Making suboptimal markets more efficient for societal change

In Theory of Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship, we took a critical look at how innovation and social entrepreneurship is described through a series of articles and discussions.

A Social Entrepreneurship Overview

In Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition, Roger Martin describes social enterprise as the progression of both society and economy, Social entrepreneurship, we believe, is as vital to the progress of societies as is entrepreneurship to the progress of economies, and it merits more rigorous, serious attention than it has attracted so far.

A Suboptimal Equilibrium as Context

Martin further describes the characteristic of an entrepreneur as a person who sees suboptimal equilibrium as an opportunity to provide new solutions.  And to give you a bit more context, the map below illustrates an example of a state of suboptimal equilibrium, where over 50% of a country is facing chronic poverty.

A Social Entrepreneur

So by Martin’s definition, Muhammad Yunus is a social entrepreneur.  And in Building Social Business Models: Lessons from the Grameen Experience, Yunus introduces us to his first lesson by challenging conventional wisdom … Grameen Bank’s business model therefore challenges several standard banking assumptions, including the beliefs that loans cannot be granted without collateral and that ‘entrepreneurship’ is a rare quality among the poor. 

He is also explicit about the need for social profit objectives to be clear especially when creating business models for social change.  Without this understanding and transparency – it’s easy to claim that even micro-financing in a way, throws money at a social problem or even worse takes advantage of the already compromised.

The Progress of Economies and Societies

In Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage, Aneel Karnani describes a balance of society and economy progression that makes sense … private sectors can help alleviate poverty by focusing on the poor as producers.

Make Suboptimal Markets More Efficient for Societal Change

So after a year at Austin Center for Design I’ve come to the conclusion – design with and for people to make suboptimal markets more efficient for societies to change and progress.  It’s not brilliant, fancy or even provocative but it’s given me the confidence to move forward in these wicked problems we’ve been in over the past year.  It’s also the same lens I see our own Social Enterprise called Stitch in.

Stitch as a Social Enterprise

Stitch focuses on the suboptimal equilibrium of healthcare. Below are concept models of the current and proposed systems around care management specific to a surgical recovery process.

It challenges our mental models for creating and distributing medical knowledge. For example, in the idea that health knowledge should only come from medical experts or we can only receive medical information in the form of paperwork as we leave care.

So we created a platform to help individuals define their own recovery and share medical knowledge. Stitch alleviates poor adherence and readmission rates by providing a new way to support both medical professionals and patients.

So again, to help economies and societies change and progress, make suboptimal markets more efficient for people.



Coupling between thinking and actuation

As part of the creative problem solving process – designers research to understand a problem space, apply their own subjective point of view or intuition and create provocations to make sense of incomplete information.

In Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking, Karl Weick states, Sensemaking is not about truth and getting it right.  Instead, it is about continued refracting of an emerging story so that it becomes more comprehensive, incorporates more of the observed data, and is more resilient in the face of criticism. 

In Discovering Design Ability, Nigel Cross states, some of the relevant information [in a design problem] can be found only by generating and testing solutions; some information, or ‘missing ingredient’ has to be provided by the designers himself ... this extra ingredient is often an ‘ordering principle’. These ‘ordering principles’ give people access to new information on the whole and can take on various activities, such as the diagram below for example: 

In Theory of Interaction Design, we read 10 articles and discussed the relationship between creativity, knowledge, perception and strategy. The diagram above is an overview of each author’s summary along with my own position.

Thoughts? Make sense?  Your perception of it?  Can we design for an individual’s perception? Stavros Mahlke, in Visual Aesthetics and the User Experience, thinks we can and should by integrating ‘non-instrumental qualites’ like aesthetic, symbolic aspects and emotional user reactions with traditional user experience interaction design.   

In summary, it is in our thinking and activity where solutions are created and make sense.

Build Scaffolds. Inspire Articulations. Make New Knowledge. And Repeat.

Access to information technology can make our lives easier, of course, but how people are affected and the sharing of their experience is where we can find meaning.

The diagram below maps 8 author positions around the roles and implications of technology and the meaning of experience and context. Click on the diagram for a full view:

 In What We Talk About When We Talk About Context Paul Dourish describes the interaction of information or object and activity as an alternate concept of context. Context as an interactional problem is the relationship of dynamic objects and activities.

But object interaction is more than the transmission of information, as Bohnear describes in Affect: From Information to Interactionit can be a form of social action, which achieves social ends collectively, in ways in which collective meaning shapes individual experience. 

So if you build scaffolds (supportive frameworks) people will articulate their own experiences that can be interpreted for new knowledge for others.

Before and After: Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Thermostat Final Re-design + Design Process Overview


The Before and After: Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Thermostat Final Re-design + Design Process Overview 

Last week we presented our final design of a programable thermostat for Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving. Our problem for 8-weeks was to re-design the existing Honeywell Prestige 2.0 thermostat system using a collaborative and user-centered iterative design process.  For the final annotated wireframe iteration click here.

Understanding Complexities

As part of design research, we engage in a space to help us understand the complexities of a problem.  And we create artifacts such as a Concept Model of an existing system.

The Features List

The system re-design includes the features below:

  • Adjust temperature to warmer / cooler
  • Switch between heating & cooling
  • Turn the system on and off
  • Turn the fan on and off
  • Set / edit a 7 day schedule
  • Interrupt the schedule to adjust the temperature




Creating an Ideal System

By zooming in and out of the system details – I was able to conceptualize an Ideal System that rid unnecessarily complicated features and provoked ideas around energy consumption and efficiency, air quality and color as a visual language for temperature control.

Design Heuristics

1. 1950s Honeywell Thermostat by Henry Dreyfuss

Simple and ease of use

2. Nest

Motion sensor technology inspired me to move away from tediously programming the system for while you are away

3. Less but better… Dieter Rams.  

The lens used when designing solutions from user testing feedback

Design Process Diagram Overview

In Reflection

When we started this project 8-weeks ago, I thought the design process was to refine our initial wireframes by testing with people AND doing this over and over till I came up with a good design solution.

What I actually learned through the user-centered and iterative process was that it was less about me coming up with the right solve and more about the collaborative nature of the entire design process.

Good design happens in collaboration with people and makes sense to the people you are designing for.

For any questions/feedback please leave me a comment or you can reach me at

Wireframe Iteration Archives

Iteration 6

Iteration 5

Iteration 4

Iteration 3

Iteration 2

Iteration 1

All Best,


Design Interface Iteration 5 – An Iterative Process

In Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving we use an effective, iterative and user-centered process for wire-framing.  Our project for the past 6 weeks has been to wireframe and iterate on our thermostat design for a total of 6 times.  Project details for Iteration 5 below:

Function and Features List (should include at minimum)

  • Adjust temperature to warmer / cooler
  • Switch between heating & cooling
  • Turn the system on and off
  • Turn the fan on and off
  • Set / edit a 7 day schedule
  • Interrupt the schedule to adjust the temperature

Once we iterate on our design – we then conduct usability testing using the think-aloud method to understand and solve any usability issues that may come up during testing.

Think Aloud Testing User Comments for Iteration 5

  • Where is the schedule?
  • How does the home/away feature work?
  • Thought the white line was just a printing error
  • The cool to heat gradient line is a bit confusing – I don’t know what it means when adjusting temperature
  • Where are the numbers letting me know where I am or where I could adjust the temperature to?
  • I feel dumb!

So I went back to the white board with Professor Matt Franks to work through some ideas around Schedule and Home/Away features.

Sketches from our white-boarding session

After working through user issues on the white board – I redesigned the wireframes to include the updates below:

  • Current temperature number and text changes when user adjusts temperature
  • Temperature controller now shows what the current temperature is set to
  • The cool to warm gradient has been update
  • Home and Away flow update
  • On and Off button update
  • Wi-Fi flow update

Updated screens below:

Home/Away Flow

On/Off Flow

Wi-Fi On/Off Flow

In reflection, I didn’t realize just how challenging ‘simple and easy to use’ was to design for. To view a full set of annotated wireframes for Iteration 5 please click here. Previous Iterations and Concept Models for reference below:

Iteration 4

Iteration 3

Iteration 2

Iteration 1

Concept Models 1 & 2

For any questions/feedback please leave me a comment or you can reach me at


IDSE201 – Thermostat System Interface Redesign

Last week we conducted a number of usability tests using the think-aloud method on our interface design for Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving.  The feedback from these tests and SUS evaluations exposed usability flaws that were in conflict with “my idea” of simple design.

Two major flaws exposed from Iteration 3 were:

1. No clear indication on how to adjust temperature

2. No feedback loops to let the user know that the system was working and what it was doing

So I went back to the whiteboard with Professor Matt Franks and we sketched out options to address these issues.

Designed more wireframe options (see below)

And was able to design a version that was more in line with user feedback but also fit my initial idea to design a simple interface.

My annotated wireframes for Iteration 4 are located here.

Sample redesigned screens below:

Temperature Adjustment Flow:

Feedback Loop examples:

1. Fan On

2. Temperature set at 70

In reflection, the interface I designed was “simple looking” instead of simple and easy to use in previous versions. The system now includes a temperature controller along with feedback loops in the form of animations and text to let users know what the system is doing.

Previous Iterations and Concept Models below:

Iteration 3

Iteration 2

Iteration 1

Concept Models 1 & 2

For any questions/feedback please leave me a comment or you can reach me at



1 Step Forward 2 Steps Back – Wireframe and User Testing

In IDSE201 Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving we use the think-a-loud user testing method to inform our thinking by observing and listening to feedback from real users, as we iterate on our thermostat interface design every week.  This approach for designing inspires new ideas for me especially when thinking about ease in usability.  However, this week was less about inspiration and more about exposing and understanding flaws in the design and the need to step back to move forward again. To view a full set of my annotated wireframes and “think-a-loud” user testing task list for Iteration 3 or previous iterations and concept models please see below:   

Iteration 3

Iteration 2

Iteration 1

Concept Models 1 & 2

When testing Iteration 3, it became apparent to me that I needed to go back to redesigning the Temperature Control and Home Display screen.  The design no longer worked with out visual indicators like the black bar for Temperature Control or the box around the Account tab in Iteration 2 below.

                                 Iteration 2                                                     Iteration 3

I had taken them out because I didn’t think they fit the system design visually. I also thought if the design was constrained and simple, it would be intuitive enough – I was wrong. I was asking users to interact with blocks of color instead of buttons, albeit not a difficult task, they were not clear on how.  By taking out the visual indicators for simplicity, I lost users and made them feel “dumb”.  

This round of feedback was in direct opposition with my initial intent for designing a digital thermostat interface.  I want simple, intelligent and easy to use.  I don’t want to design a product that makes people feel “dumb or lost” – EVER.   

For Iteration 4 I will be redesigning the temperature control and home screen (mostly starting over) using the feedback from user testing.

Thermostat System Iteration 2 and Think-Aloud-Testing Task List

In Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving we are building wireframes, which are visual representations of an interface showing the functionality of a system.  But it doesn’t stop there in our design process – once we’ve built out our wireframes, we go out to test, using the think-aloud-testing method to evaluate the usability of our system by encouraging users to “think-aloud” as they interact with our design.  Integrating this method in our process has been very useful as we iterate on our design, which was what we were asked to do this week.

Wireframe Iteration 2 below:

Some of the feedback from testing that I addressed in Iteration 2 are listed below:

– Confusing menu tab

– Difficulties when creating a schedule

– Overall temperature control was not as easy to use as I thought it would be when adjusting temperatures

A few users thought the menu tab was part of the temperature control, so I decided to include a label and created an icon that looked more like a tab.  I also moved the tab to the bottom of the screen to separate it from the temperature control function.  I also changed the “Create a Schedule” feature to a “Home or Away” option.  In general, I want to create a system that is simple and easy for the user and sometimes this means limiting options. And finally, I updated the temperature control system with a black indicator bar – to give the user a better understanding of the temperature scale when interacting with the system.

For more details on my annotated wireframe iteration 2 and think-aloud-testing task list click here

For reference:

Iteration 1

Concept Models 1 & 2


Thermostat System Iteration 1 – Annotated Wireframes and Task List for “Think-Aloud-Testing”

In Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving we created Concept Model 1 for an existing Honeywell Prestige 2.0 thermostat system and Concept Model 2 as our ideal version of a thermostat system.  By creating these models, we were able to account for what can be done and re-prioritize features and functions to design an ideal system.

We’ve now moved into wire framing, which are visual representation of a user interface showing the behaviors and functionality of a system.  When designing systems – interactions become constrained by an interface enabling communication but is filtered through a limited set of user interface components and controls.

So we began by writing hero flows, which are ideal written stories of how a user interacts with a product, system or service in order to achieve a goal.  The hero flows ultimately helped us frame our task list, which are the sequence of steps the user makes to use a product from start to finish.  And with these set of tasks, I was able to conduct the Think-aloud-testing method to evaluate the usability of my system by encouraging the user to just think out loud as they interacted with my paper prototype of the thermostat system.

Thermostat System Wireframe Iteration 1 below:


To view the annotated wireframes and task list for Think-Aloud-Testing for Iteration 1, please click here

Learnings from Think A Loud Testing below:

1. The Menu Tab up top is confusing for the user.  It took a few users a while to understand that this was a tab and not part of the temperature adjustment control

2. Users were unable to schedule temperature and dates for when they would be away

3. Temperature navigation was confusing to interact with – the user did not understand which direction to move when adjusting the temperature

For reference:

Concept Models 1 & 2

All best,

Honeywell Thermostat System Redesign – Concept Model 1 & 2

In IDSE201, we were introduced to the idea of mental models, which can be thought of as how we all just “think” how something works in the real world.  These models actually help us solve problems and achieve goals and in general are a good framework to begin with for reasoning when dealing with complexity.  So with the introduction of this new way of thinking, we were asked to create 2 concept models, which are visual representations of large scale, sometimes complicated systems and their relationships in terms of digital touchpoints.

A digital touch point is the place where a person interacts with a machine.  And in the same way introductions give us an understanding of where to start when meeting people for the first time, the same thought applies when interacting with a machine.  How the user is suppose to interact or what the user is suppose to do with the machine should be as clear as possible when designing for an already complex system.  Any ambiguity around these interactions could leave the user confused instead of interested in using a new machine for the first time.

And confused and a bit overwhelmed is exactly how I initially felt when interacting with the Honeywell Prestige 2.0 thermostat system – which was the subject for our first ask in creating a concept model for the existing system.

Concept Model 1:

I was initially confused because my mental model of how a thermostat worked and how the existing system actually worked were two very different things.  At a base level, I was looking to turn the system on and adjust the temperature, but was also curious about what else the system could do.  So after a comprehensive and exhaustive review of all the screens, I was mostly overwhelmed yet disappointed.  The sheer number of menu options and preference settings were overwhelming to get through and I didn’t quite understand how most of the menu section was relevant or why it even existed.

So after taking an account of what was done – I re-prioritized the features and created Concept Model 2 as a representation of my ideal system. My goal here was to keep the design simple and easy for the user to use.

Concept Model 2: