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UX for Good: Introduction

The wall of missing loved ones – Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre


My name is Matt Franks.  I’m a faculty member at the Austin Center for Design.

This post marks the beginning of a series that I hope to maintain over the next few weeks on my participation in this year’s UX for Good challenge – Kigali & London.

What is UX for Good?

“UX for Good is an effort to push design as far as it can go: past forms, interactions and experiences to complex human systems, and beyond attractive, effective and elegant to deeply impactful. UX for Good is out to set the edge, so non-practitioners can see the full potential of design and practitioners can do the most meaningful work of their careers.

Each year, a handful of top user experience designers from around the world are brought together to conceptualize and develop novel interventions that help solve complex, social challenges.”

UX for good aligns to the mission of AC4D in that it attempts to make meaningful change by focusing on problems worth solving. This year’s challenge focuses on a particularly wicked problem: Converting the profound feelings elicited by genocide memorials into meaningful and sustainable action.

As part of this challenge, I will be visiting Kigali, Rwanda for several days of exploration, research, and debate around the topic of Genocide. Kigali is home to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center.

This memorial is built on the site of mass grave, housing the remains of 250,000 Rwandans who were killed over three months in 1994.

Jason Ulaszek of Manifest Digital and Jeff Leitner of Insight Labs, the founders of UX for Good, give great context into this years challenge:

“Like all such memorials, it is intended as an antidote to genocide itself – teaching us and moving us to ensure we will never again be detached and complicit.

But, for the most part, we remain unchanged. Virtually every visitor to a genocide memorial or holocaust museum can attest to overwhelming feelings of sympathy, sadness and outrage. Schoolchildren and world leaders alike leave speechless. But most visitors can also attest that they did nothing substantively differently as a result.”

For those of you who are interested in the complete design brief, you can find it here.

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my career surrounded by individuals who I would regard as more capable than myself in so many ways. I’m genuinely excited to be working on a problem whose solution is in no way obvious, and with a team of talented individuals from around the world.

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Sketching as a conversation with our ideas.

In the cartoon world, a ponderous character’s thought is depicted by a cloud over their head linked to them with a series of disconnected bubbles.  The idea is floating there, precariously tethered; it’s almost as if a strong breeze could just blow it away.  In many ways this is an accurate portrayal of how the creative process can feel.  As we start to create, our ideas feel nebulous; a flux of chaos, disparate and disconnected.  The sketching process can take that cloud and give it structure; it turns the thought bubble into a dialogue where we can actively engage in our ideas.

This dialogue is analogous to our natural sensemaking process.  Sensemaking is our attempt to “order the intrinsic flux of human action, to channel it toward certain ends, to give it a particular shape” (Tsoukas and Chia 2002, p. 507).  Sensemaking is the active conversation we have with the events that we encounter; it’s our ability to take in information, process it, and derive meaning and action from it.

Rather than focusing on the external, sketching provides us a sensemaking process for our own creative flux. When we’re presented with a problem our minds go to work to create this cloud of ideas, populating it with information and attempting to form connections. Facilitated sensemaking turns that abstract concoction into a concrete reality.  This works because sketching forces us to make decisions and apply structure to our ideas.  By externalizing we pass those fragments through a filter of our own experience creating a foundation to build our ideas from.

When we externalize the pieces of an idea through a sketch we’re making a testable “design move” which we’re able make judgements around. This positions us to make further moves that iteratively cycles and builds an idea.  When these “moves function in an exploratory way, the designer allows the situation to ‘talk back’ to him, causing him to see things in a new way – to construct new meanings and intentions” (Schon 1984, p. 132).  Over time, as the idea builds, it begins to form its own set of “likings, preferences, values, norms, and meanings” that the designer can start to judge a design against, creating an active dialogue between the designer and the idea (Schon 1984, p. 132).   A new idea is fragile; it’s easily interpreted and changed.  When we build an idea its fidelity increases and become more resistive to change. In this regard an idea develops a self determinist nature giving it resilience. Sketching forms the foundation and tool of this process.

What makes sketching special in this process is that it highlights other levels of thinking, specifically the visual aspects of our creative process.  Talking through our ideas is our default medium to work in.  Speech is a natural tool for us, but it’s inherently limited by the constraints of its pre-structured nature.  When we sketch we open up the creative process to engage a more complex dialogue with our ideas, one that can explore the visual and emotional aspects of our creativity.


Sketching as a shared conversation.

Design thrives in the context of a collaborative environment where sketching becomes the tool to quickly give others access to our ideas. Once an idea is externalized as a sketch it becomes a medium of exchange and a tool of provocation.  Sketching creates an informal, mutable narrative that allows a collaborator room for interpretation and improvisation. Collaborative sketching allows us to asymmetrically explore and share independent design moves that build on a core idea, creating a sum greater than the individual parts.

In the collaborative design process we use sketching to give others access to our ideas while simultaneously provoking them into their own.  Similar to this process, in research we attempt to provoke our participants in giving us access to their experiences and perspective. Here at AC4D my design team attempted to facilitate this process using sketching. The thought being that if structured correctly, sketching could give us access to their our participant’s experiences in a new way.

Through our research around healthcare and medical documentation we were trying to explore the emotional aspects of interacting with the health care system.  To do this the design team devised an exercise where the participant was instructed to draw the emotional journey of her medical recovery.  She was asked to a map that journey on a chart with the axes depicting “sense of emotional control” over time; she further marked the significant moments in her journey with illustrations.

This forced provocation gave our participant a new framework to re-travel her recovery.  The structure of the timeline and the act of sketching forced her to re-think her recovery as a process, using the key moments as waypoints to guide the rest of the story.  This same structure allowed us, as researchers, the opportunity to explore our participant’s experience while revealing to us the more emotional moments of her recovery.  This process generated a wealth of inspiration and insights that we’ve continually gone back to throughout the design process.


Sketching as a conversation with the world.

The creation of an idea involves us traversing the chaotic mess of our creative process, gleaning fragments from this flux and manifesting them into a tangible reality.  It’s a complex process that requires countless design moves that progress us along a non-linear path.  In the end we have a self-resilient idea that only we fully understand. Half the battle of design is creating an idea, the other half is convincing the world of it’s value .

Sketching becomes a tool that allows us to reflect on the complexity of an idea and to come out the other side with something that’s approachable.  It allows us to not only give someone access to the idea but also to a focused view of the process we took to get there; a curated access to our sensemaking process.  In this way sketching shifts from a generative process to a storytelling device.  Just as when you’re building and exploring and idea, a visual articulation highlights the aspects of an idea that can’t be articulated through language, creating a rapid narrative.

Earlier this year my design partner Scott and I applied for IXDA’s student competition.  As part of our application we produced a 3 minute video extolling our design methodology.  It was important for us to share our complex views of design in a way that was easy, fun and most importantly, brief.  We ended up utilizing a format that relied heavily on visual articulations to supplement our verbal arguments.  Sketching became a tool to give the judges a deeper access to our design philosophy. You can see the video here.

Of the liberal sciences, design is unique in its ability to tackle the complexity of human problems.  To do this we need to tools that better reflect the under-defined nature of our creative process.  Sketching is an expressive and human device that gives us a sharp provocation to cut through not only the complexity of own process but also the human problems we’re trying to address.

- jacob



Tsoukas, H., R. Chia. 2002. Organizational becoming: rethinking organizational change. Organ. Sci. 13(5) 567–582.

Weick, Sutcliffe, Obstfeld. 2005. Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking.Oran. Sci. 16(4) 409-421.

Schön. 1984. Problems, frames and perspectives on designing. Design Studies. 132-136.

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Ideal Thermostat – Iteration #4: Simplifying the Design

Last week’s iteration of my ideal thermostat interface included an overhaul in the way I thought about scheduling. In my previous iterations, I had always considered the schedule as a menu you could enter. Last week I made scheduling a mode you could toggle between; manual mode or schedule mode. The idea behind this was that you could switch over to manual mode if you didn’t want the system to change on it’s own or switch to schedule mode if you wanted to input a schedule that the thermostat would follow. This design decision eliminated the need for a hold button or a vacation mode since manual mode could accomplish the same goals.

While the new manual mode was well accepted by users during another round of think-aloud user testing, the functionality I had envisioned for the schedule mode proved to be overly complicated. After talking it over with Matt, I decided that the ability to skip ahead in the schedule was an unnecessary feature, which made my job to design a bit easier.

Now let’s delve into this week’s iterationview the full PDF of annotated wireframes here.

As with the previous iteration, the temperature is displayed front and center. I have made one significant change to the layout though. I eliminated the option to turn off the fan, because as Matt so helpfully pointed out, you cannot heat or cool your home if the fan is off. The fan is the method through which the heating or cooling is achieved. This conversation highlighted a gap in understanding I had about the way a thermostat functions and showed me that I need to do more preliminary research before I design. Luckily, this change was an easy one to make.

I also reconsidered the functionality of the dashed circle that appeared around an icon when selected. Instead of using it as a visual indicator that the system understood the user’s command, it now indicates when the heating or cooling is currently running. The fan uses the same visual indicator since as I mentioned, you cannot heat or cool without the fan.

Thermostat Off Screen

My conversation with Matt also made me realize that there was no need for a physical toggle to turn of the thermostat since turning the airflow off would disable the fan as well. To make the icon more clear, I decided to use the word “OFF”.

To fix the issues I had with users not knowing the schedule can scroll, I reconfigured it so the screen cuts through some of the content.

So how did the user testing go this time?

For this round of user testing, I approached unsuspecting victims at Dominican Joe’s off South Congress. I learned a few things this round:

  1. A user mentioned should be some indication that the temperature will “hold” in manual mode because it seemed unclear. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure if I agree but I will consider whether it should be part of a first time user experience introduction.
  2. Now that there are only two fan options, it is not as apparent what the difference is between the fan being on or automatic. I need to make this difference clear or get rid of one of the two.

I am feeling really good about the progress I have made with this interface. Yes, there are still some issues, but overall, I feel like I am getting better responses and encountering fewer issues during user testing. I’m sure developing more tasks will bring up a whole new set of issues, but I am more confident that I can handle them by trusting this iterative process.

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Final Iteration and User Testing

Testing an interface with people utilizing paper prototypes is a great way to encourage feedback and push your design in new directions.

Sometimes testing prompts you to make major overhauls to your interface because you are exposed to a critical flaw or limitation.  You draw, remake your paper prototypes and head back out to see if you’ve hit the mark.  A major benefit to paper prototypes is that they help you nail down the major paradigms for your interface before you get entrenched in a particular approach.

In Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving we’ve been using this type of iterative process to design interfaces for a thermostat (concept map, version 1, version 2, version 3).  The major paradigms for my design were nailed down early: I wanted a device with a limited number of interactions that emphasized the most common uses of thermostat to be intuitive, quick, and easy.  I also wanted a design that wasn’t going to present as another screen in the home.  That meant avoiding rectangular designs.  There’s no doubt that I was heavily influenced by the Nest thermostat and I’ve tried to maintain Nest’s usability and compelling design as a bar for my design in this project.

You can check out some user flows as well.


In the last few rounds of testing my design has been more about refining details and creating cohesion across the device.  For instance, in the latest round of testing I realized that one trouble spot for people involved an inconsistency in how the interface was displaying information versus controls.  In order to exit sub-menus, users had to use the dial to select EXIT (below).

I had attempted to draw consistency between the controls in this submenu with font size, weight, and curvature.  But that relationship wasn’t immediately registering for some users and even though they were able to problem solve their way through it, I want the interface to be as intuitive as possible given the major paradigms I’m working under.  I think at least part of the confusion has to do with the way the top of the interface presents a unified circular set of controls and that makes the user feel like the top of the device is where they have control and the bottom is informational.  My previous version was actually reinforcing this impression because the interface offers prompts related to pressing the display in the same region where the EXIT appears (see below).

I have seen in previous testing that a few prompts like the one above helped users gain authority and confidence in the interface very quickly.  Rather than scrapping my approach to the bottom of the display, I decided to include a new hint to the user to indicate areas they can use the dial to select (see below).

It’s extremely satisfying when you can learn from testing incidents, identify an issue or limitation, and design a solution that unifies and strengthens your concept rather than forcing you to compromise some aspect of the interface.

Deciding When to Move Forward

There is no perfect interface that will be intuitive for every user.  Consequently, adjusting an interface through testing can be a never ending process.  How good is good enough?

One way of answering that question is to take that which is qualitative (the overall experience of using an interface) and attempt to quantify it.  In our testing each week, our users are filling our forms that rate their experience of the interface through a series of questions they can agree or disagree with.

Their responses are then scaled to an overall scale of 0-100 and this is broadly referred to as a System Usability Scale (SUS) score.  In my latest round of testing my interface scored an average SUS of 92 (compared with an average of 82 from a previous round).   But the SUS scores feel more like a backward justification than a rich indicator of progress.

Like most things in my brief experience as a designer, I’m finding that a significant portion of the answer of when to move forward is dependent on my own judgement and the constraints we are working under (certainly in a professional setting, constraint is a critical factor).  One of my personal goals with this project is to take this design into digital prototyping.  Given the amount of time left in the course and the strength and stability of my design at this phase, I’m comfortable leaving user testing behind (at least until the digital prototype is functional) and devoting my attention to the next phase.

I’m going to attempt to build my digital prototype using HTML, CSS, and custom Javascript. Beyond just the implementation, digital prototyping will involve new decisions and challenges.   What will animations look like?  What sort of transitions between states will present the most clearly?  How should a physical device’s controls be represented digitally?  Hopefully, I’ll have some new answers in the next few weeks.



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Thermostat V3: Form and Function

I am now into the fourth week of my thermostat design.  In previous weeks, I modeled and analyzed an existing system, I crafted a new system, and I removed complexity from that system.  This week I really wanted to take a look at the form and how that relates to the functionality of the device.

Recently, the thermostat has become the hot new thing to design, with examples ranging from the genre defining to the half-baked.  The idea of the connected home is as old as the structure itself with each generation of engineers creating technology to improve our lives.  In the 90’s the vision of the future was a home filled with little screens in every hallway, illuminating the space with eerie green light.  Now, when we think of a connected home, and the devices that we use to accomplish this, we don’t want something big and bright; we don’t want a house filled with screens. What we want is something that will blend in; ultimately, these are tools that should disappear until they’re needed.

When I started this project I created an idea board around the idea of home comfort control and temperature.  There were pictures of thermostats from every era juxtaposed next to HVAC diagrams next simple thermometers.  It was the later inspiration that led me to my latest design.

There’s a variety of thermometers out there, using all manner of mechanism, but for me there is something fundamental about the simple mercury thermometer. It does one job, but it does it perfectly.  There is a story that a chemical thermometer tells in its vertical narrative; there is a relative nature to the way it displays the temperature.   I want my thermometer to reflect this simplicity but to build into the idea of a connected home.

So I started with sketches:

This progressed quickly into wireframes (a process that I outline in week 2). Through this framework I was able to map the functionality of the old system design onto the new form.  This transition allowed me to streamline the system and manipulate the design to better reflect the underlying functionality as illustrated below:

Once the design was flushed out I put the frames in the hands of testers utilizing the Think Aloud Testing model (also outlined in week 2).  The responses were generally positive.  A few users had trouble getting passed the first screen, with there being confusion around the “Away Temperature” pull-down.  I’ve previously had trouble articulating the manipulability of my interface, and as I refine this design I’m going to work to raise and clarity of these interactions.

I have surprised myself every week with this project; through the process of continual ideation and iteration I’ve been able to build on good ideas and push away from bad ones.  This has produced progressively better designs. Over the next week I’m going to build a style board while starting to raise the fidelity of my design.

You can see all of my wires here.

As always if you have any comments, feedback or questions please leave me a comment or send me a message at


- jacob

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Health Records: Research and Immersion

After outlining our interest in delving into health records, our design team (Bhavini PatelJacob Rader, and Scott Gerlach) has been immersed in research the last two weeks.  As designers, we approach research with the intent of building a rich mental model of a problem space by exposing ourselves to as many contexts and relevant viewpoints as possible.  As such, successful research is largely dependent on our ability to tap into the latent knowledge and empathize with the experience of the people who are closest to the problem space.  Layer on top of that the desire to make a social impact–one of the core tenets of the Austin Center for Design–and the need to identify and connect with at-risk research participants quickly emerges.

With a topic like health records we had a really hard time defining the problem space, let alone where to begin our research.  We knew that we wanted to study health records; we didn’t know where to start.  We leaned on a personal contact, a social worker for a major medical provider, to help us create a quick scaffold of the problem space as well as identify some of the populations who are most at risk in the healthcare system in relation to medical documentation.  Her guidance helped us focus our research on individuals without health insurance particularly individuals who have chronic or concurrent health issues, individuals with cognitive or mental health issues,  and individuals who have recently experienced an acute health event.

With a focus to guide our research we reached out to our networks and communities in search of participants who could teach us about their perspective of the healthcare system.  In this we focused on three types of participants:

Patients – currently or recently receiving care within the healthcare system.

Professionals – employed in a healthcare related role.

Tangents – interacting with the health space in other ways.

In order to effectively engage participants in each of the three domains we employed a variety of activities and techniques in the last few weeks ranging from carefully curated inquiries to ad-hoc street interviews.



Perhaps our most successful research method so far has been through intercepts, where we go out into the community and engage participants on the street for short interviews and in-context inquiries.  This method bridged access to members of the community that we wouldn’t normally be able to reach through our own networks, including the at-risk and homeless.

One area that we focused on was under the i35 freeway bridge, between 6th and 7th Streets.  On the weekends this area is used as a resource center for the homeless, where social workers and volunteers provide food and services.  To conduct our intercepts we set up under the bridge with a sign and asked participants to fill in the blank: “I want healthcare to be _________”.

This proved to be a great way to engage the community. We didn’t have to force ourselves on individuals, rather, we allowed those who were interested to engage us.  This created more open communication and allowed us to get at harder, focused questions much more quickly. Ultimately this yielded a number of rich interviews and contextual explorations with at-risk participants that we wouldn’t have gotten through any other method.


Contextual Inquiry

Our favored method in research is contextual inquiry.  This method involves going into an environment and engaging with our subjects as they participate in activities.  Actions are truth; there is much less ambiguity when we observe behavior.  This becomes tricky when we start talking about people’s health.  How do we observe behavior around a medical event or medical records?

One way is to manufacture activity.  We did this during in home interviews by prompting our participants to go through their medical records.  We would conduct a brief interview with our participants and after we would attempt to reconstruct what we called a “Doctor Timeline”.  With this activity we attempted to form a chronological list of doctors with our participants using only their medical records. This gave our participants a purpose to go through their records.


Immersive Inquiry

Another way we manufactured experiences is by turning our research lens back at ourselves. For this project all three of us have been trying to track down our medical records, allowing us to experience the struggles, time, and financial burdens that go along with that process.


Phone Interviews

A number of our participants have been in different cities or are unable to meet with us in context and so we have engaged them over the phone.  While these interviews haven’t given us the same empathetic experience that an inquiry would, they have been invaluable in terms of informing our understanding of the medical environment, especially in how medical forms and artifacts are used on the professional side.


Externalization Activities

When we are scheduled to meet with a participant we try to have a goal or direction outlined beforehand.  In some cases this means designing activities that allow us to engage our participants and encourage them to think deeply about a subject or externalize an emotional journey. Previously we talked about creating a Doctor Timeline with our participants from their medical records.  We’ve also had participants draw an Emotional Timeline.  A Doctor Timeline is a chronological ordering of medical relationships a patient might have, whereas an Emotional Timeline is a chronological order of emotions that a patient goes through.  In the case pictured above we focused on control or, specifically, the loss of control.  The participant was also asked to mark significant moments on the Timeline and externalize them in the form of a sketch. This method allowed the participant to constructively revisit an emotional time in their life while simultaneously articulating an experience framework that we were able to ask questions around. The result was one of the most emotionally rewarding and physically draining moments of our research.


Artifact Collection & Photography

Through our research we’ve collected a number of documents and artifacts associated with medical records and health journeys.  These include patient and doctor forms, lab reports, records requests, ID cards, medical records and imagery.

We also feel that photography is an invaluable part of the research process and have been diligent about documenting our participants along with their interactions and environments.


In Closing

Improvisation, thoughtful planning, persistent correspondence, trial and error, directness, and discreteness have all played important parts in our research. But above all we have found that putting decisions in front of our participants and giving them an opportunity to be heard has been the most important guiding principle in a sensitive area of research. We have been consistently humbled by our participant’s openness and honesty about a complex and sensitive topic.

If you have any comments or questions feel free to contact us at

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Thermostat Iteration 2: Less, But Better

As I’ve introduced previously (Part 1, Part 2), I have been using the skills and tools learned here at AC4D to re-design the household thermostat.

Last week I introduced my first design concept through the form of wireframes.  To reiterate, wireframes are a basic way to visually represent the functionality of a design, to focus on the usability of the design.

Following the feedback from the user testing I conducted last week I set out to further simplify my design.  In my design life Dieter Rams has been a huge influence for me (as he is for many others).  One of his core tenants is that “Good design is as little design as possible”.  Through testing it became apparent that, as simple as my design was, it was still difficult to use and confusing for my users.

The focus of my second round of wireframes was to re-examine the scheduling system.  While in the first round I felt that I had done a good job with this section, it was the area where testers struggled the most. Taking a suggestion from my classmate Scott Gerlach I decided to eliminate the scheduling entirely.  In its place I now have two temperature settings: Home and Away.  Fundamentally, the idea of a schedule for your thermostat is flawed.  Most people I’ve talked to don’t have a “usual” schedule, and even those that do, it’s flexible.  Really, all we care about is the temperature for when we’re in the house, and the temperature when we’re not.

This allowed me to simplify my design down to the two screens that you see below: 

Again I conducted user testing using the Think-Aloud procedure, this time yielding much better results.  All of my participants were able to complete the tasks without my help, and more importantly many of them found the design desirable.  The feedback I got on the “Home” and “Away” graphics were especially positive; this was something that I was worried would be difficult to understand.

I’ve always strived for simplicity in my designs, both in my engineering work and here at AC4D.   As Rams would say “Less, but better” – we have to concentrate on the essentials of a design and focus on the details. The next step in my design process is to raise the fidelity.

You can see my wireframes here.

Feel free to send me any feedback at

- jacob

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Thermostat Iteration 1: Back to Basics

As I introduced last week, I have been using the problem solving skills I’ve been learning here at AC4D to tackle the deceptively straight-forward task of designing a thermostat.

This week I took the concept model I developed last week and built what’s referred to as a wireframe model.  Wireframes are a basic visual representation of the interface – it is a powerful tool that allows me as a designer to test the concepts and functionality of an interface without worrying about color and emotion.

Below you can see part of the scheduling system. (you can see all the wires linked at the bottom)

The process of wireframing for me starts as rough sketches on paper, allowing for quick ideation and rough mocking. This quickly transitioned into basic models in the computer that were printed out and tested through a process called Think Aloud Testing.  Think aloud testing is a user feedback system where a participant is given tasks and they attempt to walk though a paper version of the interface until they reach their desired goal.  While the participants are doing this they are encouraged to verbalize their thought-process so that I can understand why they make certain choices and where they are having problems.  As my own deviation from the think aloud process, after the participant would make their way through a task, I would walk back through the interface with them and ask them specifically about areas they had issues with; why they had problems; what they expected to happen.

From the get go my goal has been to make an extremely simple product.  Even with this in mind, I was finding areas through testing that could be removed and simplified further.  This was a real surprise for me, I always figured that I would have to add functionality, but I now find myself taking it away.  I had fallen into the trap of device-specific terminology, specifically with the idea of a fan being “ON” or “AUTO”.  There are terms that as engineers and designers we become accustomed to and have an understanding about.  These device terms often don’t translate to the real world; Users are focused on a goal they want to achieve and our products should be designed towards this.  This is fundamentally why user testing and input is an important component of every part of my process.

You can see my wireframes here.

Feel free to send me any feedback at

- jacob

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Delving Into Health Records

When you hear the term health records, what do you think of?  What are the different families of documentation that are abstracted under that term and what functions do they serve?  To what extent are we (as users of the health care system) able to access, understand, and articulate our own health histories?

Recently our team (Bhavini Patel, Scott Gerlach and Jacob Rader) has been doing some research in parallel with our work at the Austin Center for Design geared towards the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Records For Life.  The Records For Life completion is about designing a new, universal vaccination record and this started getting us thinking on the current state of health records here in our own communities.  It started to become very personal for us – how can we design health records and systems for communities in other countries when our own system seems so fractured and dysfunctional?

We have so many systems to keep track and manage our financial journey, things like Mint and Simple, why aren’t there tools to help us manage our health journey.  In an age when we keep track of everything how are there not better systems for managing such a crucial part of our lives?

The more we discussed the topic, the more we realized how ill defined the problem space was and how passionate we all felt about learning more.

Part of the reason we think this problem is so wicked is due to the fear and ambiguity that exists around the health system.  At times the health care system can feel like it is intentionally set up to be difficult to use and understand, even for professionals.  We think there is an opportunity for knowledge and transparency to help highlight many of the issues surrounding the health industry.  It seems obvious that collectively, as users of the health care system, we won’t gain much clarity or authority until we can better understand, manage, and organize our health records.

Over the next month we will be conducting interviews and contextual inquires, sending out cultural probes, researching existing artifacts – all to gain a deeper understanding of what an individual’s health journey looks like and to what extent the artifacts created throughout that journey represent and/or affect the process.

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Designing Away From Complexity

Here at AC4D we are learning a process of creative problem solving we know as design.  The problems we use this process on can be large and incredibly complex, such as the design of medical records.  These problems can also be those we face everyday, such as the design of household appliances.

Over the course of the next 2 months I’ll be conducting a redesign of an everyday household object – the thermostat.  In particular I’ll be looking at the Honeywell Prestige 2.0 model programmable thermostat to use as my baseline.

The first step in the redesign is to understand the existing model. What is it trying to accomplish?  What are its primary and secondary functions?  One tool that we can use to add clarity to this process is a concept model.  The goal of a concept model is to visually map all the functionality of a system; it gives us a flexible frame we can use to view the hierarchy and relationships that exist.

Below you can see the existing system for the Honeywell model:

The title of this post is “Designing Away From Complexity”, hopefully the reason for that is apparent from the model above. It’s my generally philosophy that designs should be simple; there is a need for complexity in this world, a thermostat should not be and example of this.

Below is my newly designed model of the above system:

I’ve broken down the system to what I see as the minimum functionality that a thermostat should have.

If you have any thoughts or questions about this project feel free to email me at:

- jacob

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