I design with people; both the people who use things and the people who have a stake in the things being used.
I collaborate with designers, technologists, sales & marketing folx, and senior leadership C-suite execs. I make prototypes and watch people use them so that I can learn more about what they do and figure out how to help them do it better and/or enjoy it more while they’re doing it.
I design stuff to generate, synthesize, and communicate insights and ideas.
Generating insights involves designing something and then talking to someone about it. They’ll tell you what makes sense and what doesn’t and will share lots of details about their values, ideas, and practices that may not have come up otherwise. For instance, I sketched a version of the Mendeley mobile app that allows users to take pictures of paper documents or computer screens as a way of adding new entries to their library (Figure 1).
The second screen includes a new ‘Take Photo’ option. After taking a photo of a paper document (or computer screen), Mendeley would process the text in image and automatically populate the appropriate metadata.
So far as I know, nothing like this exists, but this prototype could serve as the basis for an interview about mobile device use as it pertains to reference management and writing. Check out a video of the prototype in action here.
Synthesizing insights involves creating new design elements (buttons, pages, filters, etc.) as an interpretation of qualitative data. We created a discovery app for dumpster divers, as a way of synthesizing insights from a thematic analysis of dumpstermap.org. Dive (Figure 2) is a mobile application allowing proponents of alternative economies to search for, and add information about, dumpsters on an interactive map. Kudos to Adi and Adam, two stellar design students, for the amazing analysis and prototyping work. Check out the clickable prototype for yourself.
Communicating insights involves leveraging designs in conversations or presentations to support the stories I tell about people. During my time as Penn State, folks in my lab were engaged in an ongoing participatory design project with local water quality stakeholders, including members of the public and local government. We hosted a handful of hackathons and workshops throughout 2017-2018 during which we designed, iterated on, and used a prototype data platform (Figure 3) to communicate findings about local water quality monitoring practices and to anticipate/probe possible design directions.
I use the following tools to conceptualize/prototype: paper sketchbooks and gel pens, digital sketching apps (Paper and Adobe Sketch on an iPad), and the Adobe Creative Cloud (esp. Illustrator, Photoshop, and XD). For the past year, I have been getting an advanced degree in Figma. I have taught these and a few other unconventional design tools in the classroom, such as iMovie and Adobe Premiere. My past life as a filmmaker imbues me with a deep appreciation for the role effective, cinematic storytelling can play in design practice. Making short films is a great way to elaborate and share scenarios and to create design fictions to reflect on concepts and their politics.