Archive for October, 2007

A Change in Plans

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

I’m done a little bit more than a quarter of my final year in grad school. What’s the smartest move to make now? Changing both my thesis paper and project focuses, of course! Duh.

That’s what happens when you’re supposed to make decisions on your thesis topics at the end of your first year in grad school, without doing an enormous amount of research to figure out if it’s really what you want to do. So, now that I’ve done some more thorough research, and have spent some time mulling about in various topics, I’ve finally chosen something I think I’m comfortable pursuing.

New and improved thesis project focus

I’m still looking at the Intermediary Care Unit at the Pittsburgh Children’s hospital. But instead of focusing on patient experience, I’ll be focusing more on family education. Imagine this: your five year old child has just gotten an emergency heart operation, is recovering in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where the patient to staff ratio is 1:1—each child has their own bedside nurse. A couple days later your child is transferred to the Intermediary Care Unit, where the patient to staff ratio is now 1:3. Being a parent who isn’t in the medical field, you wonder if the sudden decrease of care and focus for your child is adequate. Of course, you know that your child should be okay, otherwise they would’ve have put him in the unit. But in the back of your mind, you’re constantly worrying, because you’re not 100% sure about what’s going on. You’re trying to keep up with everything everyone has told you, but at times it’s just information overload. Your child is discharged a week later, and you then wonder whether that was enough time to recuperate in the hospital. More importantly, you wonder whether you’ll be knowledgeable enough to be able to give your child the best care possible at home.

It’s a hard problem to tackle. Where should you begin educating the families about the condition and care of their child? What sorts of information should you be giving them and when? Organizing the information is a challenge… you can imagine all the different types of new information that a parent can acquire: dietary info, physical therapy info, respiratory therapy info, general care info, etc. In what mediums should the information be delivered? Should there be multiple channels of information delivery?

So that’s what I’ll be doing. Trying to develop some sort of service that will allow families to feel more empowered about caring for their children. Allowing them to feel more comfortable about the entire process, and allowing a more seamless transition between information transfer and gathering.

New and improved thesis paper focus

Before, I had plans of looking at musical notation systems to develop a new service notation framework. But to do this would require an explanation of why one should even look to music in the first place. Why look to music for parallels for notation systems?

Here’s the rough (very basic) outline of my paper [the real outline is at three pages right now]. Apologies in advance for the weird wordpress formatting of lists:

  1. Service background
    • introducing service design as a new discipline
  2. Paralleling Music to Service
    • looking at music lifecycles
    • looking at music as a system
    • looking at musical style
    • first impressions
  3. Paralleling Music Roles to Service Roles
    • Introducing the notion of the following parallels:
      • composer = service designer
      • performer = service provider/frontline people
      • listener = customer
    • The Role of the Composer [or service designer]
      • master of elements
      • giving shape to ideas
      • keeping an organic relationship to his work
      • designing the unexpected
    • The Role of the Performer [or service provider]
      • reproduce composer’s intentions with conviction
      • supplying energy and movement to a piece of music
      • master of elements before taking the performance further
      • need to execute and interpret
      • need to be aware of performance conditions
      • establishing trust
    • The Role of the Listener [or customer]
      • role as an advocate/educator
      • four stages of listening:
      • hearing, enjoying, understanding, and discriminating
      • in the end, the listener wants an experience
      • role as a discriminator
      • Notation Systems
  4. Notation Systems
    • Introduction: notation is necessary to tie and ground all the roles together
    • How the composer, performer, and listener relate to the music score
    • How this parallels to service
      • need for fidelity and conviction to notation system
      • limitations of notation system
  5. Future direction
    • developing system notation systems by looking at music notation systems
  6. Conclusion

Phew. Long post. I will be impressed if someone actually got to this point of the post ;)

“60 minutes”

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Grad Type Assignment 2: Done.

I’ve been slaving away at this assignment for weeks. Or at least it felt that way. I wasn’t really happy with anything that I had come up with until the very end (and still, there are things that aren’t quite right… but that’s the way it works with all these projects!).

The final product: a 24″x36″ color poster printed on semi-gloss paper. Instead of writing about the project description, here’s the short blurb that is included on my poster, I think it gives enough context:

This was an exercise to visually map sixty minutes of our life. We were given the freedom to document anything we wanted. I’m not sure whether it was the fact that on this particular day, I was comfortably settled in my chair by the window drenched in sunlight, or if I was just in a desperate need of some sort of break, or if I simply sought pleasure in doing something completely mundane, but I decided to count the number of bricks on the wall in my apartment. I never got around to counting them all; it seems that my mind can never get around to catching a break, even if I’m just sprawled on my chair basking in warmth, taking a rest from school, and counting bricks.

And here’s the poster (click to download pdf version):

the mind wanders when it's counting bricks...

As always, lots of lessons were learned doing this project. We did a similar project with Dan Boyarski in our Studio I class last year, but now that I’ve developed a bit more skill in this area I think I’ve been able to take away a lot more than I was able to before. I learned most about hierarchy in doing this piece–how to map different types of information in a way that captures the essence of your piece yet avoiding a cluttered-looking layout, how to engage the audience using different layering of information and movement in depth using typography.

These skills aren’t only useful in designing nice looking posters and book covers. I’m finding that it’s become easier even just organizing thoughts, or diagramming models. Being able to communicate information is such a crucial tool to have for designers—and this all becomes a lot easier when you’ve learned some basic skills in things like typography.

A bit of design and business for today

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

I’m taking Product Planning and Development this term, which is a mini… this means that my last class is this coming Tuesday. For our final assignment, we were asked to create some sort of idea map using some of the things we learned over the past eight weeks.

I decided to incorporate the stage-gate process, a fairly standard product development process used by companies, and branding, another aspect of the product development process, while trying to infuse a touch of the iterative process used by designers.

The stage-gate process is a process that works exactly as it sounds: a bunch of different stages, separated by gates—points at which the team decides whether or not they can proceed with the development of their product. On paper, it’s a very linear process:

Traditional stage-gate process diagram

… however, I have a feeling that this isn’t the most effective and true way to think about new product development. As a designer who uses a design process somewhat similar to this stage-gate process (… minus all the gates), I’ve learned that processes like this don’t function at their best when worked linearly. We work more iteratively and back-and-forth. Nothing is ever set in stone at any stage in the design process. So, I decided to change the stage-gate process a bit, while bringing in the different stages and thoughts behind branding (click to enlarge):
Incorporating brand and the stage-gate process

I understand that companies have budget and time issues and so these ‘gates’ become critical in moving products forward, or keeping them from being released. My intention was not to completely change the model, but just to introduce a little bit more movement and dialogue between the different stages. At the same time, I took some ideas about branding and divided them into stages that I thought fit into the product development process.

My prof, Matt Beale (president of Daedalus Excel), agreed that companies do indeed work more in this way. And while this project wasn’t an gigantic exploration into mocking up a new model for new product development, it was an interesting exercise to think about product development and branding, as I am still fairly new to both these fields.