Reimagining the TD Mobile Banking Application: from sense making to a future state

In this week’s assignment for Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving, I practiced systematic knowledge creation in order to develop a vision for the future state of a mobile banking application. The process to come to this vision was driven by my own sense making and belief that when a digital product is developed with higher order systems thinking, the product will be more effective, designed with a user’s experience in mind.

The first step I took was to build my own background knowledge on banking. I listed all the banking concepts I could imagine, systematically found relationships between the terms, and built a backbone for the fundamental purposes banks serve. From this foundation, I was able to create a hierarchy of bank knowledge that would fuel my future vision of what a mobile banking application could be. Ultimately, this process led to the banking relationship concept map linked below. Constructing my own mental model for the purposes of banks, what functions and sub functions they perform, and how they fit into the larger financial ecosystem provided me with a framework to make decisions later in this process.Bank Relationship Map

The second step I took was to create an information architecture map of the current TD mobile banking application. This involved physically recreating the entire user flow of the app. I navigated throughout the whole application to create a schematic of the application. I learned how a user would interact with each feature, making notes of breakdowns, and possible opportunities for optimization. I was also able to learn TD banks current hierarchy – what “features” are most important, where are different applications linked more than once, and what functions a user would have to hunt for. This led to the information architecture map linked below.

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After taking a step back to reflect on how I conceptualized banking and how the TD bank currently designed their banking app, I was able to make new connections. In the above map, you will see that TD bank does not have a clear hierarchy guiding their user interactions. Different applications can be navigated to in multiple ways but it is unclear why this is important. There are also different functions that appear to be higher order and yet, are confusing and don’t appear to serve the user.  I first sorted the features into categories that made more sense, specifically, account management, services, support and profile. These categories matched what I believe to be the purposes banks serve and also matched TD bank’s current application functions. From this, I could easily sort all of the functions into these categories. Thus, you will see a future state of the mobile banking application that has clearer hierarchy. I also made a few decisions including making support easier to access, as well as making security a higher priority from the user’s perspective.

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Creativity and Design Thinking in the Age of Robots

In the past weeks, we’ve been learning more about the role of creativity and design thinking in our world, and the ways to increase the amount of creativeness and designers around us. The more design thinking is happening around us, the easier it is to attach wicked problems.

Please see the video made for this assignmend here.

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This story happened in 2097 in LaCountry. Group of scientist invented robots, who were able to do everything or almost everything. There was no need to work for anybody else and the government of LaCountry paid equal amount of money to all its citizens. The President of LaCountry by the way decided to keep his position and not give it away to the robots.

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Citizens of LaCountry were very happy for several years. They enjoyed clean streets, delicious dinners and new houses. There was no homelessness anymore.

The life was perfect… Until they forgot what they live for. Without jobs, without any work to do people lost sense of their lives. The amount of suicides went up so drastically.

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The President of LaCountry gathered the best scientist who worked on robotization and asked them to find a solution to saving people from losing their minds in the new reality. Scientist were coming up with more and more logical ideas, but nothing really worked. The country was dying.

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One day, Mr. President was sitting in a park thinking about what he did wrong and how to save the country. He saw someone familiar walking around – it was Edward de Bono, the psychologist who worked with him a while ago but moved out of LaCountry before the robots took all the jobs.

They were so happy to meet each other. Edward told that his is just visiting his old friends in the country. Edward immediately noticed sadness in Mr. President’s eyes and asked if he wants to talk about it.

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Mr. President told about all problems the country has got because of robots and that scientists with their novelty ideas make everything only worse. Edward said:

Oh, Mr. President. If everything was so easy. Novelty is not enough, idea must make sense and work. Your people try to be more logical, but really they should be more creative. Sometimes people can come up with great, creative ideas from ignorance, but not often – so don’t hope on it. You need truly creative people. And creativity is unnatural. Creativity is a skill that can be learned, not the result of serendipity or logic. But cutting across patterns is not natural behavior. However, since creative ideas always seem logical in hindsight, people tend to think that you could come up with them just by being ever more logical. To come up with creative ideas, you should not use logical thinking, but lateral thinking (Cutting across patterns is what I have called lateral thinking); you should provoke your mind out of its existing pattern by forcing yourself to come up with weird alternatives to the status quo. Then you should take those weird alternatives seriously and play out their implications. This allows you to approach problems in an innovative way. Really, Mr. President, with all due respect to your team, logical scientists and engineers won’t make it work; you need to hire designers to work on this type of problems.

Mr. President wasn’t sure what to make of it.

But what type of problems is it? What is so special about it?

Edward said:

I have a friend who can tell you better than I do. Let’s facetime him. His name is Horst Rittel.

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Edward called his friend who lived in another country (and whose job wasn’t taken by robots). He described him the situation and how Mr. President is trying to deal with it by giving all the power to hands of scientists.

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You are definitely having a wicked problem there. Edward is right: Making solutions to social problems cannot just be left to a faceless group of professionals because social problems are not like Math or Science: there is no universally agreed upon formulation of any one social problem, and even if there were, there would be no set of steps that could be used in every case to solve that problem. Every social problem is unique. Neither, however, should we abandon the social arena to chaos.

You should let people in your country to participate in finding the decision of this problem. Co-design with the people affected by this wicked problem. But what does “wicked” even mean? Wicked problems cannot ever be totally solved because they are too complicated and they are caused by humans, who keep changing. Furthermore, wicked problems never have just one right solution; there are always many solutions, and they can only be judged as good or bad. Judging a solution, though, is sticky in and of itself because there is no value-free way of assessing whether a solution is good, and solutions have such far-reaching consequences that it would be practically impossible to figure out their value in the short run. Also, wicked problems are all mixed up together.

But let me aware you: don’t hope to find a solution which will work forever and for the whole country. Social problems can’t be solved – only resolved over and over again. Humans change, and they are complicated. So there can’t be a simple solution. Wicked problems are never done. You will resolve one and immediately get another one. There is no objective measure of whether solutions to wicked problems are right – only good or bad. No way to know if you have identified all possible solutions to a wicked problem. Every wicked problem is unique – no matter how similar a problem looks, can’t be certain ahead of time that the same solution will work again.

President:

Oh, it all sounds very depressing, but I think this is my only hope! But where I can find designers to work on it if nobody is willing to work?

Edward:

Designers are always working, even when they don’t have to. I’ll help you to gather the team of the best professionals.

They met each other again in a week in the White House. There were The President, Edward de Buno, Horst Rittel, Nigel Cross, Chris Pacione and Tim Brown.

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Nigel Cross gave his advice first:

Mr. President, let me tell you what you should expect from us, because we are going to work very differently from your team of scientists. An engineer wants to test and measure, this is not something we are looking for in our process right now. We need to be creative because “the solution” is not always a straightforward answer to “the problem”. We need to use sketches, drawings, and models of all kinds as a way to exploring problems and solution together, and making some progress when faced with complexity of design. Yes, that’s right, I urge us to go and work with people outside of White House on resolving this wicked problem.

Design ability is inherent in everyone, we need to dig it up and show the people their natural power! Design ability is a multifaceted cognitive skill, possessed in some degree by everyone. If we help people to get it back – they will be happy again!

Mr. President responded:

And so, what is your job is going to be? Are you going to make people’s ideas look beautiful? Tell me more about it.

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Mr. Brown and Mrs. Wyatt helped Nigel respond to that:

Design in fact extends beyond making things pretty, it comes into a series of techniques we call design thinking. Design thinking is a way to work at the strategic level that involves techniques such as ethnographic research, ideation, rapid prototyping. Designers also have the ability to be intuitive, recognize patterns, express themselves in graphic media, and persuade others using storytelling. Everyone has these capacities to some extent.

I believe that we should teach people to do it first to work efficiently together.

Our approach is based on some foundational things:

Design thinking process is inspiration, ideation, implementation.

For inspiration, don’t just listen to what people have to say – look at their behavior to see opportunity areas. In ideation, come up with as many ideas as you can; great ideas will rise to the top. Then implement, prototype, use storytelling to communicate solution to all stakeholders.

And so, collaboratively the designers has created a research plan, and went into the world to talk and co-design with the people.

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Shortly after, they stopped trying: they were in complete shock. The vast majority people around them has completely lost their creativity! That skills has gone away because there was nowhere to apply it.

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More than anybody was touched Chris Pacione.

Folks, design is a new human literacy. Today we must all be designers. Design is too important to be left to designers. Design will have its greatest impact when it is no longer perceived to be in the hands of people who are professional designers and it is put back into the hands of everyone.  Design should be one of the basic skills we teach to everyone, like writing or math, because the Information Age, with all its complexity, automation, etc., demands that. So much more of our lives than ever before is designed, so it’s important for everyone to have some familiarity with inquiry, ideation, sketching, and prototyping so that they can engage in strategic thinking and evaluate the designed elements around themselves. So, people will be able to solve their own problems and call us when they meet really big challenge. Professional designers, then, would be left to tackle the truly difficult design problems, engaged in strategic thinking.

But how we can do that? How we can bring creativity into people’s heads? Mr. Cross and Mr. de Bono will agree with me that creativity is not a magical process but a learned skill that can lead to innovation and real problem solving.

Edward de Bono had a real suggestion to helping people become more creative.

Let’s integrate the 6 hat system – a mental tool that I have created to allows people shift their perspective whenever needed. There 6 metaphorical hats, and when you “put” them on, each of them encourages the person to use a different type of thinking. Here are all 6 types: data gathering mode; intuition & emotion; logical negative, judgements and caution; logical positive and benefits; provocation, alternatives and creativity; and, finally, overview and process control. I’ve helped people in large corporations get used to wear a specific hat at a time, and change hats when a change of perspective is needed, and noticed a significant rise in productivity, idea generation, and overall creativity.

So, let’s choose a town or a village and teach this technique to the people in that place, and see whether it changes anything.

They went on and over 12 months applied the concept to every citizen in LaVillage, a small village that had an increasingly high rate of suicides, and an extremely low rate of creativity.

And it was a great success! Suicide rate went down; people found the meaning to their lives, even when they didn’t have to work and robots were doing everything for them; they were applying their creativity and design thinking to improving their life in a variety different and unexpected ways that were not destructive, overall making LaVillage one of the best places to live in LaCountry.

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Richard Buchanan has moved into LaCountry from overseas and saw the progress made so far. He had a suggestion that took it to the next level.

I think that design should be considered the new liberal art to suit the modern age, there’s no denying. I believe that everyone should be educated the basic skill set of design when they’re very young, and all the way to the higher education. The improvement in human’s thinking process will make the lives of everyone around better and better.

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And together, they made it work. Now every child has their own 6 hats and practice design thinking every day, bringing the value into people’s lives, and making everyone more happy.

Technology: Strange v Familiar

This few weeks we have focused on the concept of technology being strange, yet familiar. Technologies and it’s rapid growth in conceptualization to market, far outseeds the Moore’s law already.

Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing, does higher access to civilians make our lives more like a sci-fi film? Or make us better or smarter human beings? Or dumber… or have no affect at all?

Through all the readings I got a sense that the authors had also thought about this, and from one extreme to the next, one author Bell, felt that we should chill out on getting gadgety with domestic technology. Such as the internet tv in the refrigerator, because there could possibly be a place in your brain that could come up with a design solution to not have to have the user completely loose touch with the reality that makes us, well – human.

Not that technology is bad by any means, but choose wisely is what I got from her article. The power the designer has to influence those who interact with our “stuff” can be good, bad, or perhaps even worse, indifferent.

To illustrate this I used a 2×2 with the axis being: y axis – user controlled v technology controlled, and the x axis being the designers intent to make humans use more cognitive skills and become more intelligent, or less cognitive skills and become perhaps not dumber, but not any more intelligent by any means.

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I believe Bell fell between the technology being in control (if the future of design were to go the way she had explained) and this technology not making us human any smarter. But perhaps just making our lives easier by default of not having to think for ourselves.
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I put Sterling right in the middle of not learning or getting dumber, but at least having more user control over our situation. Although our cultures may be different it doesn’t mean we wish to have different outputs in using the technology given to us.
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Marsden was interesting to me for the sheer fact that his article dealt with such a real life situation. I placed him in an area where yes actually the user was getting more tech savy by shear means of having to learn to use the broken platform that was provided, but the user was still under the thumb of the reach of the technology provided, limited, yet aware.strange&familiar.009 strange&familiar.010

And then there is Kerweil the futurist whom I believe threw out Moore’s law a long time ago and believes that humans will actually be controlled by the robots we built in 200 years. He may be right. You never know.
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Lastly I would like to leave with one thought that persisted throughout these readings. That we can not stop the progression of technology and how it impacts each person in each culture differently for better or worse. But as designers, we have the obligation to not only fulfill the need of the consumer, but also not go so overboard that we are actually making them less intelligent. There is a difference between a Roomba and an Internet ready TV screen on a refrigerator. The Roomba makes my life easier by keeping the floor clean, but it doesn’t solve my math homework, or tell me how to cook my grandmother’s recipes. 

The world has enough fluff widgetery. Let’s make some real design. 









 

Iterations & Ideals

I want to introduce you to a story of the last 24 weeks of my life, introduce you to the individuals that I have met along the way, show you the places I have visited and how I learned the most powerful lesson of the entire year was the power of THE story and the ability and genuine curiosity and bravery to ask each individual tell me their story… to please keep talking. 

My focus was initially on the dealing with the issues surrounding healthcare, but through contextual inquiry found that access and the stigma surrounding mental healthcare was a much bigger problem, as it has been defunded completely by the government and left to individual philanthropist and donors to open facilities to help those who actually need help. 

I found AC4D as my opportunity put something good out into the world. My final product was inspired and dedicate to my father, whom I had barely a relationship with at all really. My father suffered from a depression that I don’t think anyone could understand, was truly stubborn, and never received any help for his condition. 

Looking back and having conversations with my mother I realized as an adult things that I completely did not acknowledge or understand as a child. How does an impoverished family of 5 living in a town of around 1000 people located 60 miles to the nearest hospital where you can birth a child deal with healthcare, let alone mental healthcare? 

That was the question and I went to find the answer. I initially went back to my hometown to do some detective work on the issues surrounding mental health in rural text. The last 24 weeks I’ve been interviewing, researching, building and creating life long friendships all with the purpose to create a “thing” that would help low income or non insured individuals living in extreme rural areas. My product first and foremost had to not rely on any individuals personal access to technology. Then meet the design insights and pillars I had established from my research. 

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When it was time to begin actually producing a thing, I knew it would be a “journey kit’  of sorts that included both stories from individuals dealing with similar situations living with a mental illness, as well as a 2 week starter pill pack or holder. 

In interaction design iteration is the heart of everything you do. You create, test your creation, then iterate on the feedback to make it better. 

Do date my product has gone through I believe 6 iterations now. 4 of which I prototyped out

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Placing all these iterations against my design pillars and user testing responses, I found that the power of the human story plus a plan of attack for medication regimen would be the most effective tool. But something that is very easy to understand, inexpensive to produce, familiar enough to not be foreign or strange but interesting enough to insight curiosity and interaction.

My thoughts went back to one of my home interviews where this woman had 3 separate pill boxes, the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday types, and in a brain storming session one of professors threw out an idea – what if it’s a dip can and eureka. I could craft a round pill box  that includes a small mp3 player in the center with headphones.

Each time the “wheel” is turned exposing the medication, the user can put on the headphones and press play to hear the story that identifies with that days progression in the 2 week cycle.

Click to watch animation and hear sample audio

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I tried to stay true to my design pillars, and to the core values that I tried to keep true to. My idea is that these would be distributed to MHMR centers, the centers that give psychiatric council and prescribe medication to individuals who are on medicare, medicaid or no insurance at all. 

I stayed silent to long in dealing with facing the difficult issues surrounding a low income family members mental health, so hopefully going forward my product may inspire behavior change to even the most stubborn individual. 

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The Final Presentation.

AC4D set up the final presentation as a sort of museum situation where the public was invited and it was an interactive experience where people could see your entire process from start to finish.

My station included my research, my insights, my design pillars, ALL my prototype iterations. And the actual final functioning prototype, as well as a listening station where people could hear various short stories that went along with the program.

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True Story

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We are only a few weeks away from our final AC4D presentation, and we’re excited to share with you where our exploration of designing for family discussions around aging has led us.

Currently, our team (Laura Galos and Maryanne Lee) is working on both piloting and creating ideal-state artifacts for our project, which we are calling “True Story.”

True Story is “the get-to-know-you game for people you’ve known your whole life.” It’s a card game for families in which the object is to collect stories from one another, in particular, between intergenerational players.

What Does It Do?

While collecting stories is a worthy goal for families on its own, True Story is designed to do much more. Stories provide a window into the past, but they also provide insight into the way people think, make decisions, their values, and their fears. While family members are collecting stories in the context of a game, they are also collecting perspectives from other family members about topics that might never come up in ordinary conversation.

How Does It Work?

True Story cards each feature a question about a situation that has come up in the past. Some examples are, “Tell me about a time you met a celebrity” and “Tell me about a time you went on vacation alone.”

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Other cards ask for stories around topics that our research has shown to be difficult for families to broach, such as finance, health, living arrangements, and driving. For example, a question that gets family members to talk about ill health is, “Tell me about a time you did something to improve your health.”

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Once the player has told the story, other player(s) guess whether the first player has told a true story or a fiction story. Correct guesses are awarded a token to acknowledge the collected story, and the first person to 10 tokens wins.

Why Did We Make This?

Why do families need to collect stories, perspectives, an intuitive understanding of one another’s values and ways of making decisions? Why do uncomfortable topics need to be surfaced, if only in a game setting? Why make a game of this at all?

The Making of True Story

To recap some of the thinking that went into the creation of True Stories, we returned to our last blog post about our project, written at the end of Quarter 3. At that time our goal was to develop a design solution to help facilitate the difficult conversations seniors and their families have around the major changes that come with aging. Specifically, we wanted to help start conversations about aging transitions—such as limiting driving, or looking at assisted living—between adult children and their aging parents.

While the core of idea has remained the same, over the last several months it has manifested in so many ways—from an iPad game, to a website that helps adults send letter to their aging parents, to a communication tool that uses cards to start the conversation—that amid all the changes it is affirming to look back and see how closely our current product adheres to the principles we set out at the end of Quarter 3. Based on our research and testing with families, caregivers, and aging individuals, we had developed the following criteria to which anything we made had to meet.To help families address difficult aging-related conversations, our product must:

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Design Principles: Mission Accomplished?

Use a medium older individuals already enjoy

Success! To get to True Story, we started by piloting a product we called “Playffle.” Playffle was also card-based, but felt more like a communication tool than a game per se. In our initial research back in Quarter 2, we saw that our older participants, such as Anette, 84, strongly associated cards with being social. She told us that she “love[s] to play cards. I have different groups I play with—some play more complicated games and some play less complicated ones […] It’s a good time, a lot of camaraderie there.” Our pilot participants, upon trying Playffle, greatly appreciated that the cards were non-digital. One participant, aged 82, was under the impression we were going to make a website out of our cards, was elated to hear that we intended to produce a physical product. Furthermore, even younger participants who we spoke with exhibit a wide spectrum of comfort with digital technology. Using a non-digital medium allows everyone to come to the table with a degree of certainty and comfort—a positive start to productive conversations.

Feels non-threatening for older individuals

In piloting Playffle, we explicitly created cards with questions about difficult topics, including driving, living arrangements, and daily tasks. However, we thought that by introducing these topics through hypothetical scenarios, there would be less of a sense that older individuals’ behaviors are being singled out by these conversations. In reality, declining health, trouble driving, etc. are problems that anyone can face, regardless of age. By creating scenario-based questions, we hoped to open up the dialog from one of intervention to one of mutual conscientiousness and preparedness amongst family members. For example, one of our cards looked like this:

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Our testing showed that hypotheticals are a great way of getting older individuals to open up about facing difficult situations. One pilot participant was very honest about how she could identify with one situation—about buttons and zippers on clothing becoming difficult to manage—and sharing with the other card player how she manages those difficulties. Another participant mentioned that she would like to use these cards with her daughter, who was making financial decisions our participant was worried about. In sum, older individuals not only felt comfortable with these cards, they identified them as useful for addressing difficult topics with their younger family members as well.

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Feels approachable to family members

In our discussions with adult children of aging parents, we found that there was a great deal of fear around broaching aging-related topics. That fear stemmed from angering their parent. One participant we talked to, aged 61, with a father in his 80s, said, “If you bring up the subject of driving, Dad will terminate the conversation. He will become extremely angry and stop talking. Particularly as your parents age, you don’t want to alienate them at the end.” We think that by providing a product that is comfortable and approachable for older individuals—something that will probably not make them feel threatened or angry—we increase the approachability to younger family members. When we introduced the idea of playing cards to another participant, she saw them as “Something I would do day to day with my Dad. My Dad would think its fun finding out about each other or the solutions to problems.”

Leads to solutions, not just fun bonding moments

Our pilot iteration, Playffle, was geared toward adult children and their aging parents at a very specific stage—one in which the adult children were already concerned about the changes their parents would have to make due to aging, but before a crisis had yet occurred. These adults are understandably feeling a lot of pressure and seeking quick, sure solutions that would alleviate their anxiety and make their parents as safe and well-cared-for as possible. Playffle was pretty direct about coming to solutions, not just fun bonding moments. However, the cards felt clinical—a major reason we moved toward our current product iteration. We doubt that Playffle was an enjoyable enough product for people to want to use on their own without us sitting beside them. So we made a decision to broaden the possible usage of our cards. Our current iteration, True Stories, is less direct. It is not meant for adult children who need answers immediately. It is meant as a game different generations of a family can play together to hear stories they would not otherwise have known, get a sense of how the other person/people think and make decisions, and bring up “taboo” topics, such as health and finance, long before a crisis forces the issue. However, in exchange for directness, True Story offers an enjoyable experience that increases the likelihood people will actually use it. One participant in our early testing is caring for her father, who has dementia. Increasingly, she must make decisions about her father’s care on her own without her father’s input. She told us that she wants to make decisions based on “what would my Dad do?” By creating a game that families like to play—and as a secondary benefit, helps family members get to know each other, how they think, and what they value earlier—they can help each other make aging-related decisions together later.

Includes a way to follow-up on conversations

One of the strengths of True Story is that by playing it, the game ensures that taboo topics, such as health, are aired before a crisis happens. A question such as “Tell me about a time you had a health scare” means that families will have heard a story about ill health and have some perspective on the thoughts and feelings around that topic. Later, if and when tough situations arise, each of these stories acts as a tiny window through which the conversation can be re-introduced. By the time a serious conversation about these topics needs to happen, the silence around the subject has already been broken.

Takes into considerations families who live far apart

Many families today live far apart. Partnerships, job opportunities, and geographical preferences can result in families members that live thousands of miles away from one another. In our research, many families we talked to see each only for visits on special occasions. We know that the time spent together under these conditions is valuable. True Story honors the family time together by focusing on the collection of family stories. Additionally, it’s portable—not a small consideration in cases where families must travel to see one another.

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Based on the design principles we laid out at the end of last quarter, we are confident that True Story can help families set the stage for open communication based on mutual understanding as they face major transitions, including those that occur with aging, together. Please feel free to explore our pilot version, Playffle, in the clickable prototype below. We will continue to pilot and evolve True Story until pencils down on May 2nd, so we welcome any feedback you have on our project in the comments section. Thanks!

Playffle Clickable Prototype

 

User Centered design gone wrong

This past week we read 3 articles, by three different authors. Jon Kolko’s: Our Misguided Focus on Brand and User Experience A pursuit of a “total user experience” has derailed the creative pursuits of the Fortune 500., Michael Hobbes’: Stop Trying to Save the World Big ideas are destroying international development, and Aneel Karnani’s: Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage How the private sector can help alleviate poverty.

In each article I believe that each author was trying to tell the story of how true user centered interaction design went wrong. Whether it be by big business basically creating their own definition for user centered design to appease their unwillingness to change, or as Karnani did, calling out an actual individual name CK Prahalad for trying his hand at user centered design and failing.

I decided to create an infographic artifact to illustrate my take on these three articles.

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Creating the right pilot: Trust your gut, focus on the ideal

This week I waited for my recordable greeting card to come in the mail. Anticipating that the idea was to establish a conversation with individuals, via a pen pal type situation, recording reactions and reflections that were then sent back to the first user, then to another individual to reflect or react to by recording a verbal message.  I would then use contextual inquiry to identify if this back and forth conversation (revolving around the stigma of mental illness) was helpful for the initial user in disseminating the stigma that they had to keep their condition a secret, and to be more comfortable speaking out and owning their condition, because they were at least virtually interacting with others that could identify with their emotional state on a personal level.

Unfortunately, the card did not come in, but during this time of waiting for the card to come in the mail, I was challenged with the opportunity to take a step back and ask if this was really the correct way to pilot my ideal final product. Which is a 2 week trial pack of a mood disorder medication, which included recorded stories of others who have similar conditions and how they deal with emotion, medicaiton, and manage self care. As of now I can only equate my final ideal product to the idea to those voice recorded Hallmark story books, where a child can be told a bedtime story by a loved one who may live across the country.

Yet as I was waiting for my order to come in, to pilot my idea, I had in the back of my mind that this is not the correct pilot, I just felt it in my gut. My ideal end product is actually not necessarily a back and forth conversation as the initial pilot would suggest, but a book of real people with real stories about how they felt and dealt with issues surrounding their life before a diagnosis. Then how they felt and managed getting a diagnosis, being prescribed medication, and how they felt with the idea that they may have to maintain a medication regimen perhaps for the rest of their life.

I did not believe in my first pilot idea, so I went with my gut and started gathering stories, from real people in their own words. That is what I wanted in the first place and admittedly should have spent the past week gathering these stories.

The past being the past it, was time to get to work. I created a script of questions and recruited 2 individuals to interview and record in order to deliver these stories to someone who may be hesitant to seek help, whether by stigma or general fear of a diagnosis that required them to potentially take a medication that helped them reach self-care in the long term, possibly for the rest of their lives.

This is what I did today. Surprisingly people who suffer from a mood disorder (bipolar spectrum or depression) understand what the condition is like and are more than willing to share their own stories if it has the potential to help release the stigma of being the odd man out, or the damaged ones, as well as put them at ease about the idea of having to be medicated in the long term in order to reach the goal in life they seek.

I also learned the importance of getting this information out of the computer and on to the “wall”. The wall being a place where you can visualize your journey and ideas, inspirations and wishes that you can physically look at and see on a daily basis. This allows you to be able to see where you have been, where you are going, and where you want to be. To iterate, and I acknowledge I should have done this sooner. I should have trusted my gut.

Out of respect of the two individuals I will not post the recordings until next week when I am able to edit down to the core ideals I am initially going to pilot, to a new “patient” with the same hope that it will aid in creating a virtual bond with my recorded individuals and their experiences in hopes that the stigma of being judged as the damaged one, as well as the realization that it is ok, and rather normal, often rather necessary, to seek aid of a medication regimen is not weird, or uncommon.

My pilot has changed. I now have the necessary stories/tools to relay to someone who may be feeling like they are “not normal”, but being not normal is actually ok with the appropriate treatment. Some of the greatest minds of our time have been “not normal”, and have gone on to make a true effect on changing the world.

I truly was fascinated and inspired by hearing others give their trust and conviction in helping others by revealing their personal information on tape. I appreciate the community that is willing to speak out about 1 in 4 people you may walk past on the streets where you live each day that manage and thrive some sort of mood disorder, but still having a program to not only reflect on their own actions themselves, but also be the crafters of some of the most insightful realizations about the world we live in at the same time.

Pilot testing phase 1

At this point in the process of product development, we are able now to release a few pilot tests of rough prototypes and monitor the results in order to use the information gathered to make our final product the best user experience it can be.

The hierarchy of what my products realities are that: recovery (or stability) from a mental illness cannot solely depend on medication alone. There also needs to be a support system in place for the patient to guide them through the journey and recognize intervention points when and if the patient is having a rough time or is falling off the path to stability.

This being a hypothesis derived from the last 16 weeks of research (contextual inquiry, interviews, and secondary research) led me to beginning my first pilot, focussing on simplicity and human connection.

Please keep talking
Pilot 1

Value proposition of the pilot is:

Helps an individual connect with other that are “like them” and reduces personal stigma.

The pilot could be something like:

A recordable greeting card that is mailed to an individual newly diagnosed with a “mood disorder”. The card includes a story of an individuals experiences and where that person is in their diagnosis (newly diagnosed individuals will receive stories of how people dealt with hearing their diagnosis, and how they are attempting to manage self care, individuals that are further along in their diagnosis will receive stories from others on how they deal with issues such as the stigma or the diagnosis in everyday life, as well as how they deal with medications and self care).

Inside the card there is a prompt and instructions on how the user can record their own story about how they are dealing with issues surrounding their personal diagnosis. And how to put the card in the pre-posted envelope and mail it back (to me). 

For this pilot I would act as an intermediary and the letter would come to me, which then I would vet and then phase 2 would begin. A back and forth communication between chosen individuals would be under my control for this piloting stage.  

The next person that receives the card would be farther along in their diagnosis, and would be prompted to listen to the recorded story in the card, then record over it with either a positive message on how they identify with the story that was told, or a similar story about themselves.

They would then mail it back to me, I would vet it, and then pass it back to the first user. 

This would continue always with the same first time user, but received back with a different story/reflection from a new individual. Again this would be mailed back to me for the cycle to continue. 

Less like a pen-pal but more like remote group therapy. 

The cycle of mailing back and forth would last at least 4 cycles, and then I would collect feedback from the initial user. 

I would need people who:

Have been newly diagnosed with a mood disorder, have been diagnosed with a mood disorder but are reluctant to seek out a support group, and a group of individuals that are farther along in their recovery.

They would interact with the pilot by:

  • Receiving the package in the mail.
  • Opening the package to find a recordable greeting card with a pre-posted/labeled envelope.
  • Instructions on the front of the card will introduce the narrative they are about to hear and instruct the user on how to play the recorded story of an individual dealing with a point in their diagnosis (content is currently in the works).
  • After listening to the story, the user is instructed to follow the printed instructions, with a prompt to get them started, on how to record their own story about their diagnosis.
  • The user is then instructed to place the card in the pre-posted envelope and mail it back (to me). The user will be aware that I will be vetting the content as I would like to establish a sense of trust that whatever they choose to say will not be judged.
  • After a day or so, the user will receive the same card in the mail with a new message from a different individual and instructed to keep the conversation going (by re-recoding their story, or reaction).

I will use contextual inquiry with the initial user, to establish how they felt about sharing their stories, hearing the stories of others, and if the process was beneficial. I will be testing if the method of the recorded stories at all encouraged the user to go out and speak to real life individuals whether in a group setting or a confidant. This will be my measure of breaking a personal stigma, and establishing a connection with another human through the power of storytelling.

It took a few runs to realize this first pilot (separating the medication aspect from the personal connection breaking stigmas), Some scenario storyboarding and a basic process flow about how this might be realized.

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Congruently, I have been revising the story arch of a 14 day medication trial, processing what content would be on each page, along with imagery, establishing a visual heirachy that both promotes support, and directs the eye to the second component which is the medication (one pill per page).

I am currently in the process of both recruiting the individuals that I would need to successfully test my first pilot, as well as developing the content design that will actually be seen, read, and heard on the first pilot prototype.

Diagnosis : The Chemistry of Affliction

What is your diagnosis? What is one good thing that happened to you this week?

That is how where my story begins – today.

In doing my prototype testing and scenario validation, I have been getting close with a group of folks. The people change week to week but the introductions are always the same, the explanation of what is to come is always the same. That is comforting in a way. A re-enforcement of some stability or normalcy before the next 2 hours of guided sometimes hard to hear, dialogue. I ask questions, and feel really grateful to get honest answers to my questions.

There is a relief that I have observed from people hearing other people’s stories, however mundane. Even if it is just about what the best meal they ate that week comes. There is a sincere connection from individuals who really do not know each other at all outside of the context of that room.

So again, where is my project my “thing” today? Re-capping from last week when I scrapped the concept of the advent calendar, and decided to test out my book of stories and activities that revolve around adherence to a medication program. I made some scenarios, and I showed the book to a few people and got some feedback that “man, that is a lot of words, and a lot of writing”. Which got me thinking yeah… the people that I have been interviewing and working with for the past 3 weeks who may not be able to get out of bed for a week, and who haven’t even been able to have a job for years might not be into.

When you are in a state of being down, from my personal experience even, I don’t want to do anything. I want to watch TV, I will listen to Radiolab for hours but I can’t read, I don’t want to read. I may want to write but I actually asked the question in my last session how the group felt about “homework” and WOW the reaction was f-no I’m not doing homework.

So that a little bit blew my “fun activities” along with stories as therapy for people with mental illness in west Texas needed to evolve.

How do you get the warmth of the sharing stories with another human in a totally individually packaged analogue package.

Pat, a professor here at AC4D threw out the idea of those talking greeting cards and EUREAKA! I can do this! I can bring the technology to the patient. Rather than relying on the assumption that someone possibly in the middle of nowhere has high-speed wi-fi or even cell phone connection, or even a TV. I can use these little devices to bring a persons story into their home.

So I rush out to destroy some Hallmark “tell me a story” books and recordable photo frames and greeting cards and began figuring out how they worked. The book is quite clever, it works by a series of light sensitive triggers that when exposed will playback a pre-recorded story. A different sentence by turning the page and exposing a new sensor to light by a hold in the side of the page.

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The card and the photo frame works by pressing a button to record, and then another button to play.

This week is a week of discovery. I want to introduce to isolated individuals the same feeling of being in a space with others like them. To use these technologies to connect perhaps someone alone in west Texas the opportunity to hear the stories of others from their mouths, with their inflections, stutters, hesitations and emotion to connect them through voice, with a little widget that cost probably 2 bucks to build.

This week is a week of definition of purpose, of order and specificity of content, iterating the medication regimen in the narrative, and finding that carrot that keeps the patient going. That keeps them excited about following through to the end. The book is still my book, just being spoken to the patient rather than the patient having to read the story themselves.

Activities for the week:

  1. New scenarios with this technology integration.
  2. Test scenarios.
  3. Develop a succinct description of my service.
  4. Plan out content in order or appearance.
  5. Play with technology.

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.