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Category Archives: Portfolio


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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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…


The Result…



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Studio: I’ve Made a huge mistake….

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

Introducing, the Opa house guitar….


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Studio: Objects & Gestures

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

Slide1Slide2 Slide3 Slide4 Slide5

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Studio: Sew now what

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

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IMPOSITION TO INFLUENCE: The designers role in affecting a system of beliefs

The dictionary defines a value system as being an open set of morals, ethics, standards, preferences, belief systems and world views that come together through self-organizing principles to define an individual, a group or a culture.

So what if the organization of these principals is not so self defined?

What if these principals are molded, formed and influenced by ideas and objects that surround the self whether intentionally or not, influencing the belief systems and preferences that define a person as the person they are.

In the past couple of weeks we as a class keyed in on 6 author’s writings. Some being recognized designers, some design historians, some design thinkers. Through reading and re-reading and analyzing the scanned pages of 6 very different theories and experiences, notated with dialects from the translated Italian version to very straightforward literary magazine articles; I couldn’t help but notice that each author, whether they were a working designer or not, all had a sense of there being some sort of behavioral shift that came out of the end product of a design experiment or idea. As if the designer was given a power to control the thoughts and actions of their subjects through manipulation, experience, product, or education. Some I found a little off putting I have to admit. To be a designer to me is not to revel in the idea that you can puppet a community into jumping off the commodity cliff, but ideally perhaps educate thorough innovation, or aid in a person or communities hardships through easily accessible tools.

Although it seemed that my final conclusion was just more questions about “how do you know if you are doing it right??” I was at least driven to put down on paper my thoughts on how the 6 authors we studied fit on a simple, and very biased scale of a designers role to either manipulate and impose a value system into a public, work to adopt and understand the value system of their public, or to try to gently influence and broaden a public already established value system.

So here you go, my own personal version of a scale of importance that the role of design has, as I see it, through the ideas of Bernays, Le Dantec, Vitta, Pilloton, Dewey, and Margolin.

Click to Enjoy

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Mobile Apps for Disaster Recovery

Giving tools to people engaging them to create is the best way to encourage more volunteering response. Having the chance to craft and sculpt any of the surroundings people are in gets to the heart of volunteering. With this app the goal is to give a set of tools that stimulate a volunteer to inform about damaged areas into engage others to volunteer. By raising awareness of the need the stronger the community responds and the better survivors still feel connected to the community. I can’t think of a greater way to increase community awareness than to make tools for them to raise awareness of an disaster.

Below is an phone app for people involved in volunteer service. The goal is to engage others to become volunteers and help out on similar projects. One way that I am exploring this space is by utilizing music. This phone app below is a walk through of how an individual can document the work that they are doing and share it in a fun engaging way with other people. Music is the medium that transmits a messages to others. By having a application operating from the ideas of creative problem solving this can be a solution for natural disasters not being quickly dropped by popular media for other stories.

The other concept for Natural Disaster relief work is rooted in supporting the survivor directly.  Having an emotionally supportive phone app that provides a step by step process on how to recover from a natural disaster can empower survivors. Most of the time people are unprepared and unknowledgeable on the steps to take after a disaster occurs. The goal of this app is normalize the process of recovery by providing goal setting in task managed approach. This is an application that incorporates a task list to provide a better understanding of a sense of accomplishment. In the workflow below a user is given a set of tasks to complete in each category. The idea is to project the frustrations of the daunting task of recovery into a more understandable language with small steps and goals.

Other engagements that the app can have is check in to evacuation center. Allowing check ins on the mobile device will allow a better managed intake as well as have a the ability to communicate in multiple languages. Discussing this with peers has raised some ideas of who to focus this type of app too. Another idea I found to be profound was make this an app geared more toward kids. By creating a rebuilding education tool that incorporates the methods of play to engage kids could be extremely beneficial to the rebuilding process.

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Design Ideas For Disaster Relief

Natural disasters, and the interrelated social aftermath they cause, present an ever-expanding social plight. Through my research, the complexity of this issue has become increasingly clear. As a designer, I plan to solve for these solutions through methodical testing anditerations. The two avenues through which I will begin seeking these solutions are by examining, first, the effectiveness of the intake process of evacuation centers and, secondly, the effectiveness of volunteer readiness.

All survivors of natural disasters go through an intake process in order to receive assistance and aid. The purpose of the intake process is to collect information for agencies to report on. The Red Cross is the main point of contact and oversees the intake process for most natural disasters. While researching at the Onion Creek Evacuation Center, I was able to get a strong understanding of the intake process. I found that success of this process can be compromised by a variety of variables most commonly logistics, language barriers, lack of volunteers, loss of paperwork, and basic disorganization. In an effort to help mitigate the problem of access and outreach, mobile registration services is one design idea that would benefit both survivors and volunteers. This alternative to the intake process would allow for survivors to preregister and schedule meetings with case managers more efficiently. Mobile registration can provide information on needs before volunteers arrive and allow responders to estimate the numbers for supplies more accurately and more quickly. This format for registration, and the increased access it would provide, would be able to promote the idea of a safety ground and next steps for recovery. Mobile registration also provides a platform to educate survivors on the next steps available to them for recovery. See below for a story board that outlines a mobile app that can help families recover faster.


My second design idea involves finding new and different ways to engage volunteers in order to alleviate the havoc of natural disasters. A city’s best way to help its citizens alleviate the devastation of natural disasters is to provide preparation and information ahead of time. My research indicates that it is difficult for most community members to find out how to volunteer and help their community during these times of crises. One way to resolve this problem is to establish a website that provides information about disaster relief and matches users with volunteer opportunities. For individuals who find volunteering unchanging and predictable, the website would engage and challenge them with opportunities to expand on their preexisting skills and experience. Additionally, this platform is a great way to get high school students more involved in volunteer opportunities and ultimately bolster their college applications. Another benefit of having centralized volunteers via a website is that it allows nonprofits outreach opportunities and a way to greater inform their communities. Ultimately, immediate access to a volunteer base would greatly change the nature and efficiency of recovery when disaster strikes.  See below for a storyboard of how a service like this can work and create a community of change.

To see how I got to these as design ideas view

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Thermostat 6: Lessons & Reflection

Since October 2013, I have been working extensively on building a thermostat interface. Taking on the venture of designing a tool that most people have come into contact with adds its challenges and benefits. This is now my 6th iteration of what I have designed and tested to be the “Ideal Thermostat”. To build the initial understanding of what was needed in the thermostat design I focused on two things. One was the lesson outline from the professor that acted as a mock up version of a client requests and the other was to a build concept map off of an existing Honeywell Thermostat. This is the list of “client requirements for the thermostat project.

  • Adjust the temperature (warmer / cooler)
  • Switch between heating and cooling
  • Turn the system off and on
  • Set / edit a 7 day schedule
  • Interrupt the schedule to adjust the temperature
  • Have a date / time function
  • Have thermostat prompt when the the user could break the system by switching A/C on in winter.

After mapping the system, see: (Cleaning Up Design Complication), one thing became a focus to me, simplicity. Looking at the rough draft of the concept map it was apparent to me how overwhelming this particular system is. Initially, I wanted to scrap everything because of how frustrating it was to achieve objectives in the Honeywell system. After initial prototypes failed miserably I began to dive deeper into what the interaction of a thermostat is with a user. I used the book Microinteractions, by Dan Saffer as a guide to build a better concept. It helped me in gaining understanding with how to look at exploring using visual clues for user goal completion. This is using recognizable images and repeatable actions to form a basis in how to use a system. What I began to learn is that I was not designing for visual aesthetics but designing for visual communication. The more effective I can show the thermostat the better the user could make the system a tool to achieve desired goals.

*Bringing users to the desired goal by eliminating multiple options and highlighting interaction through text.

The thermostat successfully incorporates all of the requirements laid out in the beginning of the course. It has been tested with users and iterated upon to this point. The Version 6 Ideal Thermostat is an intuitive design that utilizes the benefits of progressive disclosure and feedback models. This thermostat communicates to the users in a language that is understood by users. The last tests for this thermostat provided feedback that the visual artifacts are successful in conveying importance and how to use them.

*Accounting for user choice. These are multiple states that users can get based off of there decision they make. They provide visual feedback for what the prior decision was.

Overall, I enjoyed this project very much. The thermostat provided me insight on how to investigate mental maps of others. I learned how important it is to use visual artifacts as tools to complete goals or initiate the interaction. Looking back I have been able to bring this thermostat from what I now understand as a conceptual nightmare into well designed deliverable. The process has pointed out the importance to be able to understand when to stop moving the project forward.

This is my final mapping of the “Ideal Thermostat”.

Here are links to the previous posts.

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Thermostat 5: Progressive Disclosure and Feedback Models

This is now my fifth version of the ideal state for thermostat design. I have previously posted other versions of my progress of developing an intuitive design for a thermostat. The posts have included information that has been gained through a process of user testing called “think aloud testing”. It has been helpful for me as a designer to do this because it sheds light on areas that I can communicate better through design.

Over the design process I have learned that what might seem the most intuitive work flows to me is not always the case when it involves another persons point of view. I could understand this from even evaluating testing between users. As a test administrator I get to see different results amongst the different users on how the set out to in walking a path to completing a goal. Using this information I have been building off of the information through testing and now presenting the fifth version in this post. The previous versions of the ideal thermostat can be viewed at the end of this post.

In this round of testing the fluid progress of a user has become much more uniform and clear. Round 5 might be the first time when multiple users successfully completed each task with no more than one decision hesitation and no extra steps taken to complete the desired task.

A big difference in the testing is attributed to incorporating progressive disclosure models into the thermostat and feedback boxes. A progressive disclosure is a design technique I am using to reduce an overwhelming feeling from the user when something that might seem jarring. It has occurred in testing mostly when introducing a new interface or when jumping to different page layouts.

Feedback is a microinteraction technique that is being implemented in the scheduling function of this thermostat. The goal of feedback is to have the user keeping “playing” with the thermostat overtime. I am doing this by providing the user a set of prompts when scheduling is on and adjustments are made. Without this the user is more likely to not use temperature scheduling and disregard its benefits. I have provided example of both feedback and progressive disclosure models below in the breakdown of test results.

Here is the breakdown of test results:

Prompt A, B, C, and D had no hesitations or second steps. Some of the wording in the prompt can be cleaned up to increase confidence level in user flow.

Prompt E: Visually to jarring. Users did not like the interaction and were surprised when the screen went black with only a couple buttons left over.

Correction: Have the off screen appear from slow descending from top as a shield or with a gradient. By doing this a transition will guide the user into the new state similar to a progressive disclosure model.

Prompt F:  Feedback button icons unexpected for one user. After the testing the user discussed that it made sense but they just did not expect that feedback  interaction to happen in the area it happened. This is not good because the primary function if feedback it to have the user find it enjoyable and wanting to engage with the buttons.

Corrections: The layout of the feedback box is being slightly altered. This does not answer the problem space for that one area. Variations will be tested to see if an action can happen in the scheduling to satisfy the users insight.

Prompt F. Example of Feedback

Prompt G: In Order to prevent the users from turning on the AC in the winter a feedback box occurs. It informs users the problems that can happen in a brief statement. The feedback icon also has norgie which is a icon that can be clicked to find out even further information. When clicked progressive disclosure model slides down from the feedback box. It has conclusive information that details why the user is being stopped in their goal to adjust the system to AC.

Users responded well to it. Many liked the interaction and often did not even hit the norgie to discover more info. One participant after reading the feedback box said “Oh, that’s disturbing.” when considering the system breaking.

Prompt G: Example of Progressive Disclosure Model

Overall testing this round has gone much smoother that all previous tests. At this point it feels like I am close to a final version of the ideal thermostat. There is one more round of testing and I plan to make a couple subtle changes and incorporate and system setup section.

Previous Versions:

Thermostat Wire Frame 4

Thermostat Wire Frame 3

Thermostat Wire Frame 2

Thermostat Wire Frame 1

Cleaning Up Design Complication

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