Testing, testing…can you hear us?

After doing 200 ideas, Dan and I downsized that amount to half, by doing a 2×2 that helped us divide ideas considering if they where functional and if they had any value, that helped us a lot to see throw away some ideas and keep the ones that interested us the most. After doing the 2×2, we still had a lot of ideas so we went and voted for each idea, considering realistic ideas bearing in mind cost, viability and feasibility of making each idea. With that, we downsized to only two ideas. We are now testing each idea doing artifacts like an elevator pitch, lean canvas and a storyboard to describe the idea much better. We also tested each idea with some participants to see if they could be potential users of our products and/or services. 

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Idea 1:
SNAP food delivery service

In our conversations with participants we found that there was a serious lack of resources. In the majority of our conversations it was time and money. Some of our participants who received aid from TANF also spoke about receiving SNAP benefits. In order to better serve these people we thought that finding a way for people to get a delivery service would be more helpful.  We spoke with Isamel, who told us about the hardship he now faced after being let go from his job.

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“It’s because of snap I don’t have to choose food. Except when I’m out and about and I need to eat, but I can’t get home fast enough.  maybe if I had my snap card with me, I might get some prepared food.” — Igor

Between two jobs and getting his child to and from school Igor found little time to visit the store. Through ideation and storyboarding exercises we were able to understand how this service might be beneficial to SNAP users who need it most.

For low income individuals who experience the inability to obtain healthy food and want to eat a well balanced nutritious diet. Our product brings healthy food to low-income families who don’t have the means to obtain it themselves. Unlike UberEats, and Postmates our product will be exclusive to SNAP users and other low income individuals in need of a healthy balanced diet.

We heard from several current SNAP users who were willing to give feedback on our design concept. The information we gained by externalizing these with those who are part of the service was extremely helpful. We found that the diverse set of people SNAP is designed to serve may be difficult to shape an auxiliary product for. We heard that some SNAP users receive far more aid than others who may have a higher need for it. Alongside some of the below takeaways we got from those who use the service themselves.

  • A SNAP delivery service would be useful for a select few within the program.
  • Are users going to pay for delivery? How often will it come?
  • Lower cost or no cost delivery would not be a determining factor
  • Being able to see what you order and spend your snap dollars on in one place could be helpful for meal planning
  • Being able to determine what locations participate in the delivery program?
  • How do I qualify for the delivery service?

It’s clear that there is work to be done into developing this service, and it’s through chatting with actual humans who use SNAP is beyond insightful. Human centered design for the win yet again. Going forward we’ll be able to distill these ideas down further into something more legitimate.

Artifacts here.

Idea 2:
Baby product/clothing recycling service

This idea came from former interviews in our research, the most interesting conversation was with Samantha, a single mother that is struggling with working, being a single mother of two daughters and having no financial aid. 

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“I needed the loans to live, you know, I need gas for my car, she (daughter) needs clothes, she’s growing, silly kids with their biology.” —Samantha

For families looking to minimize their children’s ever-growing closets whilst benefiting low income families who are unable to purchase appropriate products for their new child. Our goal is to be the mediator to people who don’t want the products to people who need them. Our product is to provide a mail in service, online platform, and physical location to those low-income families in need. Reduce carbon footprint. Unlike depop or salvation army we are utilizing existing products and clothing that is not in use and providing it to those in need.

We first did some artifacts to understand how the service will work. This was a very helpful process because the artifacts, like the lean canvas, make you think about profit or preferred users. These are things to consider while prototyping an idea. The storyboard (comic) also helped us to visualize how the service could work and what pain points we are resolving. In this case, we hope to resolve two main issues. First, we are taking baby products that families no longer need to relieve space in their homes. Second, we hope to provide cheaper baby products for the people that need them.

We have two users that could use this service, the donors (people that don’t need the stuff) and the customers (people that need the stuff). So basically, we are the mediators from people that don’t want the stuff to people that need the stuff.

We spoke to four participants that included our two types of users (donors and customers). Some of the insights we got were the following:

  • Families have boxes and closets full of clothes and toys, they don’t know what to do with them
  • Some parents complained because they buy things that their baby only used  for a couple of months (eg. bassinet)
  • Four out of five participants said that they wouldn’t donate clothes, because they can get pretty spoiled after a lot of use, however they did say that they would donate and/or rent bigger and more expensive products (eg. strollers).
  • They also said that they would prefer some kind of reward for donating (eg. $10 a piece)
  • We would have to be very strict with quality, so we don’t have broken products (we will not be a landfill)
  • One participant mentioned that he would not like to rent things, but to buy them cheaper.
  • We should make a strict list of what things we could sell (eg. strollers, cribs, etc) and what things we wouldn’t accept because of hygiene and health (eg. baby feeding bottles, pacifiers, etc)

All of these comments from future customers of our service were very helpful and we will keep them in mind during next steps. This step was crucial, because when your idea starts to become real, and you think of things that you didn’t think of before (eg. donating things like the feeding bottle would not be very hygienic).

Artifacts here.

Our progress

This week we accomplished downsizing our ideas from 200 to 2 punchy ideas, we did some artifacts that helped us understand how our services would work properly and what can be feasible. The artifact that helped us the most was the Lean Canvas, because you can start to think about the value proposition, the key metrics, the differentiations and most importantly the costs. We then tested both ideas with potential future customers to see how they react to these potential services. Overall we got pretty good reactions with some constructive criticism that helped us narrow our focus (eg. having strict quality-check with donations so we don’t become a landfill).

Next s†eps

For next steps we will be creating two kinds of sales deck for each idea and we will continue by downselecting again to end up with one final idea to work with until graduation.

Under Armour has room to grow

Under Armour is an American company that develops, markets, distributes and manufactures footwear, sports, and casual apparel based in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1996 by the CEO Kevin Plank (a former football player) who by the beginning of this year became the Executive chairman and brand chief, leaving the C-Suite role to Patrik Frisk (former COO) as a CEO.

  • Slogan “I will”
  • Mission statement “to make all athletes better through passion, design and the relentless pursuit of innovation.” 
  • Vision statement “to inspire you with performance solutions you never knew you needed and can’t imagine living without.”
  • Core values “love athletes, stand for equality, fight on together, create fearlessly, always connect, stay true, think beyond, and celebrate the wins.”

People started noticing the brand since the beginning, firstly, because they invented their own moisture-wicking apparel, which competitors like Adidas and Nike followed through and made the same type of apparel. Secondly, by the contract of big American football teams like Oakland Riders, NC State, Arizona State, making many others follow.

The products manufactured by Under Armour include athletic shoes, t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, pants, leggings, shorts and accessories such as bags, gloves, caps and protective gear for men, women and kids. They also produce uniforms for American football, basketball, golf and soccer. They now offer digital health and fitness apps built to connect people and drive performance.

Under Armour promotes its products by sponsorship agreements with many celebrity athletes, professional teams and college athletic teams, a field in which it competes with other sports apparel companies. However, for the last couple of years, their strategy has been to put the consumer at the center of everything they do: How is UA engaging customers? What do they see as their core strengths? How does UA deliver immersive experiences? What is their relationship with their brand?

Their primary goal for retail marketing strategy is to increase brand floor space dedicated to their products. Under Armour point of sale displays and concept shops enhance the brand’s presentation within their major retail accounts with a shop-in-shop approach, using dedicated floor space exclusively for UA products, including flooring, lighting, walls, displays and images.

They are combining the physical and digital product to help their customers achieve their fitness goals. For that, they just launched a connected shoe, the HOVR Infinite, which they designed with Dow Chemical, and connects to the UA MapMyRun app. The app uses machine learning to collect data from a sensor in the shoe’s footbed and calculates the stride length and cadence. After the first run, the app coaches the user on their running form. Another product that they have is the ArmourBox that you can use by going online and writing about your training schedule, your favorite shoe style, and your fitness goals. They then use advanced analytics to send the user new shoes or apparel on a subscription basis. Their future product and goals in clothing and footwear will provide that same user experience but with no digital phone nor watch, leaning on artificial intelligence and personalization.

The company appears to have substantial room to grow. In recent years Under Armour has acquired several fitness app companies as it seeks to integrate mobile technologies to bolster its brand. UA projects substantial growth in footwear sales and additional income streams from more sales directly to consumers. The company will also continue to enter new markets, most recently hiring a talented team to initiate a plan to enter the outdoor performance apparel market.

Direct competitors

Amongst their many competitors Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour are all in direct competition with one another in order to capture market share in this lucrative space.

  • Adidas is a multinational corporation, founded and headquartered in Germany, that designs and manufactures shoes, clothing and accessories. It is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe, and the second largest in the world, after Nike. While Adidas was initially known as a soccer brand, its ownership of TaylorMade and Reebok establishes it as a diversified player in athletic apparel and goods.
  • Nike is an American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing, and worldwide marketing and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories, and services. It is the world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel, and major manufacturer of sports equipment.

All of the competitors that I mentioned are now facing a market change, they now want to focuse more on the user experience and best quality. By doing that, each brand in focusing in some sort of differentiation for example, Nike is advertising its clothing and shoe apparel with the help of the Women’s World Cup (strong effort in fighting for gender equality). Adidas is also advertising for gender equality, in this case, with Beyoncé.

Overall UA plans to continue to grow their business over the long term through increased sales of their apparel, footwear and accessories, expansion of the wholesale distribution, growth in direct to consumer sales channel and expansion in international markets. UA’s digital strategy is focused

on supporting these long-term objectives, emphasizing the connection and engagement with their consumers through multiple digital touch points, including through our Connected Fitness business.

Brief

The product objective is to allow general fitness enthusiast and athletes to set goals, track their progress and set new ones. The differentiating point of view is that any kind on fitness in the sum of smart training, nutrition, and motivation. They product must contain:

  • Goal setting
  • Training content
  • Tracker integration
  • Progress visualization and data
  • Nutrition advice
  • Community

The challenge is to develop a set of viable concepts for visualizing a user’s progress towards their goals. The concepts must:

  • Show a user’s current progress to goal
  • Show progress over a period of time
  • Reflect the product’s differentiating point of view
  • Be relevant to both, general fitness enthusiasts and competitive athletes
  • Answer challenges inherent to the category (why they abandon their training)
  • Digital products are a wasteful distraction

 

My personal ethical decision-making process

Thinking of our personal ethical decision-making is hard, although we make ethical decisions every day, like for example, do I creep up over the speed limit because it is to my convenience? Or should I buy somewhere I know their employees are poorly payed? We go each day without thinking about these ethical decisions we make, because they are small and hurt people in an insignificant or small way. But what when we think of big, wicked problems, then the ethical decisions are almost impossible to decipher.

I felt lost at the beginning of this assignment and to be honest I am still pretty lost, ethics is much more than just doing your readings and your homework, it’s also diving deep into your feelings and what the gut tells you, which apparently, I am not so good at, but it’s just a muscle we have to start training.

With all of this confession I will start by saying that my process was eternal and things just didn’t make sense. But at the end what helped me the most, was thinking about problems that I have thought about in my design project with our partner Caritas of Austin, we worked with them for about four months. Our main focus was to understand how caritas was delivering clients goals (if you want to know more about this project, click here). Without going into any details, we learned about ECHO, Coordinated Entry provides a single doorway for people to walk through to access many different community resources.  The Coordinated Entry team develops, implements, and oversees a system that connects individuals experiencing homelessness to housing supports and other services like healthcare. They use a vulnerability index tool to prioritize individuals and families most in need of housing services. To me, the biggest issue when interviewing individuals experiencing homelessness is that the ones that can advocate by themselves are not being helped, however the most vulnerable need help the most, I always felt uncomfortable with this idea because we are leaving people with desire to grow professional and personal behind.

My ethical framework has 9 different steps that in any occasion where I feel uncomfortable like in that case, I can do the steps to figure out what is bothering me and have a call to action.

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With this ECHO problem and my super incredible ethical decision-making framework, I can now figure out other alternatives that could work to have a more just support system.

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At what point do extremist views become a danger to society?

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https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611807/this-is-what-filter-bubbles-actually-look-like/

The graph above represents how the polarization looks even more extreme when the accounts are plotted according to their “valence,” a measure of how politically homogeneous their connections are. A valence of 0 means an account follows or is followed only by progressive accounts, while 1 means it’s connected only to conservative accounts. The center is called “The silence of the center” because the center of the political universe is far quieter than the polarized wings. This plot of average daily tweets (vertical axis) from the network seen in the charts above shows that the extreme partisans on both sides are screaming while the center whispers.

Although this graph only talks about politics, we can see that in the extremes, people are more actively creating, consuming and spreading views and content reflecting their point of view. The question that I wanted to post for myself is, at what point do extremist views become a danger to society?

To start, I will commence by explaining what is filter bubbles. The term “filter bubbles” refers to the results of the algorithms that dictate what we encounter online. According to Eli Pariser, those algorithms create “a unique universe of information for each of us … which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information.”

I made a graph that represents in the ‘x’ on the left, we have the moderate thinkers and, on the right, we find the radical thinkers. On the ‘y’ axis on the bottom a wide filter bubble and on top a narrow filter bubble. I also divided the graph by four quadrants which describe four different ways that people use their views. The idea of this diagram was to understand how dangerous each quadrant could be. If you put together a group of people with radical point of views, with narrow filter bubbles and you add to that personalized ads, vulnerable targeting and propaganda, there is where it can become dangerous. But who has the fault? who can do something about it?

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How do we protect what is private?

This is a broad question that maybe some of you have thought about, to start understanding what this question even means we need to do some introduction. Firstly, let’s start by introducing what does the word privacy mean according to The Cambridge Dictionary:

Pri·va·cyç/ˈprīvəsē/

  • The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.
  • Someone’s right to keep their personal matters and relationships secret.
  • The right that someone has to keep their personal information secret or known only to small groups of people.

Secondly, I will try to answer this question by using a common service that we all have hear of, it’s called Facebook. Currently Facebook has had a rough couple of years because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and whether they are culpable or not. I will roughly introduce what Facebook is and does.

Facebook is a social networking site that makes it easy for you to connect and share with family and friends online. Originally designed for college students, Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg while he was enrolled at Harvard University. By 2006, anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address could join Facebook. Today, Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with more than 1 billion users worldwide.

When Facebook to go public in early 2012, Mark Zuckerberg noted that the social network wasn’t originally designed to be a company. “It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected” Zuckerberg wrote in Facebook’s S-1 filing, presenting the business as an engine supporting this goal.

Now, five years later, the social network’s CEO still believes Facebook’s primary purpose is a social one, but he’s ready to update this mission for the first time. At at time when Facebook has come under scrutiny for not adequately curbing the spread of false news and extremist activity on the social network, Zuckerberg is committing to making the world closer. On stage on Thursday at Facebook’s first Community Summit, a gathering in Chicago of leaders from 120 different Facebook Groups, Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s updated purpose: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Lastly, the bad publicity they have had it’s true, but what else might be true in this case. Facebook is a free social networking site that needs ads in order to survive and work the way that it does. Their whole mission as a company is built on ads, their primarily interest is to collect data, whether they sell it to third parties or not. That is one thing we are going to further talk about.

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In the company’s annual developer conference, they spoke to all the change that Facebook had with their new identity, new graphic image, new mission, new purpose and many other things. That day, Facebook went from “Show off everything in your life publicly…we encourage you!to “Users have control over sharing with one or more people… it will be encrypted”. That is saying that they will not be eye dropping on private conversations anymore, but that makes me wonder if that is completely true and if we can trust their word on that. In the conference there where many questions left untouched, like if there will be any changes on how they collect user data? Or how they are ensuring that the data will no longer be shared to others? Questions that are very important for us, the public.

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With all of this in mind I made an artifact that reflects what technology is doing to our public and private data. There is a line that divides our private data from our public. You can think about what things you would like to leave private and what things are good having public…

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But what happens when that line becomes blurry and unclear? Where does our data stand? As technology grows and advances, this line becomes even more blurry. How can we protect what is private when we don’t even know what our private data is? The content is becoming both public and private at the same time. No matter what Facebook’s CEO mission is, doesn’t matter if our information is now encrypted, the information we upload is public.

After talking about this mega social network, we can now start to ask ourselves, How do we protect what’s private? To do that we need to balance public and companies. By making the public to care about their privacy and not just scroll down the privacy and policy pop-up until we reach the I agree button with even noticing what I am agreeing upon. Companies also need to care about our privacy and not sell it like it was hot delicious bread. This way we could have a meaningful relationship between companies and the public.

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There are many things designers can do, here I enlist some examples that I have come up with, what else can we do?

  • Giving users more transparency, choice and control over how their data is being used
  • What data is being collected, by whom and why
  • Giving users easy access to information and control

Benefits are big
Risks, that we’ll have to see…

Are we making the world a better place?

As I started thinking about Ethics class and this particular assignment, a lot of questions went through my mind and the process got a little bit like a labyrinth process. After doing my facilitation in class I ended up with a lot unanswered questions about all the readings like, How power works? Is everything done for the good or bad of customers? Are the users the losers? Are this big companies designing our lives? Is it unethical? Are they manipulating the customer into doing things they don’t want? Do algorithms define us? Are all these questions a framework? … I was mind browned away by all of these questions. So, I decided to zoom out and look at a bigger question:

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To have some sensemaking of the content in the readings I decided to do construct their different perspectives in two axis. And it all came to this:

Untitled-1-01

 

By doing that I divided the concepts that prioritized more the business outcome and not so much the users. I found that there is a gap when having products and services that are human-centered and prioritize the user’s needs and wants.

To fix this, we could take the power-privilege diagram, where designers are in the top with the power (Figure 1). Why don’t we change the word power to businesses and vulnerability to users and bring the designers to the middle and move the balance where the users are in the power space and the businesses in the receiving end (Figure 2).

By doing these changes we could:

  • Balance the user’s needs with the business needs.
  • Design and the users experience will no longer be compromised.
  • The desire to generate commerce will lower and they will be able to main goal and to serve the user.

The challenges of doing this would be:

  • To be able to accomplish the business needs.
  • We have to be careful with regulations that already exist.
  • The ecosystem is built one way that influences design.
  • Benefit the businesses because at the end, they pay
  • Want things to change

 

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(Figure 1)

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(Figure 2)

After all of this questioning and thinking I ended up with a bigger question and that is what I will leave you to think about.

 

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Let’s play 20 questions!

Last week it was my turn to facilitate a 30-minute activity, and how Edward de Bono would say “Humor and creativity can change that road we always take and do some lateral thinking”, so, by putting myself in a green hat mood I did a small game to get the creativity up and coming. I connected the readings about the digital addiction by Jan Leslie and why do we have metrics? by Joe Edelman.

 

Intro

First of all, I started by setting the stage, in order to do that I wanted all of the members of my team to be in the same channel, so, I wrote down on a big board the goal, focus and take away this activity should provide when completed. The activity started right after setting the stage and then we had a discussion of how they felt in this activity and what questions they had lingering after doing the game.

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The main goal of this exercise would be to understand how the metrics as simple maximizers1 are forming the data that media has defined as “who we are“ according to the reading of Joe Edelman. Also, I wanted to make an emphasis in the reading of Jan Leslie to build empathy with the feeling of an operant conditioning chamber2, so, in less words build empathy with the rat that had been inside that box, my team being the rat in this case. The areas where I wanted to focus were the metrics and the Skinner Box, specifically on rewards and hot triggers.

The take away I wanted my team to leave with after this exercise. Firstly, I wanted them to see the algorithms with a different lens (a green hat lens) of how by describing people with algorithms of behavior (as media does sometimes) they are missing out the values, goals and reasons for them to be who they are. Secondly, to incorporate some hot triggers to have more motivation on the activity, I gave them a Halloween candy for each time they had a right answer as a reward, for a wrong answer there was no reward and with no participation, you had no candy at all. The rewards would hopefully make the team feel good and therefore feel more motivated in participating (as the rat did every time he pressed the lever and a reward came along).

 

Let’s play 20 questions!

The game started, like any game, by explaining the rules of the game. Behind the piece of paper with the exclamation mark there was one person that I choose, no one knew who it was except for me. They, as a team, had to ask me no more than 20 yes/no questions to guess correctly (the questions being the simple maximizers1). However, I did not tell them where would be rewards when having a correct answer, I wanted to leave that as a surprise.

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The team started by asking:

  • Are you a living thing? Yes (reward with candy)
  • Are you a celebrity? Yes (reward with candy)
  • Are you into politics? No (no reward)
  • Are you a singer? Yes (reward with candy)
  • Are you a woman? Yes (reward with candy)
  • Are you an actress? Yes (reward with candy)
  • Are you an African American? (reward with candy)
  • Are you and oldie? No (no reward)
  • Are you a comedian? Yes (reward with candy)
  • And with some help they found the celebrity I had chosen…

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It’s Lizzo, who does not like her, right?

After showing her picture, I wrote down the word “Algorithms” all the things they asked for where similar as how social media thinks of us, by knowing those kinds of things they can know which kinds of ads, friends in common, likes and dislikes we have. But as Joe Edelman said in his writing, they are missing the greatest part of al, the reason why we do those things. For example, Lizzo started singing because she wanted to make his father proud after he passed away, or that she appreciates her body and challenges other women to see their body as what it is and not go with what fashion says it’s correct. So those are the main values and reasons she has behind doing what she does.

So, some questions came up doing this activity, what are they missing? What are her real values? Do algorithms define you? What it means to understand someone as a person? When you describe a friend, what do you think about her/him?, do you describe your friend as that blue robot in the picture above or do we describe them with values and things that are important to you about them.

After doing the game we had some sort of discussion about how they felt about this activity and what main take away they had after the questions. How did the candy reward felt? How did the game felt? Overall they felt the way I intended to and I was happy that the discussion went well and we all had a good talk about the activity.

 

Reflection and self-reflection

  • As a team reflection we had some discussion about how algorithms are good for some people and bad for other, like for example, for me, those alcogithms don’t define me, I don’t like being pushed to buy things that media knows I like, but I obviously can’t afford. Some other teammates had the opposite reaction. At the end ethics is a personal way of thinking and there are no right or wrong answers. The team left a feedback that maybe having more time to debrief after the activity would have been helpful, which I agree.
  • As a reflection with faculty they said that I lacked of a ultimate take away as designers, what can we do as designers? Ending up with a how might we…  And also that the candy reward would have been better as an “aha moment” of surprise at the end of the activity, which I agree.
  • As a self-reflection I would like to say to myself from the future, to do the activity with real people to timebox the actual time that is takes to complete the activity. I had 30-minutes and I thought that the activity would take 50% of the time but it actually lasted for about eight minutes, which thankfully I had a very participatory team and could do great discussion. But maybe for the next facilitation, have another activity prepared just in case I have some spare time.

 

If you have additional thoughts on how I could build or improve on the activities listed above – please reach out to me!

Ana.toca@austincenterfordesign.com

 

––––––––

1 Simple maximizers are metrics that work as equations that give each option a number. The metric then evaluates potential future states of the world. And it always picks the option that leads to the world with the highest score.

2 Operant conditioning chambers is a laboratory apparatus used to study animal behavior. The operant conditioning chamber was created by B. F. Skinner while he was a graduate student at Harvard University. It permits experimenters to study behavior conditioning (training) by teaching a subject animal to perform certain actions (like pressing a lever) in response to specific stimuli, such as a light or sound signal. When the subject correctly performs the behavior, the chamber mechanism delivers food or another reward. In some cases, the mechanism delivers a punishment for incorrect or missing responses.

Low-income constraints parents encounter when having more responsibilities: Part one

For the next 8 weeks Dan and I will work together with JUST to learn more about financial inclusion and how that affects their day to day lives and to help JUST have a better understanding of financial decision making when it comes to family responsibility. We have found interesting information and we are only getting started.

 

What is JUST?

Steve Wanta is the CEO and Co-founder of JUST whose mission is to invest in low-income, female entrepreneurs to create more resilient communities in America and therefore to create a more just world where people have the chance to live with less stress and more joy. To do this JUST wants to change the narrative around the potential of low-income communities to be their own change agents. JUST provides loans exclusively based on trust to female, Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs.

JUST partnered with AC4D to find other communities they can serve and to understand how other communities behave when it comes to financial inclusion.

 

Our objective

Our main interest was to learn and understand how low-income constraints affect parents with the added responsibility of having a family. We have found that having low-income is set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and is dependent on region. Qualifying for low income households in Austin is $57,689 a year, or $4,807 a month. 

Providing for a child in addition to being on the lower end of the earning spectrum is a challenge that we are interested in exploring further. The objectives of this research are:

  • To identify and understand the circumstances that parents who are low-income experience life on a day to day basis around Austin, Texas.
  • To identify and understand the emotional journey of parents who identify as low-income.
  • To identify and understand motivations for spending, budgeting, and saving around having a family.
  • Understand how a low-income family’s access to network services reflects their ability to operate as a family.

 

Our focus

The focus of our research is to better understand the circumstances parents with a child (or children) who are low income face in present day Austin, Texas. To do so we will discuss the intricacies of their motivations, struggles and community. We hope to explore life as a parent on a stringent income and how they go about navigating their day to day lives.
JUST_Participants-01

 

Our Methodology

For our methodology, we will be talking to each participant for about 45 – 120 minutes. Sessions should be conducted with relevance to the participant. By these interviews we would like to understand their financial attitudes and behaviors, specifically on how living with low-income adds more responsibility when having a kid (children). For parents and family members we hope to interview subjects in their home setting or a location where they feel comfortable. While interviewing with administrators or program persons we will interview in their place of work where they deal with the families they serve.

Firstly, we will start by having a small talk about them, then asking some questions to understand where they are at in financially and their feelings around it Secondly, we will do some activities that involve them understanding where their money goes and helping them visualize their responsibilities. This will help us to understand how they feel about these financial constraints and what things they are lacking in order to feel fulfilled in life.

 

We need your help

We need help connecting with parent participants. If you or someone you know may be interested in chatting with us, please reach out to team_da@ac4d.com to get in touch. Your perspective is incredibly valuable and will ultimately help in designing solutions for this unique group of people.

As students working with a nonprofit, we appreciate your willingness to help both us and our community.

 

Austin Center for Design

Austin Center for Design (AC4D) is an educational program uniquely focused on applying design principles to address social and humanitarian problems. Explore more of our philosophy and approach.

Ana Toca and Dan O’Halloran
AC4D Class of 2020
ana.toca@austincenterfordesign.com
dan.ohalloran@austincenterfordesign.com

Where it all begins…

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Thinking about how to explain the readings we had for this assignment 4 “How designers think”, a lot of ideas came to my mind, but one really stuck me. I am 27 years old and I had never heard the words “Wicked problems”, “Well-structured problems” and “Ill-structured times”. Obviously, I knew they existed but never named them this way. Naming these big problems helps understanding them better. When the reading of Chris Pacione – Design Literate talked about how we should teach design as any other subject in school, gave me the idea that I could do and example of what would happen if we teach design in school. Why not teaching design as we are currently teaching math, chemistry, gym, why not design? In my opinion that would be very helpful, because we need more hands to do the work, every minute that passes, we are filled with more and more problems that add up. Why not teach the little ones that even if they want to be astronauts they can help, design thinking is for everyone!

That is why my story is about a design class in school, and how that could benefit us all. Each character is representing one author and talking about the synthesis of the reading. At the end I talk about certain things I like about the readings and how could they work.

Click here to see the story

What makes a meaningful Design Research?

There are many ways of searching and finding a problem, but not all of them have long-term and meaningful solutions. Here, I will attempt to describe some researches and explaining why they are working for certain contexts and how they are not. I made a diagram that explains this in a better more visual way. The horizontal axis is talking about how the research is focusing in working with the participants or working for them, which have can make the research have different results. The vertical axis describes if the research is based on a qualitative or a quantitative result of the investigation.

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I have named each author a different way so that we can all understand a little bit of what are they talking about. Now that you have seen who and why these people inspired me to do this type on diagram. I will start saying that I am going to be talking about the diagram from least important to most important, that is from the bottom right corner to the top right corner.

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Liz Sanders had three different values of co-creation that I thought of them as separate and very different researches, so I will describe them in the order that they have in the diagram, I have them numbered for a better understanding of which is what.

The value number three is the Monetary Value it is mainly fueled by making efficient ways of gaining more money. It only addresses short-term needs and has no depth of emotional bonding with the users/customers, that means that if a new company comes along and sells the user something a little bit better, the user will not hesitate and change companies. The designers roll is to make marketing and creative solutions that bring more profit to the company, not looking at their actual needs. And it is based on a quantitative result, numbers and data are more important than experiences and stories.

We continue with Don Norman or how I address him “but first… technology”, he talks about Technology innovation and that means to have a product that either fails or has a slow acceptance because people are not ready for them. They are the inventors of new and useful products and the needs get discovered afterwards, because technology enables the designers. The role of the designer starts when there is an actual product because as Normal says, we just improve existing products. With quantitative results because it is based in scientific facts and no interest in working with the participants because technology does not bases their facts in actual people or needs and wants.

Liz Sander’s number two comes next, with the Use or experience value that is fueled to transform customers into users, making them have an emotional connection that allows them to trust the brand, having them then buy their product and being the brand’s fruitful followers, resulting with a stable and lovable brand. The role of the designer is to find and design those emotional bonds and to build that trust so it is sort of leaning to a marketing approach. The results are both quantitative and qualitative because they want to get involved in their follower’s needs and wants.

Jon Kolko has too been separated in two completely different ideas that companies cannot seem to understand the differences. Numbering them to understand which one is which.

Marketing Research is the research number two, it is a process that link the users and marketers to identify new problems or opportunities. It is pretty similar to the Value of Use and Experience mentioned before, it is all about finding and exploiting those emotional connections. The designer forms part of a tangible and tactical part of the process. The content is both qualitative and quantitative, but I would lean more in a quantitative approach because it bases more on masses and not on the uniqueness of the participants.

In the quadrant above we have Bill Gaver with his clue interpretations. Cultural probes as they call them, are a collection of evocative tasks for inspirational responses (clues). I would not call this a Research as it is not attempting to find worth solving problems. It is 100% qualitative, as they base their study in stories about participants with no meaning because they don’t even know them. So for me it would be like looking at a random person’s Instagram Feed and coming up with a real (stereotypical) story of who they are. The results (if there are any) are mostly self-centered, because the role of the designer in this case is to interpret the tasks with their own experiences.

Changing to the right-side quadrant we go with Chris LeDantec and his attempt to empower the homeless community. This research consists in a better version of Bill Gaver’s probes and results. It also starts with a camera but ends up with interesting and game changing solutions. The role of the designer is to find making insights, designing solutions and testing them with the actual public bearing in mind that to do that there has to be an involvement of Inclusive design in order to be reaching to the whole community. It is al first working more for the participants as there is only one interview that consists in explaining the pictures taken, but in the second phase of the research they empower and involve the community in the designing and testing of the product.

Moving to Jane Fulton Suri with her Experience prototyping, it consists in enabling the users to gain fist-hand appreciation of a product or service through active engagement. This is helpful if the experience reaches a holistic approach, making the participants “look and feel” the same way they would have done with the actual product or service. Then the role of the designer is crucial, making an integrated and holistic experience rather than an artifact. It is a qualitative result because it is based on real experiences, although they can’t be measured because each person’s experience is unique.

Jodi Forlizzi talks about Product Ecology, it is a theoretical design framework of how products evoke social behavior and describe conditions of change. So basically, how a product functions and what can be better in the way participant behave around it. They have to see the problem and also see what is around the problem to get a better understanding of who are using it and in what context. The role of the designer is about seeking problems and improving existing products. It is a qualitative result because they are trying to understand behavior surrounding a product use in the context where it is usually used.

Jon Kolko’s number one in the diagram would be Design Research. It focuses on the people and the attempts to understand their culture, looking directly at the problem but also around it to have a holistic mindset. Designers have a strategic role, where they are part of participation and discussions, using their ability to think, analyze and produce. It is both qualitative and quantitative but the results are more about content in stories and field patterns.

Last but not least we have Liz Sanders and the Value number one, the Social Value it is fueled by a co-creative, longer-term and humanistic sustainable approach. At the beginning of the research there is no knowledge of what the outcome is going to be by having open ended questions. It is pretty similar to John Kolko´s Design Research. The meaning is in the behavioral conversations with the participants. The designer is included in the whole process of the research. The co-creation with the participants is critical for it to work correctly.

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So to wrap up I would say that in order to have a meaningful Research we should attempt to have a co-creation and collective and people-centered way of working. Understanding our participants and the problems worth solving. And a meaningful Design research would be the same but including the designer in the whole process, as well as having strategic ideas in the synthesis and insight phases.