Archive for the 'school' Category

Two weeks too late, but…

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

I’ve graduated! Two years of projects, classes, clients, tiredness, fun, and general smartness have resulted in another giant piece of paper:

I’ll be working a little bit this summer with UPMC doing some entrepreneurial design. But so far all I’ve been doing is relaxing, relaxing, and… more relaxing (and submitting a paper to Design and Emotion). I can’t really complain. This new vacation period has been pretty awesome.

Now, off to relax a bit more. ;)

Conference, Blueprints, and Interviews

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I haven’t had too many events to inspire a blog post lately, although laziness may have been a factor in my small hiatus from blogging. But I suppose three major events did happen in the past month that are worth mentioning and filing into my little “design milestones” virtual filing cabinet. One: I attended the first ever Interaction Design conference in Savannah, GA. Two: My blueprinting work at IBM this summer is being published and presented at the DMI Education Conference this April. Three: I completed first round interviews for my future (i.e., a job). A very brief summary below:

1. The IxDA conference

Six of us from CMU took the 10 hour drive down to Savannah, GA (where we met up with two more CMU folks) to attend the first ever Interaction Design conference. It was exciting because for the first time, all those who called themselves Interaction Designers (and those aspiring to be one) were in the same space for a weekend. While there were some good presentations and conversations with fellow Interaction Designers, I left the conference feeling a bit worried about the future of Interaction Design. It still feels like most people consider Interaction Design to be a discipline surrounding software and digital media/devices. Being educated at CMU, I often wonder if this view of Interaction Design is too deeply involved with the past, and not thinking enough towards the future. Or at least not broadening the field enough. I would have liked to see more talks hinting at the importance of service/system/environment design, as well as designing for management and organizations (I was glad to see that Bill Buxton touched on this in his talk). Maybe next year. Although I must say, the food at the conference was amazing, as was the venue!

2. My service blueprint enhancement work: published!

My mentor at IBM, Susan Spraragen has been diligently working on a paper regarding the work we did over the summer with service blueprinting. And good news! Our paper was recently accepted into the DMI Education Conference this April in Paris. I’m so glad to have worked with Susan this past summer… her motivation and drive to bring more design thinking to IBM was very inspiring, and made my job of trying to push design into IBM a little less intimidating.

3. Interviews, interviews, and more interviews

Last week was Confluence, the School of Design’s annual job fair. I had the chance to interview with eight companies: Intuit, Cooper, GE, GM, Sapient, IDEO, SAP and eBay. I was mostly very impressed with the companies. There’s a lot of good design work being done out there, even in companies where you wouldn’t think design thinking plays any sort of role in either their work, or their organization. I have yet to contact more companies as I can’t hold out hope on just the eight I’ve already interviewed with, but I’m hopeful that I’ll find something that I enjoy doing and can contribute my skills to.

I guess that’s my update for now. I can’t believe there’s less than three months before I can officially say I have a Masters degree in Design.

Doing research isn’t all about what you have planned; a lot of times it’s about what you don’t have planned

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I think one of the best parts about doing research as a designer is our ability to adapt. Adaptation is such a crucial skill for a designer, not only longterm adaptations as project progress changes, but also on-the-fly, spontaneous changes while talking research participants.

I spent most of my afternoon at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital today, as I finally got clearance to start my thesis project work. I had four hands-on design activities meticulously planned, designed, and crafted for families to do, and in my head I had an idea of what I wanted them to do, what I was going to say, and so on. When it came time to interview my first participant, it became obvious that there was no way any of my research activities were going to go as planned. My participant was in a chair holding her small baby, with tubes coming out of him in every which way, and the room was set up so that there was only room for me to sit across from her, with no tables, or any sort of furniture that could cater to any sort of design activity.

Luckily, I was familiar with the most important aspect of my design activities: the information that I wanted to find out from my research. I was prepared to brainstorm alternative ways to get this information without making it a boring interview session. I had my participant imagine being in different scenarios, I let her pretend for 10 small minutes that she had unlimited resources and money, and I had her picture what it would be like for new families coming into the hospital in a similar situation. The second family that I interviewed was in the same situation… all I got to do was to talk to them, but the father was so excited about imagining an ideal information-giving situation that he started designing in his head and telling me all about what they would’ve really liked, and how it could work, etc. While there is no substitute for handing my participants my laminated experience-cards that I made, or having them make little cards and creating their own welcome kit for other families, setting up scenarios and letting them play around and imagine in their heads did the trick almost just as well. Imagination is a powerful tool.

Contrast this to the many scientific tests I did as an undergrad, where everything followed a strict protocol. Sidestep this protocol in any fashion, and your results could be deemed scientifically invalid. Yes, scientific studies are important for a variety of reasons, but in design we embrace the fact that our research plays to the designer’s intent and whatever they want to do to get information.

Of course, adaptation really only works if the designer is prepared enough and competent (and maybe creative?) enough to be able to think on the spot, otherwise it could be pretty tricky. I am by no means perfect, but I think the increasing number of projects that I’ve done, and the way that we are thrown into unfamiliar situations in our projects makes it a lot easier now to be comfortable making things up on the go, and getting just as good of information as we would’ve gotten had we been able to stick with the original plan. Original plans are good, but when faced with an unexpected situation, so are the fifty other ones that are floating around in your head, waiting to be given a chance ;)

School update (or rather, wrap-up)

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

As I only had two days of classes this term, the entire term zipped by almost without me knowing. By the last day of the term, I somehow managed to finish my thesis paper (though you can be sure I will be using all next term to refine it), create the other two deliverables for my 5 Minute Break project (see previous post), create a bunch of research activities for my thesis project, spend $100 to print out my thesis project poster, redesign my portfolio website (have yet to complete it though), and relax the rest of the time.

Next term, I will be completing my thesis paper and project, and will be taking four classes: Dick Buchanan’s Design, Management, and Organizational Change, Kristin Hughes and Mark Mentzer’s Color and Communication, Shelley Evenson’s Conceptual Models, and I will once again be taking Repertoire Orchestra. Very excited about this lineup; I think it’s a really great mix of different types of design, and I think all will be useful with whatever I decide to do later on.

But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the update on the rest of the term since my last post:

Thesis project
After an oh-so-exciting four months of waiting, all my IRB problems were resolved, and I am finally allowed to go talk to families at Children’s Hospital. Too bad this came a week before school ended, which means I can’t actually go in until after the break, but at least I can go. Within these four months, I talked to the staff at Children’s and have a pretty good idea of what they believe to be the problem with information overload for the parents of patients. It will be interesting to compare the staff’s perceived problems with the families’ problems once I get to talk to them.

Thesis Project PosterAs Masters students we are all required to create a thesis project poster for a poster session that we hold at the end of the term. Mine mainly consisted of the models I created from talking to the staff, but it also includes the four research activities that I devised to get insight into families’ experiences at the hospital. For now I am mainly interested in comparing different emotional states throughout families’ journeys at the hospital with the information they receive at these points.

Thesis paper
After a crazy Thanksgiving weekend writing session, I mostly finished my thesis paper, then really finished in the couple of weeks after. It still needs lots of revision, mostly for writing style and argument coherency, but it’s mostly there (I think, and hope). The thesis paper has been one of the hardest “assignments” (if you can call it that) for me; I’ve never been comfortable with my writing style. But it’s progressing and I hope to have a solid Masters Thesis Paper by the time I graduate, even if the only two people who will read it are me, and my advisor ;)

Grad Type
I finished my 5 Minute Break assignment with mostly a bang. Created some mockups of a proposed website, and for my third piece I decided to make small and playful keychain tags, each tag containing an idea for something you could do on a 5 minute break. It was a fun project, and really useful too. I learned a lot about creating systems, and what mediums are good for what purposes. I learned how to treat visualizations differently depending on your medium. I learned more about hierarchy (you can never learn enough about hierarchy). Most importantly, I learned that I can create things I would have never thought of doing… thinking outside the box in terms of visual design, and not being afraid to do it is I think the one big lesson of this class for me. I feel like I can approach different projects without being confined to what I know and am comfortable with, and still create something visually appealing.

Because of the way the class was set up, I only got to play twice this term. Nevertheless, both times were great. With most things, I always forget how fun it is until I actually do it again. But with music, I never forget, which makes a lack of music in my life a problem. My first year of grad school was the first year in my life that I wasn’t pursuing anything musical; up until my first year of undergrad I was talking piano lessons, I played in my highschool’s jazz band, concert band, and pit orchestra, I started my own chamber quintet (that was later invited to play for Canada’s Governor General), I continued competing as a pianist in my hometown’s Kiwanis music competition… in undergrad I continued taking piano lessons (at the expense of some of my academics), sang in one of University of Toronto’s 1oo-member choirs, and played piano for one of my college’s cabaret productions. Then came my first year at CMU, when I did absolutely nothing. I couldn’t even find a piano on campus that I could play on. So, playing in orchestra this year was pretty refreshing. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I never pursued music as a career. But then I look at what I’m doing in school now, and am always reminded that maybe music is better served as a hobby ;)

I think that’s enough school updates for now. Over the break I plan on finishing my portfolio, looking for places that I’d like to work at, and refining my thesis paper. Fun!

Grad Type Assignment 3: The 5 Minute Break

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Stacie Rohrbach has taken over the second half of my Grad Type class, and for our third and final assignment, we will be looking at how to build solid and coherent systems of different mediums. We each chose our own topic; something that interested us, something we wanted to advocate, some people chose to start creating their portfolios, etc. With these topics, we are to build three things: a one minute movie, a website, and another item of our choice. The goal is to create a system across all three mediums and to learn what different mediums are good at expressing, both information and style wise.

I wanted to do something fun and light hearted for this project. So I chose to advocate taking The 5 Minute Break. The intended audience is anyone, really—overworked employees, parents, college students… anyone that occasionally works too hard and forgets that taking breaks every so often won’t kill you, and in fact has a lot of benefits to it.

We had two weeks to make a movie. Here’s mine (it’s still a draft… we presented our movies today but have the rest of the term to work on them):

The movie is meant to be a teaser of sorts… not meant to provide an enormous amount of detail, but enough to get you intrigued in the subject to perhaps make you want to check out a website. We will be working on the website next. Stay tuned for results.