Sasha Belcher and Jess Carboni
The Process and the User
Design thinking is a process by which a designer fulfills a demonstrated need of their user. All aspects of the design are focused on the individual user or users so as to create a solution specifically fitted to their needs. The design should incorporate the user’s personality and should consider the ways in which the user would interact with it.
In learning about the design thinking process it became apparent that the user is the focus of the design process. The user is the person, group of people, or organization that the design is meant for. At the beginning of the course our team was given a prompt for which we had to find a user. Our user had to fulfill the prompt in whatever way we saw fit and our design would then be based off of our prompt and user.
Faith is a double major in Computer Science and Medieval Studies. While she enjoys her work in computer science, Faith has many other interests that often compete for her time. She keeps busy with her schoolwork but she likes to create time for playing video games, socializing, and engaging in her other hobbies, such as piano and drawing.
In looking for a user we wanted to consider all possibilities and forms that this prompt could take. We considered someone who has a passion that they are fulfilling, someone who has a passion that they cannot fulfill, or someone who has multiple passions. We though of Faith as she is someone that we knew and we could easily identify several passions that Faith pursues. We felt that Faith fit our prompt because she is passionate about the many aspects of her life and balancing them so that she fulfills all of the things she enjoys.
Our interview was meant to gain information for the purposes of our design. We wanted to learn specifically about her passions and how they influence her life. We were also looking to see what sort of tools and technologies she uses in order to accomplish her goals. In the interview we learned that Faith has a passion for life and everything that she does in hers. She places a lot of focus on academics and her job, but she wants to make more time for friends and hobbies. Faith framed the different aspects of her life in terms of “health.”
She identified the different healths that she needs to maintain in her life. Her physical and emotional health (body health) her academic and job health (work health) and her friendship and familial health (social health). These three healths make up the basic structure for how she lives her life and outlines her goals.
Taken from bulletjournal.com bullet journaling is “a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” Named for the bulleted list system, bullet journaling is a quick and easy approach to to do and reminder lists. Currently, bullet journaling is a trend often documented on Instagram.
It has become as aesthetic as it is functional. The system is often paired with elaborate spreads and hand lettering and no two bullet journals look the same. This system works for Faith because she likes the freedom and customizability. Faith doesn’t want a planner that tells her what to do.
Faith uses her bullet journal to keep track of everything going on in her life. Since she juggles so many things, Faith finds it helpful to keep a to do list and write out a schedule and calendar. She also keeps drawings, writings, and bits of code in her bullet journal.
It has become an organizational tool as well as a creative outlet. Faith likes the freeform nature of the bullet journal rather than the dated pages of a planner. She finds planners hard to keep up with and she often leaves blank pages. These blank pages cause her stress so she wants to avoid that. Each day before class she writes down her tasks, both realistic and goals. In this way, her bullet journal has become part of her daily routine. This integration has allowed her to add structure into her life and it helps her to remember the many things she hopes to accomplish in a day. While the bullet journal format works well for Faith, she wishes her current bullet journal were bigger and more customizable to her needs.
In the empathy stage, we took our notes from the interview and put them on post-it notes. The interview became the main source for our work in this stage. We used the post-its to help us get a better idea of Faith’s likes and dislikes so we could personalize our design to her needs. This layout allowed us to have a clear visual representation of our interview and we used it as a jumping off point for our process. In the process of mapping out our notes from the interview we found a few themes that seemed to be common throughout our talk with Faith.
She often finds herself missing out on things. She sacrifices in one area to give more time to another, most often academics. She wishes to have more balance between the different areas of her life. We also noticed that in her goal for balance and health, Faith needs structure to keep herself on track and to hold herself accountable. Without that structure things begin to fall through the cracks and she lacks fulfillment in some of her interests.
After noting patterns and trends through empathy mapping, we began to narrow down the direction for our design. We knew that we wanted to incorporate the idea of structure as well as a way for Faith to keep track of time so as not to miss out on too much. We drafted our point of view statement several times before deciding on something that we felt could help guide us in a direction that would be most helpful to Faith. This statement was meant to act as our reminder and goal for this design project.
Point of View Statement
Our user is a busy student who is trying to fully live her life and needs to create structure because she strives to connect her interests.
In this stage we brainstormed ideas that were both out of this world and a little more concrete. Ranging from hiring a full-time choir to sing reminders to her, to color-coding the world, we thought up many ideas that were not so feasible with out time and our budget.
Those ideas helped us to narrow down our ideas and it became clear that we wanted to create something viking-inspired, and like a video game with achievements and rewards. Through the ideating process we found that we also wanted to incorporate the bullet journal that Faith was already using and modify it to better fit her needs.
We felt that making adjustments to a technology that was already part of Faith’s daily life would allow her to better adapt to the changes without drastically altering her schedule.
A bullet journal that could be combined with an app that would remind Faith not only do her academic work but also to take time for the things that she enjoys outside of school. The app would follow a viking theme where she could earn achievements for doing things that interest her. It would include a watch, similar to a fitbit, that would send the reminders directly to her wrist without needing to rely on her phone and a smart pen that would help her to organize her notes into color-coded categories.
Prototype and Test
For the prototyping stages, we knew we wanted to start with a notebook. The pen made sense as an add on that our user would enjoy but the tracker was a last minute addition. It was clear that in the first round of testing with others in the class that the tracker seemed out of place and and out of sync with the other two items. This test became a pivot point for us. We recognized that if we wanted to make the tracker work, we had to adjust it so it became more cohesive with the other items.
The first prototype was a small leather notebook, a smart pen, and a bracelet that functioned as a health tracker. The notebook aimed to incorporate things that Faith liked about her current notebook–removable pages, spiral binding, and a leather cover–while making adjustments based on problems she felt the notebook had. The watch began as a tracker designed to sync with the app based on Faith’s activities throughout the day. The tracker would update during the day and the app would then send reminders to remind Faith about the interests she was neglecting.
First Test – User Response
- Excited about the idea of achievements and rewards
- Really liked the viking theme
- Wanted the app to scan the things she draws in the bullet journal into the app with her own handwriting
- Wanted her appointments that she makes in the to do list and calendar to sync
- Wanted the app to sync everything she writes in her bullet journal
Wanted the tracker to function as a watch
- Wanted the watch to have notifications and reminders
- Would be cool if there was a hologram
- She is blind and has trouble with small buttons
- Built in ruler
- Wanted a pet for her viking
- Wanted notebook to last forever
- Writes big and leaves blank pages
- Wanted dotted pages instead of lined
- Liked the idea of status bars in the app
- Liked having a character in the app and the possibility of mini games with that character
- Liked the idea of having achievements and rewards
The second prototype included many of the suggestions from Faith during the testing of the first iteration. We made the notebook larger, added a built-in ruler, and included a decal on the front so it wasn’t so boring. The notebook kept the binder function with removable pages and the spiral and leather binding. The smart pen stayed the same as Faith liked the color-coding and overall format. The tracker became a watch that would function as a reminder and notification interface for the app. The app would send notifications to both the watch and Faith’s phone Faith would have easy access to her reminders no matter where her phone is. The app would incorporate a sync function that would import the contents of the bullet journal.
Second Test – User Response
- Liked the cover and the emblem
- Makes it somewhat mystical
- Liked the app interface
- Big fan of new armor and rewards
- Liked the status bars incorporated on the homepage
- Liked the addition of the built-in and removable ruler
- Liked the designs
- Liked the layouts for the app pages
- Clean and easily read
- Liked the customizability of the app
- Able to function in whatever way she needed
- Add to the watch page
- GPS location for watch
- Beep to find it
- Add to watch
- App that can track phone in the same way
- Liked the easy notification sync function
- Notifications automatically update from her to do list into the app and watch
- Reminders can be sent to watch and phone based on to do list and calendar
- Liked the inclusion of the mini games
- Fun option and letting her viking avatar play in the games is exciting
- Sync option on all of the app pages is really useful for her
- Liked being able to write in journal and sync directly to app
- Really just wants to add backup in case of loss
- Make watch waterproof
With these notes from Faith we would make some minor adjustments for a third prototype. We would make the watch out of waterproof or water resistant materials so during her job or everyday life it can get wet. We would also add the location features to both the app and the watch so that she could locate the watch or her phone form the other device. The device would beep and Faith would be able to find it by listening for the beep. It would also show its GPS location on a map so if she couldn’t hear the beep or needed to be quiet she could still find it. Those two additions would be the only that we would make as our response from Faith was very positive. She liked a lot of the aspects of our design including the sync features, the layout of the app, and the overall design and function of the notebook.
This process for me has been a real learning experience. I have welcomed the opportunity to expand my creative thinking that this course has offered me. At the beginning of the week I was nervous about my abilities and how successful I would be. What I have learned, however, is that not all accomplishments can be measured by success. Sometimes failure is important to the process. I wasn’t always sure of an idea or how it would be received and I am glad that I had those feelings because it made my work stronger when I worked past those early designs.
I have enjoyed working in a team and designing something that serves a purpose. There is a feeling of satisfaction that comes with knowing that my work is going to directly serve the need of the user. The experience has been valuable for me and I know that I will continue to apply this line of thinking in my other ventures.
I worked mainly on the app, watch, and portfolio post. I found the app to be my favorite because it involved the most opportunity to design based on the user’s needs. I was able to use the laser cutter and create a phone that held a series of screen mock-ups of different pages within the app. I went through a series of trials and errors as I was learning to use the laser cutter and each time I got closer and corrected a mistake until I finally got the product I was looking for. I also learned a bit of Photoshop to help with my app design.
Overall, I feel that this course and this project have been chances for me to learn and expand my ways of thinking. I would not have considered myself a designer, or capable of design, prior to this course but now I feel more comfortable in my design abilities and more confident in my approaches to problems and problem-solving.
The process of working on our project for the Intro to Design Thinking class has been very interesting for me. I enjoyed getting to work on the project and I am very proud of the final outcome. It was especially cool to get to learn about the laser printer and I think that it is something that I will keep using outside of this class.
The design thinking mindset was interesting because it forced me into a way of thinking and a very specific process with built-in steps. I liked having that structure when it came to making something that would make our user happy. In the future, I think that I will tweak those steps while still keeping them in mind.
Early in the process, after we completed the interview, we decided that the way we would split up the workload would be that Jess would work on the app while I worked on the physical journal and smart pen, Jess also later took on the project of working on the watch when that idea was added. This worked out really well because it allowed us to have time to work alone as well as be able to discuss parts of the process. Through working with Jess I learned that we are both people who are most successful when the physical work is done alone with moments to stop and discuss instead of trying to build together. Once we fully understood the scope of the write up we were also able to split that work up fairly evenly. I began working on it by building a structure and outline and adding some bullet points with notes that we had both taken in our interviews and talks with the user and then Jess fleshed it out into paragraph form.
The thing I enjoyed the most about this process was getting to see our user’s reaction. She was really happy about what we had created for her and she expressed that which felt really great.
Overall, the project we created was very successful. We were able to build a prototype that the user agreed would help fill the need for balance and structure that our user was missing in her life. We feel that our idea was successful and useful for the user by the end. Had we known more about the experience and the process at the beginning we would have asked some different questions during our interview and taken the time to think of and possibly prototype more and different ideas. It was a great experience and we learned a lot about design thinking in the process.