catherine.woodiwiss@ac4d.com

Student

Catherine Woodiwiss

For the last 6 years, I worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., writing and editing on justice, culture, tech, and religion. My favorite posture is ethnographer, tracing the evolutions of ideas and rituals through time and place.

When I discovered human-centered design, the lightbulb went on on the full possibilities of my anthropology degree and my journalism career: Act like a storyteller, think like an engineer! I’ve been hooked ever since.

In the last few years, I spent my off-hours getting my feet wet in the world of design. In 2014, I co-launched Trestles, a service design agency aimed at collaboration and creative problem-solving across D.C.’s siloed sectors. I also co-launched Homestage, a DIY house show network for local artists and local living rooms in D.C., and in 2014, I spoke on collaborative solutions and “Do It Together” models at SXSW.

In both journalism and design, for me, the interviewing and the impulse to creative action are the thing.

I am eager for a year of training and education at AC4D, to be better equipped to explore what design in service of story, and story in service of design, can look like.

Recent blog posts

focusing in on mentorship

This week, Susi, Christina, and I pivoted slightly once again as we refine our concepts. Last week we mapped out service blueprints and more closely defined our concepts. Using what we uncovered, this we revised our service blueprints, reached out to competitors for interviews (scheduled for next week), and re-opened a concept we’d previously put on the back…

Meet Pax.

Falsifiable Hypothesis: For a bank to successfully add a new financial modeling system to users’ daily banking apps—for the purpose of giving budgeting tips, financial alerts, and suggested spending limits—some user support will be required. Falsifiable Hypothesis: A choose-your-own-avatar model will remind users that real humans made the app, helping users feel in control, affirmed, and empathetic. This will lead…

3 things that testing wireframes can teach us about design

This week, we took our wireframes out into to the field for user testing. Wireframes are frame-by-frame representations of how a user moves through a digital platform in real time. Wireframes serve as a step from “information architecture” (how an app’s data all fits together in the backend) to real-world UX that we all see and enjoy. When you’re designing…

TD Bank app redesign: wireframes

Last week, we redesigned the concept models for our personal banking app. This week, we moved to wireframing. We began by writing scenarios and storyboards for each “flow” — i.e., the most common types of user actions. Then, we built “wireframes” — visual representations of how a digital product will work. The challenge of wireframes…

concept map: td bank

At first pass, TD Bank has a logical, user-friendly app. Primary banking functions (account balance, transfer, mobile deposit, send money, pay bill) live in the header menu, in bright, attractive icons. It’s when you start to poke around the rest of the app that its structural problems become clear. Namely—redundancy. There are SO MANY MENUS AND TABS in…

swiss cheese of success: a concept model for persistence

The “Swiss cheese model” is a risk analysis model used by engineers, aviation specialists, and cybersecurity experts. The idea is that even the best-designed human systems (inevitably) operate like Swiss cheese—mostly sound, but with holes here and there. For the most part, systems operate as predicted. But when the holes in a stack of systems…

insights with we are blood.

When telling our service client that we were developing “insights,” we felt the need to clarify. The word “insight” is usually treated as shorthand for “brilliant intuition,” so we knew that marching into a room of stakeholders announcing that we had insights into a service we had spent a limited amount of time with could seem, well, “obnoxious.” But insights are not the same thing as impressions. As with…

sketch library.

To sketch tech interactions, I took photos of team members holding phones for a variety of purposes: Watching a video, texting, swiping, taking a photo, talking. Using an existing visual model is helpful for capturing proportion and dimension … especially when drawing HANDS. I began my next iteration with pencil. This creates flexibility in practicing finger shape, position, and…

design existentia.

Don’t let our emphasis on “making things” fool you: Human-centered design is an existential discipline. For the last 20 years, design theorists have been publicly weighing the ethics of designing with users or designing for them. User-centered tech is the newest frontier, but this debate first went global when design, well, went global. In the mid-1990s, socially-minded entrepreneurs began…

a week.

why design research matters.

So you want to be a designer. People will crinkle their brow and ask, “What kind?” And around the time you get to “prototyping ideations drawn from synthesis-theming our user utterances,” their eyes will go from glazed-over to all-the-way-back-in-their-head. Now what? That humans design things around human needs and wants is a concept as old as time…

telling the story.

This week, my team went fully into the field, interviewing multiple people at pop-up blood donation stations. We observed phlebotomists who talked passionately about the mission, interviewed mobile supervisors and account managers who have a long personal history with the organization, and conducted mapping activities with first-time donors with a wide range of motivations for coming in…

design is philosophy in action

In high school, I had a professor who taught a class he’d made up, apparently just because he wanted to. He called it “Junior Seminar.” This was an invite-only class, to high achieving kids who consistently got As. On our first day he told us that we already had an A in the class. (Much to our disappointment—overachievers…

design for your life

i had an “a-ha” moment in studio on saturday, when pat was talking us through sketching technique: move the whole arm, keep your wrist flexible, don’t rest it on the page. this was exactly what my violin teacher used to tell me, through years and years of study. move the whole forearm, keep your wrist flexible, don’t rest it on…

AC4D + We Are Blood: The Sequel

TEAM: Catherine, Kim, and Zev. Two years ago, We Are Blood (WAB) decided to work with a team of AC4D students. During this time, WAB was also going through a transition phase. From 1951-2016, WAB was known to the local Austin area as The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas. Recognizing that there was…

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