News and blog posts from our students and faculty

Category Archives: Portfolio

Actually… the loudest mike drop

Reflections. Iterations. Metaphors to make sense of reality & wanting to just put something good out there in the world….

We are done, sort of. We, in not the royal sense but the sense of all of the amazingly intelligent and thoughtful individuals I have been graced to spend the last 9ish months of my life theorizing with, inquiring with, brainstorming and being honest and open with with none of the hard feelings of one who may not be terribly familiar with the idea of a critique of your work. 

This blog post is not necessarily intended to be THE intellectual article that will be posted in any journal, ever,  but a real reflection on the magnitude of the experience that is the Austin Center for Design. So lets start with this Jon character. Ok.. what? Can I say badass on a blog? Is that a thing? Insert bleep if necessary. And Pat and Matt I mean come one who’s brain functions as fast as Matt Franks.. anyone? Seriously, anyone? Pat will always have a special place in my heart as a fellow artist. That guy can not only create a scenario out of the blue in about 5min but but make 10 slides of great  animation to go along with it. 

Needless to say, the combo of the amazing team we had and the amazing professors lead to an amazing year. With teams that made REAL THINGS!! Real helpful socially conscious products that could be fabricated and put into the world, and actually work!

Me, I have a lot of thinking to do. As the sole group of me myself and I (that means it was just me) I admittedly will have a difficult time both making my thing real while working to pay the mortgage but it is nothing that I am not used to so, I am giving a go. 

My next post will be the academic what I made and how it had impact post, for now. I am still reveling in the fact that I even made it out alive. I do reflect on if I had a real team to back this thing up and what it “could have been” but that’s all I can do. What is done is done and I am pretty proud of myself for not getting teary eyed as I looked into the audience of our final presentation and saw “that look” on my moms face when I was talking about where our family had come from. 

PKT (please keep talking- Jon hates it but whatever) has a long road ahead. Non-profits, business plans, fabrication and dealing with HIPPA. We shall see but I’m 100%. This actually did mean a lot to me.

And this is the loudest mike drop.

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Technology: Strange v Familiar

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Authors:strange&familiar.002

The base for my discussion of the writings:strange&familiar.003 strange&familiar.004

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

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

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









 

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Iterations & Ideals

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

My focus was initially on the dealing with the issues surrounding healthcare, but selfishly I must admit my story begins with me. My family really in particular. 

As I feel it is important to be honest to get the most out of my work, one thing I left out of my last presentation was really the entire reason I am attempting to make my “thing” in the first place. 

My father passed away 2 years ago, and 2 years ago my life took a 180. Making other people rich by manipulating individuals to spend money through advertising paid well, but I decided to attempt to follow my heart, and do what I should have done years ago before my fathers passing. I quit. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to watch animation and hear sample audio

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

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

PKT.001

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User Centered design gone wrong

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

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

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

IDSE302_Theory_Assignment_1_Watson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pilot testing phase 1

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

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

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

Please keep talking
Pilot 1

Value proposition of the pilot is:

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

The pilot could be something like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would need people who:

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

They would interact with the pilot by:

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

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

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

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

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

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Q3 Summary

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

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

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

Q3 Wrap Up

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Summit: Ramping up for Piloting

Summit: Process and Next Steps

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About being human…

This week is winding down. There has been, on my end, a lot of interaction with new technologies which I thought I could find some clarity in what I am trying to do. To bring the compassion of group therapy, through a vocal documentation of real people going through symptoms that the user of the book I am making may be going through. Things like introduction to taking medication, side-effects, stigma, and making it through the though times.

In my case, I just want to bring the feeling that mental illness is not uncommon, or weird to those who, say in rural west Texas.

So I did A LOT  of user testing this week. Hacking a Hallmark “talk to me book” was actually a good idea. My users loved it. I loved i, well I hated it and loved it. It served as a good testing tool in bringing the stories of a real humans, with their real voices, inflections, stutterers, all somehow making this thing, this book thing, like a token. Like a virtual companion. It was like turning the pages to different bits and pieces of information told from someone who is not you, but still is like you.

The addition of the human voice makes it for some reason somewhat more real. Yes there will always be a stigma around being open and honest about mental health, that may never change,  but hopefully this will help, one person seeking help for them self to get through that day, a little easier. Bringing the patient self contained technology and not relying on wifi or cell phones is both genius and problematic. You have to look at it from both sides. There is a lot of potential for technical difficulties. But this week is all about the content.

The second part is the medication regimen, this to my advantage had been just a part of everyone that I have user tested lives. From last week you know that the carrot to keeping to the regime is by taking the pill out of the container it is in the user get access to hear the voices talking about the subject that page is addressing.

I am currently working on the content, the layout, the design that make the most sense to the audience I am trying to reach,  and doing user testing along the way.

I am focussing on a 14 day program, focusing on the major pain points of a 2 week program on a new medication.

1. An introduction to the program, and an indication of how the program works, and an introduction to the “cast of characters” that the user will be hearing throughout the journey.

Here are some quick sketches, of Please, Keep Talking.

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These are very rough, as I said more clarity tomorrow. I can say this however, what has resonated as a means to mundane user testing vocabulary has almost captured the essence in which I am trying to give an bring to those who feel they are weird or alone in a vast being of scarceness and isolation to which on occasion I can totally identify with. The next step is to get into illustrator yet, I need to do more sketching I know.

 

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The Trust Engineers: Please, Keep Talking

What am I doing:

Attempting to bring the community of help to those who need it in isolation.

Rural environments severely lack the resources to treat mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar, so I am attempting to make a group therapy and medication regime delivery service. The program (so far) consists of a recordable book of stories, guided by a (recorded) facilitator that explains the program and introduces and welcomes the program to the user.  Each book page includes a longer story series the person can listen to one piece each time they take their medication. Hopefully the larger story is compelling enough that it is a motivator to keep people coming back, to stick with the medication prescribed, while identifying with the storytellers providing the idea that they are are alone, that being different is ok.

This week I have written and re-written the statement above in the attempt to make a succinct 2 sentence description of my service, but have yet to do so. So, in any case, this week I have my semi-nameless recordable book, which I am currently calling “Please Keep Talking”.

I recorded some stories. I took my dissected Hallmark book and covered each page so I could begin to write and record my own story. I ordered electronic recordable equipment from Amazon for later use. I integrated my facilitator script, and recorded stories into my book with a “fake” peel-able blister pack for each pill that will expose the sensor to light and thus trigger the story.

Tomorrow I am testing what I have, by showing it to some folks here in Austin, and then next week (or later this week) getting this book in the hands of a person/s a little closer to the demographic that I am specifically targeting. Perhaps just heading down to Dripping Springs or Wimberley and asking people what they think. The opinion of an individual dealing with a mental illness in a city may be drastically different from someone in a rural or isolated environment. And I NEED to know

Something that might be an iteration for Q4 is the possibility of scrapping the daily series, extending the program to 30 days, and giving access to the full story up front with the “carrot” to refill your prescription and get a new story for the month. This was an insight brought to me by a new friend I have been running ideas by who thought that might be an alternate solution. Basically, keep it simple, and keep it real.

I’ve been interviewing and getting feedback this week about my “thing” from real people with real ideas, even on who and how to test an actual get my prototype in the hands of say a small town pharmacists to hand out to a personal connection, and somehow get feedback on usage and what they thought about content and if the technology worked.

There are a lot of what if’s to my isolated technology. The technology in a box could… get wet and die, it could get stepped on, it could just not work at all. It could also violate HIPPA regulations to which I am currently adamantly researching because that is certainly nothing that I wish to do in any way.

Please, Keep talking – a book of shared stories from people with mental illness, including information about how important medication is and how to deal with side effects and how to get through the tough times, is 99% complete.

Now I just need to see what people who will be using this actually think of this idea. User testing even in this context seems like an odd choice of words, but it is true, and it is research; however I would like to think of more as interaction observation taking vigorous notes on subtleties individuals may not say with their words but with their actions.

And iterate from there…

Please, Keep Talking – a study on the power of narrative/medication with individuals living with a mental illness

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So my new buddy recently shared with with me a quote that he thinks about a lot, about his battle with mental illness and his, well just “being” in society.

That ‘In this life all you have is this moment. Despite all of the stresses and pressures the only thing that matters is this, very, moment. An the best part of life is that by living in this moment you can actually acknowledge and change that person you want to become…”

Personally this sounds very difficult because I am always thinking a million miles ahead, but I get it. And I empathize. And I iterate.

 

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