce that an AC4D student took home from a local farm last week, in exchange for 4 hours of labor.

That’s one of the contrasts that our team (Samara Watkiss, Lauren Segapeli and myself) has encountered over the last five weeks, as we dove into primary research focused on food access and nutrition in East Austin.

Our last post on this research can be found here and the following diagram illustrates where we are in the process now:


The first week was devoted to the preparation of a detailed research plan, followed by two weeks of hands-on design research using methods of contextual inquiry.  We’ve spent the last two weeks in the synthesis stage, combing through all the data we collected to see what insights would emerge.

This process has given us the opportunity to walk alongside our research participants as they taught us how they go about making their food choices.   In the process, they shared a piece of their lives with us, allowing us to gain a much deeper understanding of how people from from all walks of life navigate the food landscape.

Below is our initial report on the synthesis stage of the research.

Disconnects Synthesis Presentation

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I went to Craigslist looking for volunteer opportunities, but what I found will blow your mind!

Our latest assignment here at AC4D was to volunteer at a local non-profit and storyboard the experience focusing on problems we observed.   Full disclosure, I did not end up actually volunteering… instead — as my buzz-tastic title explains — I went looking for volunteer opportunities on Craigslist and found something too interesting not to storyboard.

Click the picture of Max to check out the entire storyboard:



Here is the actual craigslist ad — notice the ad title really is “Donate $5 Per Community Hour and Go On With Your Life” and “homeless” really is in quotes:

Here is the website for Community Service Collaboration — the “501c3″ that receives donations through paypal to help the “homeless.”  

As you may have gathered, I’ve come to think this is probably a fake 501c3 that makes money from fraudulently signing off on community service hours.  Below is a list of specific reasons I’ve come to this conclusion:

  • The website does not show or explain how Community Service Collaboration actually helps the homeless.
  • They have a California address, but I could not find them listed as a registered 501c3 in California (or Texas).
  • Words like “homeless”, “donations”, “mission” and “court approved” are always in quotes on the website.
  • When you google the address, all that returns are real estate listings for a $2.75 million beachfront duplex in Newport Beach, CA that recently sold because the “owner needs to sell ASAP”.
  • The entire website is in Comic Sans.
  • When I called the number on the Craigslist Ad, a guy answered “yeah?”
  • When I told him I was calling about the craigslist ad he said “… how many hours do you need?”
  • When I told him I only needed one hour, he said “We’ve got a $100 minimum… OK, I can do one hour for $50″
  • He was very short with me on the phone, making me feel too uncomfortable to investigate more.
  • The website has a printable affidavit where you swear that you did a fundraiser raising money for their non-profit.  Once you send off the money you “raised”  they will sign off on your affidavit.

I’m curious if the Austin court system realizes this scam/loophole exists.

What do you think?  Is there any way this is not ethically outrageous?

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Sitting at my desk in the AC4D studio I can see what my classmates were talking about when they critiqued my drawing assignment a few Saturdays ago. The small fidgety drawings of faces, which I had been so involved in when I was doing them, get lost in a sea of lines and uniform tone. However, the sketches of hands, which I found somewhat frustrating, read loud and clear at this distance. Pat, our studio teacher, has been telling us to step back from our work early and often since the beginning of the quarter. This week I vow to remember to actually do that, before presenting my work up for critique on Saturday.

early drawings

This past week’s assignment was to create a story board after volunteering at a local non-profit. We were tasked with noticing opportunities for improvement in the service or process based on our experience and illustrating it.  As soon as I finish a quick first pass of the panels I put them up on the wall across the studio from my desk and asked some of the other students to take a look.

Process5 copy

I can see that having my drawings up is helping me better utilize different line weights and areas of dark and light. Of course, my classmates’ feedback is invaluable.

Pat encouraged me to keep experimenting with darker lines and areas of black.  I plan to rework some of these panels to the point of over doing it so I can see what is too much and then back off from there.

Complete storyboard below the break


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Content, Context and Semantics:

The 5 readings I’ve been attempting to digest the last 2 weeks at Ac4d, discuss many things. Grouped into topics of Value, and Participatory Design, a lot of different jargon seems to contrast ideas between the authors , which I can only assume is Jons intent, in having us “plot” authors against (or is it “with”?) each other on a dual axis graph. For me what’s underpinning all these disparate texts is how much though sure each has their own positions, they seem to be talking around each others points. Though approaches differ, the goal seems the same, the most effective way to design, either with or for the user. Norman: Argues that innovation is driven by technology, that products produce needs. Design research’s only role is enhancement, and adaptation of these products. Innovation is a systems issue: it is not about product or process. It is about the entire system, Enhancement is where the research community can add the most value. People innovate simply because they can. Kolko: Design research focusing on human behavior in a broad sense, taking a look both at and around the problem, emphasizes opportunity and potential for innovation. Gaver: Uses human participation as a form of “social computing”, where engagement leads to a mutual influence of user and designer at every stage of the process. Sanders: Monetary, experiential, and social value can be “co-designed” with user and designer working together through acts of doing, adapting, making and creating. Dourish: Working at the intersection of computer and social sciences, Dourish supports the evolution of context in practice as a broad agenda for research in interaction design. The following is a graph I made about these things: IDSE102_Position Diagram 2_William Shouse Each in their own way attempt to explain away the sense making process, even seemingly embracing it. So on that note, I leave you with a quote from William Gavers “Cultural Probes and the Value of Uncertainty” When reason is away smiles will play.

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Five papers assessed by depth and user engagement

The current assignment involves summarizing the positions taken by the authors of five papers, and then ranking them according to:

1) how the authors might casually describe their take on engaging with users, with the measures “designing with” at one end of the scale, versus “designing for” at the other

2) a comparison of our own choosing, which in my case is the density of the material (in the sense of depth), versus conciseness, where one central idea is put forth briefly and clearly.

The diagram consists of an X-Y axis that defines four quadrants, where the position a particular piece appears relates only to the quadrant.  Some pieces fall on the axis to indicate a neutral position.

The papers are presented here in chronological order based on publication year, with a short summary.

Paul Dourish
What We Talk About When We Talk About Context (2003)
Dourish is a professor of informatics at UC Irvine.  This piece is the oldest of the five, and also the densest.  It presents a new framework for approaching the idea of context, where it’s re-interpreted as a dynamic and interrelated collection of features occasioned by an action.  Along the way he delves into positivist versus phenomenological traditions in the social sciences, and ethnomethodology.  Dourish is concerned particularly with the field of ubiquitous computing, and human-computer interaction, yet he makes clear that the redefinition of context that he presents here has wider implications, saying “Indeed, if we take ‘ubiquitous computing’ seriously, then we should be applying its ideas ubiquitously, not just in the relatively narrow areas of interaction with handheld and embedded devices.”

William W. Gaver et al
Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty (2004)
Gaver is a professor of design at the University of London.  Here he and his co-authors present the use of a technique they call a ‘cultural probe’, which is a provocative set of exercises designed to enable researchers to gain unprogrammed insights into the lives of study participants.

Donald A. Norman
Technology First, Needs Last: The Research-Product Gulf (2009)
Norman is a well-known academic in the field of design, and author of The Design of Everyday Things.  In this provocative piece he distinguishes between incremental innovation, and revolutionary or conceptual innovation.  He posits that while design research plays an important role in incremental innovation, it is not involved in revolutionary innovation, which he argues is instead technology-driven, with user needs and adoption occurring after the innovation.

Liz Sanders, George Simons
A Social Vision for Value Co-Creation in Design (2009)
Sanders and Simons describe the concept of co-creation as a form of collaboration where the end result of the process is unknown at the start, as well as its application to the design process, where the end user is an active participant in the process of value creation.  Co0creation

Jon Kolko
The Value of Synthesis in Driving Innovation, from Exposing the Magic of Design (2011)
Kolko describes what design research is, comparing and contrasting it with marketing research, and proceeds to focus on how it can drive innovation through the process of synthesis.  He hints at an opportunity for designers.



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Design Theory: An Integral Analysis

I studied philosophy as an undergrad, which gave me a surface understanding of a wide variety of different philosophical subject areas.  While I enjoyed the mental gymnastics of philosophy, and enjoyed discussing and debating ideas, I have to admit that I left my university without a clear picture, or mental framework, of the world.

Soon after I graduated, I found the philosophy of Ken Wilber.  Ken Wilber maps the entire universe and incorporates every philosophy, psychology, technology and spiritual tradition into a map he calls the “Integral Model.”  He separates the world into 5 digestible chunks:  Quadrants, Levels, Lines, States and Types.  While I don’t wish to discuss the specifics of each of these chunks, it suffices to say that I was blown away by his ability to map everything I had learned through my education in philosophy onto one map (actually 5 interconnected maps).

Over the last week or so we’ve read 5 authors focused on topics of innovation and participation and our assignment was to map these 5 authors onto a 2×2 matrix where one axis is on a scale of “Designing With” to “Designing For” and the second axis is our choice.

I went through a number of iterations of varying levels of depth & complexity, feel free to take a look at those iterations here, but I never felt comfortable with any of them.  No matter how I arranged them, there was a feeling of cognitive dissonance.  I was trying to force the authors into containers that were separate but interrelated — creating what I jokingly referred to as a “false quadotomy” (as opposed to a false dichotomy… get it?  hilarious!)

On the verge of a “screw it” moment, I decided to try mapping the authors within Ken Wilber’s framework of “Quadrants” and at that point, it all started falling into place.

Mr. Wilber’s Quadrants have two axes Individual/Collective and Internal/External.  These axes create four divided areas that can be summed up using pronouns:  I, WE, IT and ITS.  The idea of his integral philosophy is that each of these areas contains an important truth, and in order to have a full accounting of any subject, we must touch on all quadrants.

I have mapped each author’s ability take into account each quadrant.  The shaded area shows their overall success given this criteria.

While I don’t expect anyone to fully grasp Ken Wilber’s philosophy from this graph (his primary text is 850 pages), I do think it gives a nice window into the integral philosophy and provides a nice visual for comparing each author’s substantive differences.

Also, and more importantly, it was extremely useful for myself to be able to successfully orient each of these authors within my own (borrowed) mental framework.


Click the image below for a closer look:

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