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Category Archives: Design Research

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.

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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What is the Soul of the Idea?

Last Saturday, Sam, Jeff and I narrowed down our three ideas to one. In order to do this, we had an honest discussion about which idea we were each most passionate about– that we truly thought would benefit the people we spoke to during our research.

We excitedly settled on a service that, for now, we are calling “Tipping Point”. Throughout our research we found that amongst young adults ages 22-32, while financial literacy is lacking, what is doing the most harm is the inability to balance immediate satisfaction with future stability. Here are two of our key insights from our research:

There is no satisfaction in future benefits. We need to feel immediate value to be satisfied.

We want to make good decisions but fear sacrificing more than necessary. Because we don’t know how to balance these competing desires we avoid the situation or make rash decisions.

With these insights in mind, the design idea must achieve the following:

  • Provide a narrative that supports users’ identity and ties together disparate financial actions into a bigger, motivating story.
  • Recognize that the value of money is personal and context specific.
  • Translate future benefit of wise financial actions into immediate satisfaction.
  • Tipping Point will be a service that uses someone’s habits of spending as a means to make a dent in their credit card debt. Essentially, using their habits against them. We created a storyboard to begin to think through the following scenario:

    Looking at his credit card bill online, Carl, a recent grad with a high paying job is overwhelmed by the amount of debt he has accumulated in just under a year. For the last couple of months, he’s made a conscious effort to start paying down his debt– he’s read blogs, followed experts on Twitter, but nothing has made a difference. Reflecting on this fact, he is frustrated that he has the knowledge of how to save better, but is unable to get his actions and habits under control. Knowing he needs to cut back on frivolous spending, he still wants to continue to enjoy his time out with friends.

    He sets up an account on Tipping Point, and chooses restaurants and bars as the places he spends the most money. During a night out with friends, when paying his tab he gets a prompt on his phone asking him to tip himself. Reminded of his goal, he excitedly tips himself 20%. Another message pops up congratulating him that he just paid $5 towards his credit card payment. At the end of the first month, he gets a summary of how much he’s affected his credit card debt, with some tips on how to continue to better make changes. Carl feels accomplished.



    What is the Soul of the Idea?

    This is a question that we’ve had to keep close to the heart every day this week. Sitting down and working through how to “smoke and mirrors” this together in order to test the idea with real users, we hit roadblock after roadblock.

    We started by crafting an ideal service map which we then broke down into a more lo-tech option to essentially hack it together. We did hours and hours of research between the three of us to find a service, pre-paid debit card with notifications, to get as close to the real experience of our idea as possible.


    We realized we were trying to hold our test too true to the actual idea. After much discussion and guidance from Matt, Jon, and Scott, we realized we need to step back and ask ourselves:

    “What is the soul of the idea?”

    Instead of focusing on the technology piece so much, we began to focus on the human piece. How does the idea feel?

    We are working through the tone and ideal scenario and drilling down into each moment to better craft the service. Really focusing on feeling and staying away from too many technical terms. From our research, we found that there’s a lot of frustration around not understanding finances, about not being able to change personal spending habits, which are both causing decision paralysis.


    As we craft the tone of our service, we are keeping in mind the need for it to lighten the cognitive load of feeling trapped by personal financial situations and how this can manifest in the details.


    Out of the building and into the wild

    The more we discussed the tone of the service, the more questions we had about what the service really is.

    Do we do away with the reality of the money and layer a story of keeping a fictional pet or possibly your future self alive and healthy, Tamagotchi style? Are the pings transaction-based, time based or location based? How often is too often to get notified about spending?

    The only way to move forward from here is to start answering these questions, and the only way to get some answers is to get out of the building.

    After playing out different scenarios of how the service would work, we sketched super low fidelity screens onto note cards.




    Then we put them in front of people:


    The screens portrayed different personalities for the service. One set was very straight forward, prompting the individual to throw $10 at her credit card. Other screen flows were more humorous with a character named Melvin playfully nagging you to buy him a six pack as a mask for paying down your debt.


    Keep it simple. Keep it fresh.

    The simplicity of prompting a person to throw a specified amount to their credit card was easy to understand and easy to act on, while anything showing a percentage was too overwhelming and not as satisfying. We learned that too many prompts in a short time period would elicit reactions like “…at some point, I’d start hating Melvin.”

    The importance of how the service manifests in the details became incredibly apparent during this round of testing. Playful surprises from our very lo-fi screens were well received. One guy even said, “I want to see what Melvin does for $7.00!” Another participant even began to joke around saying, “You drink tonight, Melvin. I’ll stay in.”

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    Mental Healthcare in Rural Texas: Interaction design for the people, by the people – that have no idea what the people need

    It’s true. I would imagine the majority of projects that an Interaction Designer works on are for people they may have never met, and have no idea what their users need or the processes they take to meet their needs. This could be true from anything as simple as re-constructing a bus system app if the Interaction Designer has never ridden a bus, or as complex as attempting to create, through design, a solution to the wicked problem of access to mental health care in rural America.

    The latter of the two examples is what I am focusing on, and have been for the past 16 weeks or so.

    This initial blog post is the beginning of a series of stories. Intended to serve as an overview of the backlog of all the travel, research, data synthesis, and real user scenarios (names changed) that I have gathered and now currently processing out design ideas. We will identify the key players, the where, when and how they go about meeting their needs. As well as the obstacles and challenges both the patient and the caregivers face in their journey through the difficult process of both access and care.

    There is a lot to catch up on, so let’s start from the beginning.

    I began my research focusing solely on access to general healthcare in rural America.


    I was drawn to subject this initially because of my own upbringing in extreme rural Texas. Where the nearest hospital you could visit for anything more than vaccinations or stitches on your knee after falling out of a tree per say, was about an hour away. During my contextual inquiry, where I went to a rural Texas town, investigated their medical facilities, and interviewed both physicians, caregivers, and patients, interviewing and observing them in the environments where they lived and worked; I actually realized a larger problem than access to general healthcare was access to mental healthcare. And in rural Texas, as well as the rest of the rural United States, access to mental health care facilities I found to be tedious, illusive, and sometimes non-existent.

    For most of us access to a therapist is relatively simple. The person reading this, myself included, may know a handful of psychiatrist or psychologist that can be accessed for an appointment during their lunch hour. In extreme rural areas however where the majority of the people are either on Medicare, Medicaid, or fall between the coverage gap of not being poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, and not being old enough to qualify for Medicare, are directed to privatized mental health centers. These centers are few and far between and operate on grants, donations, and the kindness of wealthy philanthropist to provide therapy and medication to those in need.

    However, there is a catch. In order for the center to pay for the visit and the medication the patient has to actually be physically present in the facility AND rather than being able to speak directly in person to a therapist, the diagnosis is done via teleconference. This means that the patient must drive, sometimes up to 3 hours to visit the center (walk ins welcome) and talk to a TV screen.


    This in and of itself is barrier number 1.

    I had the opportunity to interview a caseworker that had just retired from one of these centers and from that interview a number of insights were gained as well as some very compelling stories. She was able to give me information about the patterns she witnessed in her 14 years of service.

    That there is a stigma around seeking help for mental health issues, most likely shared throughout many societies but specifically in an area where “everyone knows everyone’s business”. There is a perception that you should be able to suck it up and it really takes loosing it all and hitting rock bottom for individuals to seek help. This generally happens when their personal support system has been tapped out. They feel alone and the final option is to drive, once again, to a clinic far away to speak to a psychologist via teleconference.

    Another issue in very rural areas is access to technology. During the course of my research I personally had zero cell phone service, and admittedly drawing from assumptions, many of the homes in the sparsely populated areas looked as if they did not have running water let alone wifi.

    And then there is the glaring isolation. Homes in the areas I visited are sometimes miles apart. There are “towns” I put in quotes, that really are just a few households spread out on a large piece of land. Some having populations of just 100ish people.

    A number of publications I found had done intense research on this very topic, thus validating that this is not just a personal problem it is a problem that affects society as a whole. One paper entitle “Mental Health in Rural America” illustrates the shocking statistics that were uncovered in their research.

    [excerpt]”In a review of studies investigating the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in rural primary care settings, Sears and colleagues (2003) found that 34 to 41 percent of patients had a mental health disorder. Additionally, results of studies of seriously mentally ill individuals indicate that rural residents have poorer outcomes (e.g., reliance on inpatient services, increased symptom severity) when compared to urban residents, especially if there are co-occurring substance abuse issues (Fisher, Owen & Cuffel, 1996; Rost et al., 1998).

    One striking difference between rural and urban populations is the higher rate of suicide in rural communities, which has been a consistent trend for more than a decade (New Freedom Commission Subcommittee on Rural Issues; NFC-SRI, 2004; Institute of Medicine, 2002; Stack, 1982; Wagenfeld et al., 1994). Specifically, the suicide rate for older adult (elderly) males and Native American youth in rural populations is significantly higher than in urban populations (Eberhardt, Ingram & Makuc, 2001).

    Adults suffering from depression, who live in rural areas, tend to make more suicide attempts than their urban counterparts (Rost et al., 1998).”

    This is a real problem.

    So after weeks of contextual inquiry, transcription, secondary research gathering and synthesizing out all this data I could, I then began developing some insights into what this all meant. There are some serious problem opportunities that could be addressed.










    Questions I asked myself along the way:

    • How can a center stay connected to their patients and monitor their mental state and medication regimen after they walk out that door?
    • How can any tracking or monitoring of a patient be performed without seeming clinical or cold?
    • How can a support system be established for patients that are isolated?
    • How can technology be taken out of the picture and a program still work?
    • How can I actually get a patient in this environment in a particular mindset to even care about following and participating in a program?

    I went through a series of many many brain dumps of potential scenarios, at least a hundred design ideas. I concept mapped, and process flow diagramed a few I thought were potentially viable. Threw those out and started over again. I did storyboard after storyboard attempting to validate through real life scenarios of how some of these ideas would play out, and finally landed on one over arching theme.

    What I am currently iterating on is a Patient Journey Kit that utilizes Fed-Ex or the postal service rather than a smart phone or a computer.

    This kit will be packaged with their medication, and seeks to guide the patient through the process of self-recovery week by week.

    I would like to include:

    • Real stories from real people expressing their experience, a new story each day/week that hopefully identifies to the patient that they are not alone. And what they might be feeling is not shameful or wrong.
    • An encouraging progress tracker, that provides information about how the patient may be feeling taking their medication, so there are no surprises and empowers the patient to be aware of their mental state.
    • A tear out and mail back interactive questionnaire that does not feel like a questionnaire but more like a personal check-in. It will be mailed to their caseworker, pre-posted with the name of the caseworker and address pre-filled for the patient’s ease of use.

    I currently have about 6 iterations of how this could possibly play out, and how the system logistics could actually work.

    Next steps include more sketching, more scenarios, and narrowing down to at least three rough working prototypes to test with both therapist and patients this week.

    I am very excited about this project moving forward. The following post will include status updates of testing results, iteration prototypes, and new insights I gather along the way.

    I would like to hear from you! All information is valuable so if there is an opinion or comment that anyone would like to share to benefit or critique the project I encourage any and all feedback.

    Thank you!



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    CapMetro App Iteration 6: Defining and Refining

    The latest iteration of the CapMetro App was intended to reduce the number of physical clicks that it would take a user to get from point A to point B, purchase a ticket, or add money to their “wallet”, and get on their bus.

    Other smaller functions such as saving to favorites, finding help info were taken into consideration but not the primary function of this iteration.

    Below is the revised concept map for this version of the flow:

    Cap Metro Concept Map - Support Process

    And below are the pre-critiqued wires of the consolidated journey:



    3-01And below is the post critiqued in class revisions to the wires:

    20141210_214335After both critique and user testing the results were mixed both positive and negative.

    My user tests did not seem to have an issue with being immediately presented with the idea of getting to a particular location from the location they were currently, via gps.

    The critique however pointed out that someone, at some point may want to not always use their current location to get from A to B, and might not realize that by clicking the “Plan a Trip” button on the navigation that option actually appears.

    My user test questions then were to specific. The task posed was get from where you are to this destination. This was not an open ended question and from this the task seemed rather obvious and was generally successful.

    The next steps are to actually take into consideration these open ended questions. What if a user wants to perform a certain task that I do not have the option for? And this is the process of iteration.

    Honestly 7 iterations is really not enough to get to the ultimate flow for the user. Testing and re-testing is really the key. Getting the wires in front of real people and knowing what questions to ask or to NOT ask might actually be the key.

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    The Debt Project: Seeking People to Interview

    Personal debt touches almost every aspect of life and according to a recent study, is a major source of stress for 46% of Americans. Our team has spent the last 5 weeks researching debt, focusing specifically on how debt relates to personal identity, relationships and community among young adults age 18 to 26. In line with the mission of our school, Austin Center for Design, the goal of our research is to find design solutions that will make a positive impact on people’s lives.

    We began our research by speaking with students, recent graduates, financial counselors, business owners, and soon-to-be parents. From these initial conversations we have uncovered lack of community support tied to personal financial issues, specifically debt, and a strong connection between identity and financial choices. In order to deepen our understanding, we need to talk with more people who are experiencing debt.

    If you are interested in participating please reach out to us. We would love to talk to you and learn from your experiences so that we can work together to find real solutions.

    We can be reached by email at:

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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.



    IMG_0286 IMG_0276

    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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    Learning by doing: Cap Metro redesign Update

    I love the curriculum at Austin Center for Design because I am never learning just one thing. This is also the reason I spend a reasonable percentage of the time feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and like I need to spend the next 48 hours bingeing on batman (the animated series), but I digress. This week I began user testing my wireframes for a redesign of the CAP Metro (Austin Public Transit) smart phone app.  We were assigned to use a form of usability test, called think-out-loud protocol, which I have not down before. So, in addition to learning more than enough about the flaws in my design to iterate on my wireframes, I learned a lot about how to conduct this kind of test, its value, and my own abilities.

    Based on my testing I have identified 3 main problems with my current design. I am looking forward to discussing them at our critique this evening to get feedback about possible resolutions.

    1) The 2 search boxes, which are intended to be From: Starting Point and To: Destination, in the trip planner are not clear. Especially because I am suggesting that the application will fill in the user’s current location as a default for the starting point. (This also connects to my first take away about how to conduct this type of test).


    2) The drill down view of a trip does not read as cohesive unit. It was not clear to users that the box at the top is the meta-view of the trip and then below are the step by step instructions. Also, it did not communicate that it was a fixed sequence of steps because users expected to be able to modify aspects of the trip inside the drill down view.


    3) The trip settings (Departure/Arrival time and Minimize: Time, Transfers, or Walking) were not obvious to user. One user thought that Depart Now, rather than indicating a setting, was a quick action button.


    These problems all pertaining to the trip-planning flow, which can be seen in its entirety below (click to zoom in):


    Also, based on my testing, I learned:

    1) Think out loud protocol testing requires giving the user a written task for him to preform using the system being tested. I discovered that I need to provide a lot more context in my written tasks. Wireframes are highly abstract, so I think some narrative about the context of use would be helpful. In particular, since I’m trying to suggest that the phone’s GPS will provide “current location” data to the app I need to include in the user’s task, his current location. Alternately, I need to create mocks up for all of the places I anticipate user testing so that the current location on the wireframe matches the location of the test.

    2) The slightest breeze will turn an orderly paper prototype test into a sprint across the parking lot to recover your home screen. Testing should be done in doors.

    3) Finding the right locations to recruit people is difficult. In general, I found at coffee shops people hanging out outside are more approachable and interruptible. Inside people were mostly deep in conversation or plugged into multiple devices. For the next go round I’m going to try the following things: Go by bike, parking is terrible in all of the places I want to do user testing (i.e. UT), try later in the day when people might be less in work mode and more in hangout mode.

    Below is an updated concept map reflecting the current system design:


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    Servicescapes to Cityscapes: Using service design tools to understand social problems

    One of the things that has been most compelling to me in our service design course so far this quarter are examples of using service design tools to understand non-commercial social interactions. In that vain, as I read Mary Jo Bitner’s “Servicescapes: The Impact of Physical Surroundings on Customer and Employees,” I imagined how her framework for understanding servicescapes would map to perceptions of cityscapes. I am in the early phases of a design research project about perceived safety and awareness of personal safety in urban environments, so this particularly relevant.

    Bitner's Original FrameworkBitner’s Original Framework

    I have recreated Bitner’s framework (above) and then modified it to push my understanding of this issue and to generate topics for inquiry in my research.

    My first iteration on Bitner’s framework kept the overall structure, just switching the roles of customer and employee with person who feels threatened and person who is a potential threat. I then evaluated each section to see if it was applicable to perceived safety and made appropriate additions and modifications.

    Bitner's Modified Framework

    This points to specific areas to pay attention to in my research. For instance, how do physical attributes of a space, like choke points and sight lines, might influence perceived safety? I will probe to see if my research participants are aware of these details. Also, the project I’m working on involves wearable technology. Looking at potential physiological responses will feed design ideas at a later stage of the project about what data could be collected and presented.

    This first iteration also pointed out to me a major dissimilarity between a servicescape with and customer and employee, and a person navigating an urban environment and evaluating his or her safety.  To visualize this difference I have created a new model using the main components of Bitner’s model.

    New Framework based on Bitner

    A service interaction is fairly unambiguous, the role of customer and employee are, at least at a high level, defined. In the case of a cityscape, a person who feels threatened may be responding to the environment in the absence of any other person. If there is another person, he is evaluated as a potential threat in the context of the environment. Moreover, the second person, or potential threat, may or may not be aware of the person who feels threatened, be aware that he is perceived as a threat, or actually intend harm.  All of this creates a dynamic and multi-pronged “service” flow.  I have also added two additional components to Bitner’s framework. Culture and awareness are lenses through which the response moderator evaluates all of the other stimuli, and will be a major focus of my research.

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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.



    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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    Healthcare literacy and access in rural Texas: Health, apathy, and access

    Crystal Watson, William Shouse and Eugenia Harris are teaming up this quarter on a research project aimed at exploring the details around access to health care services in rural small towns in Texas, and how limited availability impacts the level of care people receive as well as the level of literacy around healthcare, and how if any that information is utilized by the rural communities.

    To get an idea of the scope of the access problem, witness this quote from a 2010 article in the Texas Tribune entitled Health Care Sparse in Rural Texas:

    “Sixty-three Texas counties have no hospital. Twenty-seven counties have no primary care physicians, and 16 have only one. Routine medical care is often more than 60 miles away — and specialty care is almost unheard of.  Most of Texas’ 177 rural counties, home to more than 3 million people, are considered medically underserved.”

    Initially we were interested in this topic of research from not only personal experiences with the challenges of how individuals in the towns we are targeting with less than 5,000 people, of which Texas alone has over 1,200 of them out of a total number of cities and towns of 1,696. But after further research realized the issue may not simply lie in access but in general healthcare literacy and would like to explore this issue in more detail.

    The first place we plan to visit in our research is Haskell TX, population of 3,305 people, where the local dentist was also the ambulance driver for over 10 years, and the town veterinarian also delivered (human) babies. We are interested in uncovering  novel approaches like this around how  small communities come together to work as a unit to deal with healthcare situations, and manage their health in general (regular checkups, healthy diets and exercise etc).

    We intend to dig into this problem by conducting research with people directly affected, both patients and healthcare providers, using methods of contextual inquiry and participant interviews, as well as participatory “Positive/Negative Healthcare Experience Mapping” activity with a select group of patients.  In doing so, we hope to gain a better understanding of the challenges it entails for both providers and patients, and to uncover novel coping strategies that may have developed to address those challenges, as well as any healthcare literacy limitations uncovered during our research.

    The full Research Plan can be viewed here: 

    Posted in Classes, Design Research, Portfolio, Reflection, UX For Good | Leave a comment