An intense period of design activity

This is what we learned in last week’s studio session. Last week was a great experience for me because it was my first ever charette. It was my first time designing on the spot without any preparation, so it was interesting to say the least.

Our objective was to design specialized smart car user interfaces for groups of users. We started off by brainstorming in our groups about the different groups of users that utilize smart car interfaces on sticky notes. Then everyone posted their sticky notes onto the white board, where similar groups of users were grouped into larger categories. This part was insightful to me since there were so many more categories thought up by other groups that I completely forgot about.

Posting our sticky notes on the whiteboard

After the sticky note segregation process, the class was split into groups of three, and each group had to design their own smart car user interface and specific interaction scenario tailored to a specific group of users based on a sticky note group of users.

My group got the unique group of people who ride with pets often. It was difficult to brainstorm about what our users needed in their smart car interface. Initially, we had no idea why users might need to use their car interface for pets. We were thinking of improving the car itself instead of the interface at first. But, after a lot of thought and sticky notes, we realized that the interface could help users by having little access to important functions (with few physical buttons) and by entertaining the pets through the interface.

Our scenario was a little silly, but we decided to make an interface that had a TV application with pet shows embedded to calm the pets during long car rides. We modeled the interface off the Apple User Interface that was talked about in studio since it had the easiest touchscreen functions with separate app icons, not menus. Then we modeled the TV app off Netflix, but made the buttons larger for the users to easily see while in the car.

Our storyboard for the scenario
Our User Interface Screens diagram for the scenario

These features of the interface would allow the user to focus on driving while being able to calm down his/her pet in a quick and easy manner. The fact that the interface was mainly touchscreen also prevents disruptive pets from accidentally messing up the car’s functions as well. Even though it was hard to come up with ideas in the beginning, we were still able to come up with a thoughtful solution to a possible inconvenience of our group of users.

The charette was a really fun and thought-provoking experience. I never knew how much brainstorming was involved in the process of design. The multi-stage brainstorming helped us with coming up with more ideas and flesh out the good ones. From sticky notes to the comic and interactions flow diagram to the user interface screens, our initial ideas kept getting refined and narrowed into an ideal smart car user interface. The many stages really made us exhaust all our options and consider all the variables that affected our group of users.

I hope that we continue to brainstorm in a variety of ways to focus our ideas. The ability to brainstorm solutions will be, without a doubt, essential in every aspect of life for me moving on. With my intended major being engineering, I will work on solving problems for school, my future company, and just in everyday living. After last week’s studio session, I went out and bought some notebooks and sticky notes. They have already been useful for me, helping me brainstorm in my Informatics class about a problem technology can fix in today’s world. In school and life in general, we often have to deal with problems or scenarios where we must think on the spot. Being able to brainstorm in a variety of ways, linearly like in flow diagrams or spontaneously with sticky notes, is how we can deal with problems right away. Although sometimes we do have to be prepared beforehand with long-term projects and assignments with constraints, being able to brainstorm still helps whenever we meet obstacles. I look forward to tackling next week’s studio session’s scenario.

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