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

dev school v2.

Good management is 360°—for the first half of the quarter, we tackled managing internal processes: How do we take a product (and a team) from concept to ship-ready artifact, on deadline? This week, we tackled the external-facing aspects of management: Showing, and selling, what we built to others. A feature brief shares some things in common…

pilot pre-work: recruitment and tools

Since our last update… We presented our first-run pitch deck for our mentorship service. There was a lot in that pitch! A digital service that facilitated quality 1-on-1 mentor pairings. A couple of digital tools that solved one major pain point: Scheduling and logistics. A couple of digital tools that solved another major pain point: Onboarding…

power tools.

Microsoft has released a card game for ethical decisions around AI. Their seven ethical principles are as stated below: While the game itself reads mostly as a light-touch brand engagement tool, it strikes me that each of these cards represents a mechanism for wielding power. “User control” provides agency to the user. “Inclusive feedback” means…

thin slicing.

In Q3, we learned how to identify what must exist in order for a product to serve its purpose (the “minimum viable product.”) In Product Management, we are learning how to take that MVP and match it to human constraints: The labor available to build the thing. We had two challenges this week: Produce a “thin…

dev school.

We’ve been repeatedly challenged to learn this rule at AC4D: The quickest way to understand whether your concept works is to show it to someone else. This week, our challenge was to show our Q3 banking app wireframes to a working developer, work through their questions and responses (and rejections!), and get an estimate of workdays needed to…

design from what you know.

As designers, we are familiar with schools of theory that urge us to use our wealth of design for other people who are in need—and similarly-passionate schools of thought that tell us that to do is hopelessly narcissistic and that to parachute in, no matter how thoughtfully, robs others of agency. Through this, I appreciate the…

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.

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