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Micro-disruption

For our final readings of our year at AC4D, we discussed four texts under the theme of the “Obligations of Entrepreneurship.” As we continue to work on our respective student projects and build business models around them in other classes, the consideration of obligations becomes especially relevant. What are we promising when we put things into the world, in particular, when those things are companies?

The first reading was an article by Richard Eskow, titled “The Sharing Economy is a Lie: Uber, Ayn Rand, and the Truth About Tech and Libertarians.” Eskow takes Uber to task over their (mis)handling of a crisis situation in Australia, wherein Uber enacted surge pricing as people attempted to flee an area in which a hostage situation was taking place. During the crisis, Uber put out the following tweet:

We are all concerned with events in CBD. Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area.

Due to backlash, Uber eventually gave the rides for free. What is the obligation Uber has to the people it serves? In class, we discussed its obligation to stakeholders and to make money. As part of the “sharing economy,” because of it’s semi-social connotation, does it also have a civic obligation to “do the right thing” in times of crisis? Eskow’s writing gives off the sense of feeling betrayed by Uber, as if by being part of the “sharing economy,” with all it’s feel-good associations, Uber was making implicit promises about how it would behave and where its allegiances lie.

Another betrayal Eskow might be feeling is from the promises of “disruption.” Disruption is a fashionable concept. To the best of my knowledge, it means addressing a new market, or an existing market cheaper, faster, or more conveniently. In terms of implicit promises connoted by “disruption,” the term means less bureaucracy, less middle men, more money for customers to keep. In light of our other readings, another, more interesting definition of disruption might be a successful challenge to the binary alluded to by our other authors, Ezio Manzini, Chris Meierling, and Stephen Linder.

What is the binary? Eskow points out what he calls a “false binary” constructed by Uber. “Us or City Hall” with it’s bureaucracy and regulations. What was the binary before Uber? Perhaps the interests of taxi drivers v. City Hall. Chris Meierling, in “The Construction of Complexity in Design and Public Policy Contexts” brings up the temptation of putting issues into a binary, and how the binary is reinforced by the 2-party political system. Meierling points out that “in the context of argumentation and adversarial relationships” (in public policy), “the generation of ideas, a key aspect of the design process, complicates the approach of garnering support on an issue from opposition.” Any third way detracts from one party or another. A real “disruption” then would not be the shift from one binary into another. It might be inclusive of a third option, or infinite options. Stephen Linder, in “From Social Theory to Policy Design” points out that the ‘emerging, post-industrial world’ is one of great complexity, interdependence and indeterminacy. There will be a greater fusion of domestic and international polities and economies to the extent that national decision-makers will have less control over their own destinies,” implying that the 2-party binary may not be sustainable in the face of increased global interdependency.

What does a non-binary look like? Ezio Manzini, author of “Design, Ethics, and Sustainability. Guidelines for a Transitional Phase,” suggests that alternative viewpoints of what constitutes the collective mental model of “well-being” may be a more sustainable way of life. He claims that “the idea of well-being is a social construct” characterized by “democratization of access to products […] in order to increase individual freedom and democracy of consumption.” The opposition to this traditional view of well-being may be non-capitalist societies. Manzini suggests a third way, which is “living well (or better) while consuming less,” and recognizes it would be a “radical change in social expectations (and a systemic discontinuity in the production system).” What could be more disruptive? How would Uber be different if the definition of disruption, which they clearly want to fill, was living well while consuming less? In some ways, Uber could make the argument they are doing exactly that with their “ride sharing.” Eskow, however, sees this as hypocrisy, as Uber takes up just as much infrastructure as regulated companies and subsidizing their poor treatment of employees by forcing them to rely on government insurance and other safety nets. He says, “the invisible costs of ventures like Uber are extracted over time, far surpassing whatever short-term savings they may occasionally offer.”

So how is disruption to take place given that true disruption upends the binary status quo? Manzini gives this guidance for designers (and by extension, companies): “I will simply state that the groundwork for macro-transformations and for great systemic changes is laid by micro-transformations and by local systemic discontinuities, i.e. through the kind of changes in which design can play an important role”… should designers choose to accept. As for our projects, it is worth taking a look through this lens of “disruption” in each of it’s various definitions to determine where this the spectrum our efforts fall.

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Small talk about big decisions

Here at AC4D, we are in our 6th week of ideating and creating a design solution to address social issues each of our groups found in research. As of last week, our team, (Maryanne Lee, Laura Galos) decided to move forward with a concept called (working title) “Meaningful Mail.” This is a service that lets family members, from the web, introduce difficult aging-related conversations with elderly family members by sending them conversation prompts and letters through the mail. The conversation prompts cover topics from limiting driving, living arrangements, and finance, to sharing memories and stories. Our goal with this service is to open channels of communication among family members, so that as they progressively move toward harder topics and decisions, there is already an underlying foundation of interchange, honesty, and emotional safety.

Aside from needing to come up with a more permanent name, this week we began shaping what this service might look like, particularly the web interface that family members would interact with to choose prompts, write letters, and send their communications.

maryanne_wireframes_wk6

In our first iteration, we sketched out general features we’d want the site to have. These sketches served to work out some high-level functions of the site and of the service. However, there are too many features to start with, and we want to slim down our product to the essential flows to test and build upon.

High-level wireframes, iteration 1:

Landingpage1wireframes2MM_Wireframes_3_v1 copyMM_Wireframes_4_v1MM_Wireframes_5_v1MM_Wireframes_6_v1

MM_Wireframes_6_v1 (1) copy-2MM_Wireframes_7_v1 copy

MM_Wireframes_8_v1 copy

For this coming week, we want to design the main flows for Meaningful Mail in wireframe format. Since this is a web-based idea, we will sketch out what might be on each screen as users click through the site. We will be conducting think-aloud testing on these flows (where users talk us though what they’re doing “stream-of-consciousness”-style) to see how users can or cannot complete tasks, their expectations around how tasks can be accomplished, and how they feel as they move through the system.

In the meantime, at a more granular level, we’re also interested in approaches to the landing page. Because we feel that users will need to quickly gain understanding of the service we’re providing before they decide to engage with it, we tested five landing pages to see which communicated the intent behind our service most rapidly and enjoyably. Some landing pages explain the process, some put users in the middle of the process, and some communicate the outcome of the process.

Landing Page approaches:

MM_Wireframes_Landing_Approaches_2_v2MM_Wireframes_Landing_Approaches_1_v2-2

MM_Wireframes_Landing_Approaches_3_v2 copyScannable Document 2Scannable Document 3Scannable Document 4

In testing these pages with potential users, we found that the pages that showed the steps of the process were preferred. The steps gave users enough background information on the service while also making the process of using Meaningful Mail seem easy to accomplish. We will also continue to test approaches to the landing page with potential users as we explore wireframe flows.

user_testing_wk6

The most surprising piece of feedback we heard over the last two weeks was how much the service might change not just the elderly individual’s behavior, but also how much it makes the family member (who sends the letters) feel like it changes them as well. A few of our participants told us that the service would make them more empathetic and understanding of what the elderly family member is going through, and how sending something as thoughtful as a letter would make them feel like they were really doing something of value for their loved one. Much of the earlier conversations we had with family members in the “caregiver” role centered on how they might effectively convince the elderly to change their behavior, such as limiting driving. However, we are interested and excited to hear that our design may not only help people make those tough aging-related decisions, but also build understanding between both players as well.

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Tipping point: Established testing protocol and making it up as we go along

Part 1: How do you Test for that?

Way back in Quarter 1 in our theory course we talked about lateral thinking. Lateral thinking describes part of the creative process that allows us to jump sideway (or laterally) from a logical progression of thought to a parallel path. In retrospect, the connection with the parallel line of thought makes sense, but it can’t be reached by logic. You have allow your mind to “jump the rails” to another track. This week, I have been thinking about the role of lateral thinking in the testing process.

We are creating a service, the working name is Tipping Point, that is designed to interact with users over a period of months or years, to help them get out of debt or save by enabling them to assign small amounts of money to their financial goal, at the same time they are out having fun.  In essence, “tipping” themselves.

So, naturally we have a lot of questions around timing and frequency:

  • How frequently should we contact the user, how should this frequency change over the course of use?
  • How frequently should we provide positive reinforcement for the user, how should this change over time?
  • Are the personas, or voices, we are testing for the product too much? Will the user get sick of them over time?
  • What is the right frequency of reminders to make people feel empowered that they are taking action on their financial goals and not just daunted and guilty about their present circumstance.

The logical way to answer these would be to run a test over the course of many months and gather data about the users experience interacting with our product and how that changes over time. But, ain’t nobody got time for that, at least not this quarter. That’s where the lateral thinking comes in.

We created what we are calling a “frequency test”, designed to get at people’s emotional response to ongoing reminders or check-ins (like they would receive from Tipping Point) on a compressed time scale. The test protocol involves sending SMS messages with suggestions of very simple actions the user can take to improve wellness. One group receives 10 messages the first day, 4 the second and 2 the third, a second group has the opposite: 2 the first day, 4 the second and 10 the third. Every night users receive a short survey via email about wellness suggestions, asking how many they did, how they felt about their self care today in comparison to how they feel about their self care on an average day, and how the frequency felt.  This test will continue into next week, with the focus shifted from wellness to finance.  From the first week we’ve gained a better understanding of how frequently people wish to be contacted, the importance in varying that frequency from day to day. We have also had the chance to sort out a number of glitches in the implementation of our test.

JeffAtWhiteBoard

Jeff reviewing the data from the first part of the Frequency Test.

Stay turned for further insights from next round of the frequency test.

Part 2: Scenario Validation Testing

This week we  also ran a scenario validation test. We have been studying this method in our Evaluation of Design Solutions class. In essence, it is a more formalized version of the testing we were doing last week with index cards, beer and donuts.  We met with small groups of people our target user demographic, walked them through two scenarios about a user setting up and using Tipping, each highlighting a  different variation of the product voice.

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Screens used as part of Scenario Validation.

We solicited individual feedback via short questionnaires during the testing and then concluded with a group discussion.

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Participants writing responses during Scenario Validation

The major insights that emerged from this testing are:

  1. There is a sweet spot for the tone of the app, financial enough to be credible, but also irreverent enough to be friendly and refreshing. We’ve been saying if our app got dressed, it would wear hip business casual.
  2. We tested the idea of creating a light hearted tone by asking the user to create a character that the user takes care of in place of taking care of debt or savings directly. That didn’t resonate particularly with users, what was more compelling was the idea of doing things for your “Future Self”.
  3. Users want some kind of progress report. The most compelling way we found to frame this is in terms of how much faster they are paying off their debt compared to if they just paid their minimum monthly payment and how much this will save them in interest.
  4. Users appreciate a quick and light weight set-up process, but that needs to be balanced with giving the user enough visibility into how the product works so they can form a mental model.  

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CapMetro App Revamp: “Final” Iteration + User testing

Over the last 8 weeks in our Rapid Ideation and Problem Solving class we have been working on a redesign of Austin’s public transportation app which can be found in Apple & Android App stores under the name “CapMetro.”  Each week we have created a new iteration of the application, performed user testing using paper prototypes, and presented a new iteration of the design to our class for critique.  This week marks our “final” iteration. I’m using “final” in quotes because a valuable lesson learned from iteration, testing & critique is that there’s always room for improvement and always insights to gain from further testing.

Iteration7

Above is the latest version of my wireframes for the CapMetro application, broken into three flows:

  • “When is my bus arriving?”
  • “Planning a trip & Saving a location”
  • and “Buying a pass.”

These flows are based on the concept map below:

ConceptMap_12.17.2014

 

Before I get into the findings from my final round of user testing, I want to give you a brief look at the process and the evolution of the designs over the past 8 weeks.

8 weeks ago, I started this project by navigating through every screen of the current Cap Metro application taking screenshots of every screen.  I then printed out every screen, pinned them to the wall according to the app’s architecture and created a concept map of the entire system which can be seen below.

CapMetro(AsIs)10.29.14

At this point, having a good understanding of the current application I created a new, revised concept map, taking out unnecessary and redundant features & interactions and started to sketch out a new design.  My first sketches can be seen below:

I Need to Buy How Do I Get To __Where is My Bus

 

After the first round of sketching, we presented our visuals to the class and had a formal critique of the designs.  It’s funny to look back now and think about how uncomfortable everyone seemed sharing their opinions during our first formal critique and how uncomfortable it was to receive critical comments about our designs.  It’s funny because critique has become such an integral part of our design process;  We now share our opinions about each other’s work and solicit feedback to better our designs almost constantly.  Without direct critique and feedback, my design would have progressed at a much slower rate.  This has been a very valuable lesson; one that now seems obvious.

At this point, I took the opinions I received from my classmates and incorporated them into my design and put them into a digital format.  My first digital iteration can be seen below:

Wireframes(It3)

The idea of wireframing is to create low-fidelity renderings of screens in order to map out the system flow.  As you iterate and the system starts to take shape over, you can then increase the fidelity.  The purpose of starting low fidelity, is that it allows you to get feedback specifically surrounding the structure and not the visuals.  If you start with high fidelity, people will have a harder time focusing on the structure and will start to critique color and aesthetic choices that are irrelevant at the early stages of design creation.

From here, we incorporated user testing into our process. We tested our designs using paper prototypes making use of a method known as the Think Aloud Protocol.  This process involves a test subject interacting with paper screens as they would with an actual device, and while they are interacting with the screens they are also saying out loud whatever they are thinking.  This method gives the designer insight into what a person is thinking as they use the product.  If the user were only to interact with the screens and not think aloud, we would be forced to guess why they performed certain actions.  Having them speak aloud provides valuable insights you wouldn’t be able to garner otherwise.

We continued this process of iteration, testing and critique every week.  Below are further iterations showing each week’s progress:

Iteration 4:

WireframePostImage

Iteration 5:

CapMetroFlows_12.3.14

Iteration 6:

CapMetroWireFlow_Iteration6_12.10.14

This week I tested Iteration 7 at a local bar with 5 individuals I have never met using the Think Aloud Protocol I discussed above.  I had a number of insightful findings from this week’s tests.  The first opportunity for improvement I found deals with the screens below:

It7Finding1

 

On these screens, the user is adding their home address as a “favorite.” What I found through user testing, is that individuals thought it was odd that they entered the address as a favorite and then had to tap it a second time in order to actually proceed onto planning their trip.  On my next iteration I would skip the second screen entirely and move onto planning a trip with the assumption that they typed it in because they want to go there (a safe assumption to make).

My second and third finding deals with the screen below:

It7Finding2

I made the tasks more difficult this time around, forcing users to use previously unexplored areas of the app.  I tasked the users with navigating to a destination, leaving at a later time, and saving that destination as a favorite.  Everyone had an easy time navigating to the destination, and would make it to the screen above with no problem.  However, most of the users skipped over the other two parts of the ask.  Because they would reach the screen above and were left without any additional options, they felt lost.  This showed me a few areas for improvement:  This navigation screen should have both the exact time of departure and the option to change the departure time to a later time or date.  This screen should also allow the user the option to save the destination as a favorite.  Both of these actions are currently only available on earlier screens.

Moving forward I would want to further test the navigation features, and have the user go through an entire trip from start to finish as if they were actually on a bus, and maybe incorporate them turning on and off their screens during the trip, instead of just having them click through screens logically without any sense of distance or time.  I would also want to turn these wires into a clickable, digital prototype to test the moving interactions and affordances to see how they are perceived by users.

Over this quarter, I have learned a lot and enjoyed seeing the progression of my designs and the designs of my classmates.  I’ve learned the value of iteration, the value of critique, and the value of testing.  I’ve built skills in systems thinking and the use of visual design tools. I’ve built something I’m proud of and something that I’m confident would work if it were to actually be built and further iterated on.

If you have any feedback on this “final” iteration, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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High Fidelity – How to ask the right question

At Austin Center for Design one of the nicest things you can hear is Jon Kolko saying, “You made a thing. I’m proud of you.” You made a thing?  A major tenant of the curriculum is learning to make artifacts as tools to ask questions and make arguments. Ever step of our seven-week-long, iterative assignment to redesign the smart phone app for Austin Public Transit System, Cap Metro, has been about exploring how to create artifacts that ask a question and get the information needed for that stage of the process.

The first week we created a system flow with screen shots from the existing CapMetro app and then created a concept map of the existing app and a concept model of our proposed redesign. A concept map is a visualization of the structure of a system to understand complex interactions that cannot all be viewed simultaneously in the actual product. We started here because this is the right thing to make for the questions we were trying to ask, namely: How does the existing app work and what is wrong with it? What should we do instead? If we had started by recreating and then improving upon a single screen from the CapMetro app, we would have created an artifact that would be excellent for asking questions about CapMetro’s typographic and layout choices, but would not provide useful information about the overall structure of the system.

The second week we started creating wireframes for our proposed new system. Wireframes represent the layout of a screen that focuses on functionality and interactions, rather than visual design. We have iterated on our wireframes each week for the last six weeks, as well as updating our concept model to represent our iterations.

At week three we had iterated on the wireframes once, and it was time to go out and get feedback from real people. To do this we used a method of user testing called the think-out-loud protocol with paper printouts of our wireframes. The user is given a task to perform using the wireframes. While he is completing this task, the user is instructed to “think out loud”, verbalizing each action as he does it. During the test the researcher acts as the “computer” bringing up the appropriate screens in response to the user’s action.

iterationsAll-02

 

 

Each subsequent week of iterating and testing I have had the opportunity to see how the changing level of fidelity of my wireframes, or closeness to the actual thing being represented by the artifact, affects the type of feedback I receive.  In addition to documenting at least three critical breakdowns to address each week, I have found a high-level takeaway from my testing. Many of these have involved how the level fidelity, or closeness to the actual thing being represented by the artifacts, have affected test results. A few weeks ago my high-level takeaway was about the need for better visual consistency and hierarchy in my typography and graphic elements throughout the system – a fidelity issue. Last week, I realized that I was trying to test navigation at a level that depended on the user having a spatial understanding of how on and off screen elements related to one and other. This is largely communicated through animation that was not coming though on paper screens. For my final user tests I created an on screen, clickable prototype, so I could model some of those animations.

 

[Link to clickable prototype here: http://invis.io/9A1W9OYYJ ]

 

What I found from my user testing is that the fidelity  of the clickable prototype created a number of issues of its own. Because the prototype looked very real, and some of the gestures felt like a real application, users were derailed when it did not behave the way a real application should behave. This was especially true for the keyboard, which was just an image with certain sections mapped as hot spots to link to other screens and the map, which was also just a static image and so did not allow for zooming in and zooming out.

“Wait, the keyboard is broken…” – User 2

problemsPhoto-01

Despite these issues, I got useful validation on my updates to the real time bus arrival feature, called Next Bus (see Next Bus Flow below), and feedback that lead to a final tweak to my on-going attempt to integrate step-by-step written directions to a destination with the map of the route (see screen 27 and screen 29 from the Search Flow).


flows-05

 

“I don’t expect to swipe [between things] on a map.” – User 4

problems-01problems-02

 

 

flows-01

flows-02 flows-03
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ConceptMap-01

So, that’s it for this quarter. I made a thing, and I’m proud of me. I have learned about the specifics of designing a transportation application, about the tools and techniques available for wire framing and I have continued to hone my ability to craft artifacts that elicit feedback that is useful.

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CapMetro App Revamp: Iteration 5 + User Testing

CapMetroFlows_12.3.14

This week in our Rapid Ideation and Problem Solving class we are presenting the fifth iteration of our redesigned mobile application for Austin’s public transportation provider, CapMetro.  Each week we run a formal critique in class to gain feedback from from fellow students, faculty and visiting lecturers, and use the information we gather from these critiques to iterate on the look, flow and functionality of the design.  The last three weeks we have also incorporated user testing as means to gaining insight into the usability of our designs.

The format of user testing we have utilized is called the Think Aloud Protocol.  The Think Aloud Protocol involves a user who interacts with one wireframe at a time as if it was an actual device.  The person administering the test acts as the “computer” and is responsible for giving the user the next appropriate screen based on their interactions.  On top of observing the user interacting with the design, the users are asked to verbalize what they are thinking as they interact with the screens.  As it turns out, humans are pretty good at verbalizing what they are thinking while they are thinking it, and it has been shown that verbalizing those thoughts doesn’t significantly effect their actions.  This makes this form of user testing extremely valuable for designers who are always looking to understand both the how and why behind people’s actions.  Other forms of testing, specifically tests that accumulate metrics, are good at understanding how people interact with a product, but without hearing people verbalize their rationale behind certain actions, they’ll only be able to guess as to the why. 

That said, this form of testing is easier said than done.  It may seem obvious, but I’m finding that in order to get rich data, it takes a test subject who isn’t reluctant to speak aloud about what they are thinking.  To maximize the likelihood of success, the person administering the test must focus on the way they present the test to the user.  Using self-deprecation, giving an example of how thinking aloud sounds, assuring the user that the design is being tested, not them, and even telling them that they are testing somebody else’s design so they are not afraid of hurting the test giver’s feelings can help put the user at ease and make for more useful data.

This week I went to a local bar with some of my fellow design students and we set up shop offering to buy people beers of they would user test with us.  While it may not seem like a great idea to involve alcohol in a user test, it actually works out great.  A little alcohol seems to diminish some of the inhibitions that usually accompany the awkwardness of thinking aloud in front of a total stranger.  I tested with 5 individuals at the bar, and was happy with the information I was able to learn from them.

The wireframe screens I tested are presented at top, and are organized into three main flows listed in the left column.  These flows are based on the concept map below (click images for a closer look):

Iteration5map

 

The first flow, which is my main “hero” flow, involves finding out when the next bus will be arriving at a nearby stop.  Compared to previous iterations, this task improved significantly.  I focused on increasing the fidelity of these screens this week, and it was great to see the impact this had on how well these screens were navigated.  While my main flow improved significantly, the other two flows did not see as much success.

The screen below from my second flow gave some people trouble:

Revision1_12.3.14

The icons circled in the picture are meant to represent “history” or “recent searches” but this is not obvious to the user and so I will be providing a heading above these in the future that says “Recent” in the same way it says “Favorites” above favorites.  I also think some of the confusion from this screen is just a challenge of testing a paper prototype; Paper prototypes are static, so the user can’t experience any of the moving/animated affordances.  In this case the user does not experience the keyboard and the “recent/favorites” animating into place, and so they were confused with how this screen related to their previous action of tapping the “Enter your Destination.”  For testing purposes, it may be necessary to provide an intermediate step between these screens, showing the motion, to give the user a more realistic experience.

The screen below also gave people trouble with my second flow:

Revision2_12.3.14

 

The location and destination is sized too large, and people were confused why the arrow is pointing to a destination that is not the destination they typed in.  Most people thought the “8min” refers to when the bus will be arriving (and not the duration as I had intended it), and they were confused with why this information is presented with the “leaves at 2:13 pm” thinking this information is redundant.  This week I will be placing a lot of focus on this screen and will try to create a number of iterations playing with size and priority of information, and hopefully next week this screen will be much more clear & usable.

For the third flow — buying a pass — there was one consistent area of confusion that involved the transition between the screens below:

Revision3_12.3.14

 

In this iteration, after people enter their credit card information, a button shows up with the card they entered showing as an available payment method.  Through my testing it became clear that this is an unnecessary step.  The user just entered the card number of the card they want to pay with, why am I now forcing them to select that card for payment?  While I could just make an incremental change to fix that, overall, I’m not happy with this flow and want to rethink it completely.  This week I’ll be focusing on simplifying this flow to make it less clunky and flow more naturally.

Overall this week I’m happy with my progress and happy with the information I gained from testing.  I feel like I have a clear path forward and feel confident that my next iterations will continue to improve.  If you have any feedback or thoughts on ways to improve this design please feel free to leave a comment below.

See you next week!

 

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Perspectives on Debt among 18 – 26 year olds: Who influences? Who supports?

Lauren Segapeli, Samara Watkiss and myself will be spending the next 7 weeks researching the intersection of personal relationships and debt in the lives of young adults. Our interest in this topic arose from the importance of community in micro-lending in other cultures and curiosity why such community-centric financial support isn’t leveraged in the United States.

We will look at the cultural norms and mental models around debt and debt resources and how friends, family and romantic partners influence and support the development of financial habits and financial literacy.

We will focus our research on men and women between the ages of 18-26 from varying socioeconomic and racial groups. People in this age group are in the process of developing their own patterns of financial decision making and faced with many new financial questions.   In particular we plan to talk with individuals who have recently graduated from high school, started a full time job, are going to college, have graduated from college, been recently married, moved in with roommates, or are having children.  We are interested in learning how these life-events affect individuals’ approaches to managing their finances, and the ways in which they utilize their social or family networks to tackle the financial challenges they face.

Through methods of contextual inquiry, we will observe the financial habits of young people in the context which they happen, as well as the tools and artifacts they use to manage and track their finances. We will employ investigative exercises in which the participant will create a timeline illustrating the role finances have played in various stages of their lives. Such participatory exercises will act as creative and reflective stimulus to help pull more rich, detailed information from the participants.

We have developed a full research plan that includes details about the methods and participants we will be focusing on, a weekly schedule, a discussion guide and script to be used throughout the process.  The completed research plan can be found here.

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Kicking Off the First AC4D Alumni Design-a-Thon

On Wednesday, October 8th, I jointly kicked off the first AC4D Alumni Design-a-Thon for Social Good.  A Design-a-Thon is a term that I use loosely to describe a shared design process, similar to a hackathon, with “appropriate” time set aside for each phase of design.  Over the next month, our core team of 4 alumni and 12 part-time alumni will be exploring the topic of Linguistic and Cultural Barriers for Hispanics in the city of Austin; a very large and diverse, but seemingly segregated group in our city.

I am so excited to interact with this community, to learn from them, and hopefully come up with an exciting product or service concept that we can actually build.  Y finalmente, yo tengo una oportunidad a usar el lenguaje en lugar de solo preguntado por tacos!  I joke, but there’s definitely something about getting “stuck” in one’s place in the city as I sometimes lament; in not expanding or growing, but seeing things the same way and falling into routines. There will be more posts in the future by other members of the core design team, including Melissa Chapman, Chuck Hildebrand, and Bhavini Patel, tracking both arcs of personal and project experience.  I want to take my time to focus on the expansive nature of this Design-a-Thon, and give context on what it means to me.

First, connection.

I remember Ruby Ku (’11) and I (’13) discussing alumni engagement over coffee at Cenote, one of our favorite spots in East Austin.  The intensity of the AC4D program – working day in and day out, for long hours with the same group of 10 people – feels so imbalanced to the post-program experience, where we haven’t had structured ways to keep involved and connected with each other. That’s disappointing, and something we agreed we should work to change.  The Design-a-Thon was born over that discussion, realizing that we should work together for fun: as a chance to retell stories and laugh, as well as grow professionally.  We can learn so much from each other and build our talents further. Many of us have been apart for 1-2 years, working on different projects and with differing methodologies across Austin.

Second, potential impact.

I remember my first design bootcamp.  I was a non-designer, trying to figure out how to do the process of design, without the actual time to process what I was really doing.  Now, with training and the design toolkit under my belt, I feel more confident in the design process.  Design gives me authority to be in places I don’t belong, and ask questions I should not – what my work colleague Briana would consider the privilege to be “nosy”.  These experiences lead to insights that are the seeds to ideas that through refinement and testing can have great impact and value to individuals.

I think all of us who’ve come through the program define impact in part as working on projects that have the potential to effect reduction in community ills.  We perceive them as the issues that “really matter” to quality of life, and to the largest number of people.  That is the allure.  We all experienced it going through the curriculum, through our own projects or watching ones that other alumni have continued.  We want to follow it now that our skills are growing up.

Many say good design is achieved through design; namely, repetition.  I’m excited to see what we can deliver on during this iteration.

 

 

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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…

sunshine_intro

The Result…

sunshine2

 

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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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