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Category Archives: Classes

Q3 Summary

After 8 weeks of research, and 8 weeks of prototyping and scenario user testing, I am currently in the process of developing an audible book that brings the compassion of group therapy as well as the encouragement of a medication regimen to individuals living in isolated environments, such as rural West Texas.

This idea has the goal of bringing the voices of individuals who may be suffering the same condition to someone who may not have the resources to talk to anyone about their condition as well as the provide them with a 2 week starter pack of their prescribed medication, with information about that medication as well as intervention moments for the patient to reach out to their health care provider if they are experiencing any negative or positive effects from the medication. Ultimately the goal is to get the new patient confident enough through de-stigmatizing mental illness that they themselves reach out and talk to others, and continue the conversation through their recovery.

Here is a link to a wrap up of the research and prototyping done in quarter 3.

Q3 Wrap Up

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Shaping the Conversation: Designing for Family Discussions Around Aging


Over the last eight weeks, Laura Galos and I have been working on a design solution to help facilitate the difficult conversations seniors and their families have around the major changes that come with aging.

Last quarter, we spent eight weeks conducting qualitative research with a range of individuals in their 30’s to their 80’s. We started with a focus on how people are planning for and financing their post-work years in the context of increasing longevity. The subject of aging and the impact it has on finances led us to explore how age-associated life changes also affect health and family relationships.

We found that communication about aging-related transitions can be difficult, as the older family members faces changes in the way they live, while younger family members find themselves feeling the “role reversal” of caring for the people who had previously cared for them. The communication problem families are faced with crosses a range of topics–from limiting driving, to agreement on living arrangements, to health issues, and others.



For some families, broaching these hard subjects is too difficult to bring up until forced by external events. We wondered about the root cause of the avoidance in families. In synthesizing the stories our participants shared in research, we came to the following insight:

Elderly individuals fear asking for help because taking others’ time and resources will result in being robbed of their own independence.

We considered the need for a gentler “ramp-down” for seniors, rather than the abrupt changes that happen as a result of small problems growing into large ones. On the other hand, we clearly see a need to give the elderly as much control as possible in making choices about their lives. This was an opportunity to design a solution that allows communication between aging parents and grown children to embody more honesty, mutual understanding and a place of emotional safety for both sides.

In our exploration of the topic, we found that the journey of bringing up tough topics between younger and elderly family members follows this general path:


We found that the journey usually begins when the family member that is responsible for caregiving, feels the need to address a tough topic. They look outside themselves for help or outside advice and will often have discussions about these issues with siblings. This usually leads to the building of a “case” against the elderly’s need to change their behavior and is followed by an intervention-like conversation that can leave both sides feeling frustrated, angry, hurt or shut down.

We see our product as an opportunity to change this journey from building a case to building understanding on both sides. Along this desired path, the intent of our product is to breaks up the conversation into smaller units focused on building understanding between family members, rather than a large conversation based on a “case” for the need to change. This likely also means that younger and older family members might having these conversations over time, rather than all at once.


For both the younger and elderly family member, our value promise to them is this:

By using our product, we promise to help you stay on the same team as you make aging-related decisions together.

Our first iteration explored the notion of team by using game mechanics. Games allow the user to take on different roles, explore alternatives in a safe space, and have a lighter, more fun experience. They also have the ability to diffuse the responsibility of bringing up tough topics.

One of the concepts we came up with is called Balloon Bounce. The object of the game is to answer questions related to a difficult topic within a certain amount of time. Not answering the question within a certain amount of time results in a challenge that family members would complete together.


While this idea was fun and more playful, the use of technology was more than either side wanted to take on.

Still exploring game mechanics, we still went with something that was a more familiar form. Conversation Cards. Using a question deck and an answer deck, the object of the game is to learn about each other so the answers are about the person who is asking the question. To play this game, one person would ask the question while the other players provided an answer that they think most closely aligns to the person who asked the question’s preferences. The person who asked the question would then pick the winning answer and award the person who answered with the point.


There is a mix of fun, lighter questions, but also brings up harder questions that get the family members closer to the answers they’re really wanting to know. Users enjoyed engaging with a familiar form and coming up with solutions together. For older family members, the conversation is not centered around things being taken away from them. Because this started to get to answers family members wanted to know, we needed a way for them to follow-up on the conversation.

Veering away slightly from the game mechanics, but into that continuous conversation users were looking for, our team came up with a service called, Enveloop.

Enveloop is a web-based service that allows family members to bring up tough topics by answering prompts in the form of letters and sending them physically through the mail.


Some users that we tested this service with liked that this allowed them to do something they felt was more meaningful for their older family member and saw this as a way to gain empathy for the changes they were experience as they aged. They liked that the technology made using the service convenient for them, but minimized it on the side of their elderly family members. Physical letters are a form they are already familiar with. Where users were less clear on the value of our service came from managing different communication methods. How would bringing up difficult topics through letters in the mail be better than talking over the phone or having a discussion in person?

The intent behind our initial design iterations was to test how tough topics could be more approachable for everyone involved. While our idea is still evolving, testing each of these concepts with users that are having or anticipate having difficult conversations about age-related life transitions in the near future, provided us with a set of criteria that will be used in our next iteration to help us move the idea forward:

  • Feels non-threatening for older individuals
  • Feels approachable to family members
  • Leads to solutions, not just fun bonding moments
  • Uses a medium older individuals already enjoy
  • Includes a way to follow-up on conversations
  • Takes into considerations families who live apart

Shaping the manifestation of this idea has proven to be as challenging as shaping the conversation between family members and the elderly itself. Quarter 3 has been as much about learning how we can make the impact we intend to have in this problem space as much as it has been about embracing where we are in the process with an idea that still exists in multiple manifestations.

Hard to believe we’re moving into our last and final quarter at AC4D. In the last eight weeks, we will pilot our idea and get our product in the hands of potential users. Check back in another week to see where our next iteration takes us!

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Summit: Ramping up for Piloting

Summit: Process and Next Steps

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Summit (formerly known as TippingPoint): Iteration and Preparation

We are entering the final week of Quarter 3 and time sure is flying by!  In less than a week we will be presenting the latest incarnation of our design idea — Summit (formerly known as TippingPoint) — which we are currently in the early stages of prototyping and user testing.

In case you are just now following our weekly blogocast, Sam, Lauren & myself have been focusing on the problem of credit card debt among young people 18 to 30. Through research we completed last quarter, we found that people have trouble incorporating paying off their debt into their day to day lives; People spend money on a daily basis but only think about their credit card bill at the end of the month, and by that time they’ve often already overspent.  Summit helps people by sending friendly nudges and providing an easy way to pay small amounts of money toward credit card debt at the same time they are spending money.

Iteration and Preparation

Last week we made a first pass at creating wireframes for what we were still calling TippingPoint (now known as Summit).  After an initial set of user tests, we took time this week to iterate on the design, dive a little deeper into the specific mechanisms of the sign-up and goal creation process, and clean up some of the continuity issues that arose from splitting up work among teammates.

paper prototypes

With a brand new iteration of wireframes in hand, we were ready to go out into the world and do some user testing… BUT, before that could materialize, our professor Kijana Knight stopped us and asked if we would role play a user test with her…

2015-02-19 19.52.06
“The User Test” starring Kijana Knight

… and boy was she was a pain!  She ran into problem after problem, got confounded by very simple tasks, was unfamiliar with Android conventions, and wouldn’t stop asking me questions (even though I previously explained I wouldn’t be able to answer!).   Her somewhat unflattering portrayal of a novice user lasted for 45 minutes (including some coaching) and, while exhausting, it was an absolutely invaluable lesson that more than prepared us to go forth and test.

Get out of the Building

Over the next few days we found willing test subjects at our two favorite local bars for user testing– Posse East and Haymaker.

2015-02-19 20.52.59
posse east

Through these tests we focused on finding out:

  • Is the flow navigable?
  • Does each part of the setup process make sense in the context of how the user believes the app works?
  • How do the communications feel?
  • Is the amount of information provided to set a goal enough? too much?
  • Do the categorizations of spending (places/times) resonate?

What we found:

  • We need to set the stage for the setup process.  People feel like we are asking for too much information when it is not clear to them why that information is necessary.
  • People prefer our proactive messags “Happy Friday!  Buy your future self a drink” as opposed to the reactive message “Have fun last night? See you spent $47 on food/drink. Tip yourself 10%, 15% or 20%.”  We heard the latter feels more negative.
  • People want to see a clear visualization of their goal.
  • People don’t typically know their APR

We’ll be using this feedback to fuel our next iteration.  We should have that iteration ready to show to our peers and mentors for the Q3 final presentation on Friday.  Thereafter, we will all enjoy a week-long respite from our studio walls, hopefully to return refreshed and ready to iterate and test, and iterate and test, and iterate and test!

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Better Than a Phone Call

In our second to last week of Q3, our team (Laura Galos and Maryanne Lee) continued to build out or service, Meaningful Mail (working title). This service allows family members, from the web, to introduce difficult aging-related topics with elderly family members by sending them prompts and letters through the mail. To expand on our idea since last week, we created three main flows as low-fidelity wireframes, or sketched images of screens for the web part of the service. The main flows included:

Choosing a prompt MM_Topic_2_v3_1.4.A_blog Writing a long-form letter MM_Long Prompt_1.0.D_blog Writing small sections of a letter – 2 Approaches MM_Letter Chunks_1.1.A_blog Chunks of a Letter - Approach 2 Sending a letter MM_Send Letter_1.3.C_blogWe tested these flows by conducting think-aloud user testing. Think-Aloud testing is an evaluative testing method designers use with potential users to get a glimpse into what they are thinking and having them articulate this as they are performing a task. We began testing the wireframes with users that have aging-related conversations with elderly parents or foresee themselves as being the family member who will be faced with having these conversations in the near future. The testing was valuable in that it showed us breakdowns users faced in navigating the system, but it also brought up big questions we felt we have to work through as soon as possible for our service.

1. How is Meaningful Mail better than a phone call?

“I guess just like the purpose of it. What is the reason why this is necessary or easier than just talking.” – User Testing Participant

2. How does this service work?

“I guess I never thought of anything like this. Almost like talking about these issues through the mail. Interesting. Email is more how of how I figured it would be.” IMG_0927 Because we heard these high-level concerns, we went back through our testing from the last seven weeks to make sure that further iterations maintained the most important feedback we’ve heard this quarter. From that feedback, we formulated design priniciples to guide our work moving forward.

Design Principles:

  1. Product has to feel non-threatening to aging family members, and approachable to the younger family members bringing up difficult topics.
  2. Product should feel like a 3rd party in order to diffuse the tension that comes with bringing up aging-related conversations.
  3. The directness of the conversation should be adjustable, but in general conversations should progress from lighter to more difficult topics.

Our other focus this week is in creating a value promise and checking to see if our service aligns with the promise we’re making. Today we came to this version of the value promise that applies to both elderly individuals and the family members who help care for them by listing what the utility, emotional, and behavioral value is for each party. IMG_0935_blog We are currently operating under this value promise:

By using Meaningful Mail, we promise to help you both (younger and older family members) stay on the same team as you make aging-related decisions together.

When we held up each piece of Meaningful Mail to this value promise, it became apparent that there was far more opportunity for the users of the service to collaborate toward shared goals, rather than try to find a compromise between disparate purposes. As we move forward, we will continue to iterate on each piece of the service to make sure it maintains our value promise. If we can do that, users will not have to wonder why Meaningful Mail is better than a phone call.

Our full set of wireframes can be found here.

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The Heart of the Matter: Aging-Related Conversations

If you’ve been following our project on the AC4D blog, you know that our group (Maryanne Lee, Laura Galos) is working on a design project to help facilitate the difficult conversations seniors and their families have around the major changes that come with aging. We are just past the midpoint of our ideation and development phase, and we felt it would be worth going back to the research to recap our findings and how we got to our current iterations.

Last quarter, we spent eight weeks conducting qualitative research with a range of individuals in their 30’s to their 80’s. We started with a focus on how people are planning for and financing their post-work years in the context of increasing longevity.

After some preliminary synthesis, in which we took our collected data and began to identify patterns, we saw that our research participants had a idealized view of retirement—filled with vacations, travel, and freedom from stress—that was misaligned with many of the realities of retirement, especially later retirement. One participant, despite suffering from health issues, summed it up with, “I think [retirement] is when your problems should just go away…I can’t think of anything really hard about being retired.”

Sickness, decrease in mobility, the potential difficulty of finding purpose, when and if to move to a retirement home—all of these contributed to a picture of “retirement” that was not nearly as rosy as the word normally conjured up. And this led us to our first insight. Our insights, while they stem from our research, are also the product of our interpretations. As a result, they are provocative. We used strong wording intentionally, as this would help us in creating design ideas around them. Our first insight was:

The idea of retirement is an overpromised fantasy, difficult to achieve and disrupted by the eventualities of sickness and deterioration.

In response to our initial findings, we began to shift our line of questioning. We also wanted to know, how do the elderly and their families manage major age-associated life changes? Going into a retirement home, limiting driving, and experiencing health issues—these major events are the cause of many difficult conversations between the elderly and their families. Or not. For some families, broaching these hard subjects is too difficult to bring up until forced by external events. Some of our insights around age-associated changes include:

Elderly individuals fear asking for help because taking others’ time and resources will result in being robbed of their own independence.

Elderly individuals’ attempts to avoid becoming burdensome to family lead them to hide their immediate needs. These needs eventually turn into crises, at greater cost to the family.

We shared our findings at the Q2 presentation. Next, our team came up with over 300 design ideas around retirement, saving for retirement, hobbies, finding purpose, and communication amongst family members, to name a few.

Through a process of downselection, we focused on a theme in our research that surfaced repeatedly. This theme was the difficulty family members had in broaching and conducting conversations with elderly seniors about difficult aging-associated changes. A particularly charged instance of this was conversations about limitations in driving. In each case, it seemed that because of the topic’s sensitivity, families deferred having these conversations for as long as possible. And for seniors, the abrupt changes–often with a high cost in terms of their freedom and independence–was too unpalatable to proactively discuss.

Our team has been considering some design solutions to address this issue. In particular, we have been thinking about the need for a gentler “ramp-down” for seniors, rather than the abrupt changes that happen as a result of small problems growing into large ones. On the other hand, we clearly see a need to give the elderly as much control as possible in making choices about their lives.

To this end, we are creating a communication tool to help seniors and their families talk about these major changes. After mapping how an ideal conversation between family members and the elderly would feel, we began to bring the communication tool to life.

Our team began by exploring different game and communication mechanics as a way of easing family members and the elderly into those tough conversations. These are the four avenues we explored:

  • Balloon Bounce: A game of keeping conversations “afloat” by using a digital interface that prompts questions.
  • Best Bets:  A game in which players win real-world prizes by finding common ground with family members.
  • Conversation Cards: A game in which players win points by answering questions about the other players.
  • Meaningful Mail: A service that allows families– from the web–to introduce difficult aging-related conversations by sending physical letters to seniors.

The intent behind our initial designs was to test how tough topics could be more approachable for everyone involved.

User Testing through Scenario Validation

To test our ideas, we conducted a scenario validation. Scenario validation is an approach that presents participants with scenarios and storyboards to illustrate proposed solutions so designers can gather feedback and reactions. We tested each of these four ideas with this method.


The top three things that we discovered from our user testing include:

Have open-ended discussion prompts: The solutions that used open-ended discussion prompts were preferred over game mechanics that forced particular outcomes

One participant said, “I thought [Conversation Cards] were more of a conversation, something I would do day-to-day with my dad. My dad would think it’s fun finding out about each other or the solutions to problems.”

Enable ongoing conversation: Game mechanics that had potential for follow-up did much better than games that only took up one moment in time

Another participant shared, “My dad, once he got [Meaningful Mail], it would probably prompt him to call me and talk about other memories as well.”

Minimize or eliminate technology for seniors – Anything that was physical and simple with minimal technology was perceived as a useful for seniors. Technology was well-received when used by family members to simplify their communication.

One participant said, “I spent half an hour on the phone with my dad last night because he accidentally deleted an app. What information are they gaining from this [Best Bets]? Even if it was useful, it wouldn’t be worth downloading an app. I’d end up on a call trying to fix it.”


The Next Step:

After completing scenario validation testing, we decided to move forward with Meaningful Mail (working title). Meaningful Mail will be a web-based service that helps family members bring up difficult aging-related conversations with seniors. From the web, family members will be able to send seniors physical letters about the subjects they most need to discuss. This week will be spent on creating wireframes for main flows and testing with both seniors and involved family members.

Below is a storyboard that illustrates our initial thoughts about how Meaningful Mail will work.

EPSON MFP imageEPSON MFP imageLindsay Josal was also on our research team. See where she’s taking her design idea here.

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TippingPoint: Doughnuts & Beers | Smoke & Mirrors

We finished last week by testing low-fidelity wires with one group of strangers to elicit feedback on our overall idea, as well as to understand emotional responses to different scenarios and tones.  We learned a lot from that test and we wanted to continue to test these screens with a few more individuals to gain even more perspective.

2 of the screens we tested

Beer & Doughnuts

Our first stop was the University of Texas campus.  We arrived at a sunny picnic table on the north side of campus armed with a box of doughnuts to be used as compensation for people’s time and opinions.  We set up camp, wrote “Free Donuts:  Help With Design Research” on the box and put on our best smiles in an attempt to lure people to our table.  We quickly realized that offering free doughnuts doesn’t get nearly the response that offering free beer does (our tactic from last week)… despite that lesson learned, we were finally able find two college students willing to sit with us and give us their opinions.

Free Doughnuts… Anybody??
Yay, participants!

Our major takeaway from this set of tests was the need for our messaging to be tailored to the person using the service.  The two girls we spoke with were both 20 years old and did not drink or go to bars, so the series of screens we showed them aimed at an audience that spends too much money going out to bars wasn’t applicable to them, so it elicited negative feedback.  They also did not have credit cards or debt so they got stuck on the idea of using a service to pay off credit cards.  This was useful in its own right, and got us thinking about different ways we might tailor the communications and how we might be able to test that.

Later that afternoon went to a nearby bar to find more participants.  Not surprisingly, offering beer worked like a charm and we quickly found four participants eager to share their opinions.

Sam with a test subject

A lot of what we heard echoed our first round of tests:

  • People enjoy a playful tone and a relatable voice
  • They want messages to be short and sweet
  •  They want to be able to customize the characters
  • They want to know specific dollar amounts (not just percentages)

We also heard some new feedback:

  • People want some sort of option to turn off the messages, especially if they do not currently have enough money to pay towards their credit card or savings
  • They want clear language telling them where their money is actually going
  • They would like us to push the funny character voices even further (fun!)

Smoke & Mirrors

In addition to these tests, we also reached out to our AC4D network, and were able to find three alumni friends willing to let us pilot a “smoke & mirrors” version of the service with them.  This involves a hacked together process of using their bank account alerts to send them an email every time they make a purchase over $1.00, and then setting up their email to forward those alerts to us so we can then send them a text message asking if they want to contribute money to their credit card or savings.  Make sense?  See below:

flow diagram: smoke & mirrors

Our goal for this method of testing is to determine:

  • What it feels like to receive a message
  • With what frequency people prefer to get messaged
  • What tone is most effective
  • How much money a person using this service might save/put towards debt

After one week of sending & receiving messages, we had our first follow-up interview today.  The participant told us that she really enjoyed receiving our messages and preferred when the messages were more playful and personal as opposed to cold and professional.  It was her opinion that about one message a day would be a good frequency and any more than that might get annoying.  She wants us to keep it fresh and “keep the wins coming.” This means we will need to figure out ways to keep the reminders from becoming stale;  learning about our users to personalize messages, upping the ante, using variable reward structures, and helping people track their progress might be some methods we can use to keep the thrill alive.

The Next 7 Days

This coming week we will be continuing the “smoke & mirrors” testing with our alumni volunteers focusing more on testing different tones.  We will also be doing a series of Scenario Validation tests which we are currently recruiting volunteers for.  Please feel free to share the link above with your networks or if you or anyone you know fits the bill please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Tune in next week for more testing fun!

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One Piece at a Time

We are at week 4 of our Ideation and Development studio class at AC4D. This week, it was imperative for our group (Laura GalosLindsay Josal, and Maryanne Lee) to test our ideas with potential users, even though the idea is far from complete.

Because we decided to focus on how design solutions can help families and seniors having difficult aging-related conversations, including driving cessation, we verbally tested short scenarios with families who are having or anticipate having those driving conversations.

We questioned our participants on how they would like the conversation to go–the ideal place to have it, how they would feel, how seniors would ideally feel, the desired outcome, etc. The answers gave us a clearer picture of the ideal conversation from the family members’ perspective, which we were able to map as a journey.

We learned that family members viewed the senior’s home as being the ideal place to have this conversation. They believed it would give seniors a sense of control–which is important as they’re being asked to give a significant measure of independence. When starting the conversation, family members wanted to convey that the conversation was about concerns around health and safety, not the elderly person’s intelligence. Family members wanted seniors to react “rationally” and in a “level-headed” way.


The ideal conversation journey map gave us some insight to the feelings families would want to have during difficult conversations. And it was tempting to try to create a whole system to encompass the entire journey. However, it’s impractical to expect to be able to create a whole working system at once, and we realized we would have to work on small pieces at a time.

Last week our team was excited about the aspect of using of game mechanics to help facilitate the conversations. Although our final product will likely not be a “game” in the traditional sense, we believe that game mechanisms may be of great help in easing tough discussions.




How do you go about finding game mechanics that you’re interested in? You play! Thinking of games we enjoyed playing helped us to think of different game mechanics that we would want to test.To that end, we created sketched wireframes of 3 games we could employ to help foster a discussion in a family. Each has a different emphasis.

Balloon game: Keep the balloon afloat by keeping the conversation going.

Slide1Slide2Slide3Slide4Digital slot machines: Win the game (and real-world prizes) by coming to agreement on given questions with family members.

blog_slots_screens-01Cards: Modelled on Cards Against Humanity, there is a question deck and an answer deck. Questions are about the person asking them, and answers can be filled in on answer cards. The person asking the question decides his or her favorite answer and gives points based on that decision.


In general, feedback about the game mechanics were positive. Participants felt they were a lot of fun. Although the game mechanics don’t yet address all the difficulties of the aging-related conversations, we also asked participants about the games in the context of these discussions. Participants noted that they would like a way of continuing conversations is something interesting or odd came up. They would like to be able to save answers and revisit them. Some participants said that their families do not play games like these together, and so using them at all would be contrived.

We think that our end product needs to be non-threatening and engaging. Based on initial testing, we believe game mechanics have an important place in our design because they can foster these feelings. However, the final product will probably not be a traditional “game” because of the seriousness of the issues and the difference between families on usage of games.


As our project evolves, we continue to refine the idea of “what it is.” As of now, we’re creating a tool to facilitate tough conversations between family members and the elderly. Using game mechanics, we are making the conversation more approachable and collaborative for everyone involved.


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Mental Healthcare: Creation Continued.

This week was a week of reflection. It was time now to take all of the information that had been gathered. Print out all of the photographed whiteboard diagrams and scenarios, and do another round of synthesis on these new artifacts.

I had to take a bit of a step back from my initial design plans and start to really focus on the narrative around the product, which will inherently determine the way the product is designed.

Just to re-cap for a moment. I am working on developing what I am calling a “Journey to Recovery”. I have yet to even begin to think of a catchy 2.0 name and am very cautions really when it comes to putting a label on my service product because of the nature of the content.

My problem opportunity is this; I have backed up research and data that suggest that a combination of both therapy and medication are the best tools for helping an individual suffering from a mental condition.

That statistically 30% of individuals prescribed medication for such things as depression or bi-polar disorder never refill their first month. I was informed from an individual source that their particular center experienced only a 1% success rate or people making it through recovery and into self-sustainability.

Because I am focusing on areas where there may not be access to therapy or possibly even a support system for miles and miles, I must attempt, before even thinking of packaging design, to put myself into the shoes of my potential user. Where they come from. What they may be familiar with, and unfamiliar with as well. How to be cautiously empathetic without at all seeming contrived or like an “out sider looking in”.   

I took this week to really stop and think about what it would be like to receive a package of some sort, in the mail, that was intended to both inform, guide, provide medication instruction and expectations, provide support, and connect me to the outside world.

What do I see when I open my mailbox, visually? What does it feel like to receive a package in the mail? What is physically printed on the outside?

What indicators are there that tell me how to open the package? Am I confused? Do I say to myself, how do you work this thing?

When I open it what am I encountered with? Am I intrigued, cautious, welcomed, or encouraged? Am I relieved?

At what point am I presented with the concept and actual physical visual of the medication, and how might that feel? Do I feel anxious, or skeptical? Is there anything that accompanies the idea of being medicated long term that makes me feel less… broken?

How do I get the medication out of the package? Do I have to work for it? It is easy? Do I have to read something or interact with the package first before I can access it? Are the instructions clear? Day by day, hour by hour if necessary.

Lastly, when am I presented with opportunities to reach out to others, to mail back a letter, or call a number? And do I get a reply back? What does that feel like?

I am currently in the process of sketching and iterating upon those sketches with more sketches as well as working on researching comparative analysis on not to name names, but some pretty horrible products out there in the pharmaceutical land that actually gives me encouragement that I might, possibly be able to make some positive effect on someone. Someday.

Below are the questions posed above, in sketch form, mapped out as a step by step experience of what it might be like to interact with this thing.


IMG_0039 IMG_0040
IMG_0041 IMG_0042
IMG_0043 IMG_0044

Now is an iteration 1 of an advent calendar style box that carries 6 weeks of medication, that encourages playful interaction, encouraging and identifying stories from people in the same position, with an intervention mail in card placed after a few days that the patient interacts with (fills out their story, scratches off how they are feeling, possibly suggests that they reach out to the center writing on this card with something they feel they need, such as more support). Each advent type small box holds 1. a card that can be taken with the patient, put in their pocket etc. 2. Encouraging narrative quote pertaining to the day the patient is on printed on the inside of the box opening, and 3. the actual medication packaged in a way that is easy to access for someone who may be elderly or lacking fine motor skills.

IMG_0045 IMG_0046 IMG_0047 IMG_0048 IMG_0049 IMG_0050 IMG_0068 IMG_0051 IMG_0052 IMG_0053 IMG_0054
The the process starts over with the next day.

Iterations 2 and 3 follow the same guidelines. One being a booklet shown here below, and another still in progress more of a travel kit.

The front of the booklet will follow along the same guidelines as the advent calendar idea. With familiar imagery, possibly a landscape, brand name, and indicator to open the package. My visual inspiration is from this package which I find universally soothing and very in touch with nature or a rural setting in a non condescending way.


The booklet goes as follows:
Here are both the front of the booklet as well as how the basic structure is to be laid out. If it is not super clear, the booklet will contain 14 pills, 2 weeks of medication, in a semicircle pattern. With die-cut pages revealing the pill of the day along with varying narratives, resources, and stories.

- Basic structure:

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1st page welcome message / what to expect / Congratulations on taking the first steps to recovery:


2nd page, clear messaging on the day, a narrative of someone in a similar situation, encouraging imagery and affirmation and a die-cut of the medication that is a blister pack you push through the back to access.


3rd page similar to the 2nd, but with varying narrative as to remain fresh and interesting, the patient can see their progress by the 1st day of medications die-cut still there but now filled with a bright color:


Intervention page: A tear out foldable pre-posted card that inquires about the patients status, wants and needs. Suggests ways to reach out for help, and resources available. Encouraging to stick with the program, that it will get better, and to notify their therapist if they are experiencing any ill effects at all.

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I have purchased the supplies to begin building more formal prototypes to test this week, and am currently working on refining the initial narrative that surrounds the recovery journey experience.


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A Game Plan for Aging-Related Conversations

Quarter 3 is well underway and our team, (Laura Galos, Lindsay Josal, and Maryanne Lee) is in the midst of ideation and development. Last week, we downselected from three design ideas to one. We have been referring to this idea as a “communication tool” that helps caregivers and families have necessary but difficult conversations with the elderly around aging-related topics. Currently, the conversation we are working with in particular is one around driving cessation, or limiting of driving as people age.

Our teachers encouraged us to test ideas with potential users this week. Because we initially thought of this communication tool as a website, our plan for testing involved creating wireframes–sketched pictures of screens–to which potential users could react. As we began to visualize what we thought these screens might look like, we realized that we needed to take a step back and think through what this tool really was. We had to consider not just the endpoint for users, but hone in on each step of the communication process. How would it feel, in an ideal case, for users to begin using the tool? How would we like them to feel when they began the conversation? What would it feel like when particular concerns were brought up?


We began by creating a journey map of the ideal conversation. First, we talked about wanting the discussion to feel safe. For an elderly person, we think it’s important that when the conversation arises, they feel like it’s not a trap. For a “caregiver,”–or any family member who takes on that role–”safe” might mean that the situation is non-threatening. We also think they would like to project to the senior that they’re not trying to take their independence from them. Going through this exercise allowed us to generate a journey map, which we used as criteria for iteration.

As we returned to storyboards, our main focus this week was on the points in the journey where users start the conversation and bring up concerns. Our team explored different form factors including web, mobile and physical forms. We then came up with several iterations. By executing and revising these iterations, the soul of the idea began to reveal itself. We found that committing to a particular iteration all the way through helped us make decisions with greater detail. The storyboards we were most excited about take the form of games.


Why games? For many families, it is uncomfortable to bring up difficult topics. In games, devices such as dice or spinners can be used as a buffer. A given player has not asked that an action be taken (or a topic discussed), the action was determined by the roll of the dice. If the game is about difficult topics, no-one has the responsibility of bringing them up, the game may do it by design. We think this may be especially effective for families facing these difficult conversations.

In our research, we found that cards are an approachable and social game that many of our participants played with regularly. So, our initial game ideas began with cards.

Storyboard A:



Storyboard B:


Storyboard C:



In our Saturday studio critique, we discussed many forms the game could take, games that happen over time v. once-and-done games, and the use in games of hypothetical scenarios v. actual user information. Our team will continue to explore the design of our idea and begin testing some of these choices with potential users this week.


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