Project Brief: Designing for AT&T TV Search

Given the challenge to develop viable concepts for the search functionality of AT&T TV, this post is part two in a series chronicling work in our Communications in Design course. Post one can be found here


The internet has transformed television. With on-demand content available at our fingertips, users have matched expectations for their television experience to that of the technology it’s delivered through. Users treat smart devices as extensions of themselves and similarly expect viewing platforms to address unspoken needs. Many demand original content, when it’s relevant, on any device, through an interface that parallels the way they think about and search for content.


With AT&T TV, AT&T has entered the transformational business of tv and must address the role the internet plays in user relationships with television. As streaming technology makes seemingly limitless content available, some users are overwhelmed by options while others desire for more.


With universal search as a core product feature, AT&T has targeted its search functionality as an opportunity for differentiation in a saturated and changing marketplace. With the goal of becoming the center of its customers’ television ecosystem, AT&T TV seeks to create a search feature that balances user needs – capturing the way people watch tv, search and discover content, engage in their viewing experience, and convene around the screen.


Given the challenge to develop viable concepts for the search functionality of AT&T TV, I ask

How can we position AT&T TV to the center of users’ television ecosystem by balancing conflicting priorities?

I believe AT&T TV can differentiate with search functionality that targets problem areas in simplicity, choice, and experience.

Problem Area: Balancing Conflicting Priorities.

Research shows that users want more options but get exhausted when navigating them. According to NBC News, Netflix calculated that users will spend just 60 to 90 seconds browsing for content and will review between 10 to 20 titles before they lose interest and give up. Many viewers want television-viewing platforms to feel simplistic but offer variety. Users often consider tv as an experience, but ultimately want it to deliver one thing – content.

With these values in mind, I focus on problem areas in simplicity, choice, experience.


While others become more specialized, AT&T TV should feel universal. AT&T seeks to simplify the ever-expanding world of tv options into a cohesive platform.

Areas to explore: Flow. Eliminating the congestion of content and subscription service options. Personalization. Learning viewer habits and delivering options that match and explore preference


With a customer base of 130 million, AT&T serves an audience with diverse requirements. AT&T TV should deliver content that addresses a range of user needs.

Areas to explore: Integration. Options including live tv, on-demand video, premium channels, and DVR. Mobility. Content accessibility from device to device, location to location


AT&T TV can deliver unique value by capturing growing consumer trends while prioritizing serendipity, novelty, and engagement.

Areas to explore: Captivation. Incorporation of serendipity and novelty. Adaptability. Changing user behavior and culture around tv like binge-watching.


Applying design methodology to develop viable concepts for search functionality, I project eighteen weeks divided into two phases to complete this engagement. Key project phases will capture foundational alignment, contextual research, synthesis and insight development, concept creation and illustration, prototyping and refinement, in addition to product planning and market strategy.

Moving forward, I will continue with research as part of this theoretical design engagement with AT&T. I look forward to working on this project and exploring ways to challenge my perceived limitations of what a search feature can accomplish for this platform.

Competency-Based Education Initiative: Project Brief

Student Learning Online

This is part two in a series detailing a potential competency-based learning design project in higher education. You can read part one here.

A college degree is more essential now than at any other time in history. Entry level jobs in most industries require one. But not every student is ready for the rigors of college education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 41 percent of first-time, full-time college students earn their degrees in four years. Financial pressure adds significant strain to students, compounding the difficulties many of these students face.

The Problem: Too many students are unable to graduate from college given the way higher education is traditionally structured.

The Opportunity: Competency-based education can help more students receive a college education.

Competency-based education is a potential solution to this problem. This model allows students to learn at their own pace. Students demonstrate mastery of a subject via tests, projects, or portfolios when they feel they have sufficiently grasped the material. These classes can be taken online, at a fraction of the cost of attending university full-time.

Student Learning Online

The Pros and Cons of Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education has seen a surge in popularity since the rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in 2012. Online education was quickly seen as a way to reach nontraditional and underserved students in the US and around the world. Organizations such as Udacity and Udemy quickly rose to prominence, threatening to upend the world of higher education. But the dream proved elusive: although courses through these programs were much cheaper and easily accessible, persistence rates were extremely low. Udacity found that only 10% of its students would complete their courses, and of those, only half would pass.

Organizations changed course. Some shifted their focus toward corporate education, while others partnered with universities to offer a hybridized approach between traditional and online education models.

At the same time, competency-based education has grown more popular among educators. Particularly at the higher education level, the opportunity for combining the flexibility and accessibility of online classes with a go-at-your-own-pace competency-based approach has attracted significant attention. Universities such as Western Governors University and Southern New Hampshire University have proven successful with their models, incorporating mentors and other support systems to help improve student persistence. Many schools now offer options to earn online degrees.


  • Online classes
  • Individually paced
  • Mentor support
  • Low cost


  • Self-motivation required
  • Lack of physical community
  • Technology requirements

A tool to provide visualization of course progress and foster greater support and community for students would help address the cons identified above. This will be our design space, guiding our direction as we work to improve the competency-based education experience and increase the course success rate.
Design Process - Research, Insights, Prototype

The Design Space: Research, Insights, Prototype

The design process will involve three stages: research, insights, and prototyping.

Research: Research is conducted via contextual inquiry, an ethnographic method in which interviews are paired with close first-hand observation of contextual process. In this case, it will involve watching students attend class sessions and mentor meetings, as well as any online student support group interaction. It will involve probing how students think about their work and the methods they employ to stay motivated. It will also involve watching instructors interact with students and their behaviors toward student engagement.

Insights: Research leads to insights into students’ and teachers’ attitudes and behaviors. By examining patterns of behavior, I will come to an understanding of how students succeed. Often participants are unable to articulate the true motivations behind their actions and may be completely unaware of them. Insights aim to capture these blind spots. With this information, I will create design criteria that act upon the opportunity. This will lead to concept definition, setting the parameters for prototype development.

Prototype: Having established the design criteria and defined the concept of the design approach, I will develop a tool to assist students with motivation and support. The tool will be prototyped and tested for usability and benefit. The fidelity of the tool will not be prepared for public adoption. However, it will be interactive and will provide the information needed to create a confident blueprint for a final iteration. Instructions for how to create the finished product will be drafted and delivered at the completion of the project.

Timeline and Deliverables


The project will unfold according to the timeline above. Deliverables will be provided at the end of each stage, in tandem with a check-in to assess progress. Deliverables include the following:

Logistics: alignment and planning workshop, research plan

Research: research report incorporating primary and secondary research, stakeholder interviews, and completed student journey maps

Insights: service models demonstrating existing use of services and areas of opportunity, storyboard illustrating design criteria and concept definition

Prototype: interactive digital interface created for testability and to demonstrate proof of concept (not a final product), instructional user guide

Test & Iterate: finalized prototype (not a final product) and recommendations for commercial tool development, revised instructional user guide

Final: final research report and recommended next steps

The project will be completed April 14, 2020.

I look forward to working on this project and developing this tool. As the competency-based education model is further refined, the opportunity exists to help greater numbers of underserved students obtain the education they need to succeed. It is my hope that this project will help make that goal possible.

Developing a Project Brief for the UT System

To improve our communication skills as designers, we’ve been tasked to go through an entire client process from brief to deliverables. This is helpful not only for us to see the entire design process from start to finish, but it also provides us with another opportunity to externalize the value of our work and the methods we employ. To get started, we were given a 2-page document that outlined the business situation and landscape, project objective, and challenge for a design project for the University of Texas system. 

After researching more into competency-based learning, the foundation of the project, we were tasked with creating a project brief. The goal of this brief is to provide a jumping-off point for working with our client, the UT system. 

The brief should include:

  • The purpose of the work: the business situation that drives the need for the work
  • The outcomes: the desired effect of the work and how success will be measured
  • The problem to be solved: a problem statement that succinctly synthesizes onboarding material and initial secondary research
  • The approach to the solution: an explanation of the methods we will employ – including a project plan
  • Explanation of deliverables: the artifacts we will make and how they will be used 
  • Assumptions: Any commitments from the client or data that is relevant

You can read my entire brief for the University of Texas system here. Now that this brief is complete, we’ll continue with the path we suggested to develop an Insights Presentation and lastly, a Design Presentation that shows completed work. 

Key Takeaways

I entered this project assuming that the brief would be simple and easy to compile. After all – we were given such a clear template. I was proven wrong very quickly. A key role of a designer is to tame complexity — and that takes time, energy, and a lot of effort. With pages and pages of notes from secondary research, a transcript from our Subject Matter Expert interview, and endless questions about the project, the real work began. Distilling all of my thoughts, questions, and suggestions into 12 digestible slides that I could read in 10 minutes was challenging. 

One of my key takeaways from this process is to focus on the complexity of the specific problem at hand. Rather than asking myself questions about the success of education overall, I needed to focus on questions related to progress tracking. It’s easy to get caught up in the meta, but focusing on one area and the hidden complexities is where we can truly provide value as designers. 

Mapping Maker Concepts

This week, Kyle, Lauren and I continued our research into “makers” working contract jobs with variable income. We examined the insights we crafted last quarter and began pushing ourselves to view our findings from more radical perspectives, so that we can discover new ways of thinking about the problems we face. We also re-examined some concept models we created, fine-tuning them with information we learned from our readings last week, and began thinking of some new concept models to help us reframe our data and better foster the new perspectives we seek. Some models we explored include a semantic zoom of the maker ecosystem, a temporal zoom of a maker’s potential career trajectory, and concept maps exploring the maker growth cycle, the value of a makers’ art as it correlates to their network, and examinations of makers’ jobs, values, and more.

Makers Semantic Zoom

Semantic Zoom

Semantic zoom allowed us to view makers from new perspectives based on the ecosystem around them. We started with makers at the center and branched out to explore their support system, their networks, their values, their money, and their specific occupations. In our semantic zooms, we looked at their network and money in particular, using it to look at these concepts in greater focus. Examining their money allowed us to look at their income and expenses in detail, which led us to examine their business expenses in particular more closely. This allowed us to understand in more depth than previously just how much money it takes to promote yourself, to buy materials, to attend trade conferences, and to potentially start a business. Similarly, looking at their network gave us greater insight into how social events play an important role in building a network. In addition to conferences and festivals, we enjoyed brainstorming all of the different volunteer opportunities that people can pursue to build their network. For makers operating on small budgets, such experiences can prove very useful.

Temporal Zoom

Temporal Zoom

For our temporal zoom, we focused on exploring a hypothetical artist’s transition from art school to an independent contractor to a small business owner and, eventually, to retirement. Although we did not speak to anyone who experienced all of these stages, we were able to pull data from the various people we did speak to to create a potential lifecycle, with retirement influenced by the dreams that makers shared with us. What would it take to realize those dreams? One path to get there could be to create a business, something that some (but not all) makers working as independent contractors explore.

The temporal zoom was surprising because it forced us to focus on how priorities change over an artist’s life, and what sort of sacrifices and commitments would be necessary to truly shift into a business perspective. Many of our interviewees told us that they despised administrative work, and this emerged as a potential road block to building a business strategy. With business creation, we saw administrative focus balloon as free time and personal work shrunk — a tradeoff that does not fit all makers’ desires. However, as it allows for income to grow and debt to shrink, later dreams such as owning property and having greater free time to focus on personal projects grows, especially in retirement, something that most makers working as independent contractors did not envision. The temporal zoom shows one potential pathway to getting there.

Makers Checklist Concept Model

Concept Models

We created seven different concept models this week; some were revisions from models we created last quarter, and some were new models created when re-examining our data. Our Makers’ Values model demonstrates the priority makers place on agency and fulfillment over financial security, an insight that we found particularly helpful in our framing. Our Makers’ Checklist model captures makers’ different behaviors, demonstrating how makers live as “systems outlaws,” as we’ve described them. Our Networking model demonstrates that the value of an artist’s work is directly correlated to the size of their network, an insight that captures the importance that many of our interviewees place on getting themselves out there and being confident with all audiences, and our Energy Tank model shows the many obligations that makers working as independent contractors face, not just as it relates to finding work but also to paying taxes, finding health insurance, and other essential tasks. Seeing just how much is required to procure these things when you don’t work for a single employer was eye-opening, and made us feel greater empathy with those we spoke with.

Makers Values Concept Model


Maker Growth Spiral

Other models include the Maker’s Growth Spiral, which shows how makers’ art feeds into their work, which allows them to get money, which they use to further their art. These actions inform each other and allow makers to grow in all directions: in their creative abilities, in their work experiences, and in the income they bring in. The Makers’ Network model shows how networks influence the jobs makers take: as they grow, they take on bigger tasks, which requires them to seek out their network for assistance, thus providing other makers with opportunity. Eventually, as they get busier and their workload increases, makers stop taking smaller jobs, which they might then refer to a friend, and the cycle continues. Our last model, the Makers Occupation model, shows the types of work that makers do, and captures the overlap that many of our makers demonstrate. Many of our interviewees indicated a desire to constantly expand their abilities and branch out into new areas of work, and this graph demonstrated their multitalented capabilities with newfound clarity.

Makers Network Concept ModelMakers Occupations Concept Model

Progress and Priorities

This week, we were pleased with the number of concept models we crafted, and we hope to create more as we continue in this class. This allows us to expand our visual vocabularies and begin thinking of new and more insightful ways of approaching our data and sharing it with others, which will lead to greater insights and better design criteria. Our temporal and semantic zooms presented a more detailed look at makers’ behaviors, attitudes, and values, which will also prove helpful in our work.

The one area we were not able to focus on as much as we would have liked was crafting more provocative and radical insights. Even as we gained new clarity in simplifying our ideas into clear visual models, we have not yet been able to use that clarity to push our insights further. This will be our priority this week, as we continue to comb through our quotes and focus on new areas of significance, particularly those that we paid less attention to when working with JUST. These areas include makers’ mental health, networking, and values. We plan to dedicate time each day to challenging ourselves to brainstorm new insights as we simultaneously begin thinking about design criteria and new ways to address the latent needs of makers.Fine Art - Value of the Work

Visualizing the Gig Worker Experience

One of the best ways to make sense of your data is to visualize it. Make an artifact. This week our team (Allison, Michelle, and Laura) did just that as we further synthesized interviews with gig economy workers. You can learn more about our research with on-demand gig economy workers here and here. Through visualization, we add additional analysis, context, and understanding that will serve us as we head into our next phase: design ideation. We used several visualization techniques including temporal and semantic zoom to approach our data from a new perspective. 

Our concept models range from a wide view of the landscape of gig work to a personal look at how gig experiences can impact your emotional resiliency. 

Gig Lifecycle

Gig Worker Lifecycle

We created several iterations of this temporal zoom because it was a data-rich area. Rather than looking at this through a marketing lens of pre-acquisition (-2) to lapse (+2), we chose to view this from the worker’s perspective to get a better idea of what actions, strategies, and emotions they may experience at different stages. 


Worker Classifications

In the US today, there are only two worker classifications: 1099 and W-2. In Texas, there is a 20-point test to determine independent contractor compliance — and it is clearly not designed for on-demand work. As on-demand gig work continues to grow, we strongly see a need for a third category to help manage the nuance of these company / worker relationships. This semantic zoom quickly shows the different hierarchy of on-demand gig apps and the broad range of gig work as a whole. 

Gig App

Gig App Features

We saved every utterance where a participant explicitly talked about their in-app experiences. These helped us get a good understanding of which areas of the app are top-of-mind for them as they consider when, where, and how often they work. Through this, we also saw strong connections between key app features. Most notably, earnings, assignments, and status are highly interconnected.


Emotional Resilience

While many of our concept maps deal directly with the gig worker experience, there were common trends that transcended solely the gig worker mindset. One interesting theme we observed was the power of gig work to make individuals more emotionally resilient. Many people expressed anxiety or hesitation about doing gig work. From having people in their cars to constantly making a first impression, there were unexpected emotional challenges associated with the work. By acknowledging this discomfort and working through it, these workers developed a new sense of confidence. The cycle of gig work is so fast, workers were able to have several growth experiences in a short amount of time.


Short, Medium, Long-Term Goals

One of our core insights has been: 

“Shifting focus to long-term dreams helps us cope with the reality of the immediate, especially when the weight of short- and medium-term goals is too great.”

To illustrate this, we went through our interviews and visualized all of the short, medium, and long-term goals that were expressed by our participants. A key insight when developing this map was that there are common bridges that help shift focus to medium- and long-term goals. For example, a car was often mentioned as both something that required additional focus and a way to “level-up”. Similar attitudes were expressed around education or growing your social and professional networks. 

Additional Progress

In addition to visualizing our data, we also pushed to create more insights that can serve as inspiration for future design ideas. Questions we hope to answer this week are:

  • How are we organizing ideas on our wall to be more efficient? Can we shift to prioritizing insights and concept maps without having to keep all of our themes up?
  • How can we surface our best quotes to inspire us through design ideas?
  • How can we continue to push ourselves to create provocative insights?
  • How can we not constrain our ideas to just the gig perspective while still making use of our data?

The exercise of going through our blog prompt was helpful and we are committing to using that as a check-in guideline every Wednesday moving forward. 

the value of visuals: supporting sex workers

the value of visuals: supporting sex workers

Since October, Our team, Brittany and I, conducted design research to understand how the volatility and stigma, often associated with sex and sex-related work, affect the financial decision making of women in this industry. Moving into the second phase of our project, we have begun to transition from initial research and insights to design ideas and prototyping. Working towards this goal, we created concept models that visualize insights and explore areas of interest. These models ultimately serve as a tool for further sense-making and function as a translation between words and visuals to become a starting point for exploring design opportunities.

Our models captured the following ideas:

Sex Work: Exploded View. The goal of this concept model is to examine the direct and indirect value-offerings that constitute sex work. As part of our research, we believe sex and sex-related workers exchange just as much intimacy as they do sex. With this insight, we explore what sex workers are actually trading when they address the unique needs of clients. With an expanded understanding of what sex workers sell, this model produces opportunity for expanding job definitions and work descriptions.

Core Competencies. Our research led us to the insight that sex workers are actually small business owners, and that they, as well as society, should build them up as the small business owners that they really are. Typical organizations and businesses develop grounding statements that keep them in line with their internal values, mission and vision. Supposedly, having these statements built into their company brand gives them a competitive advantage over peers and contributes to their long-term success. In this spirit, we created a concept model (semantic zoom) that gathers and defines core competencies exhibited by the women we spoke with.

If we start with our most zoomed out phase, we will see the classic three pillars of a business model: Mission, Vision, and Values. We then zoom into Values, where we identify the four main values exhibited in sex-related work: Tenacity, Awareness, Determinism, and Entrepreneurialism. Next level deep, we zoom into each of these four values and get our breakdown of twelve core competencies of sex-related workers all of which came straight from the data. From there we zoomed in on one specific competency (creativity) and broke it down into a list of key qualities that define it.

Identity duality: All of the women we interviewed discussed the concept of creating a second identity or persona which they assume in their work. They must create these personas in order to establish a hard divide between their ‘real’ selves and the particular identity they perform for work. The existence of these personas is complex and nuanced but immediately helps keep the women safe by protecting their true identity and details of their real lives.

Our concept model showcases the internal experience of switching between the work persona and true identity. It shows that there is a massive loss of energy that occurs in the event of that switch. Going into a night of work, there is extensive mental and physical preparation that must take place in order to build confidence and set boundaries in inherently vulnerable circumstances. When women then come home from work and switch back into their true selves, they experience a quick and hard come-down which results in amplified negative consequences that are in polarization to the preparation stage (examples: shame, indulgence in spending or alcohol and drugs, and isolation).

Conventions of society: a mental model: Our research revealed self-reliant and nonconformist attitudes. With this mental model, we attempt to examine the relationship that sex and sex-related workers have with “the system” and conventional society. It navigates the different aspects of their lives that go unseen from conventional society. We identified and explored attitudes around government, finances, employment, and community, and believe that women in this work are both excluded from while living in defiance of certain norms in these categories.

Quick money: This concept model visualizes the relationship between quick money and financial emergencies. Our research exposed a cycle of quick cash that adopts an emotional identity leading to behavior that can trap women in financial emergencies. If we continue to isolate and study the different parts of this cycle, we may discover opportunity for support.

Sense of control in life and work throughout career: This temporal zoom compares one’s sex and sex-related work experience against their sense of control in life and work. The model visualizes levels of control at increasing levels of work experience: one day, three months, one year, three years, twenty-five years. We identify additional factors that influence levels of control including health, self-identified privilege, history of addiction, risk of violence, access to support, among other factors.

What did we learn? What was specific knowledge that we gained?

Scaling our work: By working through concept models before semantic and temporal zooms, we used them as play spaces and sources of inspiration for our zooms. This strategy ultimately deepened our knowledge by forcing us to break our own patterns of thought surrounding the data. The act of attempting to scale our insights was and continues to be a challenge, given the emotional qualities of our data. We continue to learn that because human-centered data is so qualitative, it is subject to being highly unreliable, and thus difficult to scale, in both meaning and time, while maintaining credibility and groundedness.

Grew industry knowledge: We gained knowledge about the scope of what “sex work” means throughout exploded concept map, and deepened our understanding of what the industry encompasses both in a physical setting and digitally.

Grew our understanding of the sex workers’ toolkit: Worked through a framework of ‘core competencies’ of sex work – Initially only had identified a few, but the process led to discovery of more hard skills that sex workers described as being in their toolbox.

Got intimate with intimacy: One of our core competencies of sex and sex-related workers that we dug into is a high level of intuition and empathy, which led us to zoom in on our insight related to the monetization of intimacy in sex work. This was one of our more mystifying areas of interest from the outset. We gained a significant amount of knowledge about the different types of roles sex-related workers embody when engaging in the sale of intimacy, which are different than simply selling the commodity of sex itself. We gained knowledge about how intimacy and the human condition manifest in this work for both the client and the provider.
Examples of roles: “girlfriend”, therapist, friend etc.

Creating more: Ultimately, we learned that creating more and creating fast leads to quicker clarity. We initially tried to confine ourselves to a strict plan of exactly what concepts we wanted to explore through this phase, but as we began to dig into them, other, potentially more relevant or on point areas of focus emerged. Like being an artist or songwriter, we learned that we have to create a lot of bad things before we can create one thing worth holding onto and working on. As we move forward with the work, we will continue to make more and more “bad” concept models in the search to find those little melodies worth playing out.

Progress: Did we accomplish what we intended to this week? Where did we fall short and why? What would we have done differently? What will we commit to doing differently next week?

In short, we started the week with a plan and largely executed what we set out to do.

If we were to do this work over again, perhaps we would have started digging into our temporal zoom earlier, which is rich with the potential for untapped insights. Additional synthesis can deepen our understanding of the relationships between experience, age, privilege, family circumstances, drug addiction, support systems, and degree of choice.
Next week, we will prioritize our areas of greatest interest and make more strategic use of time.

This week we also did not prioritize digitizing our concept models, which could be considered falling short. While this was an intentional choice, in the future we can do a better job at committing to work digitization into the initial plan of action.

Priorities & Commitments:

What are you committing to do this next week?

Learn how to use reframing and insight combination methods to generate new ideas.

Iterating Off Insights For Low-Income Families

We’ve started off our Q3 Studio course full of insight re-definition and pushing provocations. These new provocations are the jumping off point and will eventually be the backbone for products we develop and possibly pitch to outside stakeholders. Through our insights we’ve been able to more clearly group together the commonalities and differences we heard throughout our interviews. Our concept maps are allowing us to infer further information from our rather diverse set of participant interviews.

One of the first concepts we began to dissect was the division of labor within the home. Ana created the below diagram highlighting the cycle of a day of one of our participants in contrast to her spouse.

It’s clear, even in our smaller data set, the stereotype of women doing the household work stands true. Women simply do more than men in the household, some of which, in addition to a full time job. There simply are not enough hours in the day or week in order to complete everything for some of these figures.

An additional concept we began to map out was access to federal assistance. Throughout our interviews we heard from single parents or couples that were reliant on a system for food or funding. These systems ultimately did more harm than good at various points in a family’s journey. We realized through examining TANF that welfare has taken on an entirely new, convoluted identity that is hard to make sense of. The below graphic highlights the rather basic yet invasive eligibility determination process a family must go through in order to receive benefits. The additional map show’s the many names of TANF across the United States, each with their own set of requirements and application processes. Confusing? I thought so too.


We’re learning more about the diverse set of hurdles non-traditional families and even traditional families encounter on a day to day basis. Whether it be from societal norms, or their desire to try and provide a better life for themselves and their kin. We’re focusing more on the motherly – woman powered side of things.

This week we fell short on developing concepts for a future product, we more so explored bigger ideas that we found interesting in our conversations throughout interviews.  Going forward we’ll be ideating about products and services that can actually provide aid to these people, not just ideas themselves. In all, it was a beneficial start to our Saturday classes.

Access to concept models:


Taking AT&T Over The Top

Over the past decade, the way in which we consume media has changed drastically – this is especially true in world of television. The concept of traditional television is becoming archaic due to the expansion of smartphones and the advancements in technology and data transfer. According to a survey by eMarketer – 75% of content worldwide is viewed through a mobile device. This way of circumventing traditional service providers is called Over-The-Top, or OTT, and it’s a booming market.

With this shift in behavior, it is no surprise that many new faces are joining Netflix in this realm. Hulu, Amazon Video, and YouTube TV have all been chipping away, but recently even more players are getting a piece of the pie. Disney+, Apple+, Roku, SlingTV, and iTunes are all OTT providers getting in the game, and AT&T can be added to that list as well.

The Challenge

As AT&T joins the party, there are many obstacles that they need to consider to ensure a quality user experience, as well as looking for novel ways to differentiate themselves from the saturated market. The task given to us, is to look into the world of OTT and help AT&T create a viable concept for how user search for content, while also signifying the difference between Live TV, OnDemand, as well as Premium services like HBO that will be included in the AT&T bundle. A simple search for “game” will return information about a live sports game, any episode current, recorded, or upcoming from the Gameshow Network, as well as OnDemand Premium shows like Game of Thrones. In all instances, the way this information is presented will need to be quickly digested and understood and done in a manner that makes searching and discovery fun. With this in mind, I began the exploration into areas of interest that may be particularly useful as we begin to discover the problem space.

Areas of Interest

Searching vs navigation

Searching requires the user to have a certain understanding of what they are looking for. Much like the “game” scenario from before, they need to know a game is being played, their provider carries Gameshow Network, or have an interest in watching Game of Thrones. There is a taxation on the user to input the keywords, and do so correctly.

Navigation implies that the user does not know where they are going, much like a map at a amusement park. There may be some categories from which to choose from, but the results may be serendipitous – or they may fall flat and find nothing that excites them at all.

The combination of the two will be a unique way to alter the process in which people look for content.

Mobile Viewing

As noted earlier, 75% of the global population consumes their content from a mobile device. This is not surprising, as they are essentially mini TV’s in our pocket, and especially in less prosperous countries, they may be the only screen available to some people. As the speed of data transferring improves with 5G, more and more content will be streamed through our phones rather than a television set.

This is important when I think about a search function, because it greatly reduces the display size, and also changes the tools for interaction, from a remote control to just their hand. This may be to a user experience benefit however, as swiping and scrolling are much more pleasing than clicking through a cumbersome controller.

Future of Hardware

The last area I want to heavily consider is the emergence of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. As these both become more mainstream, it is worth considering what the process for searching and navigating in either scenario may provide. Utilizing 3-dimensional space has the opposite problem of a limited phone screen, but may be just as tricky to maneuver. I believe an effort to pioneer this space could be very interesting and unlock many opportunities for enjoyable user experiences.

Under Armour has room to grow

Under Armour is an American company that develops, markets, distributes and manufactures footwear, sports, and casual apparel based in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1996 by the CEO Kevin Plank (a former football player) who by the beginning of this year became the Executive chairman and brand chief, leaving the C-Suite role to Patrik Frisk (former COO) as a CEO.

  • Slogan “I will”
  • Mission statement “to make all athletes better through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation.” 
  • Vision statement “to inspire you with performance solutions you never knew you needed and can’t imagine living without.”
  • Core values “love athletes, stand for equality, fight on together, create fearlessly, always connect, stay true, think beyond, and celebrate the wins.”

People started noticing the brand since the beginning, firstly, because they invented their own moisture-wicking apparel, which competitors like Adidas and Nike followed through and made the same type of apparel. Secondly, by the contract of big American football teams like Oakland Riders, NC State, Arizona State, making many others follow.

The products manufactured by Under Armour include athletic shoes, t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, pants, leggings, shorts and accessories such as bags, gloves, caps and protective gear for men, women and kids. They also produce uniforms for American football, basketball, golf and soccer. They now offer digital health and fitness apps built to connect people and drive performance.

Under Armour promotes its products by sponsorship agreements with many celebrity athletes, professional teams and college athletic teams, a field in which it competes with other sports apparel companies. However, for the last couple of years, their strategy has been to put the consumer at the center of everything they do: How is UA engaging customers? What do they see as their core strengths? How does UA deliver immersive experiences? What is their relationship with their brand?

Their primary goal for retail marketing strategy is to increase brand floor space dedicated to their products. Under Armour point of sale displays and concept shops enhance the brand’s presentation within their major retail accounts with a shop-in-shop approach, using dedicated floor space exclusively for UA products, including flooring, lighting, walls, displays and images.

They are combining the physical and digital product to help their customers achieve their fitness goals. For that, they just launched a connected shoe, the HOVR Infinite, which they designed with Dow Chemical, and connects to the UA MapMyRun app. The app uses machine learning to collect data from a sensor in the shoe’s footbed and calculates the stride length and cadence. After the first run, the app coaches the user on their running form. Another product that they have is the ArmourBox that you can use by going online and writing about your training schedule, your favorite shoe style, and your fitness goals. They then use advanced analytics to send the user new shoes or apparel on a subscription basis. Their future product and goals in clothing and footwear will provide that same user experience but with no digital phone nor watch, leaning on artificial intelligence and personalization.

The company appears to have substantial room to grow. In recent years Under Armour has acquired several fitness app companies as it seeks to integrate mobile technologies to bolster its brand. UA projects substantial growth in footwear sales and additional income streams from more sales directly to consumers. The company will also continue to enter new markets, most recently hiring a talented team to initiate a plan to enter the outdoor performance apparel market.

Direct competitors

Amongst their many competitors Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour are all in direct competition with one another in order to capture market share in this lucrative space.

  • Adidas is a multinational corporation, founded and headquartered in Germany, that designs and manufactures shoes, clothing and accessories. It is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe, and the second largest in the world, after Nike. While Adidas was initially known as a soccer brand, its ownership of TaylorMade and Reebok establishes it as a diversified player in athletic apparel and goods.
  • Nike is an American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing, and worldwide marketing and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories, and services. It is the world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel, and major manufacturer of sports equipment.

All of the competitors that I mentioned are now facing a market change, they now want to focuse more on the user experience and best quality. By doing that, each brand in focusing in some sort of differentiation for example, Nike is advertising its clothing and shoe apparel with the help of the Women’s World Cup (strong effort in fighting for gender equality). Adidas is also advertising for gender equality, in this case, with Beyoncé.

Overall UA plans to continue to grow their business over the long term through increased sales of their apparel, footwear and accessories, expansion of the wholesale distribution, growth in direct to consumer sales channel and expansion in international markets. UA’s digital strategy is focused

on supporting these long-term objectives, emphasizing the connection and engagement with their consumers through multiple digital touch points, including through our Connected Fitness business.


The product objective is to allow general fitness enthusiast and athletes to set goals, track their progress and set new ones. The differentiating point of view is that any kind on fitness in the sum of smart training, nutrition, and motivation. They product must contain:

  • Goal setting
  • Training content
  • Tracker integration
  • Progress visualization and data
  • Nutrition advice
  • Community

The challenge is to develop a set of viable concepts for visualizing a user’s progress towards their goals. The concepts must:

  • Show a user’s current progress to goal
  • Show progress over a period of time
  • Reflect the product’s differentiating point of view
  • Be relevant to both, general fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes
  • Answer challenges inherent to the category (why they abandon their training)
  • Digital products are a wasteful distraction


Designing Modular Learning for UT

This week, we were given the challenge to research competency-based learning to ultimately develop viable concepts for the University of Texas as they test modular learning. Our brief suggested:

“As the amount of student debt reaches extraordinary levels, and public funding diminishes, many students are questioning the value of the traditional college degree.  Many potential students simply can’t afford to dedicate four years exclusively to attaining a degree, and must instead somehow both work and study. Furthermore, the traditional model itself is not particularly successful. Less than forty percent of students that begin a four-year degree finish at all.”

With more than 70% of students being categorized as non-traditional, it’s vital for universities like UT to maintain relevance by providing solutions that can meet the needs of working students who may have dependents or schedules that are less flexible than a “traditional student. 

What is a non-traditional student?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nontraditional is not defined by age or other background characteristics but focuses on behavior. Three sets of criteria were used to identify nontraditional students:

  • Delayed enrollment. Students who delayed enrollment in postsecondary education by a year or more after high school or who attended part-time were considered nontraditional.
  • Financial and family status. Students who have dependents other than a spouse, being a single parent, working full time while enrolled, or being financially independent from parents.
  • High school graduation status. Students who did not receive a standard high school diploma but who earned some type of certificate of completion.

What is competency-based learning?

There has been a shift away from traditional learning towards more flexible, student-led learning that is focused on competency. Competency-based education has largely been popularized by MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that allow nearly unlimited participation on the web. 

CompetencyWorks updated their definition of competency-based education to include:

  1. Students are empowered daily to make important decisions about their learning experiences, how they will create and apply knowledge, and how they will demonstrate their learning. 
  2. Assessment is a meaningful, positive, and empowering learning experience for students that yields timely, relevant, and actionable evidence. 
  3. Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. 
  4. Students progress based on evidence of mastery, not seat time.
  5. Students learn actively using different pathways and varied pacing.
  6. Strategies to ensure equity for all students are embedded in the culture, structure, and pedagogy of schools and education systems. 
  7. Rigorous, common expectations for learning (knowledge, skills, and dispositions) are explicit, transparent, measurable, and transferable.

Major players for competency-based learning include Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, Udacity, and Khan Academy. Most of these MOOCs have traditional institutional partners like MIT, Harvard, or Berkeley, but are able to offer courses at a fraction of the price. 

According to the 2019 National Student Satisfaction Report, Online Learners report the highest level of student satisfaction, followed closely by Adult Undergrads. There’s clearly a trend of success in MOOCs, yet growth has slowed in the sector. In 2018, 29 new degrees were launched by key MOOC leaders, compared to only 11 new degrees in 2019

Questions and Ideas – Free Writing:

I’m excited by the potential of competency-based education, particularly it’s goals around equity. Competency-based learning aims to dismantle systemic barriers to opportunity (time, geographical access, funds, etc). It also breaks down seemingly nonsensical testing schedules and allows students to work at their own pace. 

Digital Readiness

However, the barriers to adoption are great as we have to adopt a new model for learning, and for some — learn digital tools entirely. In 2015, 52% of adults were relatively hesitant to use digital tools for learning. Only 17% of adults are considered digitally ready. So while MOOCs can encourage equity for some, these learning models can create even greater divides for those unprepared or cautious of digital learning. 


Because of the easy access to MOOCs, I fear that students will feel less invested and ultimately, less likely to finish. Traditional institutions with open admissions policies only graduate 25% of students within 6 years, but institutions with acceptance rates of 25% graduate 87% of students within 6 years

Without a significant level of investment, either emotionally or financially, I am concerned student churn rates will be too high. The most successful will likely be a model with a low barrier to entry and a high stickiness. If anyone will download your app — how do you keep them around? DuoLingo seems to be the most successful at this because they have gamified streaks so effectively.

Flow State

The second biggest challenge will be to get people in a flow state – matching their skills with their work perfectly, so they are not either too frustrated or too bored. Being able to test learners so that curriculum is well-matched is key. 

Additional questions as I continue researching:

  • How can you encourage students to adopt a growth mindset so they are inspired when they reach difficult concepts, rather than quit?
  • How can we bring celebration into the learning experience? 
  • Without traditional timing models like semesters, how should we design courses? Hours? Weeks? Months?
  • Do these models change based on a domain? Or can the apps and service models be interchangeable for an arts degree and a computer science degree? Most services are focused heavily on the popular tech skills of today. Is that based on demand, or are those topics better to learn in a competency-based model?