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Category Archives: Reflection

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” – Brief thoughts on reframing my point of view about Bitner, and her definition of a Service Blueprint

Still grappling with how to better reframe my point of view about the last article we read about a Service Blueprint, in class tonight we began playing with crafting ideas though the concepts of metaphors and riddles.

This led me to one of my most favorite riddles I have every heard, yet never heard the answer too. You see as a kid I was obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. And as a painter since the age of 5ish, when I was 13 I had the tea party scene mural painted on my sliding closet doors. Life size of course.

In this scene the Hatter poses Alice this riddle. “Why is a raven like a writing desk?.”

Why IS a raven like a writing desk?

Alice asks him why, and he admits he doesn’t know. He was just asking. Alice chides him with, “I think you might do something better with the time than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers.”

Oh but Alice… funny enough, a similar riddle was posed to us tonight. Why is a shovel different than an airline? Huh? Oh, in the context of service design.

After some back and forth brainstorming and feverishly writing quick thoughts on a white board we came up with this:

And airline’s function relies interconnected inter-dependent touchpoints. The service is reliant on the system design and the user being able to use and understand the system.

A shovel however relies on, from it’s basic design out of the factory that it serves a purpose, for the user to perform a task. Ideally with no interconnected inter-dependent touchpoints.

What the hell does this have to do with a Service Blueprint?

A service blueprint now for me as I begin to understand it is to condense all those inter-dependent touchpoint that a complex system relies on to function correctly, visually communicated from viewpoint of how the consumer or “user” will be interacting with the system.

I will have to better analyze how I really feel about the article as a whole and get back to you on that.

So “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Well if you were a L. Carroll freak like me as a child you HAD to know the answer. With much virtual digging, and after realizing Carroll was a genuine fanatic of puns, riddles, and nonsensical realities that makes perfect sense.

One answer, could possibly be “Because neither is ever approached without caws.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Organized.

Craft Your Narrative.

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

…go to bed.

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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: 

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Expanding orders of design

In his article, Interaction Design and Service Design: Expanding a Comparison of Design Disciplines, Stefan Holmlid builds on the Orders of Design, originally proposed by Richard Buchanan and a comparison between industrial design and digital interaction design by Edeholt &Lowgren, to investigate the similarities and differences between digital interaction design and service design. Buchanan’s Orders of Design were originally suggested before the digital revolution. Edeholt & Lowgren compare digital interaction design and industrial design in 2003, precisely because of the increasing prevalence of objects with digital components that required the skills of industrial and digital interaction design.


Holmlid picks up in 2007, exploring the boundaries between service design and digital interaction design. Right away his terms suggest that this might be a false dichotomy. He distinguishes digital interaction design, which Edeholt & Lowgren reference from the broader design order of interaction design that Buchanan uses in his framework. Holmlid suggests that digital interaction design and service design both belong to the design order of interaction design.


The axes for thinking about design presented by Edeholt & Lowgren with the elaborations offed by Holmlid are useful and revealing. For instance, one of his comparisons suggests looking at social, temporal and spacial dimensionality as part of the material area of design. These are all important facets of design that might not be thought of, however, Holmlid’s  conclusions fall short. He says that service design is “highly social,” whereas industrial design is “not significantly social” and digital interaction design is, “somewhat social.” What does this mean? Holmlid does not define social. Every relevant definition of social includes the concept of a person among other persons, rather than in isolation. Holmlid claims industrial design is not social, but the very idea of mass production is anathema to isolation. Holmlid’s categorization breaks down because he assumes a stratification and separation between Buchanan’s orders of design. What comes through to me from all of his comparisons is that all designed things, be they spaces, objects or signs, exist in a matrix of human action and are actualized by that action. I propose an alternate view.

WatkissThe complexity of human action required to interact with objects has increased dramatically with the advent of digital technology and created the need for interaction design as a discrete discipline. As design has matured as a discipline and technology has advanced our awareness has expanded from the things that we make to the actions that surround them.

What would it mean to continue expanding that awareness to the systems of thought which surround human action? (I have replaced environmental design with systems design to avoid confusion with environmental graphic design or environmental concerns in design). Already, as designers practicing in the order of interaction design, we are aware that our designs are only as good as their ability to fit within the system of thought surrounding them. This is why we do research to understand mental models and cultural assumptions. This model also points out that everything we create is within this system of thought and therefore influences it. Designed things are not neutral and we are responsible to understand how they ripple out into our culture. Finally, there is an opportunity for designers to expand our work to directly creating systems of thought. Design has a role in shaping policy, education and culture.


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The critique you seek

The most exciting thing about rapid iteration is seeing the delta between attempts. I’m hoping that at the end of this evening I’ll be celebrating a big delta between last week’s critique and this week’s. It’s not that my work got torn apart last week, actually, the kind of the opposite. Although, I knew what feedback I wanted from the critique, at the end of the ten minutes, I didn’t feel like I had gotten that feedback. So, I have a new plan of attack for critique #2:

  • Ask specific questions
  • Don’t move to the next question until first question is an answered
  • Call on specific people if necessary
  • Keep my own mouth shut except to ask questions

On reflection, this course is as much about learning how to get the right feedback at a given stage of the design process, as it is about learning to create wireframes and app design. We have been discussing how the level of fidelity and style of wireframes influence type of feedback. Last class, Jon introduced the think out loud protocol for usability testing that we will be using to get user feedback to drive subsequent iterations.

With all that in mind, here is what I’m planning to show:

Concept Model Cap Metro App - New and Improved

I want feedback about what details belong in route preview when the user is still comparing options (blue section) and what details belong in the drill-down view of a specific route (pink section). I also want reactions to the paths to Routes & Schedules (yellow lines) and Next Bus (green lines). I am still undecided about the value of keeping the buy a ticket functionality (gray section). Since I don’t have user research to rely on I am going to solicit feedback about that as well.

Save new place dialogue

I’m confident that raising up and streamlining the trip planning functionality of the Cap Metro App is a priority. So I’m going to present wire frames of that section and ask about where to integrate a map view and the flow for saving frequently used places. Pfs of the concept model and additional wireframes below.

Concept Model


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The Design Particle

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Image Credit: Ardan Özmenoglu

Untitled. Ardan Özmenoglu.

It’s Thursday, you know what that means, another position diagram. Well, not quite. At least not in the 2×2 format we have all come to know and love. The most compelling quality of the recent batch of reading for the design thinking section of our theory course was not how they compared to each other, but rather how they combined.

The readings from Rittel, De Bono, Cross and Buchanan, in particular, present overlapping descriptions of design. I imagine if I could line them up and look through them, like the layers of glass in this untitled work by Turkish artist Ardan Özmenoglu, I would see a complete definition of design. I have attempted to achieve a similar result by distilling and diagraming key aspects of each author’s argument and assembling them into a whole. Resulting in the following definition:

The irreducible essence of design is the interplay of problem definition and solution generation, which happens in the process of making and reframing, in order to discover the desired future state of a specific situation.

Diagrams attached:



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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: Sew now what

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

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