KeyUp is growing up!

Since we last week’s post, team KeyUp has been developing an MVP based on our learnings from last week, continuing to build relationships, and revising our story for the final AC4D presentations next week.

  • First, we have been working on creating a library of videos of people who are currently in our highlighted careers of tech, the skilled trades, and health care. We plan to have a series of short videos in which people talk about how they came to their jobs, how they find meaning, and what it is like. We have heard over and over again from our users and their trusted advisors how important stories are. They help them make decisions about the future.

To this end, we continued developing a relationship with Capital Idea, set up appointments with professionals around the city and got to learn from the Electrician’s Union about apprenticeships.   

A classroom future electricians are trained in
A classroom future electricians are trained in
  • Second, we began developing relationships with our mentors at Impact Hub. It was awesome to feel the support of our community, continue to learn from people in different fields, and build on our experience at AC4D. We walked away feeling more confident and proud. We also had a chance to practice pitching different business models for KeyUp to various experts. Needless to say, we know we need to work on this more and continue testing our assumptions. We also loved getting a chance to connect with our cohort — it definitely feels like we will be able to collaborate and find future partners here.
Adam talking to a mentor during speed dating
Adam talking to a mentor during speed dating
Mary Hannah speaking to another mentor during speed dating
Mary Hannah speaking to another mentor during speed dating
  • Third, we have been spending time answering the questions: what is the problem we are solving and how are we solving it? We keep returning to these questions over and over again. Are we solving the right problem? Sometimes it feels like we are constantly restarting and it most certainly causes an existential crises. Of course, each time we return to the basics, the friction produces good results and we are able to move forward again. We started by remapping KeyUp, which is getting increasingly complex. We also spent time sketching to make sense of our problem and ultimately, to communicate the problem to our cohort and during our presentation.

This week, we asked: how might we communicate our vision for KeyUp?

This week, we learned all stakeholders in the workforce ecosystem have different needs and therefore, we need different pitches depending on our audience. We are trying to figure out how to triangulate between the different stakeholders to serve the most urgent need. We also learned how KeyUp may fit into the current ecosystem.

Now, we’ve got to…

  • make a beautiful pitch deck
  • revise design artifacts like concept maps, wireframes and the customer journey
  • practice our presentation!

One way you can help right now is…

  • send us anyone you know who doesn’t have a 4-year degree and wants to figure out their next career step
  • connect us to people who are in middle skill careers


TD Bank Redesign Strategy Brief

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief Back in October, I started the process of redesigning the TD Mobile Banking Application. To do this, I worked through creating an ideal vision of what I believe the banking application should be through an information architecture, storyboarding and wireframe development. I set out into the streets of Austin to do usability testing to learn how potential users might interact with the application. I learned many things including the fact that most users do not have confidence interacting with the banking application, often found the words banking application typically use confusing, and did not know the purpose of many of the features.

Simultaneously, I have been doing research with Austinites who are not financially secure. Thus, as this process is coming to a close, I wanted to honor what I have learned through both experiences.

Taking time to create a product and strategy brief brought me back to my initial insights when I first built the TD banking application redesign. The purpose of the brief is to be able to have a stand alone record that a product manager uses to communicate the rationale behind how he believes the products value should grow over time, meaning when key features should be shipped.

As a high-level overview of the process, I first returned to my initial research to recall the key insights I used when developing the product, making sure that the product’s value promise reflects those behavioral insights, and that ultimately, the strategic map is in line with this vision. The brief ends with visuals and descriptions of key features that help to drive the value and fulfill the value promise.

As the designer that TD Bank hired to redesign their application, I begin with a high level introduction to the strategy brief:

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.001


Key Insights and Value Promise

In my research with individuals who are living with a poverty wage and are unable to plan for the future, I found that “rational” long term planning was not the highest priority even though with the right decisions and savings plan, it might be possible for those experiencing financial insecurity to gain more stability. Through interviews and secondary research, I discovered three behavior insights that will be the foundation of the product’s value promise:

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.004TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.005 TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.006 TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.007


This led to the products value promise:

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.008



Strategic Roadmap

The strategic roadmap reflects this value promise. The first version (Core Banking Services) that ships needs to fulfill the value promise that banking is simple. So, when developing the core services, the key features are streamlined and easier to use than the current TD banking mobile application.

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.009

For version two (Scheduling Services), the banking application will begin incorporating scheduling services as well as data gathering for the safe to spend feature.

Version three (Financial Planning) will ultimately fulfill the value promise. Version three builds in services that will nudge users towards more financial stability, takes the burden of long term planning of them, and presents information in a way that will drive them towards making better decisions.

Below is a more detailed version of the strategic map.

Strategic Road Map

Feature Breakdown

In the final section of the brief, a product manager provides visual evidence and rationale behind each feature. In this part of the brief, the product manager is explaining the details of how specific features fulfill the value promise.

Core Banking Services
Core Banking Services
Core Banking Services
Core Banking Services
Scheduling Services
Scheduling Services
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning

You can view the complete brief here TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief


It is a product manager’s job to manage, inspire, and keep the ball rolling on the product’s development. He or she is responsible for constantly being able to zoom in and out, to understand the details of how the product should be developed and then to connect each one of those details to the big picture. They must use their influence to keep developers on the same page and the executives satisfied with progress. We have been told that the only real power a product manager has his or her storytelling abilities. Thus, the strategy brief seems like it is one of the most important documents the product manager is responsible for. Anyone in an organization should be able to read it and understand not only what they are working on, but why. The core to any successful team or venture is really that everyone is on the same page about the why. To simultaneously keep the vision true and also get lost in the weeds of the day to day decision making seems almost insurmountably challenging. Perhaps, this is why keeping the user at the center of all decisions is one of the best strategic decisions a manager can make.



KeyUp joins Impact Hub!

Since we last week’s post, team KeyUp has been out in the field building partnerships and testing different hypotheses.

  • First, we have some exciting news. On Wednesday, we joined Impact Hub’s Workforce Accelerator. We are one of 9 amazing ventures developing solutions to Austin’s workforce issues. In our first session, we listened to a panel discussion on workforce issues in Austin at the Central Library, got to know the members in the cohort and participated in a fishbowl discussion on the current workforce landscape.
Mary Hannah getting to know one of the members of our cohort.
Mary Hannah getting to know one of the members of our cohort.
  • Second, we tested our messaging through google, facebook and instagram ads to see if we could acquire customers through our landing page. We learned that men responded to tech jobs and there were higher response rates from people between the ages of 25 and 34. This reinforced some of our earlier findings which was that people between the ages of 18 and 24 are less likely to be searching out careers. We also trekked out to Barton Spring Pool to do usability testing. We met several people who were older. Our message really resonated with them. However, this does not mean we will give up!
An example ad we posted on facebook
An example ad we posted on facebook


  • Third, we tested our MVP in a workshop with young adults attending a local alternative high school. We led them through a session in which they explored their hopes and fears about the future and then, made life choice recommendations to a fictitious character in an interactive case study. We wanted to see if we could inspire a magic moment in which young people would say, ‘Yeah! I can go into a training program even if it is risky.’ We learned that though young people are interested in exploring stable careers, it is not such an easy decision. We heard stories from them that matched our initial research: they want stories of past successes, guidance and support. They feel enormous pressure to have it all figure it out, yet: “I fear being an adult because I recognize adults really don’t know shit, and now I am an adult that doesn’t know shit.”

We learned we need to get better at being able to talk about what value KeyUp provides young people to young people.

A moment from our workshop at the high school
A moment from our workshop at the high school

This week, we asked: how might KeyUp inspire young people to choose a new pathway that will lead to a middle skill career?

This week, we learned that there are two clear groups of people we could be targeting: those who are between 18-24 and those who are older. We need to focus on one group. It’s challenging because on the one hand, we are hearing from organizations in the Austin workforce community that they want support in working with young people between the ages of 18 and 24, yet the people who seem to be saying they are ready are older.

Now, we’ve got to…

  • revise our landing page and test it with Austinites
  • Revise our MVP and test it
  • develop our story for our final AC4D presentation and for our target population

One way you can help right now is…

  • send us anyone you know who doesn’t have a 4-year degree and wants to figure out their next career step

What limits what I can imagine?

In this week’s theory blogpost, I am reflecting on the question “what limits what I can imagine?” To me, this is the heart of the dilemma of a human centered designer. I believe that design is all about tensions – tensions between what can be and what is, what I want to express and how I am limited by the tools around me, what I believe to be right and what I can be paid to do, what will liberate humans and the products that are currently on the market…the list can go on ad infinitum. Ultimately, as an idealistic human-centered designer, I am always thinking about how I might use design to build a better world. If there’s one thing that has been a theme throughout my experience at AC4D is: that’s a freaking hard task. There are many impediments to (re)designing human made systems to be more inclusive, humane, and equitable. In theory class, we’ve been focusing on developing a knowledge to explain why that might be. (While in our other courses, we are finding out about the practical challenges.) In this blogpost, I am going to focus my attention on thought-systems and how knowledge is shared.

As a baseline for a definition of design, I am going to borrow from Norman and Vergannti’s article on Incremental and Radical Innovation. In it, they state that design is, “ [t]he deliberate and reasoned shaping and making of our environment in ways that satisfy our needs and give meaning to our lives.” From this, I can begin to reflect on a significant challenge baked into the design process: designs made for and by humans will always fail since we are limited by our own knowledge. Here, I am defining knowledge as anything that I believe to be true AND I have a warrant to believe it to be true. This means, that I simultaneously imbue the knowledge with my own faith while also look for external validation from a community of people to have any certainty in my knowledge.

Now, as a reframing technique, imagine if I lived in a world with no more than 100 people. In this world, I depend on a small group of people for everything from food to health to education. There would be collective learning, of course, but knowledge would be transferred primarily through face-to-face interactions. I would probably have an apprenticeship and hear stories of my neighbor’s ancestors. I would get direct feedback about what I did right and wrong from the very people who were creating the knowledge and I could spend hours just observing how they accomplished their tasks. I imagine that much of the knowledge I acquired would be classified as embodied. This is tacit knowledge that cannot be transferred outside of its context. Tacit knowledge is the kind of knowledge you can only learn through shared experiences like rock climbing, pottery throwing or dog training. There would also be narrative knowledge, the kind of knowledge spread through story. Though stories can travel further than embodied knowledge, they lose richness and nuance of context as they spread. Though the systems that sustain my small village could be complex, I would like to believe that questions of how to scale our knowledge wouldn’t be an issue. There would be less need to have a formal system of communication that is abstract and codified. How much time would we spend writing manuals on how to farm if you could just walk down the street and watch how we have always farmed?


Of course, this is not the case. Our collective learning is co-created across space and time. How to scale knowledge transference is an awesome (both in terms of magnitude and interest) problem to attack. The simplest kind of knowledge to spread is abstract, codified, formal knowledge. It can be diffused easily. I reckon that is one reason why formal knowledge is so highly valued. From an academic standpoint, it is also an object of affection because it has been agreed upon by a community of “experts” (at its best). But, as I wrote in the paragraph above, formal knowledge is only one kind of knowledge. How can humans share (context bound) embodied and narrative knowledge? (If there is any value in it?)

There is a framework for how to think about how knowledge is created across organizations (and civilizations?) called SECI. There are four dimensions: socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization. Socialization explains how tacit (embodied) knowledge is transferred. Externalization explains the process that goes from tacit to explicit knowledge – whatever enables tacit knowledge to be shared. Combination is when explicit knowledges are combined and integrated. Last is internalization. This is where an individual has received new knowledge and applies it, thus making the knowledge tacit again. And on it goes again. Of course, this model has limitations. Knowledge transference isn’t so linear. It also prompts me to ask questions about how to locate users in this process and whether the experience is authentic or not.


Now, a big issue comes up here: this cycle is presented as if new knowledge is created as information travels through the cycle. Supposedly, new knowledge is created as it goes from tacit to explicit. I question this presumption. Of course, this framework is a model and thus must simplify a complex situation, thereby leaving out the nuance of the lived experience. However, at each stage, there are political, economic, and cultural systems constricting, molding, and influencing what knowledge is allowed to be transferred.

First, knowledge is built upon previous knowledges. Ways of seeing and doing are normalized by the institutions they live in.

Second, if we peer more closely at each one of the phases, we can start to imagine ways power influence the outcomes at every point. In the socialization dimension, we learn from others who have been trained within a knowledge system. We observe their behavior, what they pay attention to, how they move and interact with their environments. We share stories and choose how the story is told. Where we should focus, what metaphors we decide on, and how to classify our success and failures. In the externalization dimension, the data that gets translated is filtered through political, economic and cultural constructs. We highlight the details we think we should. We connect data that we are trained to. We communicate to create value. In the combination dimension, knowledge is limited by what has been produced, by the means we have to share knowledge (mostly likely abstract and formal), and by the selection principles at play. In the internationalization dimension, what we get to practice is constrained by the systems that we operate in. And then, the knowledge becomes socialized again.

I am not saying that there can’t be “new” knowledge creation in this cycle, though I do claim that what can be created is highly limited by the echo chamber built by this cycle. But how can there be a radical departure from this cycle? How can this kind of knowledge creation not just lead to an incremental evolution? I think about the articles we read on American medical education and the impact this system has on the patient experience. How might the cycle be broken?

I am again going to borrow from Norman and Vergannti to define radical and incremental innovation. Radical innovation is “doing what we did not do before”. Incremental innovation is “doing better what we already do.” As a designer, how can I step in and change this pattern?

As has been reinforced by my experience doing human-centered design research, my experience as a teacher for over a decade, and many of the readings selected for us in theory, human-centered design will not lead to radical innovation. As Norman and Vergannti state: “The more that researchers study existing human behavior, activities, and products, the more they get trapped into existing paradigms. These studies lead to incremental improvements, enabling people to do better what they already do, but not to radical change that would enable them to do what they currently do not do.” What human-centered design does do well is to help designers figure out where there are current breakdowns in information flow, gaps in systems, system work arounds, how to make technology fit in more seamlessly and more… What it does not help designers build something that makes humans do something that they did not do before. This requires a different set of tools.

It is my hope that through research I can identify patterns that would point to a human desire for meaning change. This could lead to a new way of being/doing. However, if it weren’t already challenging enough to step outside of the constructs our knowledge sharing patterns have established, if I can find new meanings hidden within our culture, how might I test this to see if I have a valid hypothesis? How might I actually innovate and design an intervention that gets people to adopt this radical new meaning? It seems that incremental innovation can be employed. If there can be a theory of change that inspires people to adopt a new way of solving their problems and that, over time, crosses a magical threshold into a new way of being/doing/relating.

Building a draft of a product roadmap: How to (and not to) do it

As a follow-up to my blogpost on feature and capability and sizing summary, I am going to discuss my process for building a product roadmap for the TD Bank Mobile App I wireframed in quarter 2. A product roadmap is a visualization of how a product builds over time. This means that I had think strategically about what features to build first, second, third…up until the entire application is “done” (even though nothing is ever done!). I will describe my process as follows:

  • Building a thin slice flow
  • Mapping out capabilities
  • Building a draft of a product roadmap
  • Reflections

Building a thin slice flow

The first step of building a product roadmap is by determining what thin slice flows I will start with. A thin slice flow is a pared down version of a hero flow. This means that the flows I will build will be minimal, yet a user can still find the experience valuable. For this, I started at a high level. I asked myself which flows are necessary and which ones can be built later. The full list of flows are as follow:

  1. Login
  2. Check balance
  3. Mobile check deposit
  4. Bill pay
  5. Quick pay
  6. Transfer
  7. Settings
  8. Support
  9. Safe to spend

Since users primarily come to their banking app to check balance, pay bills and transfer money, I will include these in the first version of the banking app. I will also include paired down versions of Settings and Support since these have basic necessary features like FAQs, change password, and getting live support.

After determining which high level flows I would hold off on, I dove into Login, Check Balance, Bill Pay and Transfer. Below, I will discuss what I chose to leave out in version one with a rationale.


I left locator and sign up features on the login screen. These will take time to build but aren’t valuable for loyal TD bank users. I also crossed out all buttons and references to features that won’t be rolled out until later versions. I also took away the fancy “Good morning/afternoon” feature since that is necessary.

Check Balance:

Since the primary use of check balance is to be able to see a list of recent transactions, I decided that being able to view and download a PDF for past statements will be a feature I will add later.

Bill pay:

In the thin slice flow, users will be able to pay their bills to any payee, but it will only be a one-time bill pay. Developing the scheduling feature will take too much time. I will also be able to leverage the “Add a payee” feature in the transfer flow.


Much like Bill Pay, I will keep this to one-time transfers, though users can transfer internally or externally.


Version one will only be available in English.

I have included visualizations of the original flow,s a rough cut flows (where I indicate the features and components that I will add in later), and the final thin slice flows.

Login Flow
Login Flow
Login Rough Cut
Login Rough Cut
Login Flow
Login Flow


Bill Pay Flow
Bill Pay Flow
Bill Pay Rough Cut
Bill Pay Rough Cut
Bill Pay Thin Slice
Bil Pay Thin Slice
Check Balance Flow
Check Balance Flow
Check Balance Rough Cut
Check Balance Rough Cut
Check Balance Thin Slice
Check Balance Thin Slice
Settings Flow
Settings Flow
Settings Rough Cut
Settings Rough Cut
Settings Thin Slice
Settings Thin Slice
Support flow
Support flow
Transfer flow
Transfer flow

Mapping out capabilities

Next, I mapped out capabilities. This means I took all the features that I want to build for version one, laid them out and prioritized the order in which they will be developed. You can see a visualization of this below.

Layout Capabiities

Then, I printed and cut them out to determine how to distribute the work between two developers who each work 40 hours weeks.


Building a draft of a product roadmap

Finally, I built a draft of the road map. It proved challenging to build a stand-alone visualization I could easily send out to a team. How do I make it accurate, reflective of time, and readable? Honestly, I think it starts earlier in the process. As I learn how to work with developers, influence their decisions, and think about how a product builds value over time, I think I will be able to more accurately build a stand-alone map. In the end, I also decided not to map out Safe to Spend. It was the riskiest feature of my app and to develop anything of value will take 8 months (!). I can’t think of a good reason to develop my Safe to Spend feature. In the end, the whole banking application will take about 12 weeks to build (?!???). You can see my draft below. Gray represents the first release. Red represents the third release. Blue is third. Green is the final release.

Roadmap 1 Roadmap 2


As I continue to develop as a designer, I know I also need to learn more about software development. In the end, I do not think my roadmap is accurate. There’s no way that I could build a whole banking application in fewer than 12 weeks. Though I based my information on the initial conversation I had with a developer, I do not think that I have enough detailed information on individual components and features, nor do I have accurate data on how long each feature estimate. I’m excited to learn more about software development as I continue building my skills as a human-centered designer!


Towards a Personal Code of Design Ethics

This week’s blogpost for theory is providing me an opportunity to be able to sketch out my own code of design ethics. In order to do this, I have been reflecting on why it matters that I develop a code of ethics, what a beginning code of ethics might be, and then, I will apply my code of ethics to KeyUp, my current project at AC4D.

Why I think ethics is important

For anyone that has been following my journey, you know my background is in public education. I am certain that without much convincing on my part, most people would consider a person working as a math teacher is practicing designing for good. Of course, I can talk about this at length (and have begun to reflect on this in another blogpost) and actually, I would claim that it is just as important for teachers to think about their own ethics. Regardless of profession, if you have an impact on other people, you should reflect on your own decisions. And the design profession has helpful tools to do this.

Professionals should take time to semantically zoom in and out on decisions that make throughout their day. I think professionals will be able to critically think about the micro-interactions contained within a decision as well as how that decision fits into broader and broader contexts. They should also perform temporal zooms to imagine why they make the decisions they do and employ future thinking to map that decision out to its ultimate conclusions.

As a teacher, I did this (albeit informally) a lot because I am generally a reflective person who values sense-making. Not only could I talk your ear off about the ethics of public school teaching, but I could build an argument about why math teachers are part of larger systemic problems.

Ultimately, my guide for determining my code of ethics as a teacher or as a designer are fundamentally the same. As a teacher, at a most basic level, I would make a decision, determine if it is right or wrong, and then, that decision would have an impact on my class. In order to determine if I was making an ethical decision was fundamentally selfish: how would my decision ultimately have an impact on me in the future? Would it cause more work? Would it build a community of people I wanted to be part of? These are a few of the questions I would ask.


As a teacher, how I have an impact on students comes back to me eventually.
As a teacher, how I have an impact on students comes back to me eventually.


I believe as a designer I will also think this way. The difference is instead of having a direct impact through my decision, it is indirect.  As Buchanan defines design, it is, “…the human power of conceiving, planning, and bringing to reality all of the products that serve human beings in the accomplishment of their individual and collective purposes.” Since, I am ultimately selfish and am making decisions that will build a world that I want to be part of, every design decision is political and stems from my own bias. I would make an addendum to Buchanan’s definition which would be, “…accomplishment of their individual and collective purposes towards a world that Adam believes in.” I take this as a basic axiom of my code of ethics that if I produce an ethical design, the design will be all about me and my own desires.

As a designer, I have an impact on a greater number of people than I do as a teacher through the things I make.

So, since I take as a basic premise that I am working to build a world I want to be part of, I can begin to design a code of ethics that will help me to become the designer I hope to be some day.

My Own Code of Design Ethics

Below is a working draft of a code of design ethics to help me choose future projects and make decisions.

  1. I will make choices that maximize building my design skills.
  2. I will make choices that maximize good for the world.
  3. I will make time to reflect, revaluate, and allow new rules to emerge.
  4. I will knowingly make compromises in the shorter term that will lead to longer term goals.

In order to help define the first two codes, I have included a non-exhaustive list to illustrate what I mean building design skills and good for the world.


As I develop my design identity, I can use the first two codes to reflect on my own goals and the potential for future compromises. I can plot design projects on xy-axis to make decisions. How good is something for the world? How much does it help to build my design skills? I can think about whole jobs, single projects, phases of the design arc, or moments within phase. For example, let’s say Facebook magically offers me a job? Should I move to SF to be a part of their User Experience team? Of course, this decision can be highly nuanced but from my current naïve point of view (and given current events), I would say that working at Facebook would fall in quadrant IV because I would definitely learn to work more effectively and efficiently, but at this point in time, Facebook is not good for the world due to its lack of transparency.



I can apply similar logic to other projects that we read about in the last two weeks. Or even to my prior career as a teacher.

Is KeyUp ethical?

Now, how do I think about my current project KeyUp? KeyUp is a service that connects young adults without college degrees to middle skill careers. Is it an ethical design project? Short answer is, yes. I am learning a ton of design skills and according to my list of what’s good for the world, it hits on many of the indicators. For proof of this, read my past blogposts detailing its KeyUp’s evolution. In fact, if you believe that activism is ethical, KeyUp passes Thorpe’s test for design activism. I have included an argument as to how this may be true:

KeyUp: a service to connect young adults to middle skill careers

Claim: economically disadvantaged young people shouldn’t have to go into college debt to achieve a higher quality of life – all people  should be exposed to options outside of the now-traditional four college

On behalf of: economically disadvantaged young people

Disruption: “With the best of intentions” the US has pushed the myth of the 4 year college experience to get to a better life – without a college degree, a person has far less social and financial capital

Reveal/frame: frames the possibility that everyone can have a meaningful life without a 4 year degree


The articles we read over the past week and a half have informed how I may think about the designer I will be. The articles presented why it is important to have an ethical foundation, on the need to think about ethics along the entire design process, and the impacts of not thinking things through. I am certain that I will constantly have to revise how I think about my design decisions. Regardless of what will happen in the future, I am committed to asking questions, reflecting on my impact, and taking responsibility for the mistakes I will inevitably make.



The first step to ship my TD Mobile Banking App Re-design: sizing

This quarter, I am returning to my redesign of the TD banking application for my product management course. In this course, we are shifting from user-centered designer to product manager. We will ask ourselves what it will take to actually build this product, how do we communicate with developers to determine cost and length of time, and then, eventually develop a roadmap to an MVP. In this blogpost, I am going to discuss my process to size the banking application. This means, I will break down the banking app into unique features, components and controls (to be discussed below) in order to have a discussion with a developer to determine how long the product will take to make. More generally, I am now focused on how to ship my product (now that I’ve determine what I should make).

This blogpost will include:

  • Identifying unique features, components, and controls
  • Documenting the system
  • Sizing
  • What I Learned

    Identifying unique features, components, and controls

My first step in determining what it will take to ship my product will be to move from the ‘blue sky’ thinking of design to the grounded land of ‘constraints’. I have heard from many designers that conversations with developers is often a ‘downer’ as they say give their perspective on what’s possible given budget and time constraints. Of course, every developer is going to provide a best guess (which will be wildly inaccurate) but will at least give an approximation to work from. In order to prepare myself for this conversation, I had to re-analyze my system using a new framework: where are there unique features, controls and components in order to help develop a way to describe everything to an engineer as well as look for opportunities for efficiency.

To do this, I first posted up all my flows so I could get a zoomed out perspective of the entire application. I then searched for all of the features (green stickies). This was challenging since I didn’t have a strict definition of a feature. I spoke with several mentors and tried to ad-hoc synthesize what I learned. I decided that features are well-defined features in which users accomplish whole or partial tasks. For example, when a user is within the Transfer money flow, they add an external account. At this point, I assumed that this was a feature.

Posting up the flows

Then, I scanned my system for unique components and controls. These are elements users interact with in order to accomplish a task. The challenge for this was to find all of the industry standard terminology for each component or control. I learned that some of the ones I made in my application were not actually standard.

Documenting the system

After I finished identifying the unique features, components and controls, I zoomed back into the details of my system. This involved removing all of the elements I highlighted in green and orange from their context so that I could record a description of each in terms of the information they include, where the information comes from, as well as how it fits into the larger system. This process helped me to think about my banking application from a new perspective. I had to ask myself how a developer might see think about element. The record I am including below represents my best guess the entire inventory of unique features in my application. After I met with a developer, I learned that in some cases I did not include a feature I should have or that there were sub-features within a feature I had already named. For example, in I discovered that in general, any form had to interact with APIs outside of my system. I did not realize that before.

System documentation 6 System documentation 5 System documentation 4 System documentation 3 System documentation 2 System documentation 1

Transfer 1 Transfer 2 Transfer 3 safe to spend 8 safe to spend 7 safe to spend 6 safe to spend 5 safe to spend 4 safe to spend 3 safe to spend 2 Safe to spend 1 settings Quick Pay 3 Quick Pay 2 Quick Pay 1 Deposit check Alerts:Notifcations 2 Alerts Notifications 1 Check balance Edit Bill Error Login


The final step in this process was to meet with a developer. This was an opportunity for me to learn what goes on in the ‘black box’ – or the system behind my wireframes. As I build my design, I knew was either ignorant of typical bank application features or made many assumptions when I built the safe to spend feature.

Turns out I was right on both accounts.

During my meeting, I learned a lot about how simple flows that I assumed were old hat by now like authentication was actually quite complex. It took way longer (80 hours) than I thought it would. This is often how it went as I showed the developer all of my flows. He also exposed me to some important vocabulary. For example, my interaction with the developer pushed me to begin trying to understand APIs a lot more. My goal will be to be able to explain what an API is to the class at some point (hopefully as we present tonight).

In total, my banking application will take 218 days in total to build. Of course, this estimation is wildly inaccurate. The developer repeatedly told me he was padding his time because he did not know what variables would come up. He constantly talked about how risky many of the features would be and that he could not predict all the ways it could go wrong. Below is a detailed list of how long each flow will take as well as particular notes on different features. Below that, I have included all of my flows.

Sizing Documentation – Sheet1

What I Learned

I have been reflecting on this experience so that I can take away meaningful insights. First it was a challenge to be able to even determine how to describe my banking application not from the perspective of a user-directed flow. But, after working through this process, I have begun to form some theory.

First, I believe that features are made up of forms and controls, as displayed in the concept map below.

digital elements

Second, forms and components interact with humans and features interact with data. Both combine to accomplish flow tasks. The concept map below illustrates this concept.

Nested features

Third, my banking application is a series of nested features and it is my goal to be able to explain it on all levels. When speaking with my developer, I need to know all of the features as well as the nested features that can be reused over and over again. Below is a concept map that illustrates nested features following the transfer flow I spoke about above.


How to have an impact on identity development: an untested theory

As I write the first blogpost on theory for my last quarter of AC4D, I must start with a disclaimer:

What you are about to read is purely theoretical. It has, of yet, been untested in the field. Any semblance to truth or facts are incidental. Please read with caution.

Keeping this disclaimer in mind, the reader should know this blogpost will be a discussion of how I am making sense of the articles I read housed under the headline “The Best of Intentions”. I will first discuss a framework for how I am understanding how a person might develop their identity according to design theory. Second, I will pontificate on ways an Interaction Designer might use his skills to build products that have an impact on identity development. I will conclude with the kinds of projects I might value as move forward in my career.

Identity Development Framework

The 15 articles we read these last two weeks focus on particular kinds of actors that are within/have impact on the build environment: design practitioners, interactions designers, design educators, design clients, marketers, MNCs, bleeding-heart consumers, and economically and socially disadvantaged populations. I was not satisfied cleaving this conceptual space as if all actors that we are discussing aren’t just humans within a larger socio-historical construct. Namely, from a design theory perspective, all of these actors have been impacted by the human-created world. Designers, though they self-importantly claim they can have a broad impact on the world, are also subject to the same dynamics at play as does as bleeding-heart consumer or an economically disadvantaged person (though, designers do have more power and privilege).

Looking back to first quarter’s theory course, I recall Vitta discussing how consumers project their identity onto the material world. He says that there is a “…loss of identity for the individual who is submerged on one side in an avalanche of goods” and that, “…he or she is constrained to use these goods not for functionality but as images of himself or herself to be projected toward the outside world as the sole contact with others.” This calls to mind Phy’s critique of (Product)Red. (Product)Red is a charity campaign in which consumers purchase consumer goods for a higher cost so that companies like Gap make a profit and what remains goes to AIDS charity in Africa. Phy says that, “”…consumers are sold on the ideas or commodities that exemplifies what they want to represent in their society through means of materials they own. With this in mind, the (Product) Red campaign takes on a … tactic to encourage consumers to purchase their products as a means of ‘doing good for the world.” Thus, a person’s identity is developed through their consumption.

On the other hand, one can see that a person’s identity is developed through their choices of what and how they produce. This is evident in the various discussions in the articles (as well as all year long) about the importance of using theory to inform my choices of projects as a designer. Of course, this can be seen from the perspective of the impact that the decisions a designer has on future users. But it also about how I may identify as a designer. For example, Pal says that, “practice working with atypical user populations or use-case scenarios, offers benefits to designers…making us more well-rounded…and attractive.” Thus a person’s identity is also developed through their production.

As you can see in the concept map below, moving further from how production and consumption constitute a person’s identity, we see that a person’s identity is also shaped by their relationship to giving and receiving. I define giving and receiving as the relationship a person has to the things they produce and consume. It is the emotional casing that an individual has about the things they produce and consume. Take the above example of (PRODUCT)RED, well-intentioned consumers make the choice to purchase more expensive products because they believe it is good to give to charity as well as purchase (potentially useless) stuff. This is also a discussion explored in an article by Karani in which he critiques the idea that selling to people at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) should be seen simultaneously as lucrative and as a way to eradicate poverty. However,

The poor are vulnerable by virtue of lack of education (often they are illiterate), lack of information, and economic, cultural and social deprivations. A person’s preferences are malleable and shaped by his background and experience. We need to look beyond the expressed preferences and focus on people’s capabilities to choose the lives they have reason to value.

This can also be seen in the example cited by Anderson wherein homeless people sell “Street Spirit” for $1 instead of just asking for money. The theory is that people feel differently about giving to the homeless if they get something in return.

Of course, a person’s relationship to giving/receiving is informed by large systemic issues involving social, economic and ability factors. However, people are people and my theory is that one’s identity is developed through the ways in which they produce and consume, how they feel about giving and receiving and are informed by the larger systemic constructs out of their control.

Blogpost Concept Map

How Interaction Designers Might Use Their Skills to Shape Identity

As an interaction designer who might shape identity development, I will present three design pillars. The first design pillar is that of competence, or the belief that a person has that they can do _____(fill in blank with any skill). The second pillar is that of connection, or the ability to connect otherwise disparate entities. The third pillar is that of inclusion, or the ability to make all individuals part of a whole. I believe I can apply these three pillars to the way I outlined identity development to have positive (or negative) impacts on users. Ultimately, I believe that if I design using these three pillars, I can use interaction design to help more people have access to higher qualities of life.


The need for competence starts with how a person either does (or does not) consume and produce. Take Hanson’s belief that because the internet is an unlimited supply of information, “..people become confused or distrustful, they resort back to their basic impulses, their instinctual drive to be tribalistic and self-absorbed.” In this case, Interaction Designers have had a negative impact on a person’s sense of competence. However, more positively, according to Sen as quoted by Karani, designers can help build up a person’s competence helping more people have access to, “basic education, elementary health care, and secure employment are important not only in their own right, but also for the role they can play in giving people opportunity to approach the world with courage and freedom.”


The need for connection is between people, a key problem Interaction Designers can impact. Take the example of New Story highlighted by Peters in which people donate directly to a family in Haiti. Donors can watch as the project evolves. The cofounder of New Story is quoted to say that keeping the process visible was that, “trying to provide the most transparent experience to the donors, that also helped us provide it to our partner and our builders.” Keeping all individuals connected help to change a donor’s relationship to giving change and led to a super successful campaign.

Connection is also present in an article by Gordon and Papi Thornton in which they describe more effective ways to train future designers and have a positive impact is that they need to “promote a full understanding of a problem and its context to ensure that students understand what is working, what isn’t, where the gaps in impact lie, and they they might plug into existing efforts to solve…problems.” Students (anyone trying to solve problems) should try to learn about the (lack of) connections that are currently at play before innovating.


Inclusion (or lack of it) is felt through identity development. I believe it is an Interaction Designer’s role should learn from the mistakes made when designing the High Line and ask if the design, “Is…even something you want?’ Going out and getting permission, and then having the community shaping every ask, has [to be] critical.” It should be the role of researchers, according to Hempl, “…to allow subjects– users, customers, people — to speak for themselves.” It is incumbent upon designers to include all stakeholders when making design decisions, and look to those who are the least included to build inclusive decisions.

I believe that as an Interaction Designers should have an impact on a user’s identity development by developing designs around competence, connection and inclusion. The theory is that as Kolko says, designers, “…build culture through our objects, services and systems as we define behavior through interactions.” Interaction Designers may have a positive impact on a person’s identity as they change behavior around consumption, production, feelings about giving and receiving and ultimately, the larger systemic issues that constrain us all.

Possible Future Projects

As think about applying the theories I’ve developed at AC4D, I imagine the future ideal projects I may want to work on. Broadly speaking, I believe that if I design with the above pillars so that I may have an impact on identity development, I will help more people have access to higher qualities of life. I believe that people will be able to have access to more meaningful and supportive communities, quality of life services such as health care and education and the privilege to plan for future-oriented action.

As I said in the disclaimer, none of this has been tested but it sure as heck makes me excited to see what happens once I leave our small school and try to practice what I preach.



Go-To-Market Plan: KeyUp

Over the past 8 weeks, team MMA has been clarifying and de-risking KeyUp, a service that connects young adults without college degrees to middle-skill careers. We have co-created with young adults, interviewed stakeholders, and found influencers who have been actively seeking opportunities to work with us. We have found that there has been a lot of movement around this problem space. From Texas Workforce developing a strategic action plan to finding out that Impact Hub’s newest accelerator is focused on workforce development, we feel confident that we are building a solution to a problem our stakeholders are desperately seeking.

Co-creating KeyUp with young adults
Co-creating KeyUp with young adults

In this past week, we met with key players in the community who were practically ready to start showing KeyUp to their clients. This has had two consequences for our team: 1) we feel it is urgent to develop a draft of all of the wireframes for our system and 2) we have had to take time to reflect on whether or not this is something we believe we want to continue past 4th quarter. Of course, these are awesome calls-to-action. We know that we can have a positive impact in a way that can help many people and are proud that the research we started in October about civic engagement has inspired us to find something worth creating.

Representation of middle skill careers created by Youth Build
Representation of middle skill careers created by Youth Build

How fortunate, then, that this week we developed our go-to-market plan. It was all about taking our imagined solution one step closer to a realistic state of existence. We have a timeline of product development to shoot for, a potential budget, and a better sense of our competition. We are also prepared to rebut what our naysayers may come at us with as we thought about 30 potential critiques of KeyUp and how we might respond. This has been a helpful exercise as a team because it has forced us to get deeper into the details as well as help us get even more aligned.


We are excited for our last class as we develop our pitches. We will be using our concept and the go-to-market plan to compete for a $2,000 prize at EdTech Fast Pitch on March 1st. We will also have to determine as a team if we should apply for Impact Hub’s Workforce Accelerator.

We would love your help in preparing our presentations and wireframes. We would love critical feedback. We know that’s the way the AC4D alumni expresses its care and support! Email us at

KeyUp: A recruiting service for young adults to find middle skill careers

This week was a turning point for our project. After last week’s flurry of stakeholder outreach , our experiments this week laid to rest the last of our concerns about the fundamental desire on the part of working young adults to connect with training programs and services to help them get through school. Our meetings with stakeholders in person or over the phone also confirmed their interest in a digital service to help training programs and non-profits to connect with young people. With that out of the way, we created paper prototype interfaces and continued to develop our landing page.


This week, these were the hypotheses we tested in order to de-risk the development of our service:

  1. If stakeholders believe there is a need for our service and will support it, then they will express that in our meetings and follow up with us afterwards.
  2. If our target users are interested in our product, they will agree to meet with us to co-create an app interface for our product.
  3. If our target users attend recruitment meetings for Capital Idea (a non-profit that gives people scholarships to get training for middle-skill careers), they indicate robust interest in getting to middle skill careers and using programs offered by local non-profits to do so.

To investigate those assumptions, we conducted the experiments detailed below.


Experiment 1: Stakeholder Outreach, Meetings, and Follow-up

To address the risk that stakeholders in the job training/employment community might not support our project or see how it could integrate into their own processes, we decided to request meetings, speak with them, and then see if they were willing to follow up with us afterwards

Success Criteria

We hoped to schedule meetings with at least five stakeholders,  and then meet with two stakeholders who would then follow up with requested information afterwards.

Actual Results

As of the afternoon of Friday the 9th, we had scheduled four new meetings for the next week. We also met with two stakeholders this week, a professor at the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at UT and the executive director of the Austin Youth Chamber of Commerce. They both expressed enthusiasm for our product and offered to follow up with more information and contacts to support us. Alyssia Woods of the Austin Youth Chamber then actually sent us an email afterwards offering to introduce us to people at several relevant local organizations with whom we had not already talked.

In summary, stakeholders continued to be interested in our product and see a need for it after meeting with us, sharing their expertise, and hearing our plans.

Experiment 2: Intercept Interviews

Success Criteria

We hoped that at least 5 people would inquire further about our product after hearing about the concept and being asked to cast their vote for what the product’s name should be.

Actual Results

We briefly interviewed 16 working adults this week at the Barton Creek Mall. From those interviews we learned that our participants found our original working title, “Sidestep,” confusing, often responding that it sounded like a dance move or like a job you could have on the side.

The most popular proposed name was “KeyUp,” which participants thought sounded catchy. It also reminded them of the actual purpose of the product, saying, “it makes sense for what you would want to do,” and “it sounds like an improvement.”