Project 1

First Day — Response

I was a little surprised that that’s what we began the class with the wind up toys (were we going to have to make them??) but it led to an interesting discussion about how we know how an object works just by looking at it.

I’m excited about our projects, especially our design history book — it seems like a great way to learn about important/influential designers especially since it involves organizing the designers collaboratively. I think this semester I’d also like to get to know some people in this studio better; there are quite a few people that I don’t know very well and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot about everyone here. I’m still trying to get the hang of medium and I plan on taking more pictures in class to include in my posts.

Question/ comments about the energy readings:

I wondered what incentives the utility companies have to send out these charts — some federal regulation?

In one of the shorter articles, it said that a question of trust in the utility companies was that Americans would spend a large amount of money on home improvements only to find that their utility bill had increased. Is this because homeowners are misinformed about what will improve energy efficiency or are utility costs just rising in general?

Why do they use a 10 year estimate to tell you your estimated energy savings? Would some metric such as how long it will take for the new installment to pay for itself be more useful/easier for a homeowner to grasp?

Class 1/14:

Having Tim to answer our questions was really helpful, but I think I’m still a little confused about how I’ll end up doing the actual product, just because it seems like there are so many possible approaches and aspects of convincing a homeowner to improve their home. I’m glad Stacie suggested that we think of our story first, and then our medium, because I probably would have tried to begin with the medium first and get stuck on that.

Moyer Reading & Post-its

“Describing the parts that make up something unfamiliar can require long descriptions. Showing the thing and labelling the parts is easier for the reader to grasp” — Just Show It

When it comes to helping a homeowner understand energy efficiency in their home, I think a picture is essential. I guess the challenge is to create a picture that is general enough to be scalable to many different types of homes, but still accurately shows the quirks of each individual home. Looking at the pamphlets given out, I feel like the necessary information is presented well and clearly, but in a way that is rather impersonal. It makes me wonder if there’s a way of representing information about someone’s home in a way that’s similar to, perhaps, health monitoring for your body.

Vignettes seem like something that could be applied to this as well. For me at least, when I look at a sheet that has more than one or two graphs or data tables, I immediately want to skip over it because I anticipate that there will be a lot of mental effort required to extract the information that I want. It reminded me of one of our readings that mentioned that many programs are trying to “educate” us — I think that these flyers (or whatever form they take) should be simple and compel the user to want to find out more, rather than simply bombard them with information.

A Home Energy Score is useful if you are a homeowner looking to renovate or remodel your home, lower your utility bills, improve the comfort of your home, or reduce your energy usage. The Home Energy Score can help you understand how to integrate energy upgrades into a home renovation or improvement project. Also, it makes sense to have your home scored before and after work is completed because your Score can reflect improvements or other changes. The Score serves as an official way to document these improvements and thereby enhance your home’s appeal when you’re ready to sell.
— from the official HES page

Class 1/19

I learned a lot about communicating with a client in today’s class. I think I better understand why Stacie asked us to come into last week’s class with questions for Tim, because we asked more of the right questions to understand the scope of this project today. I realized I was way off in my assumption of what we would be doing for the project, and also what the purpose of the post-it notes were, but those might be part of the process of understanding the problem and coming to a solution.

Class 1/21

In class today Stacie suggested that we might think outside of what we might be considering — for example, sharing economies or social media. I think I have a better understanding of the scope/purpose of our projects now, but I feel like I might struggle with trying to design all the parts of a system instead of getting homeowners to begin to take action by focusing on doing one thing effectively.

Thinking more about my message

I’ve been trying to focus on the idea of having a comfortable home by encouraging users to go for long-term fixes to problems in an empathetic way. I thought it might be interesting for neighbors to talk about their issues with each other? (That might depend on what the neighborhood was like.) I think an important part of of this sort of message is actively listening and addressing the homeowner’s needs and having them tell a story about their house (like Tim does when he comes into their homes for an energy audit). I think I want to focus on a digital medium (like an interactive web page). — I was thinking digital because that’s often where people might look if there’s something wrong with their house and they don’t know what to do:

Energy star has energy efficient solutions for all of these issues.

To get a sense of how to empathize with homeowners, I thought I might try to google some questions and see what homeowners (on the internet) are concerned about. I thought it was interesting that the top queries related to why is my home/house ____ were about issues of comfort — whose solutions often tie in to energy inefficiencies in the home (e.g, humidity can mean a home is too “tight”, coldness often results from improper insulation or window issues). I don’t think homeowners necessarily make a connection between these feelings of discomfort and “energy efficiency”, which, personally I’d associate with saving the environment or saving money. There must be a lot of homeowners who simply use temporary solutions, like vacuum a lot or use a humidifier (I know my parents do this all the time, at least) and may be informed about the more permanent solutions possible. Investigating these issues from the symptoms that a homeowner might observe, I found that a lot of the solutions do happen to involve/result in improvements in energy efficiency, so I guess the challenge is to make that connection clear? Or maybe it would be easier to convince a homeowner to get an energy audit addressing those problems.

Tim has mentioned a few times that the most effective method he’s found of informing/convincing homeowners to take action about energy efficiency is through in-person talks at peoples’ homes, and he especially mentions that he spends time listening to the homeowner’s experience of living in the home, and I think that helps him gain their trust as well as their investment in trying to improve their home. I’m trying to think about a way that’s more scalable (because there aren’t that many Tims) but doesn’t become impersonal and maintains this idea of addressing the homeowner’s specific experience and needs. There are sort of two approaches I was thinking about for this — one is a community workshop (or just a community object) that guides people to engage in conversations with their neighbors about what they love and hate about their houses, and providing solutions to common problems (like hot + cold spots, dust, mold, etc). I’m not very well informed about this but I’m guessing in a given neighborhood, houses will have very similar problems. The other idea was a more individual, customized activity — I was thinking something like an interactive diagram that allowed the homeowner to click on areas of the home that they felt uncomfortable in, and provide reasons why these problems might exist in terms of energy efficiency, to connect the symptoms with the cause (or quiz?)

Thinking about using vignettes as buy-in and using processes + location to help homeowners understand that energy efficiency can be the source of these common issues.

Class 1/26

Danae suggested that the entry point could just be a search — so homeowners could come upon this resource when they are looking for answers about their queries. It could be shareable so it might be able to get to those who might find that it’s a problem they didn’t realize they had.

Things to think about — changing content into specific questions?
Finishing all the content
What’s the end goal of the quiz? what are the results of the quiz?
What additional information is necessary to provide quiz results?

Taking another stab at content:

My home is…
a) dusty
b) too humid
c) too cold
d) too hot
e) drafty
f) too dry

2) How old is your home?
a) pre — 1900
b) 1900–1950
c) 1950–1980
d) 1980 — now

3) Has your home been
a) insulated?
b) sealed?

4) Have you had a home energy audit?
a) yes
b) no

5) What kind of heating do you have?

Example answer:

(The two diagrams about insulation and air leaks will be below) Your house may suffer efficiency problems that many older homes share, like poor insulation and air leaks. Since each home is different, it’s recommended that you seek out a home energy audit, which will provide you with customized solutions to these issues.

I’m a little afraid that the content of these questions might be boring, or that they might take too much effort to answer (I’m not a homeowner but I’m not sure if I would know these things off the top of my head), causing the user to drop out? like this energy star quiz, which is about 40 questions and really feels like you have to put in a lot of effort to diagnose your home’s issues. Maybe there is a way to transition into thinking about energy efficiency, or maybe this quiz will focus more on trying to just convince the user enough that an audit is the way to go and not try to diagnose the specific problems as much.

Most of these diagrams are pretty technical and it takes a little bit of effort to decipher. I think I just want to include the general mechanism of the thing that’s happening so the owner can pursue specific fixes later.

class 2/2

I definitely haven’t been spending as much time as I’d have liked on this project, especially over the weekend. I’m also a little worried about the scope of my project? I feel as if my HES diagram/reinterpretation is completely separate from my buy-in and I’m not sure if that’s okay/ if I’m creating a lot of work for myself, since I’d like to be able to be able to explore the parts of my project in depth and I don’t want to have so much to do that I’m just trying to get everything done — especially since a lot of my idea is based on making visual explanations/diagrams rather than text. Part of it is that I feel like I just haven’t spent enough time to even figure that out. Right now the process would be: homeowner searches for solutions for common problems, takes the quiz, which provides some simple explanations for why the home might be experiencing these issues, and then is prompted to get the HES audit. Once they receive the audit, they go again to the website and are presented with a diagram of their house and a scale that represents where they currently are and where they can be with improvements. As they click on the options (customized for their house) they can see their home energy score go up. I know that the HES is important, but I guess I’m wondering if this approach is straying too far from the original theme of comfort in the home?

I’ve also never really made any sort of web content before — it’s hard for me to visualize how it would look if my content was actually on a browser, and I think I’ll have to start taking that into account to make something realistically scaled/proportional.

For Thursday I want to have a complete flow through a homeowner’s process, from the buy-in, to going through every step of the quiz, to a suggestion to get the audit and then the form they receive that tells them about their HES score.

notes from class —

currently, my quiz isn’t really a quiz — it’s not really fun or quick so I should try to restructure my questions so they’re a little more fun + maybe look at real online quizzes for inspiration. Think about framing the questions into ones with several answers (degrees between yes/no) — but make sure the tone isn’t so ridiculous that people aren’t inclined to take it seriously.

When the user completes the quiz, they might be presented with a range of home energy scores/improvement that they might be currently positioned in, but they have to get the audit to actually get their score.

Possible new content?

My skin feels _______ when I’m in my home.
Too dry
Too damp

I think the air quality of my home is…
Terrible. I’m sneezing all the time.
Good, I find it comfortable to breathe.
Okay, but it gets dusty quickly.

In the winter:
No matter how much I turn up the heat, my home is still cold.
I avoid going into some rooms because they’re colder than others.
I see condensation on my windows.
My home’s comfortable in the winter.

How old is your home?
1900 to 1950
1950’s to 2000
Brand new

How large is your home?

800 sq ft < — — — — → 3000 sq ft

references for interactive quizzes? — quiz about energy use (looks cool/ is pretty relevant but I think there’s a little too much going on). — a very minimal, short quiz

sketch to keep track of my content —

final thoughts:

Overall, I’m happy with what I made for this project. As I work through design projects, I think I have a tendency to spend too long thinking/sketching in the beginning parts where I should switch over to making and seeing what works, so that’s something I felt like happened to me on this project. I didn’t start making a lot of the graphics for my final design until the weekend before because I hadn’t quite finalized the form and the content until then. I think that in the future my goal is to start making things and trying things out earlier, so I can feel less stuck in the beginning stages and have better iterations + be more on track schedule wise.