May 10, 2011

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Reflections on OPEN IxD

Last Thursday marked the completion of my graduate degree work. I’m in a moment of limbo until Thursday when I am handed my diploma and given my official MFA in Interaction Design.

OPEN IxD turned out to be a terrific event, despite our skepticism at calling it a “festival.” The night before the event, we all came together as a class for one final night of work. We assembled tables and placed power strips and iMacs according to our classmate (and system administrator) Jeff’s detailed plans. It was perfectly executed. A bunch of us created an assembly line to tack Clint’s 3D glasses on every chair in the auditorium.

The day of the festival was full of nervous excitement. We were all amazed when people we had never met showed up to the event. And there were just as many folks watching our LiveStream and following along on twitter.

My presentation was midday and I spent most of the morning in a hyper-anxious state. I was excited for the day but knew that I would soon be nervous, too. When I got up on stage all my nerves went away with my first couple deep breaths. I pumped some enthusiasm into my talk, and I was finished seven and a half minutes later!

The best part of getting up and sharing my ideas was the connection I made afterward. It was a great reflective activity to share the thoughts that have been floating around my brain for the past nine months with a new set of listeners. I discovered a few people I knew already who had been thinking in the same space. We shared a moment of excited knowing after the talk.

The rest of the day was a blur: eating, drinking, and sharing the last day with all my classmates together. I will remember the day because of the spaces around the festival. Like so many things we create as interaction designers, the talks themselves were a catalyst for a larger conversation that enabled us to connect with each other and understand the magnitude of our accomplishments over the last two years.

February 14, 2011

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Passport is a service that provides passengers with actionable information about their personal itinerary, in context for their location and needs.



We began our research with a hunt statement:

We wanted to discover ways to re-imagine the experience of long layovers (4+ hours) at JFK International Airport to make them more predictable and enjoyable for travelers while considering the financial impact on airlines.

We interviewed about ten different travelers about their layover experiences, asking about their interactions with airline staff, technology usage and complications due to extended layovers.Passport User Quote
Passport Research Findings

Our results yielded a set of key principles that would inform our designs moving forward.

  • Passengers have low expectations – As a result of so many bad experiences, they expect the worst when traveling. Nothing surprises them.
  • Passengers felt powerless – They were frustrated, helpless, uninformed, and resigned to the situation.
  • Front line staff are not able to help – They either lack the right information or the power to do something about it.

We also knew from our secondary research that almost 40% of passenger journeys include a layover, with about 30-40% of flights experiencing a delay or cancelation. We saw a clear connection between these numbers and the potential for the type of delayed or missed flight stories we heard in our users’ reports.

We wrote a few guidelines for service innovation in the airport space:

  • Any service improvement must be very sensitive to costs.
  • PA NY/NJ and managing airlines, such as American and Delta at JFK, have the most investment, and have the most to gain. They are the right organizations to target.
  • Ideally, a service solution would reduce the number of unplanned layovers by giving more information to passengers at the critical moments during their journeys.

Service envy.
We believed there was a significant opportunity to create service envy in the airline industry. Little changes can go a long way in an industry where passengers’ expectations are so low. There’s plenty of space for airlines to better anticipate the needs of their travelers. By improving the flow and access to information, airlines can help to streamline the travel process for their customers.

Design & Deliverables

Our early design concepts focused on the traveler’s need for comfort and timely information. Below are a few of our concept sketches including a MMG game for airline passengers, a proposed system for incentives for travelers to report positive behavior instead of negative feedback, and our chosen concept for redesigning the flight transfer journey.

MMG AirportSystem of RewardsJourney Sketch

Service Blueprint Overview

Service Blueprint Overview (Full PDF)

We imagined a holistic travel experience where a customer receives timely information for the duration of his trip. This begins with a more informative booking experience that flags any risky planned layovers. The traveler will also receive notifications and updates throughout his journey that help him to stay abreast of important information.

The core of the Passport experience is the kiosks we proposed to be installed throughout the airport. When entering and exiting a flight a traveler can quickly find personalized navigational information by scanning his ticket at the kiosk.

We created a user journey that illustrates the entire service experience. We used whiteboard backdrops, and Photoshop mock-ups on an iPad and iMac to help viewers imagine the experience we designed. View the journey.

This project was made with much hard work and dedication from Jeff Kirsch and Derek Chan.

January 14, 2011

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Thesis Research: Encouraging Teachers to be Creative

I wanted to find a way to get design into class rooms. After conducting research I discovered creativity, not design, is the real problem.

Challenge Extended

Last fall I visited many high schools while co-creating Project: Interaction, an after school program that teaches high school students to use design to change their communities. While there, I observed a need to encourage teachers to be more creative in their classes.

Many teachers are already overwhelmed by strict guidelines, schedules and paperwork, and my thesis investigation asks the question, “How can teachers incorporate new ideas and creative methods into their daily classroom activities?”

Go Forth; Conquer!

In my research I wanted to understand what motivates teachers. I visited schools to observe math, science, English and art classes and interviewed teachers about how they plan lessons and from where they discover inspiration. As part of my process I conducted an experience prototype to discover the ways that knowledge and ideas are transferred and maintained within social networks.

I learned a great deal about my potential users, both inside and outside of the classroom. The most impactful research I did was as a participant observer. For ten weeks I taught an after school program to high school students, learning first-hand about the challenges and successes teachers have each day.

End of Semester Resting Point

After concluding my research I created a set of models to explain the system within which teachers work each day, and from those models I found opportunities where my service might disrupt and improve their routines.

This semester I will continue my thesis development by designing a service that encourages teachers to think more creatively about their lessons. Taking inspiration from “Hunch,” my service will act as a personalized, conveniently delivered toolkit of ideas that will evolve over time as a teacher contributes his or her experiences and knowledge to the system.

I will design across multiple channels of engagement, including offline experiences, MMS, email, Twitter, and the web. With many points of access, teachers will be more likely to participate in a community of innovative educators.

I’ve collected all my research documentation and brain dumpings on my Thesis Blog.

Project: Interaction Students

Project: Interaction Students

Problem Statement in a design class

Problem Statement in a design class

Mental Model

See the entire Mental Model

Teacher Ecology

See the whole Teacher Ecology

September 22, 2010

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ArtScope: An Exploration in App-Guided Museum Tours

How can multi-use mobile devices be used to enhance the experience of visiting a museum?

We began by observing behavior at the Whitney Museum during its Biennial exhibit. Some key behaviors we observed:

  • Most visitors don’t come to the museum alone
  • Existing mobile devices at museums are either out of date or provide an awkward experience
  • Many visitors don’t have a deep knowledge of art, but come to the museum hoping to learn

We interviewed an art educator to find ways to use those principles to improve the experience of using an audio/visual tour at a museum. We wanted to focus on the connected experience of standing in front of a work of art, and tried to make the technology of the device disappear where possible. We made sure to include audio during moments where the visitor should be looking somewhere other than the screen, but included video and images where appropriate to communicate more information than would normally be given.

View our complete presentation with notes, sketches and key points. (PDF)
View a sample wireframe workflow. (PDF)
Flip through the designed screens. (PDF)

Wireframes of varying fidelity

April 14, 2010

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Field Trip

Field Trip enhances a visitor’s experience on the High Line by providing contextually relevant information about ecology and sustainability.

Field Trip describes the relationship between an object and its environment through six filters: microscopic, soil, plants, people, architecture and atmosphere. These levels are a simplified lens through which visitors can explore and begin to understand the complex urban ecosystem in which the High Line lives. A visitor will uncover tokens by interacting with specially tagged objects, revealing valuable sustainability tips and fun facts.

After using the app at the High Line our visitor walks away with a better understanding of the park and how she can lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

This project was created in a joint effort with Russ Maschmeyer and Michael Katayama.

March 9, 2010

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New York Times Breakout App

If you were asked to re-imagine the New York Times as a start-up and were handed the depth and breadth of content produced there daily, what would you do?

Our solution is Breakout, an app that allows readers to create a bridge between the world around them and the news they read in the New York Times each day.

There’s a lot of news out there, and it becomes overwhelming for readers to keep up with it all. When readers become overwhelmed they lose interest and the New York Times loses readership. Breakout encourages a reader to move away from the browse model of reading only what is provided to her to a search model where she can find related news stories and background information about any topic in which she is interested.

How it Works

With Breakout, a reader can photograph stories in the New York Times and artifacts in the world around her to get more information about them from the NYTimes online. Over time, her account learns what she is interested in and will supply interesting and relevant content to her. Without any effort on the reader’s part, she can find a focus in the ever-expanding cloud of news content.

If the New York Times can better know its individual readers’ interests, it can offer targeted advertising to its vendors, thereby increasing revenue from advertising.

Breakout was conceptualized and presented in collaboration with Russ Maschmeyer and Stephanie Aaron.

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Story Drifter

The Story Drifter is a tool that helps people tell stories. Our case study focuses on education.

When a teacher uploads a lesson plan, the Story Drifter uses search algorithms to create a first draft concept map with key themes and ideas about the lesson and pulls related content from the internet to be displayed in the story. To supplement the automated process, a teacher can manually upload other important information like images, video, articles, key dates and historical artifacts.

The teacher is then able to move and shift the content as she sees fit. If two images ought to share a connection, she can create a link between them in the story.

With the story in place the lesson can begin. The teacher is able to drift among the different arms of the story to follow the dynamic conversation in her classroom. If a piece of the story is missing she can add it on the fly by quickly searching for and adding relevant content.

Our prototype shows the Story Drifter as it is meant for groups on a large-scale touchscreen, and the software can be adapted for smaller groups with access to only small screens.

The Story Drifter was created in collaboration with John Finley and Clint Beharry, using Apple Motion, Prezi and Flash to create the illusion of a large-scale touchscreen interaction.

March 6, 2010

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Sharing IxD Education in Local Schools

We’re working on a little project to develop a design curriculum in after-school programs in NYC schools.

Along with my classmates Derek Chan and Carmen Dukes, I’ve spent the last couple months immersed in learning about education in New York City.

We’re taking an interaction design approach to develop a curriculum that reaches kids in the environments where they already have knowledge. We’re going to teach them to think of themselves as creators, to challenge, question and think creatively about the world around them, and to prototype, iterate and explore ways to enact change.

So far the experience has been amazing. We’ve interviewed a whole slew of interesting and inspiring people, and everyone we’ve met with has encouraged us to pursue this endeavor.

We’re in the final week of our research and discovery phase. We’ve spent the last two months collecting everything we can about local schools, after-school programs, teaching resources, how to engage students, and how to simply communicate ideas about design to rambunctious teenagers who may not yet understand the complex tools and themes we use in interaction design.

Stay tuned for more!