“Design something for someone who asks a lot of questions.” Our first thought was to either focus on some sort of journalist or a student. Since Elizabeth is friends with the head editor for the sports section of the Sophian, we decided to focus on her.
Maddy Hubbard is the head editor of the sports section for the Sophian. She walks into a room with purpose and is often slightly overdressed; she carries herself with a sense of pride and importance, which is merited considering she’s extremely busy. She’s a student athlete on the field hockey team – a Smith College varsity team. She’s also a member of the ice hockey team – a club team. Last year she served as the ice hockey team treasurer, and this year she’s the vice president. Additionally, she coaches indoor field hockey for a local middle school team. Maddy has a unique relationship with sports, having held several different roles. When she writes for the Sophian, she enjoys interviewing coaches because she likes knowing what makes them tick and why they’re dedicated to the sport.
Our interview with Maddy really helped us get a fuller picture of who she is as a person, student, and journalist. She spoke quickly and diligently, not taking long pauses or stumbling over her words. Her demeanor was somewhat prickly and intimidating, but our interview with her revealed a humble motivation for becoming a journalist. When we asked her why she started writing for the sports column, she told us that she wanted to make sports feel more relatable for readers at Smith. She pointed out that sports culture can be quite exclusive and that there’s a certain animosity around sports at Smith. She wanted to turn the sports column into something more readable. Her favorite articles that she has written have been about Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady’s ego. Additionally, she enjoys interviewing coaches and told us that talking with them has made her more sympathetic in her administrative role as the vice president of the ice hockey executive board. For example, when the team was creating a policy about practice attendance for athletes on two teams, she opted for a more sympathetic policy that wouldn’t have players overworking their bodies. She’s an extremely skilled athlete and writer who has dedicated lots of time to sports.
Her unique roles in other positions have helped her identify the flaws in sports policy and culture, and she uses her writing to share an informed voice. We asked about her experience conducting interviews and what sort of tools that she uses. Maddy uses old fashioned pen and paper because she likes the editing freedom that it gives her. Typing things is too restrictive because she can’t write in the margins and draw pictures easily. She likes working with physical notes while she interviewing and outlining. Her main complaint was that the process was too slow and having to pause the interview to write things interrupted the flow of the conversation. She showed us her planner which she uses to take notes. After inquiring about what Maddy would change about her planner, she mentioned that she would enjoy having notes section divided by hourly segments, and also more pages for taking notes.
When we reviewed the current technology, we focused on the recording and transcribing process. Maddy used a notebook during our mock interview. We also looked into other tools that journalists use- namely, recorders. The two seemed to be different sides of the same process, as many reporters who use recorders will have to transcribe their recordings later on, and those who use handwritten notes have to keep up a rapid writing pace just in order to keep in time with their interviewee. Additionally, if a journalist is focused on writing something down, they’re less engaged in the conversation. Both of these technologies kept the interviewing and writing processes separated, and occasionally even added a third step of transcribing.
We used post-it notes in this stage to really try and understand Maddy. We first wrote down main points we had taken from the interview and then arranged them within an empathy map. We divided them into four sections: things that Maddy says, things that she thinks, things that she does, and things that she feels. This helped us get a fuller sense of who she was as a person.
We found that the majority of our notes was about the things that she does, rather than that which she would think, say, or feel. This helped us empathize with her busy schedule, which showed us that we wanted to help her save time in some manner with our design.
We found defining our project to be somewhat challenging. After the empathy stage, we had figured out how we wanted to help our user, but didn’t know how to get it into one sentence. We especially struggled with finding the right words, but we were finally able to come up with a POV sentence that we thought fully captured Maddy’s need: “Athlete-Journalist constantly working overtime seeks way to streamline interviewing and writing process in order to score more life goals.” This sentence really helped us stay on track in the next steps.
Our first idea revolved around the notebook that Maddy currently uses. We thought about making an improved version of said notebook by tweaking several of the current aspects. As we continued to ideate, we realized that an even more pressing issue was the matter of time, and more specifically, just how pressed for it Maddy was. We surmised that our current project would do nothing to remedy that situation. Our planner idea was a safe one, it used only existing technology and was not an intellectual risk. It also did not fully address the biggest problem afflicting our user. We didn’t fully empathize with Maddy, and we knew we had to take a greater risk if we wanted to come up with a device that might allow us to save Maddy some of her highly precious time.
We realized that the main problem with our original notebook idea was that it kept all of the writing, editing, and interviewing processes separate- therefore taking up much more of her time than should be necessary. We began to look at ways in which we could combine all three processes. So, our group turned to the recorder- as it served the same purpose as Maddy’s notes in her notebook- only with more detail and less work on her part. However, the problem with the recorder was that it required Maddy to either go through and rewrite everything she’d already recorded, or relisten to the interview over and over again. We wanted to remedy this situation- our next idea was a recorder that automatically transcribed the interview as it recorded. However, the next glaring design flaw was just how this transcription would get across, we first turned to the recorder being a printer as well- and that it would simply print out everything it heard. However, we realized that this might cause a waste of paper and time since Maddy would still need to type up that which had been printed. Not to mention space as she might only want certain parts of it printed, and not the full thing.
Upon further ideation we thought that perhaps it would also be beneficial to include a setting that would allow it to connect to the computer and simply write the interview into a google doc- either in tandem with printing or on its own. Soon after this, we also began to toy with the possibility of making the recorder even more useful by combining it with the editing process as well. This also served in case the recorder made any transcription errors or mishaps- thusly we included an editing tool into it as well. It was also at this point that we decided on a name for the device after some intense debate- the “Bec,” stylized as “bec,” to stand for the names of us, the three designers.
Our first prototype was extraordinarily simple, as it reflected our earliest ideas for the bec device. It was only to show the printing process, with a cotton-ball “button” for an on-and-off switch and a strand of ribbon with a “quote” on it to simulate the quote coming out of the slot. It was here that we realized the screen would be greatly beneficial, as it would not only allow the interviewer to see what it is their recording, but also would later serve a key purpose in the on-screen editing process. We also surmised that it would be more effective to have the quotes print from the shorter side in a longer strip, as it would make the device less cumbersome.
Our second prototype was small, made of paper, with three faux “buttons”- one for a settings button, which served to adjust screen brightness and, later, bluetooth connection and sync; another for printing or simply recording, as this was before the bluetooth was fully implemented; and a final one that briefly served as an on-and-off switch before we moved that to the side and changed the third button to the edit mode switch. We also put in bluetooth at this time, which we retroactively put into the settings mode. At first the on-and-off switch was to be next to the printer, but that was quickly moved to the opposing side as it would’ve been less convenient in its original location. We also figured out that there would be a latch on the bottom of the device to insert and refill paper and ink cartridges. Our final adjustment for version two of our prototype was to implement a “cutter” at the end of the printer to remove printed papers.
Our final prototype had its internal structures greatly changed and better fleshed out. We decided that the print screen would contain two options- a “print all” which would print, as the name implies, everything being recorded, and a “select print” mode, in which the interviewer could select specific quotes to be printed. The buttons were turned to screen buttons instead of physical manifestations. The settings screen would include bluetooth settings, device synchronization, and screen brightness. We also dabbled in the edit screen a bit more, changing it to a more detail-oriented program in which the editor could select between highlighter, pencil, and text tools. The highlighter highlights key quotes; the pencil draws directly on the screen, and the text tool edits any spelling or grammatical errors on the bec itself. Finally we worked out the dimensions and cut out a more polished version of the bec using black acrylic for the sides and a transparent blue acrylic for the screen. We also included a charging port on the back side where the power button would be and a bottom latch to insert paper.
When we brought our first prototype to Maddy, it became apparent that our design wasn’t a great size. The first version was impractically large. She also pointed out that the prototype didn’t have that much functionality – it didn’t have a screen or many features. It printed all of the content that it recorded, which Maddy thought would be unnecessary and wasteful. She wanted a design that allowed her to read all of the content as it was being recorded and edit it. We decided that the next version of the design would need a screen so she could read and edit the text.
Our second prototype was more successful. Maddy liked the screen and the possibility to edit the text during the interview. The buttons in the front screen were however a little bulky. When she asked about the edit feature, we realized that we hadn’t completely flushed out our design. She wanted intuitive, touch screen editing. Maddy was still not totally satisfied with the printing; she thought that printing everything would be unsustainable, especially since we added the bluetooth feature. She only wanted to print certain notes and quotes from the interview. She also wanted to be able to select and print certain lines and sections of text, instead of printing everything.
Maddy appreciated the features and functionality of the final prototype. She liked the color choices and the addition of the name. She also thought that having the buttons as part of the screen made more sense, as the screen could be bigger and easier to use when editing. The editing features were more sophisticated and flushed out because they gave her the ability to draw, type, and highlight text. We also added the feature of printing only a selection of text versus all of it.
This class has been a very rewarding experience for me. I have really enjoyed learning about design thinking and know that it will be an extremely useful tool for me in my future. At the beginning of the week I was a bit nervous about getting through all the steps, but now having done so feel proud of our work. I think that our group worked very well together – I felt good with how we divided up the work and how we worked through all the steps together. I am very happy with what we came up with together and how we were able to put it all together in our final prototype. Having gone through the design thinking process in the class, I now feel confident and excited to use my newly learnt skills in my future endeavours.
Going through the actual design process myself was an invaluable experience. It presented a problem and asked how we could work as a group to solve it in the context of making life easier for someone else- which was both a fun project and used many skills that I will carry into my real-world experience.
I loved having the opportunity to apply the design thinking process to a project that I was interest in because it helped me learn a lot about how I am as a learner. This class has given me the tools to excel on projects and papers in other classes and in other academic settings. By the time you get to college, professors expect that students are able to brainstorm, ideate, and edit without instruction. Before taking this class, I didn’t appreciate how much I was skipping the brainstorming and editing steps. After doing a timed brainstorm in class, I began to appreciate how much more I could generate by allowing myself to get every idea down on paper first. The techniques I learned in this class helped me to unlock my creative potential.
Overall, this project was pretty successful. Not only were we able to come up with the “bec,” but we also grew as a team over the course of the week. We were able to discuss and debate with one another to come up with solutions when we encountered issues. We were able to create a final prototype that we were all proud of and that illustrated our idea to our user. With more time, we probably would have tried to make a higher resolution prototype, however considering the set-back of the snow day, we are happy with what we were able to produce. We are all very grateful to have had this opportunity to learn about design thinking, and we look forward to applying these new skills in both personal and academic settings.