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Category Archives: Creativity

Notes from the field- The Do’s and Do not’s of a well crafted Charette: A beautiful disaster

A couple of days ago we presented our studio project mid-point charette. After weeks of research, hours of travel, literally hundreds of photos and interviews with individuals sharing stories some would not believe. It was now time to run through our findings to get a bearing on our progress moving forward.

I would like to share my personal first time charette experience, and the do’s and do not’s of presenting a design research charette at a mid-point level.

I would like to first define for everyone what the actual word “charette” means as it was very foreign to me coming from the ad world. The term charrette may refer to an intense period of work by one person or a group of people prior to a deadline. In design I have found the definition to be loosely based on a number of factors, such as design field, formality, etc. For our sake it was a briefing of a project in progress, done in a visual narrative in a selected space in our classroom.

The word is pretty fun, because derived from the French word for “little cart” in Paris during the 19th century, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from their students. Students would jump on the “charrette” to put finishing touches on their presentation minutes before the deadline.

According to Dictionary.com the best way to win a design contract is through well crafted charette.

So, let us then begin with the “Do’s” that I have learned from my first charette. They are valuable, and many I learned from the “Do Not’s” section.

Do: Actually have a well crafted charette. My understanding is that well crafted does not necessarily mean simply visually appealing, as sharpie on a brown paper with some compelling imagery would very much do the trick with the right content. Well crafted involves both:

1. Understanding visual hierarchy in storytelling. Use of font size, color contrasts, and content placement to guide your audience through your narrative is effective and can be really fun.

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And that is pretty much all we got correct for the Do’s section.

Let’s just skip to the do not’s and get it over with.

Do Not: Stay up until 4am putting together your well crafted charette. Learn from my experience, if the next morning you can not even focus your eyes to read the 60pt font that is printed out on huge paper, none of your work matters.

Do Not: Forget you are telling a story, from start to finish. Each image, each quote and mark on the page should be there for a reason. Fluff information is simply that – a barrier to information that matters. (refer to Do Not #1 above)

Do Not: Forget about that giant collection of images stuffed in the corner that could probably better tell your story than a foggy brain and a hasty quote.

Learning from the do not’s here are a few additional do’s. 

Do: Make sure your information makes sense and tells the story you want to tell. Choosing the most shocking or random quotes from individuals you speak with will do nothing but divert the audience from the real narrative your are trying to tell.

Do: Always ask “Why?”. Why is this artifact here? Does it help or hurt the narrative? Is it in the right place?

Do: Proofread your content! So what you were up until 4am. A typo is a typo and getting called out on it (especially by a client) is a big fat no no.

Do: Rehearse your story. If you do not know your narrative by heart you don’t know it period. Everything that is on that board should work together to tell one larger story, and here at midpoint you should be able to tell that story, then add on how and why you will write your story further.

I could go on but future students, and future ME, I leave you with this advice. Just because it’s pretty doesn’t mean it’s not garbage. If the content makes no senses as a whole, start over.

Also, get some sleep. Just because you can stay up until 4am does not mean you ever, ever should IF you have to be responsible for formulating a complete sentence the next day.

Be Organized.

Craft Your Narrative.

GET SOME SLEEP. Actually be able to have your brain eloquently present your empathetic narrative. Where, when, and how you believe what you believe, who are your players and why are they important, then what you are going to do next?

…go to bed.

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CapMetro App Iteration 3 with User Testing V1

With now our 3rd iteration of the Capital Metro app re-design we were tasked with finding 5 willing participants to work through the flow of the design with at lease 5 pre-defined tasks to complete.

I think you must actually go through this process to really appreciate how valuable it really it. A few people were completely confused, a couple just wanted it to work like their banking app. One person was so focused on the bottom navigation that they never really looked at the main screen for indicators of how they could complete the given task in one step.

I found in my own design a ton of things that could be consolidated or eliminated all together, as well as a few missing pieces that needed to be added. Below are the screens presented (not necessarily in order) that were cut up into individual screens and handed to the user as they “clicked” on the paper to indicate they were moving to the next step. This in of itself was a daunting task keeping track of all the screens and what went next sifting through 20+ screens that you initially thought were well organized. Thank goodness we have great professors that were able to give us some pointers on how to better manage that for the next iteration.

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Tasks involved were:

1. Plan a trip to (certain location)

2. Choose time of departure

3. Buy a Ticket: Set up wallet, add money,

4. Add favorite locations

5. Check Schedules

Lessons Learned:

- needs consolidation and animation indicators were not apparent at all for the user in a static paper flow

- possibly have the option to set up your “wallet” or account on the first time you enter the app so getting from point a to b is fast and efficient. Don’t have to go through the whole process of pin verification and adding cash

- when you find your route have your “wallet” balance on the screen to see if you even need to add funds or not or if you can just get on the bus, skipping the step of “check wallet ” or “buy ticket” all together

 

Bottom Line – lots to do for next iteration, and a great learning experience. User testing, a must.

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Service Marketing and Product Marketing – Together again

In the paper written by G. Lynn Shostack: Breaking Free from Product Marketing, I was initially intrigued by the subtitle which read “ Service marketing, to be effective and successful, requires a mirror-opposite view of conventional “product” practices.”

From reading nothing beyond the above, the fact that the word “product” was italicized, and the statement so bold, the argument although seemingly obtuse, was one I was willing to at least hear out.

The paper begins basically re-iterating the initial statement in longer terms. That “new concepts are necessary if service marketing is to succeed”. The assumption for the reader at this point is only to relay the fact she is speaking that new concepts for service marketing must divorce themselves from traditional methods of product marketing. However this is not clearly defined until a bit later in the article.

Shostack has obviously made a stance in this paper that the definition of “marketing” has only been applied and tested in the world of physical tangible products, and that service industries approach to marketing is seemingly lost in game of imaginary whack-a-mole. In which they are just pounding away at game table filled with empty holes where never a mole pops up to be whacked. She states that in a service business “many companies are confused about the applicability of product marketing” and that “more than one attempt to adopt product marketing [in a service business] has failed”.

She states “service industries have been slow to integrate marketing in to the mainstream of decision making and control because marketing offers no guidance, terminology, or practical rules that are clearly relevant to services”.

I will just pause here for a moment because we have now only gotten through the first page of the paper with bold statement after bold statement with little evidence so far to back them up.

A summary of the next few pages are that Shoshack seems fixated on the idea that marketing can only apply to tangible products, once even attempting to prove herself wrong by actually citing “Even the most thoughtful attempts to broaden the definition of “that which is marketed” away from product synonymity suffers from an underlying assumption of tangibility. Not long ago, Philip Kotler argued that that “values” were created by “object,” and drifted irredeemably into the classic product axioms.”

What I understand from her very pervasive stance on product and service marketing that in no way can either service nor product marketing be approached in the same way, and thus far no suggestion for service marketing has been defined as even existing.

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So, perhaps now is a good time to bring things a little into context.

This paper was published in the Journal of Marketing in April of 1977.

That being said, basically the entire article, particularly the statement implying “It is wrong to imply that services are just like products except for intangibility. By such logic apples are just like oranges, except for their ‘apple-ness’. Intangibility is not a modifier; it is a state.” is full of outdated theories. My takeaway from this statement is that in either case of service or product marketing the human element is never taken into consideration, only the idea of something tangible.

To me service marketing involves humans, great product marketing involves great involvement with what humans need, and marketing does not have to result in anything tangible at all.  The textbook definition of a service business is this: A commercial enterprise that provides work performed in an expert manner by an individual or team for the benefit of its customers. The typical service business provides intangible products, such as accounting, banking, consulting, cleaning, landscaping, education, insurance, treatment, and transportation services.

Marketing for both products and services in reality have vast similarities. They both rely on customer satisfaction, a system of communication, loyalty, and consistency in order to gain repeat business. You cannot turn to any media source in this day in age and not see marketing for service industries, which vastly mirrors that of product marketing. In a service business you actually DO have a takeaway. The promise of something “great”.

Whether it be something like Turbo-Tax that markets an easier life through step-by-step tax filing guidance that takes the guesswork and confusion out of the process. Leaving you stress free, and able to be playing catch in the yard with your little boy within 20 min or less. Or an investment firm like Charles Schwab, that markets a one-on-one personal connection to you and your finances. Promising to care so much about your situation, as if they were an extension of your immediate family you might just think about inviting to Thanksgiving dinner.

The connection I see between service and product marketing is the human connection. Seems as though since 1977 marketing and consulting firms have done a pretty good job at figuring that out. Great experiences are what keep the customers coming back for more. And yes, you can market a service similar to marketing a product, even cross pollenating the definitions of tangibility as not just being something you hold, but something you feel.

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Can you have great Service Design without great interaction?

Last week we were tasked with reading a paper by Stefan Holmlid entitled Interaction Design and Service Design: Expanding a Comparison of Design Disciplines.

I immediately was taken a back simply by the title because of my own interpretation of Service and Interaction Design, but we will follow up more on that later.

Holmlid’s article initially struck me as being filled with citation after citation from other academics in the Service Design disciplines. The main thoughts attempting to be expressed as a gathering of information from many sources and authors grouped together to define a framework to “compare” the fields of Service and Interaction Design (Interaction design of which he later integrates with the digital world thus defining Interaction Design as IxD design).

After very broadly stringing together definitions of first Interaction design as being “a range of service settings in which interactive artefacts are used to perform service, and a set of business innovation strategies combining process innovation and interactive technology.” And Service Design in contrast to Service Development (not defined) as being “a human-centered approach and an outside in perspective (Mager, 2004; Holmlid & Evenson, 2006). It is concerned with systematically applying design methodology and principles to the design of services (Bruce & Bessant, 2002; Holmlid & Evenson, 2006).”

So, with that, and being thoroughly confused by this point in where this was all going the framework was established as being “the three analytic areas Process, Material and Deliverable.”

From each of these areas I was able to attempt to decipher how Homlid viewed each discipline categorically, Service Design and Interaction design being separate from each other but with similar and overlapping areas and created the following diagrams.

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First, the spreadsheet of attempting to organize the information in a way with the citations from the paper that I could create a visual representation of the information as I understood it, from Homlid’s POV.

However, after 3 weeks of studying and living through the process of Service Design I just don’t think there is a distinct separation of disciplines. How can you provide great Service Design with out great Interaction Design and very much vice versa?

At first I attempted to put Service Design under an umbrella of a bigger idea of Interaction design, but after much thought, and actually going through the process of attempting to create a Service Design platform for a client, the not only overlap but in my mind attempt to reach the same end goal. To create the best possible experience for the user (whether digital or physical interaction) as possible through research involving methods we are learning throughout the entire year. You can’t have Interaction design without Service Design. You can’t have Service Design without Interaction design.

I took away from Homlid’s paper that in Service design you have a physical takeaway. Such as a “thing” that you can put on your bookshelf, a lamp that you buy, etc. But I believe Service Design (which integrates seamlessly with Interaction design whether in the process of, or the use of a material object) can result in something very much non-tangible.

After a great experience with Service Design you may come away with something in which you may not be able to touch it, or feel the weight of the object or material in your hand, but it could be a memory, or experience shared between humans. This reaches into the digital world as well.  And there is no way to extract the discipline of Interaction Design from this process I believe at all.

Going forward in our larger Service Design project I actually believe that this tedious, very confusing and overly cited paper actually aided in my better understanding of how much that Interaction Design is so integral in creating a great Service Design Model. The goal is delight, happiness, and loyalty in the end to whatever is designed. You can take away a stuffed animal from the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, but you can also take away a super fun memory of throwing that ring into the mouth of the clown from the famous Loof Carousel and getting nothing tangible from it but the sheer joy of validation that you did something good when the clowns nose lights up. That is both a fantastic example of Service and Interaction design as one and the same.

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Loof Carousel Service / Interaction Design

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Creating Innovation from Convergent System Differentiators

In the Richardson Book Innovation X, Chapter 4 begins leading the reader through the complex yet fragile system of Convergence. Convergence in the past has been used, yet not heavily defined, by the action of such areas of combining media. Repurposing media for TV, Web, and mobile phones. Richardson uses the example of individuals contributing self-made videos that become a bigger part or a larger advertising campaign.

Here however, Richardson defines convergence as the means of integrating “multiple products (hardware, software, and services) and customer touchpoints to provide functionality, benefits, and customer experience that would be impossible in a stand-alone product.”

In this case an entire ecosystem is needed to house all the components of the system with well-defined touchpoints that create a seamless and delightful user experience. An ecosystem defined by being a collection of products, technologies, and other specific components that together create the functionality of the offering. Touchpoints then are described as being all the points where “customer and company intersect over time, from a customer being aware of the company’s products, to buying and using them.”

Below is a Concept Model describing my depiction of a general generic model for a convergent system.

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However… through all the examples and definitions of seamlessly convergent companies able to operate and integrate multiple elements of technology and product on page 106 of Chapter 4 in the book, Richardson introduces us to the first divergent opportunity for something new and innovative that could potentially break a companies well defined convergent system. The concept of sustainability.

He states that “sustainability is increasingly a competitive differentiator, as well as becoming necessary for regulatory compliance. Knowledge of how to achieve sustainability in a given industry will be a prized capability.

In order to achieve sustainability a company may have to go through a massive series of ecosystem changes, affecting customer touchpoints, and perhaps adding, in the beginning, more work and an actual monetary loss from the company in order to meet the new standards the company may choose to institute to be considered “sustainable”.

So in an effort to derive new an innovative ideas from Richardson’s concept of convergence, sustainability as a game changer immediately gathered my full attention. The first thing to come into mind was the electric car combined with the convergent system of a company like Car2Go. However upon further research Car2Go actually has become aware of this deviation and offers in very few places the infrastructure changes necessary to support a fleet of electric vehicles to support these vehicles both on the consumer and company side.

So what about upping the ante? What about now using Richardson’s suggestion of sustainability often resulting in the combination of multiple companies to create a broader product offering? What about Car2Go and Tesla?

The introduction of a fleet of electric vehicles that are not simply electric vehicles for utility, but now a fleet of high performance on demand vehicles people may just use for a night on the town? Or to get the chance to “test drive a Tesla”. Granted this idea completely changes the entire ecosystem that would even be placed on the current electric car offerings that Car2Go offers.

I unfortunately do not have a definitive solution for how to create a new perfect Ecosystem for something like this to happen but I can imagine that it would begin with first: Convincing the Tesla company that a car share program is not only great for both companies but will boost the image of Car2Go from necessity to luxury, and Tesla to brand evangelicalism by offering a potential not yet customer to absolutely have to have one of these cars one day.

The companies would have to integrate the Tesla recharging station model, as well as offer specialized maintenance, and a higher premium resulting in a completely new customer billing structure. I imagine much of the existing infrastructure of “checking out” your Car2Go would remain in place, but much would change. I would love to see this happen.

Below is a chart of my idea of what could happen when a company like Car2Go decides to change its infrastructure and go “Super Electric”. As you will see the company first begins smaller in its current comfortable state of convergence. But then the idea of becoming sustainable by being more environmentally friendly is introduced and the fragile tower (here expressed as a Jenga game) begins to tumble as things fall away and established touchpoints break as the ecosystem changes.

If and when the company can re-establish a new set of systems, a new convergence, that works with sustainability (and Tesla) they not only lower environmental impact, but expand product offerings, parter with new and exciting technologies and gain a real competitive edge. Click the image for the full resolution and details.

Graphics & Diagrams by Crystal Watson and William Shouse

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Oh Capital Metro App… mapping the pain

In our first assignment for Q2 in the Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving class, we were tasked to deconstruct and analyze the current state of the Austin Capital Metro mobile app. The goal of this project is to find the obvious inefficiencies in the system structure, and map them out in a visual “Concept Map” of touch points, or areas of interaction with the app that we personally deemed important to the end goal the user is attempting to create. After mapping our version of the current state of the app’s system design, we then created a new, first iteration, of what we thought would be a good starting point for the optimal system flow for completing the task of 1. planning a trip, and 2. purchasing a ticket to be able to take the trip you need.

Below is my Concept Map of the current system flow of the Capital Metro app on a relatively high level. ConceptMapAsIs-01

The main issues I found with the current app was not only the general confusion in the interface, but the redundancy of information, when things could easily be consolidated for ease of use.

Below is my first iteration of the basic system flow for a re-design of the app. The first screen being an actual geo-located map of where you are in the Austin area, and what bus stops are surrounding you visually represented by clickable icons that give you more info about the bus, the schedule, and the route.

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I also believed it was important to be able to store information about your most valued routes, and easily purchase tickets within the app, both in the constant navigation bar as well as during the establishment of your route choice.

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WICKED WEBS & DESIGN PROBLEMS

Wicked Webs & Design Problems By: Crystal Watson & William Shouse

 “The easy problems have been solved.  Designing systems today is difficult because there is no consensus on what the problems are, let alone how to resolve them.”

Each author in this segment argues for design thinking or creativity’s importance in the larger world. The authors’ positions seem to build on each other. Rittel talks about where it came from, Buchanan talks about what it looks like in the world. Paccione, DeBono and Cross take things inside, and noodle on how and where it resides in the brain. They also ponder the whys, whethers and hows about sharing it. Finally, Wyatt takes a ‘what have you done for me lately’ approach and gives us the lowdown on how to share design thinking – but with a mercenary hook.

Rittel identified and named wicked problems, that little thing we all came to AC4D to work on this year. He asks us not to consider what is the “right” thing to do, but the good thing to do.

Buchanan takes Rittel’s lead and talks about what “design thinking” looks like. He gives us a framework, the four orders of design, that push us to consider where and how to apply design thinking. He gives a nod to visual and material design, but also reminds us to consider service design and complex system design as suitable targets for creativity. He evangelizes design thinking as an apt approach to any subject matter, also reminding us that design is inherently cross disciplinary, and indicates that it draws on many kinds of intelligence and knowledge.
Pacione makes a case for design literacy – not just design thinking, telling us that design will have its greatest impact when it is no longer perceived to be in the hands of people who are professional designers and is put back into the hands of everyone. However he states that there are those that are already familiar with the methods of what he considers to be a higher state of design thinking in which he categorizes design and design thinkers into the “Master” or “Iterator of others ideas” and the “Virtuoso” the true design innovator. His methods are laid out in a series of situational diagrams that he uses to back up this theory.

DeBono takes creativity seriously enough that he developed entire systems to alter our thinking patterns, provoke movement, and evaluate their effectiveness. Interestingly enough, one of the huge examples he uses is that of humor to incite creativity, to use the pattern of lateral thinking as the actual process. He insinuates that traditional modes of thinking are artificial, learned, and so distinct that they can literally be put on and taken off as easily as a hat, with his 6 colored hat system of idea organization. Insisting that these tactics can used by anyone he regals us with tales of success from a large telephone corporation and the organizer of the 1984 Olympics. Also sure to remind us he sold them all many of his books.

Cross tells it’s not just inherent, there are ways to polish it up, improve literacy, develop fluency, to put ideas on paper, sketch and iterate to form re-solutions to any problem. For Cross, it’s a mode of thinking, something holistic and vast, not a set of be-hatted party tricks to pull out in front of Japanese businessman (DeBono, p.15).
Design is too important to be left to designers, it should be a discipline in itself, a cultivable skill, possessed to some extent by everyone.

Wyatt is less concerned with the ineffable nature of design thinking than the output, and what it will achieve for her and her business. While she encourages all to utilize design thinking, (even publishing a free download!) she seems to believe that the important work is best left to the designers. She’s strategic in choosing how deeply she steeps regular people in design thinking, and is a bit of a tease. She wants to give customers just enough information so they have a category to understand her greatness, but not enough to be able to do what she does without her.

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Is design the new literacy?

In our Design, Society, and the Public Sector class, we have just read texts by six authors around the themes of “Being a Designer” and “Process.” Each author ascribes to the belief that the world has become increasingly complicated, and that complex problems define our time. Their differences lie in their views of design in relation to this complexity. Some take the stance that design is a specialty and some argue that design should be taught as part of basic human knowledge, as the liberal arts are now.

Both Chris Pacione (CEO of the LUMA Institute) and Richard Buchanan (Department Chair, Design & Innovation, Case Western Reserve University) cite the Renaissance as the origin of the liberal arts we know today. The idea that people needed some level of math, literacy, history, natural sciences eventually became the accepted norm in Western education. Buchanan goes on to say that over time, established subjects were explored to their minutiae, and that new subjects were added, leading to a degree of specialization and fragmentation that hinders connection with each other and with everyday problems.

Design, Pacione and Buchanan argue, is the “new literacy” and a “new liberal arts of technological culture” (respectively). I’m drawn to this view of design, and think it should be encouraged in schools and in the general public. Whether or not great design comes out of a more generalized knowledge, at the very least it pulls people along the spectrum away from purely “consumer” roles and into the realm of participation and making. Liz Sanders, founder of MakeTools, pointed out in previous readings that people now have been “inundated with many ways to satisfy their consumptive needs while their creative needs have been usually ignored.” In contemporary culture we can see this need emerging in pockets of “makers” and “hackers,” and acknowledgement of this movement even in consumer-leaning spaces like advertising.

My position diagram of all six readings is posted here. Based on these readings, I have plotted each author along the axes of “design is a liberal art” vs “design is a specialty” and the views that “non-designers are participants” vs “non-designers are consumers.” The position dots are color-coded by my level of positive interest in each opinion. Warm colors signify a higher degree of interest, cool colors less. (Click to view larger)

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Although professional design is certainly a specialty and the students at AC4D are all working toward attaining that level of design ability, I agree that design should be generally taught also, for two reasons. One, so that the general population understands the value of design and can use it to address complex issues in their lives and in the world. And two, because I think making things is often joyful and empowering, an experience that “consumers” need to repossess.

Reading List:

Wicked Problems in Design Thinking, by Richard Buchanan

Discovering Design Ability, by Nigel Cross

Serious Creativity, by Edward de Bono

Evolution of the Mind: A Case for Design Literacy, by Chris Pacione

Dilemmas in aGeneral Theory of Planning, by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber

A Social Vision for ValueCo-Creation in Design, by Liz Sanders and George Simmons

Design Thinking for Social Innovation, by Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt

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Visualizing Process

Two weeks ago in our Interaction Design Research and Synthesis class, we learned about five types of work models we can create to visually represent processes and physical artifacts from research. Put another way, our team (Crystal Watson, Laura Galos, and Lindsay Josal) was able to take the qualitative data from our research around teenagers and their food choices and map them out for everybody to see.

The five types of models we created are:

-Flow: A diagram of actions between people and physical areas, without regard to time.
-Cultural: A diagram of “invisible forces,” or cultural influences that act on and between people.
-Artifacts: Drawings of tangible objects our participants interacted with.
-Physical: A bird’s-eye view map of the space in which we conducted our Contextual Inquiry.
-Sequence: A written list of actions in the order in which they occurred.

Additionally, we have a list of Breakdowns and Design Ideas: A written list of problems observed in all of the other models, along with quick, high-level design ideas that could address these issues.

Although the Breakdowns and Design Ideas list brings together all the problems we observed into a single visualization, we marked each of the models with a little lightning-bolt icon at the place each issue occurred. In total, the models give a different perspective on the actions and interactions that happened during our research. Not only did this give us a new focus on the processes by which things happen, but it also manifested a much richer level of detail than can transcripts alone. Though it felt like we were creating models relatively late in the design process, we feel that modeling would be an excellent tool in early stages of research.

Remembering back to when we conducted our Contextual Inquiries, each member of our group would sit together and recap what happened after every interview and inquiry. Mostly the sessions were casual but helpful for information retention and hearing what the group members picked up on as interesting or found confusing. Going into our next design project, which will last the remaining 32 weeks of our program, we plan to incorporate modeling into our recap sessions to delve into those rich details earlier in the project to better inform synthesis and ideation phases.

 

 

 

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Included here are our Flow and Artifact models from one interview session with two teenage participants.

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Studio: You are MY sunshine

Even on the dreariest days, in a town where droplets falling from the sky is never a thing you are prepared for, the umbrella service is here, brought to you by Laura Galos, Lindsay Josal, and me, Crystal.

You are my sunshine…

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The Result…

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