Ideating with Insights from the Gig Economy

This is a progress report on our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) work with the gig-economy. For a quick look at our concept maps from last week, go check out last week’s blog post. For a better understanding of our research and the focus of this project, see posts here and here

Progress Made This Week

Identified 79 design patterns that we used to help spark inspiration when coming up with design ideas. These patterns ranged from topical trends (deep fakes and ASMR videos) to grander shifts in design and culture (pressure on organizations to take a stance on social and political issues).

Sorted 100 insights into 13 insight categories which allowed us to understand higher-level trends in our data. Our categories with the most insights are “Gig Beliefs”, “Narratives Society Tells Us” and “Access”. To help better illustrate these categories, here are top insights from each:

  • Gig Beliefs: Gig work is glamorized as a choice of freedom and a path toward autonomy. 
  • Narratives Society Tells Us: The American Dream is hostile to anything other than the pursuit of economic success. 
  • Access: Gig work creates access to the workforce for those who have historically been excluded.


Developed 201 design ideas by randomly mashing up design patterns and insights and using that as inspiration. Because our design patterns went beyond “Uber” or “AirBnB” and instead focused more on behavior, we were able to come up with some very out-of-the-box ideas that were not solely rooted in popular app trends of today. A few fun nascent ideas include:

  • Flat Stanley for executives to take to their office and show students who may not have access to that world what their days are really like. 
  • Access to exclusive events and opportunities that can only be unlocked by contractors with a gig company. (Think of a stage at SXSW sponsored by Lyft where all of the performers have completed at least 30 rides as a Lyft driver.)
  • A storefront where the items are priced relative to the buyer’s hourly wage, as a commentary on inequality in society and the different meaning that status symbols have to different people.

Visit here for a complete look at our design ideas, patterns, and insights. 


What We Learned

  • We started using a reframing process to generate ideas. This ended up being successful at generating new, useful insights, but not design ideas. Because our focus this week was on ideas, we deprioritized our work with the reframing model, but look forward to revisiting it next week or beyond.
  • While design ideas pertinent to the gig economy are still interesting to us, we generated many ideas related to the future of work generally or even more broadly, related to dominant political, social and economic paradigms.
  • Although many of our ideas were focused around technology and apps, we challenged ourselves to veer away from these comfortable tropes to explore physical products and spaces as well as experiences and events as those often yielded ideas that were more unique.
  • One of the challenges of this program is to become less precious about what we put out into the world. We do this by writing a million blog posts, generating a million post-it note ideas, delivering countless presentations and drawing innumerable figures. Ultimately, we begin to think less preciously of ourselves in the process. 
  • Participant data is still coming up in the ideation and insight process. At times it seemed we were moving further away from the research and further away from the actual people but as we wrote ideas and thought through what might be useful or meaningful or funny or bad, we recalled things our participants said and experiences they had shared with us or behavior we had observed. It feels like we are truly designing with our participants because their language, impressions, and insights remain at our fingertips. 
  • We tried a technique of mashing up a randomly generated word with insights to arrive at a new idea, which was not particularly fruitful for us.

Next Steps

  • Next week we will focus on sorting our ideas and filtering for ones that most resonate for us as a team and with the data that we found most compelling in our research phase.
  • We’d like to facilitate a round of read-throughs with the other design groups to rank up ideas that are especially resonant and add to each other’s walls.