Design Criteria, Makers Project: Week 2 Update

This is part two in a series detailing updates to our research into makers working contract jobs. You can read part one here, and you can find information on our research here.

Design Team: 

Kyle Beck, Sean Redmond, Lauren Sands

Primary Goal:

This week’s goal was to reevaluate insights and use them to develop 200 design ideas using reframing and insight combination techniques. Ideas could directly address the issues we observed as they pertain to makers or be free-association ideas inspired by our observations.


We were successfully able to brainstorm 200 ideas for new products or services that could be created to address problems identified.


Ideation was performed by examining insights and then grouped into the following themes:

  • Health
  • Business
  • Money Management
  • Agency
  • Art
  • Networking
  • Support Systems
  • Education

In addition, a “Miscellaneous” category was created to capture free-association ideas not directly related to makers.

Using the reframing technique, we took observations and filtered them through different environments, perspectives, and embodiments. For instance, we thought about the concept of taxes from the perspective of students, accountants, and CEOs, and each perspective brought different nuance to the idea. We thought about what a maker’s job would like in a city versus a rural area versus a space colony, and we thought about what tools might look like if they were swapped for other materials (e.g., plant plateware).

Using insight combination, we identified existing trends and popular applications (i.e., prevailing design patterns) and applied them to our observations to come up with new design ideas. This led to a number of ideas such as “Tinder for art,” “Tom’s Shoes for health insurance,” “Skymiles for artists,” “Airbnb for art studios,” and other concepts.


Some of our favorite ideas include the following:

  • A virtual reality relaxation program
  • Wearable tech that monitors and helps treat anxiety
  • Art leasing for events
  • Invoice and/or banking software that allows income to be split into different shadow accounts for planning purposes
  • A discipline-building program that encourages repetition of small tasks over time to increase resolve
  • “Tinder for art,” to allow prospective buyers to browse and purchase art via swiping
  • A communal dream network where you can share dreams and help each other achieve goals
  • Voice assistant technology that can produce invoices and help with administrative work

A spreadsheet of the full list of ideas can be found here.


Many of our design ideas focused on business development, money management, and support networks. This is probably because we were conditioned to think about our research from these perspectives when working with JUST in the previous quarter. However, some of our most fruitful ideas came from approaching our research from health and agency angles. Such ideas have potential for more widespread adoption.

The simpler an idea, the more promising it appears to be. This is the hallmark of good design: something that seems obvious in retrospect because its usefulness is so intuitive.

It was easy to come up with variations of ideas for programs and apps, but we have some skepticism about how well used they would be. Given the saturation of applications in our everyday lives, the barrier for creating one that will be used with regularity by a large group of people seems high. In addition, it was hard for us to know if our ideas had already been created, given how many apps exist that few people use. We will need to conduct further research in the next phase.

Insight combination led to more immediate design ideas, while the reframing technique led more to reconceptualizations that were mainly helpful in redirecting the flow of our ideas.

Next Steps:

This week, we will evaluate our list of 200 design ideas and determine our five best ideas, based upon 2×2 comparison graphing. With this technique, we will choose two important attributes of our design ideas (e.g., ease of implementation, significance of impact) and then graph our ideas along an X-Y grid with each attribute plotted along an axis. Ideas that have the most positive potential will be chosen for further ideation and development.

Ideating Services For Families Who Need Them

This week Ana and I continued to push our research around non-traditional families towards developing concepts for products. Our task this week was to generate 200 design concepts for products and services that could actually see the light of day to help the humans we spoke with. It was a large task, and as this is our first time doing this, it proved difficult but a beneficial exercise! We were told volume is key for this assignment. Amidst this mass of ideas we’ve generated, we feel we can relate to the phrase “There’s gold in them thar hills”.


We struggled to navigate through our research initially, as being a parent and having a child is such a personal journey. A parent is to provide encouragement, support, and access to their child to develop into the best version of themselves. A parent is a child’s first teacher, and ideally, their best. We listened to the words of the parents we spoke with as best we could. Recalling thought provoking moments around prioritizing their child’s well being over their own. We also reflected on tears we witnessed during interviews talking about health issues their child faced, in turn affecting the whole family.

Through revisiting our initial breakdown of the data and artifacts we had collected and created we were able to start chipping away at some initial ideas. We pushed the conversations we had to the brink. Through reframing, insight combination, and iterating on things we had heard things began to come to light. Through these processes we began to generate ideas for products to be.

Our Method

Deriving information from our interviews, some of our design ideas were truly off the wall.  We found reframing to be our most preferred method of ideation, as we were able to imagine our participants in different environments, looked at them from new perspectives, and what they embodied in scenarios unknown.

We’ll start with, a daycare, for example, in a new environment, say a prison! (Note that there are no criticisms in ideation!) Primary user goal; to provide respite for prison/state employees. Implications and insights

Reframing forced a shift in our semantic perspective around all parts of our research. This was so helpful and made us think quickly. At some point we started to feel like we were watching paint dry looking at our existing data, it was exciting to get new ideas on the wall. Neither Ana and I are parents, and at times it’s been difficult to communicate our research to others that think we’re covering well explored territory. There’s always room for more.

Insight combination was another method of ideation that we ultimately struggled with. As a team of two, we possessed a body of data that reflects our team size. We felt that under our timeline amidst juggling other projects we weren’t able to experiment in this part of the process as much. Through asking why, we found our wheels spinning in reflection to our dataset. Insight combination also took quite more time than reframing. We gave it our best go, but ultimately found it more helpful for revisiting and fine tuning insights. Throughout these two processes, and generating useful thoughts from our ideas that sums up how we got our vast set of design concepts.

Why So Many Design Concepts?

I found that through exhausting all sorts of avenues of possible products or services the ideas that mattered stood out that much more. The viable design ideas are the gold in our hill of ideas. It’s evident that in certain facets of product and service design this rapid, exhaustive ideation process does not happen. Companies carry themselves far down the line of developing (and in some cases creating) a product without understanding and investigating their user as deeply as they should. Although certain things sell, their life expectancy isn’t very long. Take bottled clean air  for example. Bottle it, market it, sell it, and then have the residual waste last for years on end. While we may not be able to actually implement our hotel/resort that is ran by children for children, we sure do see value in providing a free food delivery service for SNAP users.

Next Steps

In the coming week we’ll be trimming the fat off our design concepts. We hope to bring in our classmate and others to see which ideas stick or sound the most useful. With this set of “gold” we’ll be able to develop and visualize the ideas further and test them as best we can. We look forward to feedback, developing a pitch of sorts and starting to create something that could maybe be ready to market. We’re excited going forward as the quarter continues on. It’s exciting to be in this phase of AC4D. Designing products that are made to better humankind. We hope to create something that can save future families from stress and suffering.

supporting sex workers: rapid ideation

The goal of our research is to support the agency and safety of women working in the sex industry. This week, we were challenged with generating  200+ ideas for potential products and services that aim to work towards this mission.


We began by revisiting secondary research surrounding sex work in the US. According to economist studying prostitution, Scott Cunningham, sex work is the most dangerous job for a woman in the United States. In an episode of ReplyAll, he shares that it actually has a homicide rate of over 200 per 100,000 people. The second most dangerous job for a female is a liquor store employee and that has a homicide rate of four per 100,000.

IMG_20191116_115053058 (1)

Image 1. Pocket knife that Leila keeps on her during work

After the introduction of the “Erotic Services” section of Craigslist – later replaced by other websites including – the total female homicide rate went down nearly 20 percent in a given city on average. Not just sex worker homicides, but total female homicides. 

Since the disintegration of Backpage, after the passing of FOSTA/SESTA laws, sex workers are forced to operate in a world before the internet. Imagine trying to run a business without having access to email, web-based advertising or interaction with customers. Access to digital products and services empowers women to screen clients from the safety of their homes, where they are far less vulnerable and have greater control. 

As we move into the ideation phase of our project, we used our research and insights to create new ideas for products and services that may increase the safety and autonomy in a post-FOSTA/SESTA America.


Our net new knowledge from rapid ideation included some of the following ideas.


Tapping into Blockchain.

  • We spoke with an industry expert working in blockchain technology in San Francisco in order to improve our ideation around encrypted services that could provide sex workers with secure and private communication online. This allowed us to generate new ideas around blockchain encrypted “endorsement” services that sex workers and clients could both use as vetting tools.
    • Links: Web of Trust, Monero

Sex workers are small business owners.

  • Our research led us to believe that like entrepreneurs, sex workers value creative control and take serious pride in self-reliance. With this in mind, we generated ideas that foster this inherent creativity. For example, web-camming platforms with built-in filters and prompts. We also found value in strategic networking and saw opportunity in partnerships with successful entrepreneurs, influencers, and sex brands.

Ensuring safety is important.

  • Sex workers have to create their own safety systems because no one else will for them, so we want to bridge the gap by creating systems that better ensure the safety of sex workers. Recurring clients are one consistent way that sex workers build trust with reliable clients, so we would like to create products that incentivize this connection, such as a “Sky Miles” type service with points and awards.
    • Other ideas: VR immersion experiences, pre-packaged “Airbnb” style sexual encounter experiences

Let’s play a game.

  • We realized that sex work and the entertainment industry in general lends itself well to gamified experiences that may not only create a better client experience, but ultimately increase sex worker income and expand client base. Building off of the current trends of bars themed around playing games (ping pong bars, bowling bars, axe throwing bars, put-put bars), we toyed with the idea of strip poker bars and role-playing bars.
    • Other ideas: Make it digital with gamified webcamming

Sex workers are providing therapy.

  • Through our research, we found that because clients often seek validation under the guise of sex, sex workers come to realize that they have also signed up to be therapists. This insight inspired multiple ideas for services that treat sex workers similarly to therapists. Ideas like wellness practices and training in counseling supporting this side of their work and challenging society’s definition of sex work and its associated skill sets.
    • Other ideas: Health and wellness center that incorporates sex work into therapy services, all-encompassing intimacy services platform, training in counseling, wellness practices

Informal money management: dresser banking.

  • Many of the women we spoke to frequently dealt with money in the form of physical cash. The dancers we met expressed particularly negative experiences with banks, associating them with fear and judgment. As a result, women often stored and hid money in dressers and clothing. Sometimes thinking it is better to spend than stow away. This inspired deas like smart safes, cash labeling systems, and savings tools.
    • Other ideas: service that helps women prove their income, financial planning tool for predicting income (e.g. house fees, client meetings)


Even being as informed and as excited to jump in as we were, we immediately realized that ideating for wicked problems is no easy task. Here are some of the difficulties that we faced.

  • Imposter syndrome. Attempting to address problem spaces that we feel unqualified for 
  • Diversity of ideas. Generating a range of concepts that are unique from one another
  • Value of ideas. Holding space for ideas that may feel silly or impractical 
  • Legality. Ideating solutions that may not be legal 
  • Emotional quality. Working in problems related to the ‘human condition’ that don’t have one-size-fits-all answers


Next week, we will be building concepts. We plan to narrow down to our strongest ideas and develop them into concepts that can be further illustrated by vignettes, storyboards, and theories of change. We look forward to expanding and challenging our insights and hope to develop concepts with the capacity for creating a positive impact on the lives of sex workers.

If you’re interested in connecting with us, please reach out


The Laziness of Hubris

It’s pretty arrogant to use the word hubris in the first place, no? Has a sort of smug feeling about it. Which is what I want to talk about. Last week I fell in love with the idea of developing features to support a fail forward mentality – normalizing failure while also embracing failure as a necessary condition for growth. I wanted to lean into the program values of autonomy and one of the key tenets of this school – to make inferences and trust your intuition.

I put together a pretty off the mark presentation that painted a grim portrait of my client, Under Armour, to help me get to my point that a failing company (Shares plummet! Shit happens!) should take up the mantle of present circumstances and embody a fail forward mentality from the inside out. The deck was, rightly, called out for being a brand strategy brief rather than a design strategy brief. Why was it hard to stick to the task and tackle the specific charge – to create viable concepts that help a user visualize progress towards their goals. Where were my missteps?

Day after presentation I’m in the back room at work – washing dishes, doing prep work, and listening to Liv Boeree talk about Analytics and Intuition on JGL’s podcast on creativity. A professional poker player, she talked about intuition being a mostly unconscious process best suited for those components that can’t be broken down into smaller, constituent parts. And for situations where we have tons and tons of experience – decisions we’ve made many times.

Misstep #1: I’m not an experienced designer! I got no skin in the game to say a company is having an identity crisis. I think intuition is useful, in an early stage, to identify what piques my interest within a problem space but it’s not a credible foundation to design from. This for me serves as an example of why it’s imperative to think and work collaboratively, and reminds me why it’s important to talk with the people you’re designing for.

Speaking about the impulse to ‘go with your gut’, Boeree spoke about how “People tend to do that because people don’t want to do the hard work of looking at the data and doing a cost-benefit analysis.” Hmmm… calling my bluff. Misstep #2: I got lazy.

So, I’m fixing the project brief to more accurately tackle the task at hand – narrowing back into the problem itself and asking more questions. Why is it helpful to visualize progress? What are some well-executed examples of this? Why is it difficult to have empathy for our future selves? How can we make data meaningful? What needs to be measured, codified, arranged, displayed to sustain people’s momentum?How do we help people stay engaged, curious, motivated to achieve their health and fitness goals?

Lastly – to counter my impulse to kick back-relax, Boeree advises checking yourself with this question: Am I shrugging my shoulders and going with my gut because genuinely there is no data out there to use or am I actually just being lazy? 

Design Brief for AT&T Universal Search

The task presented for us in our new class “Communication in Design”, was to create a design brief based off of a fictional scenario randomly given to small groups in the class. The purpose was to make a compelling argument which would provide confidence to the client about our process and approach to tackling design challenges.

The challenge I received was from AT&T to help dissolve the issues that surround a universal search option for Over The Top (OTT) content. OTT content bypasses traditional channels and provides media to the user via the internet. Think Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc. This is massive emerging market and AT&T has found it’s way onto the playing field with it’s service called AT&T TV.

The goal for AT&T is to become the “go-to” provider for regular watching needs, such as live TV, news, and sports. It understands that Netflix and Disney+ are more specialized in the content, but that is not where it is choosing to attack. Instead, it’s maximizing it’s position as a traditional content provider to do the same in the OTT scene.

The challenge became clear when I started to think about the different type of content that can be provided in this scenario. Live television, recorded television, On-Demand shows and movies, as well as Premium channels like HBO that are incorporated int their platform. The search function will hold the responsibility of filtering through all of these titles and presenting them to the user in a way that is easily deciphered. This led to questions such as what visual cues will be given to designate each type of content? What kind of hierarchy will be set when a search could bring back options for shows On-Demand, but also live episodes that don’t run until 11pm tonight? The next question I wanted t incorporate into the design approach was how forgiving will the search command be? And lastly, with a database this big, how do you ensure that relevant and trending shows are prioritized and not forced into a deep dive by the user?

These questions all fed into the design brief that outlined the approach for tackling this scenario with AT&T.

IDSE302_Design Brief_v2_1.22.20

Project Brief: Designing for AT&T TV Search

Given the challenge to develop viable concepts for the search functionality of AT&T TV, this post is part two in a series chronicling work in our Communications in Design course. Post one can be found here


The internet has transformed television. With on-demand content available at our fingertips, users have matched expectations for their television experience to that of the technology it’s delivered through. Users treat smart devices as extensions of themselves and similarly expect viewing platforms to address unspoken needs. Many demand original content, when it’s relevant, on any device, through an interface that parallels the way they think about and search for content.


With AT&T TV, AT&T has entered the transformational business of tv and must address the role the internet plays in user relationships with television. As streaming technology makes seemingly limitless content available, some users are overwhelmed by options while others desire for more.


With universal search as a core product feature, AT&T has targeted its search functionality as an opportunity for differentiation in a saturated and changing marketplace. With the goal of becoming the center of its customers’ television ecosystem, AT&T TV seeks to create a search feature that balances user needs – capturing the way people watch tv, search and discover content, engage in their viewing experience, and convene around the screen.


Given the challenge to develop viable concepts for the search functionality of AT&T TV, I ask

How can we position AT&T TV to the center of users’ television ecosystem by balancing conflicting priorities?

I believe AT&T TV can differentiate with search functionality that targets problem areas in simplicity, choice, and experience.

Problem Area: Balancing Conflicting Priorities.

Research shows that users want more options but get exhausted when navigating them. According to NBC News, Netflix calculated that users will spend just 60 to 90 seconds browsing for content and will review between 10 to 20 titles before they lose interest and give up. Many viewers want television-viewing platforms to feel simplistic but offer variety. Users often consider tv as an experience, but ultimately want it to deliver one thing – content.

With these values in mind, I focus on problem areas in simplicity, choice, experience.


While others become more specialized, AT&T TV should feel universal. AT&T seeks to simplify the ever-expanding world of tv options into a cohesive platform.

Areas to explore: Flow. Eliminating the congestion of content and subscription service options. Personalization. Learning viewer habits and delivering options that match and explore preference


With a customer base of 130 million, AT&T serves an audience with diverse requirements. AT&T TV should deliver content that addresses a range of user needs.

Areas to explore: Integration. Options including live tv, on-demand video, premium channels, and DVR. Mobility. Content accessibility from device to device, location to location


AT&T TV can deliver unique value by capturing growing consumer trends while prioritizing serendipity, novelty, and engagement.

Areas to explore: Captivation. Incorporation of serendipity and novelty. Adaptability. Changing user behavior and culture around tv like binge-watching.


Applying design methodology to develop viable concepts for search functionality, I project eighteen weeks divided into two phases to complete this engagement. Key project phases will capture foundational alignment, contextual research, synthesis and insight development, concept creation and illustration, prototyping and refinement, in addition to product planning and market strategy.

Moving forward, I will continue with research as part of this theoretical design engagement with AT&T. I look forward to working on this project and exploring ways to challenge my perceived limitations of what a search feature can accomplish for this platform.

Competency-Based Education Initiative: Project Brief

Student Learning Online

This is part two in a series detailing a potential competency-based learning design project in higher education. You can read part one here.

A college degree is more essential now than at any other time in history. Entry level jobs in most industries require one. But not every student is ready for the rigors of college education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 41 percent of first-time, full-time college students earn their degrees in four years. Financial pressure adds significant strain to students, compounding the difficulties many of these students face.

The Problem: Too many students are unable to graduate from college given the way higher education is traditionally structured.

The Opportunity: Competency-based education can help more students receive a college education.

Competency-based education is a potential solution to this problem. This model allows students to learn at their own pace. Students demonstrate mastery of a subject via tests, projects, or portfolios when they feel they have sufficiently grasped the material. These classes can be taken online, at a fraction of the cost of attending university full-time.

Student Learning Online

The Pros and Cons of Competency-Based Education

Competency-based education has seen a surge in popularity since the rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in 2012. Online education was quickly seen as a way to reach nontraditional and underserved students in the US and around the world. Organizations such as Udacity and Udemy quickly rose to prominence, threatening to upend the world of higher education. But the dream proved elusive: although courses through these programs were much cheaper and easily accessible, persistence rates were extremely low. Udacity found that only 10% of its students would complete their courses, and of those, only half would pass.

Organizations changed course. Some shifted their focus toward corporate education, while others partnered with universities to offer a hybridized approach between traditional and online education models.

At the same time, competency-based education has grown more popular among educators. Particularly at the higher education level, the opportunity for combining the flexibility and accessibility of online classes with a go-at-your-own-pace competency-based approach has attracted significant attention. Universities such as Western Governors University and Southern New Hampshire University have proven successful with their models, incorporating mentors and other support systems to help improve student persistence. Many schools now offer options to earn online degrees.


  • Online classes
  • Individually paced
  • Mentor support
  • Low cost


  • Self-motivation required
  • Lack of physical community
  • Technology requirements

A tool to provide visualization of course progress and foster greater support and community for students would help address the cons identified above. This will be our design space, guiding our direction as we work to improve the competency-based education experience and increase the course success rate.
Design Process - Research, Insights, Prototype

The Design Space: Research, Insights, Prototype

The design process will involve three stages: research, insights, and prototyping.

Research: Research is conducted via contextual inquiry, an ethnographic method in which interviews are paired with close first-hand observation of contextual process. In this case, it will involve watching students attend class sessions and mentor meetings, as well as any online student support group interaction. It will involve probing how students think about their work and the methods they employ to stay motivated. It will also involve watching instructors interact with students and their behaviors toward student engagement.

Insights: Research leads to insights into students’ and teachers’ attitudes and behaviors. By examining patterns of behavior, I will come to an understanding of how students succeed. Often participants are unable to articulate the true motivations behind their actions and may be completely unaware of them. Insights aim to capture these blind spots. With this information, I will create design criteria that act upon the opportunity. This will lead to concept definition, setting the parameters for prototype development.

Prototype: Having established the design criteria and defined the concept of the design approach, I will develop a tool to assist students with motivation and support. The tool will be prototyped and tested for usability and benefit. The fidelity of the tool will not be prepared for public adoption. However, it will be interactive and will provide the information needed to create a confident blueprint for a final iteration. Instructions for how to create the finished product will be drafted and delivered at the completion of the project.

Timeline and Deliverables


The project will unfold according to the timeline above. Deliverables will be provided at the end of each stage, in tandem with a check-in to assess progress. Deliverables include the following:

Logistics: alignment and planning workshop, research plan

Research: research report incorporating primary and secondary research, stakeholder interviews, and completed student journey maps

Insights: service models demonstrating existing use of services and areas of opportunity, storyboard illustrating design criteria and concept definition

Prototype: interactive digital interface created for testability and to demonstrate proof of concept (not a final product), instructional user guide

Test & Iterate: finalized prototype (not a final product) and recommendations for commercial tool development, revised instructional user guide

Final: final research report and recommended next steps

The project will be completed April 14, 2020.

I look forward to working on this project and developing this tool. As the competency-based education model is further refined, the opportunity exists to help greater numbers of underserved students obtain the education they need to succeed. It is my hope that this project will help make that goal possible.

Developing a Project Brief for the UT System

To improve our communication skills as designers, we’ve been tasked to go through an entire client process from brief to deliverables. This is helpful not only for us to see the entire design process from start to finish, but it also provides us with another opportunity to externalize the value of our work and the methods we employ. To get started, we were given a 2-page document that outlined the business situation and landscape, project objective, and challenge for a design project for the University of Texas system. 

After researching more into competency-based learning, the foundation of the project, we were tasked with creating a project brief. The goal of this brief is to provide a jumping-off point for working with our client, the UT system. 

The brief should include:

  • The purpose of the work: the business situation that drives the need for the work
  • The outcomes: the desired effect of the work and how success will be measured
  • The problem to be solved: a problem statement that succinctly synthesizes onboarding material and initial secondary research
  • The approach to the solution: an explanation of the methods we will employ – including a project plan
  • Explanation of deliverables: the artifacts we will make and how they will be used 
  • Assumptions: Any commitments from the client or data that is relevant

You can read my entire brief for the University of Texas system here. Now that this brief is complete, we’ll continue with the path we suggested to develop an Insights Presentation and lastly, a Design Presentation that shows completed work. 

Key Takeaways

I entered this project assuming that the brief would be simple and easy to compile. After all – we were given such a clear template. I was proven wrong very quickly. A key role of a designer is to tame complexity — and that takes time, energy, and a lot of effort. With pages and pages of notes from secondary research, a transcript from our Subject Matter Expert interview, and endless questions about the project, the real work began. Distilling all of my thoughts, questions, and suggestions into 12 digestible slides that I could read in 10 minutes was challenging. 

One of my key takeaways from this process is to focus on the complexity of the specific problem at hand. Rather than asking myself questions about the success of education overall, I needed to focus on questions related to progress tracking. It’s easy to get caught up in the meta, but focusing on one area and the hidden complexities is where we can truly provide value as designers. 

Mapping Maker Concepts

This week, Kyle, Lauren and I continued our research into “makers” working contract jobs with variable income. We examined the insights we crafted last quarter and began pushing ourselves to view our findings from more radical perspectives, so that we can discover new ways of thinking about the problems we face. We also re-examined some concept models we created, fine-tuning them with information we learned from our readings last week, and began thinking of some new concept models to help us reframe our data and better foster the new perspectives we seek. Some models we explored include a semantic zoom of the maker ecosystem, a temporal zoom of a maker’s potential career trajectory, and concept maps exploring the maker growth cycle, the value of a makers’ art as it correlates to their network, and examinations of makers’ jobs, values, and more.

Makers Semantic Zoom

Semantic Zoom

Semantic zoom allowed us to view makers from new perspectives based on the ecosystem around them. We started with makers at the center and branched out to explore their support system, their networks, their values, their money, and their specific occupations. In our semantic zooms, we looked at their network and money in particular, using it to look at these concepts in greater focus. Examining their money allowed us to look at their income and expenses in detail, which led us to examine their business expenses in particular more closely. This allowed us to understand in more depth than previously just how much money it takes to promote yourself, to buy materials, to attend trade conferences, and to potentially start a business. Similarly, looking at their network gave us greater insight into how social events play an important role in building a network. In addition to conferences and festivals, we enjoyed brainstorming all of the different volunteer opportunities that people can pursue to build their network. For makers operating on small budgets, such experiences can prove very useful.

Temporal Zoom

Temporal Zoom

For our temporal zoom, we focused on exploring a hypothetical artist’s transition from art school to an independent contractor to a small business owner and, eventually, to retirement. Although we did not speak to anyone who experienced all of these stages, we were able to pull data from the various people we did speak to to create a potential lifecycle, with retirement influenced by the dreams that makers shared with us. What would it take to realize those dreams? One path to get there could be to create a business, something that some (but not all) makers working as independent contractors explore.

The temporal zoom was surprising because it forced us to focus on how priorities change over an artist’s life, and what sort of sacrifices and commitments would be necessary to truly shift into a business perspective. Many of our interviewees told us that they despised administrative work, and this emerged as a potential road block to building a business strategy. With business creation, we saw administrative focus balloon as free time and personal work shrunk — a tradeoff that does not fit all makers’ desires. However, as it allows for income to grow and debt to shrink, later dreams such as owning property and having greater free time to focus on personal projects grows, especially in retirement, something that most makers working as independent contractors did not envision. The temporal zoom shows one potential pathway to getting there.

Makers Checklist Concept Model

Concept Models

We created seven different concept models this week; some were revisions from models we created last quarter, and some were new models created when re-examining our data. Our Makers’ Values model demonstrates the priority makers place on agency and fulfillment over financial security, an insight that we found particularly helpful in our framing. Our Makers’ Checklist model captures makers’ different behaviors, demonstrating how makers live as “systems outlaws,” as we’ve described them. Our Networking model demonstrates that the value of an artist’s work is directly correlated to the size of their network, an insight that captures the importance that many of our interviewees place on getting themselves out there and being confident with all audiences, and our Energy Tank model shows the many obligations that makers working as independent contractors face, not just as it relates to finding work but also to paying taxes, finding health insurance, and other essential tasks. Seeing just how much is required to procure these things when you don’t work for a single employer was eye-opening, and made us feel greater empathy with those we spoke with.

Makers Values Concept Model


Maker Growth Spiral

Other models include the Maker’s Growth Spiral, which shows how makers’ art feeds into their work, which allows them to get money, which they use to further their art. These actions inform each other and allow makers to grow in all directions: in their creative abilities, in their work experiences, and in the income they bring in. The Makers’ Network model shows how networks influence the jobs makers take: as they grow, they take on bigger tasks, which requires them to seek out their network for assistance, thus providing other makers with opportunity. Eventually, as they get busier and their workload increases, makers stop taking smaller jobs, which they might then refer to a friend, and the cycle continues. Our last model, the Makers Occupation model, shows the types of work that makers do, and captures the overlap that many of our makers demonstrate. Many of our interviewees indicated a desire to constantly expand their abilities and branch out into new areas of work, and this graph demonstrated their multitalented capabilities with newfound clarity.

Makers Network Concept ModelMakers Occupations Concept Model

Progress and Priorities

This week, we were pleased with the number of concept models we crafted, and we hope to create more as we continue in this class. This allows us to expand our visual vocabularies and begin thinking of new and more insightful ways of approaching our data and sharing it with others, which will lead to greater insights and better design criteria. Our temporal and semantic zooms presented a more detailed look at makers’ behaviors, attitudes, and values, which will also prove helpful in our work.

The one area we were not able to focus on as much as we would have liked was crafting more provocative and radical insights. Even as we gained new clarity in simplifying our ideas into clear visual models, we have not yet been able to use that clarity to push our insights further. This will be our priority this week, as we continue to comb through our quotes and focus on new areas of significance, particularly those that we paid less attention to when working with JUST. These areas include makers’ mental health, networking, and values. We plan to dedicate time each day to challenging ourselves to brainstorm new insights as we simultaneously begin thinking about design criteria and new ways to address the latent needs of makers.Fine Art - Value of the Work

Visualizing the Gig Worker Experience

One of the best ways to make sense of your data is to visualize it. Make an artifact. This week our team (Allison, Michelle, and Laura) did just that as we further synthesized interviews with gig economy workers. You can learn more about our research with on-demand gig economy workers here and here. Through visualization, we add additional analysis, context, and understanding that will serve us as we head into our next phase: design ideation. We used several visualization techniques including temporal and semantic zoom to approach our data from a new perspective. 

Our concept models range from a wide view of the landscape of gig work to a personal look at how gig experiences can impact your emotional resiliency. 

Gig Lifecycle

Gig Worker Lifecycle

We created several iterations of this temporal zoom because it was a data-rich area. Rather than looking at this through a marketing lens of pre-acquisition (-2) to lapse (+2), we chose to view this from the worker’s perspective to get a better idea of what actions, strategies, and emotions they may experience at different stages. 


Worker Classifications

In the US today, there are only two worker classifications: 1099 and W-2. In Texas, there is a 20-point test to determine independent contractor compliance — and it is clearly not designed for on-demand work. As on-demand gig work continues to grow, we strongly see a need for a third category to help manage the nuance of these company / worker relationships. This semantic zoom quickly shows the different hierarchy of on-demand gig apps and the broad range of gig work as a whole. 

Gig App

Gig App Features

We saved every utterance where a participant explicitly talked about their in-app experiences. These helped us get a good understanding of which areas of the app are top-of-mind for them as they consider when, where, and how often they work. Through this, we also saw strong connections between key app features. Most notably, earnings, assignments, and status are highly interconnected.


Emotional Resilience

While many of our concept maps deal directly with the gig worker experience, there were common trends that transcended solely the gig worker mindset. One interesting theme we observed was the power of gig work to make individuals more emotionally resilient. Many people expressed anxiety or hesitation about doing gig work. From having people in their cars to constantly making a first impression, there were unexpected emotional challenges associated with the work. By acknowledging this discomfort and working through it, these workers developed a new sense of confidence. The cycle of gig work is so fast, workers were able to have several growth experiences in a short amount of time.


Short, Medium, Long-Term Goals

One of our core insights has been: 

“Shifting focus to long-term dreams helps us cope with the reality of the immediate, especially when the weight of short- and medium-term goals is too great.”

To illustrate this, we went through our interviews and visualized all of the short, medium, and long-term goals that were expressed by our participants. A key insight when developing this map was that there are common bridges that help shift focus to medium- and long-term goals. For example, a car was often mentioned as both something that required additional focus and a way to “level-up”. Similar attitudes were expressed around education or growing your social and professional networks. 

Additional Progress

In addition to visualizing our data, we also pushed to create more insights that can serve as inspiration for future design ideas. Questions we hope to answer this week are:

  • How are we organizing ideas on our wall to be more efficient? Can we shift to prioritizing insights and concept maps without having to keep all of our themes up?
  • How can we surface our best quotes to inspire us through design ideas?
  • How can we continue to push ourselves to create provocative insights?
  • How can we not constrain our ideas to just the gig perspective while still making use of our data?

The exercise of going through our blog prompt was helpful and we are committing to using that as a check-in guideline every Wednesday moving forward.