Design Research Studio, Fall 2017

Studies in Service Design, Social Innovation, and Transition Design

This course is instructed by Stacie Rohrbach, Stuart Candy, and Terry Irwin, and is part of the curriculum for the Senior year of the Carnegie Mellon School of Design. We are the first class to go through the new curriculum and get a Bachelor of Design, so this course is also an experiment, but backed on 5 years of planning.
Our society faces mounting challenges as a result of unbalanced relation-
ships between the built and natural worlds: massive electronic waste; increased meat production raising greenhouse gas emissions; widespread
deforestation; excess water consumption, toxification, redirection for
irrigation, and so on. As contributors to the built world, we designers have
an enormous impact on these relationships — and a responsibility to
help recover their balance through the mindful investigation of them as
complex, wicked problems.
Our goal is to gain insight into approaches and methods that aid the study of factors affecting the harmony between ourselves and our environment, and to apply these to designing services and social innovations that help transition societies to sustainable futures.
Through or explorations of different frameworks, I worked as a team with 5 of my classmates to design an intervention within the problem-space and wicked problem of access to clean water. Our final design of Safe2O is a physical artifact created to reframe the way that different stakeholders perceive the problem, and to show possible first steps that can be made. The project shows the way that designing and making can be a form of research and intervention.
Iot Filter + How It Works

08.29.2017 | Semester Goals


I spent some time going over the syllabus and these are what I found to be the main learning objectives:

  • grasp the basis of designing for services and social innovation
    to identify how they are similar/different and establish ways of investigating them effectively
  • become familiar with the nature and scope of transition design
    to seed and catalyze systems-level change within socio-technical systems
  • investigate the anatomy and dynamics of complex, wicked problems
    to grasp how they emerge and self-organize, and to identify their root causes and consequences
  • recognize inherent relationships/dependencies of components in a system to leverage their connections through interventions at multiple levels of scale and over time
  • assemble and utilize a toolkit, drawing on methods and approaches in/outside of design to tackle Transition Design, (TD) Service Design (Sv), and Design for Social Innovation (Si) challenges
  • develop and use theory as a criteria for conceiving appropriate solutions to hypothesize various ways to address a design challenge in Sv and/or Si
  • articulate speculative concepts via foresight approaches including backcasting to build narratives that describe futures in a thoughtful, imaginative, and realizable manner
  • adopt both expert and non-expert postures, as appropriate to grasp the role of design/designers when working in trans-disciplinary teams on large, complex problems

The work will be primarily group-based to prep us for working in industry.

Expectations for the course are the following:

  • Record progress clearly and consistently throughout the semester on Medium
  • Take unconventional but appropriate approaches to problem-solving
  • Contribute to class and provide critique

Immediately after reading this, my main takeaway is that even though this is a “research” class it is also strongly focused on taking action and providing solutions through fully understanding the system and its components.

Personal Goals for Semester

This semester will be challenging in many ways. I’m thankful that I feel pretty familiar with the concepts because I think that our design seminars in Futures, Systems, etc. and design studios have prepared us really well for this! And I’m excited to learn through the class how to use service design, design for social innovation, and transition design in my practice.

A few goals for myself though:

  • This is not a strictly “communication design” studio but I hope that I can still carry everything that I learned into this class and build on those skills as well.
  • I don’t want to fall into just the role of “team visual designer.” I want to actively be contributing to the group’s problem solving and strategizing.
  • I want to strike a healthy balance between speaking and listening with my group members. I don’t want to overtalk anyone but I also want to make my thoughts clear. I’m really excited to be working with the people in my group, and am looking forward to learning with them.
  • Process! Updating Medium nearly everyday keeps my process reflective and keeps my thoughts engaged on the design even when I’m not actively working on the project.
  • It’s job time, but I want to make school still a priority. I only get 4 years at this school, so I want to make every minute matter!
  • I will actively try to look more outwardly. Reflection is important but you need to open your eyes to be inspired and understand the context you design for.
  • I also want to better remember where ideas come from that we study. I never remember the names of philosophers or theorists, so I would like to try harder at this.

08.29.2017 | Reflection on Class 1

Not only did we go through the course expectations and syllabus today, we also got to dive into the material with a lecture done by Terry. I’m super happy to get to work with the team of teachers that we have. We didn’t know that Stuart Candy would be our professor but we are all super excited because we watched one of his Ted Talks in our Futures class. It’s fun to also have the whole gang of 40+ students back in the same room again. We haven’t been all together since freshman year.

The Organizing Idea

We began by talking about the how our curriculum itself aligns to the systems we will be studying. As you can see, Products, Communications, and Environments are within service, which is within social innovation, which is within transition design. I think the biggest change this semester will be how long the process takes. In P, C, and E, we are used to iterating quick and pushing it out, as you can in service design or working in industry. Transition Design is much different, as I learned. It takes a lot longer since understanding the system’s separate but interrelated parts. Transition Design is the re-conception of lifestyles toward a sustainable future, so that can take years or even decades. Something I’m a little bit unclear about is whether or not transition design encompasses both service and design for social innovation, so that is something I’ll have to clarify.

She also talked about how our curriculum is built off of the understanding that our design world affects the social and natural worlds as well.

Systems Terry drew to help us understand why our curriculum is the way it is

We are aiming to be T-shaped designers, meaning we are experts in design, that can also easily transition into a non-expert posture to better collaborate on cross-functional teams and design for any problem. This was a concept I learned about at a lunch with Terry and I thought that really emphasized the need to look outside of myself and learn things other than design. Terry really wants us to remember this. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with past CMU faculty, Austin Lee, where he mentioned that the most exciting work happens at the intersection of disciplines.

We need to be T-shaped designers :)

Today was the first of Terry’s Monday lectures on Transition Design. Transition Design brings together new knowledge and skillsets aimed at seeding and catalyzing systems-level change.

Notes that break down Transition Design, how we design based off of worldview, and the Transition Design Process

Something I found really interesting in the lecture was how our world-views affect what we design. And how they also make it so we have a harder time understanding how to solve wicked problems. Terry used a lot of metaphors to help us understand difficult concepts, which is definitely a technique I want to use for better communication in the future. The one that really stood out to me was the fish.

Fish in water metaphor

The one thing fish will never understand is water because they know no anti-environment.

I thought this was so fascinating! It relates to worldview, but also wicked problems.

They are systems problems. They are so ubiquitous that we don’t understand them.

We also went through different types of systems including living systems, mechanical / designed systems, and socio-technical systems.

Though Transition Design takes a long time, I really like the design problem that that presents involving storytelling. As a communication designer, it will be my job to come up with narratives that sell waiting and observing. That’s something fun I’m looking forward to this semester.

I’m going to try to note connections in this medium to my other classes. One I found today was in my Concepts art class, when my professor explained the significance of the word dichotomy. It’s a word that so many artists use to describe their work. Dichotomies are two things that are separate yet interconnected — like a system! Many artists are therefore using systems thinking to describe their work.

I feel excited yet sad to be entering my senior year. This is my second to last studio, so I want to really make the most of it!

Quote from Terry

08.30.2017 | Reflection on Donella Meadows’ “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System”

Donella H. Meadows is an environmental scientists, teacher, and writer. She is the author of The Limits to Growth and Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

She talks about how leverage points are points of power toward intervening in a system. Complex systems are counter-intuitive. Often we know intuitively where we are but are going in the wrong direction. The reading discusses how we can be a catalyst for change: feedback/correcting loops, parameters, oscillation, etc. The key is really in being really aware of what is going on. We need to be able to recognize when something is going the wrong way, is moving too quickly or too slowly, and we need to understand who the stakeholders are, and what rules they’re making. It seems the key is awareness.

Real awareness happens when you can abandon the paradigms that hinder us and look without bias. To keep a system resilient, we must go in and fully see what is going on to create new rules for self-organization.

I thought that this reading was a great introduction to how we can use systems thinking to inspire change.

08.30.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Designing With Mindfulness

We began class by talking about preconceptions we all have in the class. There are lots of people who aren’t considering their future job to be “transition designer.” That’s ok. This is more about us learning how to design with a mindfulness toward transitioning to a more sustainable future. And with a mindfulness for how our designs affect other parts of the world/system. This relates back to the last reading about awareness.

“Mapping and diagramming” does not just take one form. We can show how things are connected through many different ways of making.

We talked about Google Maps and how the ability to zoom in and out. Zooming in helps you get where you want to be. Zooming out lets you make sure you’re even in the right state. There are different things that we can observe at macro and micro levels.

What Stuart and Stacie wanted to get across is that even if we decide we want to be “makers,” this class will help us understand the context we are coming from. Everything here is still a hypothetical design.

Pittsburgh’s Wicked Problems

Stacie and Stuart introduced us to all the topics. This was important because a lot of the wicked problems are related. So even though we might be zooming into one, we need to understand the others to see how they might contribute to each other.

Access to Clean Air

  • Because of Pittsburgh’s steel history
  • River boats
  • Stacie showed us a poem about how PGH used to be the city of smoke
  • Andrew Carnegie: “we are going back to smoke”
  • Foggy mornings today
  • BC = black carbon. It is high especially around the rivers
  • There is a large impact from foreign air pollutants. A lot is coming from Canada across the great lakes
  • More people are becoming aware
  • Often linked to humidity
  • Breathless, an air quality expo
  • GASP Air Quality Camp for kids
  • Smell PGH — crowd-sourcing project born out of CMU Create Lab

Access to Clean Water

  • 1930s: creeks were littered
  • There’s a lot of lead because of the age of infrastructure
  • Fracking concerns
  • PGH nestled within a lot of state parks, etc.
  • Colors of water coming together
  • Water treatment places: the sewers are breaking down
  • There are high levels of nitrogen
  • Rust in the pipes makes the water come out as brown
  • Houses are old which is why pipes are rusty
  • Sewage overflow
  • Nine Mile Run = urban stream in PGH
  • “Our Water Campaign”
  • PWSA boil -> bird droppings and animal droppings at the reservoir


  • Super closely related to affordable housing
  • Defined as low-income areas becoming big income areas. They are no longer affordable so people get displaced
  • Is there a trend of: areas being gentrified being next to high income areas?
  • East Liberty in 1960s -> declining area. Then in came, Target, Penn Plaza, and Whole Foods. In came Bakery Square (used to be Nabisco Bakery) and a lot of people were affected. Whole Foods obliterated 216 homes/families.
  • There are a lot of protests
  • There’s a lot of racial tension: “Black homes matter”
  • “Remaking East Liberty plan” exists because lower income housing is missing

Affordable Housing

  • Super closely related to gentrification
  • “Get on a bus and go to the Hill District”
  • There are initiatives to build housing districts in the Hill
  • The apocalyptic film, End of the World, was filmed in the Hill District because it feels like it’s been abandoned
  • Polish Hill
  • Dig into the history of places: example would be how jazz used to be a big part of the Hill
  • A big problem is there is no money to maintain the house even if the family can afford living there
  • Warehouses around the Allegheny River are being repurposed into condos. These are a gentrifying space. They give a new face for housing in the Hill

Affordable Food

  • Food Deserts exist in Pittsburgh
  • Jubilee Soup Kitchen: food throughout the city
  • Sharpsburgh food pantry
  • Food waste from bakeries, Starbucks, etc.
  • Garfield: neighborhood giant eagle was torn down. Overnight, the area became a food desert
  • “Farm to table event” at farmers market
  • YMCA: food security aid to financially insecure families
  • Initiatives for people with food stamps to be turned into coins to use at farmer’s markets
  • Honey Drippers? (not sure I got the name right)
  • Octopus Garden


  • Pittsburgh public schools are struggling
  • Cost of repair is too expensive
  • Students have to go much further to attend schools
  • CAPA downtown
  • Troubled youth: We shouldn’t suspend them. We should educate them to make better decisions.
  • Devos: Secretary of Education with no experience and who sent her kids to private school
  • Yinzercation: a neighborhood effort
  • Facebook group, Pittsburgh Public Education
  • Engagement subcommittees like Mad Dads

Access to Affordable Public Transportation

  • Harder now that we have the bike lines, but this is still good that we have them
  • Goburgh Transit Map
  • Port Authority Bus System. Many routes have been taken out because of lack of funding. The root of the funding issue is infinite retirement funding. The loss of routes is cutting off a lot of people.
  • Busses will finally hold bikes
  • Healthy ride bikes
  • Family biking
  • “Three Rivers Heritage Paths”
  • Pitt: research on electric cars
  • Tiramisu: crowd-sourced bus tracker

Reduction of Crime

  • Gang violence is a huge issue. It starts at an early age
  • Check out crime rates by year
  • Crime on immigrants -> “Immigrant’s Rights”
  • Racism at work
  • Violence at schools
  • Teaching kids how to be first-responders. There are ways to help other than just calling 9–11
  • “Stop shooting. We love you.”
  • Homewood House

Trivia Game

We played a really fun Trivia game to help us learn even more about these problems.


I am so happy with the topic that my team got!

I was really hoping I wouldn’t get Affordable Housing or Gentrification, just because I did a huge research project on this last semester.


Start writing out the problems associated with the issue on post-it notes

09.06.2017 | Studying Water Problems in Pittsburgh

We met up as a group each having gathering research on the history and current status of water in Pittsburgh.

Meeting up to discuss Water!

We started to write out post-its with problems we had individually identified. Each of us taught each other what we had learned.

Teaching each other what we learned

We found however that we we’re really struggling because we did not have a good understanding for how water is even treated. How does it end up in our drinking glass?

We watched informational videos together as a team.

And then drew out the problem on the whiteboard.

Maggie using her amazing drawing skills to visualize the treatment process

From there we began to fill in the post-its with where they align with the process. It really helped us understand where our gaps were.

Layer 1 = Drawings of water treatment process. Layer 2 = problems at different stages of the process.

From there, we divided and conquered. Each of us did more research independently and added to the board.

Filling up the whiteboard with problems we have identified!

Lastly we’ve started a second chart with categories identifying other elements of the system. We’re not sure where these fit in yet but we’re collecting them so that we’ll be able to find clarity soon.

Additional Categories of Problems

09.06.2017 | Reflection on “Mapping Ojai’s Water Shortage”

This is a reading by Terry Irwin, my Professor and the Head of the CMU School of Design, and Gideon Kossoff, a PhD Social Ecologist and Professor at CMU.

This was a summary and analysis of a Transition Design workshop conducted in Ojai California to address the water shortage. The drought has gone on for 5 years which is why I think that this area was open to being one of the first places to get a group of stakeholders together in the same room to explore how Transition Design could be used to explore water sustainability.

I learned about the concept of cosmopolitan localism, which is the re-conception of entire lifestyles that are place-based and local, but cosmopolitan in their exchange of knowledge, skills, and technology. The emphasis is on making the design place-based. This made me realize how important it is to consider that my research is not just on “access to clean water,” but “access to clean water in Pittsburgh.

The article talks a lot about vignettes and the necessity of creating glimpses of what a slice of life would be of a future lifestyle. I wonder if in order for the future to seem appealing and desirable, if the future imagery lends itself toward the utopian and unrealistic? It’s obviously super important to get buy-in on a future that you can realistically attain, but that is difficult to predict correctly and less desirable than a utopian image. This is where the challenge is storytelling will be. The article went into further detail about lifestyle-based narratives for sustainable futures. I was surprised to find that suggested format was quotations in either first or third person. I believe this is because through leveraging a view of everyday life, the narrative drives on attaining empathy from the stakeholder.

I later found that the solution to this is when speculating desirable futures, you should project both a short term near vision and a long term vision. I think this is great because the short term vision is more realistic and will be a way that you can prove the process and show evidence of success. Perhaps the long-term vision is more of the utopian view that inspires people to get involved. After projecting these futures, we use backcasting to see milestones to actually achieve the goals.

The article also talks about the role of designers to be agents of change. This got me thinking a lot about how as designers, we have to be excellent planners and coordinators of collaboration. We often are not the expert in what we’re trying to fix. But we figure out how to get all the stakeholders to work together to co-design the solution. I really think it is important to think of this process as co-designing even though we won’t be working with all designers.

09.06.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Viewing Other Teams’ Work

We began class by checking out how other teams had addressed the post-it noting homework. I took notes on ideas I found relatable to my topic and post-it noting techniques that I found admirable.


  • Their topic is deeply involved with the law system. I thought that this might relate to our topic because Mayor Peduto and PWSA, for example, for key players in Water.


  • I really liked that they had case studies on their map: SF, Braddock, Wilkinsburg. Likewise, I think our team can hone in on highly affected areas.
  • They distinguished between direct and indirect problems.


  • They were able to pinpoint how many were affected
  • I really liked that they had a “health risks” section where they identified groups at risks. I was surprised that my group had not thought to do that.
  • I think that there are a lot of similarities between my group and the Air group. Both have environmental and health consequences.
  • They also had sections for “violations” and “socio-political conflicts”


  • I thought it was really great that this group had a timeline at the bottom. Stacie discussed this later in class — but what’s great about the timeline is that it makes it so that the diagram communicates to people other than the members of the team. But at the same time, it also helps them better contextualize their findings.
  • Their group also had sections for “partnerships” and “important people”


  • They noted the strong relationship to the Gentrification team
  • They had a section for “public perceptions” which our team thought we should include as well


  • They had sections for existing interventions and areas of concern.

I unfortunately ran out of time and missed at least the Affordable Housing team’s diagram.

Reflecting on the Diagrams

Stacie and Stuart started a group conversation by asking if we created the diagrams by addressing categories first or categories after? It was really interesting to me because I found that there was a pretty even distribution in the class of people doing both methods. Our team was kind of a combination. A problem with making categories prematurely, though, is that you might not see where the holes are.

They also noted that for all teams, the post-its were helping the individual teams but are not communicating to anyone. Why is this important?

  1. They need to communicate to other teams. Our wicked problem involves other peoples’ wicked problems.
  2. In transition design, it’s really important to get other parties to completely understand the problem. As I realized in the past reading, I think a large portion of the designer’s role in this process is understanding the problem at a micro/macro level and then coordinating collaboration / co-designing with other stakeholders.

Stuart noted that to communicate clearly is a creative, interpretive act. It’s not something easy to do, and there’s not one way to do it. We will need to be experimental with our approaches. I’m glad that my team has already begun to do this through drawing in our last diagram.

They also suggested that we start listing what other questions we might have.

They thought it was great that we had, as a class, started organizing without even knowing that we had to. But during class, they wanted us to do it more intentionally, paying additional attention to our writing on the post-its. They should include cause, effect, and context. This is definitely different than what we have done in past post-it noting, but again, these post-it notes are not just supposed to communicate to our team.

Stacie also suggested we look through the work done by MDES students, who did a similar project. These topics are archetypes/themes that CMU hopes to build knowledge on over years. Eventually, the school plans to go to the mayor with the school’s findings. Therefore, it is good to look at past work. However, we should not copy their methods of diagramming.

“The only universe that does you any good is your own.”

I thought that this was a really great quote mentioned by Stuart.

Post-It Noting Activity

We broke back into our teams to be more intentional with our diagrams. The focus was definitely on re-writing the post-its to make more sense to anyone. We also were more intentional with color, since before our post-it note colors had been fairly arbitrary.

Diagram before
Diagram after

Discussion Following Activity

Each team stood up to read a post-it note that they made that they felt was communicating. From there, Stacie and Stuart poked holes even further. I realized that this is really going to be quite challenging. We don’t want our post-its to bring more questions to mind about details.

Our homework is to re-cluster the post-its again using STEEP (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political). This will help us identify holes and things we haven’t yet explored.

09.09.2017 | Thinking About Utopia

I’m really interested in how utopias relate to Transition Design. I just read an excerpt from Utopias: A Brief History from Ancient Writings to Virtual Communities. Here are some interesting excerpts:

  • “Genuine utopias frequently seek not to escape from the real world but to make the real world better.”
  • Really awesome things come from dreaming big. Example: NASA is hailed as an “instrument of greater world peace.” Many spinoffs have been made as a result of NASA inventions: MRIs, smoke detectors, lasers, dustbusters, etc.
  • Genuine utopias = “the desire for a different, better way of being” and “is neither innate or universal”
  • “Utopias’ real goal: not prediction of the future but improvement of the present”

09.10.2017 | Group Meeting + STEEP Mapping

After individually adding research (facts + links) to our Mural (online diagramming tool), we met up to put all the pieces together. We paid specific attention to including cause, effect, and context.

Then, we took the key insights and added them to the physical diagram.

Group meeting in the Product Studio
Final Diagram in Mural
Final Physical Diagram

We’re planning to meet up tomorrow and add strings/thumbtacks before class that show another level of connection across categories. We’ll also brainstorm questions that the class brings to mind.

09.10.2017 | Reflection on “Deep Ecology — a New Paradigm” by Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra is an Austrian-American Physicist and Systems Theorist. “Capra focuses on systemic information generated by the relationships among all parts as a significant additional factor in understanding the character of the whole, emphasizing the web-like structure of all systems and the interconnectedness of all parts” (Wikipedia).

The readings talks a lot about paradigms. Capra suggests a new paradigm called Deep Ecology which refers to the “fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and the fact that, as individuals and societies, we are all embedded in (and ultimately dependent on) the cyclical processes of nature. It’s shallow / less comprehensive when it is anthropocentric / human-centric. Capra emphasizes that ecosystems do not just involve humans, but rather include the natural environment. The world is a “network of phenomena that are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent.”

This relates to a lot of things I have read about utopia. When people consider perfect futures, they are often centered around humans. However, we must understand utopia from other points of view.

I think the main takeaway of the reading is to be more holistic with our worldviews, looking beyond ourselves to nature and our surroundings.

09.11.2017 | Finishing Up Diagram Connections

During lunch break we finished adding the cross-category connections.

The red string shows the extra level of connections

09.11.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Looking at Other Team’s Work

Unfortunately, as a consequence to more clear/explicit post-it notes, they became pretty hard to digest quickly. I had to spend a lot more time trying to understand what our class was saying — maybe even more so than last time. Though we are being more clear, I think we should also try to be more concise.

However I did still pick up some interesting pieces of information from the teams! A technique I found worked on my second pass was paying special attention to the “Environmental” category of people’s STEEP Maps because that section was typically the most relevant to water.

Our Team // Water
I wasn’t nearby as they were talking about it but I heard that Terry loved the idea of us using the string. She thought this might be a good idea for the senior show for connecting across different wicked problems or maps.


  • Can cause increased crime
  • Small businesses are pushed out
  • PGH rivers suffer from demolition! -> destruction of natural habitat


  • The long commute leads to more carbon emissions
  • I was kind of confused by the tech trends they were looking at because some seemed really futuristic. But I think that it actually makes sense considering that transition design looks very far into the future.

Air Quality

  • Motor vehicles release toxins
  • Poor air quality leads to toxic rain
  • PGH coal
  • Neglected landfills leak toxic chemicals

Public Transportation

  • Bus areas are the highest areas of pollution
  • Busses worsen air quality
  • There’s tension over fair payments
  • Overcrowding of busses


  • Lead poisoning can lead to increased aggression! (Really big connection to water wahoo). This is from a 2002 Pitt Med study, 18–38% of all delinquency in Allegeny County had higher levels of lead.


  • Poverty makes it harder to improve
  • Pantries need more resources
  • I was really lucky to be walking past this group as Terry was speaking to them about how important social beliefs are to all of the groups. It should probably be the biggest in all the STEEP diagrams. For example, in food, there are social beliefs that there is no time to grow their own food. I thought that this was super interesting, and was a great segway into today’s lecture.

Social issues will always be the biggest because we created the problems. User-Centered research doesn’t get at this!!! (AKA This is why we need transition design.)

There are push-pulls/archetypal relationships that will come up with all of the wicked problems. And looking from a bigger context will help us find a small solution.

After class, I added post-its with things I found from other groups, or from research inspired by their post-its.

Connections to Other Wicked Problems

Terry Lectures on “Worldview, Stakeholder Beliefs, Assumptions, and Expectations”

“Categories are useful for thinking.” Separating into STEEP is useful not just for finding holes but also thinking about how it ramifies across categories (like our team did with the string). Looking for constellations, in this manner, creates a web of interdependencies and interconnections that will show the leverage points for staging an intervention or change.

Terry talked about the social section especially. It goes back to the reading we did by Donella Meadows — Mindset and paradigms are the most powerful leverage point. But also, it seems to me, to be the hardest to affect. Worldview is the shared idea in minds of society, great big unstated assumptions. Unstated because unnecessary to state–they’re a given, and go beyond are awareness. Terry gives the following as American/Western examples of deep-seated believes that affect our everyday lives: G-d, baseball, Mom, pie.

Every designed artifact rises out of our belief systems.

The power of this statement is that we live in world where everything is designed.

We need to remember to ask ourselves at all times, “What am I not seeing?” Otherwise, it’s like confirmation bias. We see what we expect to see.

Worldviews are destructive, but normative. They are a sketch but also a blueprint for reality.

A lot of times we only see belief systems in hindsight.

An example Terry gave was cigarette ads. (I love this example because I’ve always had a deep fascination for midcentury ads.) She showed us the following:

Arthur Godfrey, Doctors, Babies

Arthur Godfrey, Doctors, Babies. Clear propaganda. (After learning about the Guerilla Girls in another class, I wish I could make something leveraging the visual language of these ads to protest it.)

The next point that Terry brought up is that many everyday problems (take for example comcast or college tuition) can be tracked to higher levels of scale.

Terry shows how big a problem comcast really is!
Designers should be the ones looking behind the curtain.

I really really love this quote. :) Our power as designers is to speak in easily understood ways about the really big problems we detect. It brought to mind a lot of questions for us students in the class though. If we don’t agree with something at a company we are working at for example, what do we do?

The solution is to say “Yes and” when solving problems. This is advice my sister actually gave me when I did my first internship! You do what you’re supposed to (unless you really are morally opposed like Terry was back in the day with designing ads for cigarettes and whiskey) but also can bring awareness to the situation and other options through understanding the problem at a larger scale. We can hopefully make it so that we clear the blinded eyes toward the ramifications of designs.

We must take on postures of wonder and speculation at all times and test the boundaries.

Use every situation to learn more until you get into a leverage point for change.

Transition design is: Formal Design Skills + Understanding of Systems + Empathy and Ability to Dance + Ethos of People and Planet.

Shifting to the Stakeholder

Terry continued the lecture going into stakeholder relations, which are the “connective tissue” within wicked problems. They call for new mindset/postures of empathy, suspension of judgment, patience, optimistic grumpiness (! one of my favorite expressions since my freshman year and largely how I describe the attitude of a designer to other people), and humor.

She showed us and example from Ojai and I was largely reminded of one that a stakeholder map that I made in my HCI User Centered Research and Evaluation Course last semester. It looked like this:

I removed the name for privacy.

It was a lot of “she says this // he says this.” The lightning bolt represents BREAKDOWNS or differences in opinions.

Likewise, Terry brought up how when we make ours, we should note lines of opposition/conflict and lines of affinity/alignment. Also like in Persuasion class, we should note which lines are more strong. Sometimes, we’ll find that stakeholders don’t even agree on what the problem is.


  • Define our stakeholders and continue to add to our map
  • Continue to ask questions: Transition design is identifying barriers, asking questions, doing research. It’s also really great that our professors read our mediums so can respond directly to our questions that we write on here.

09.12.2017 | Stakeholder Diagramming Pt. 1

Steven and I met quickly to determine our approach on how to do this. Since we both had taken UCRE, we had a similar feeling when Terry brought up the lines of affinity and opposition. We’re going to use colored string to identify the difference and make pretend quotes with the opinions of the different sides.

Using post-it notes we distinguished between stakeholders and their opinions.

Post-it noting colors

We added in the different stakeholders plus their opinions. We added them below our earlier diagram plus to the right.

Stakeholder opinions

During lunch tomorrow, we will use string to draw in lines of opposition and alignment between the different stakeholders.

09.13.2017 | Stakeholder Diagramming Pt. 2

Before class, we took string (red for opposition, blue affinity) to better our understanding of the connections between different stakeholders and their opinions. It was really fun and made us all involved in the design process, which was great.

Another benefit was that it helped us to find holes in our research. There were certain stakeholders who I realized we knew almost nothing about regarding their opinions (the state government other than Mayor Peduto for example) where I realized we still needed to dive in deeper with our research.

After this, we refined some of our connections in the top portion where we identified problems with STEEP.

As a team, we are well-aware that we are from fully mapping out the connections, but we finished the activity feeling like we had gotten a really good start.

It was fun and made me feel like we were Detectives solving a case instead of Designers solving a problem.

Adding string connections to finish up the map
Finishing up the diagram

09.13.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Checking Out Other Team’s Diagrams

My intention as I walked around was looking mostly at how people brainstormed different stakeholders — sometimes I thought that there ones related to mine. Other times, I wrote down ones that I found really interesting and thought-provoking.


  • Food resource organizations (made me wonder what the water organizations are)
  • Lobbyists
  • Doctors
  • NGOs


  • Tax-payers
  • What about governor?


  • Homeless
  • Realtors
  • Now-PGH residents that want to move here

Public Transportation

  • Chairs and Co-Chairs of organization
  • Department of city planning (what are our specific water departments?)
  • Governor Tom Wolf


  • People of color
  • Democrats
  • Republicans
  • Livestock, people, trees
  • Organizations like GASP, etc.
  • Greenhouses


  • Suburbs vs. city
  • Lobbyists
  • Senators


  • Police
  • Developers
  • Tech companies / Employees
  • Large companies

Reflecting With Stacie and Stuart

We talked about how some people had less stakeholder post-its and used the categories more as themes. Stuart mentioned that the further we go with this, the more the complexity of people involved changes. We should ask ourselves, “Who’s problem is this?” A question my team had as we went was: “Is the problem the stakeholder or their opinion?” We should also be considering what their motives are.

We got into a really interesting conversation that I perceived to be critiquing the anthropocentric paradigm of thinking about problems from only a human-centric point of view. We wondered whether we can have non-human stakeholders, like vegetables or rivers. I think that it’s a good idea because like our last reading talked about we need to remember that as humans we are part of an entire ecosystem. A challenge will be how to get people to think of nature as a stakeholder as well. Though this class assignment is purely hypothetical, I imagine that this would be really key if we had an intervention between the different stakeholders like Terry did.

Diagramming Activity

We spent most of the class divided back into our group. We had to choose 3 key stakeholder groups. We then did a deeper dive into the three parties.

Again, like I was saying above this practice is purely hypothetical. Real transition design takes years. And though we would love to be able to involve the community, our teachers realized it’s not ethical to jump in immediately to talk to the community, especially if it’s repeated for the senior lab year after year. So we’re using hypothesized point of views that are grounded on our research.

The three stakeholders our team focused on was: PWSA, Pittsburgh Residents, and the Water Ecosystem. In our team of 6, we broke up into 3 groups of 2 to write out the hopes & aspirations and concerns & fears. I worked on PWSA with Jessie. Maggie and SR worked on Pittsburgh Residents. Steven and Tina did the water ecosystem.

Stakeholder1: PWSA

PWSA Hope/Concerns

Stakeholder 2: Pittsburgh Residents

Pittsburgh Residents Hope/Concerns

Stakeholder 3: Water Ecosystem

Water Ecosystems Hope/Concerns

The Final Triad Diagram

We used post-its to come up with different categories for the stakeholders in the triad. And added to it after doing the worksheets.

Finally, like we did with the diagram we came into class with, we mapped out the affinities and oppositions. This time, we used tape though. On the tape, we listed out what they agreed or disagreed on.

The activity was nice because it really was a deep dive into 3 key stakeholders.

Adding the tape of affinities and oppositions

What We’re Doing Next

For class on Monday, we have to take on the personas of the stakeholders and act out quick sketches about their careers or aspirations. We have to also create an 11x17 sketch of their aspirations, concerns, and feelings.

09.16.2017 | Script Writing

We stayed in our teams established in class, and wrote scripts based off the perspectives of our 3 stakeholders.

Jesse and I made ours from the Point of View of the PWSA.

Our Script

It’s inspired by videos we watched where the news interviewed Robert Weimar, the Interim Executive Director of the PWSA

09.17.2017 | Drawing + Editing Script

Jesse and I are collaborating on the drawing. He’s going to take charge of actually making the final drawing. But I sent over my idea in quick sketch form on how to represent the script within the form of a drawing.

Quick Sketch I sent to Jesse

Jesse and I timed our script at 2 minutes but Stacie let us know that’s too long. We edited our script to be a little over a minute.

More concise script

Final Drawing

Visual representation of our script

09.17.2017 | Reflecting on Block and Jungk Readings

“Future Workshops | How to Create Desirable Futures” by Robert Jungk

I thought that this was an incredible reading! I really enjoyed reading it.

I saw it as a critique on how democracy gives power to only a few to determine our future world. The author gave a powerful anecdote to how he experienced feeling powerless, being a victim to Hitler’s regime. His mission is looking “for ways that people can fight back and can influence the course of events.” Through Futures workshops, he brings out the creative imaginations of people in society.

He talks about the “gap in the democratic system,” using an uncomfortable kitchen as an example. A woman would realize straight away that the design wouldn’t work but the man who was responsible for designing it did not. This is actually directly related to the gender unit of our Cultures class from sophomore year. It is testimony to how we need diversity of opinions and inclusion of all stakeholders/populations when designing. It’s why design research is important. It also makes me kinda scared/sad when I consider the lack of diversity within the design world.

To get people who have been suppressed, intimidated and dragooned into mere consumers to open up, requires a great deal of patience and empathy.

This quote reminds me of something that I learned about in my Concepts Studio, an art class I’m taking for my art minor. We were discussing Utopia and how populations who have been suppressed, such as people of color, are less represented in the science fiction community, which explores different futures. Its a very white-male dominated culture. And a large portion of this is because less privileged populations are more focused on the here-and-now so they have less opportunity to fantasize. I think that Futures Workshops seems great as a way to return this power to all people. While reading this, I also considered how the author’s past as a Holocaust victim has affected his knowledge toward this.

Privileges for the possessors of information and power have always been with us.
They deny those whose cause they champion any opportunity to articulate their own views.

I think these quotes reiterate the earlier point and draw attention that it should be all people who have a say in what the future may be.

One last interest point related to this is when Jungk writes:

Who today is most likely to come up with social insights that might lead to positive proposals for change? The answer is that it is those who have little or nothing to lose, the great silent majority.

I thought he made a super strong point toward inclusion throughout this piece.

“Community: The Structure of Belonging” by Peter Block

I think that most of what Block brings up are a give-in: Community is important and you need to make people feel accountable. However, I thought it was interesting how he defines community not just as belonging, but also as being an owner or a creator. “Creator”, in particular, was a word that I found interesting because I had never thought about it that way before.

He quotes a periodical that is referring to the practice of art. It defines creation as the following:

A quest not only for form but also for purpose, direction and continuity.

Creation, I believe, refers to creating a “more positive and connected future for our communities.”

He talked about how globalization through “instant sharing of information, quick technology, workplaces that operate around the globe” make the world feel small and provide us with connections, information, and opinions. But then he says the following:

But all this does not create the connection from which we can become grounded and experience the sense of safety that arises from a place where we are emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically a member.

This is super fascinating to me after a summer spent working in tech, where the goal is to make a more connected world. I kind of disagree with Block here because I have heard a lot of stories about how people have found comfort and communities online, especially with regard to mental illness. It gives people a way to find people that are like them. Block’s argument, however, is that our “fragmentation” is caused by the gaps between all these different worlds. There are so many different communities that aren’t working in unison, thus creating a dividedness since we are not uniting toward one future. I think it seems a little too idealistic too assume that all communities could unite toward one future. It causes me to wonder however how we could still push toward a positive future without full support.

09.18.2017 | Post-Class Reflection


The skits were really funny. Engaging. Enjoyable to watch.

One of my favorite presentations. Lena and Treat pretend to be busses. This one was more harmless in its portrayal since they weren’t actually representing people.

This prompted a conversation about whether it was a good idea for us to actually do these skits.

People brought up that though the presentations were engaging, because we don’t have a deep enough level of understanding from actually talking to stakeholders. It lacks “on the street” realism and could be perceived as stereotypes, which dehumanizes the stakeholders we were trying to bring to life.

Terry brought up that when actually doing this in real life, this would be a sketch before actually going out to talk to the stakeholders to kind of figure out in advance what they may think. And then we would actually have to go around to talk to them. I think I kind of question this because if we’re doing the sketches before, doesn’t that mean we have preconceived notions before talking to them? I wonder how as designers we can truly be objective and rid ourselves of bias.

Futures Lecture

From there we transitioned into a Futures Lecture with Stuart Candy by asking, “What’s Next?”

He reminded us that the point of the studio is to gain insight into services and social innovations that help transition societies to sustainable futures.

He brought up the architect Euro Saarinen. He believes that it’s really important to consider the next largest environment when designing. For example, if you’re designing a chair, you should consider the room it is in. Likewise, we should consider layers of spatial elements / systems elements when designing. Stuart used the phrase “temporal zoom levels.”

Good robust design includes considering how context will change over time. [Sidenote: I think this relates to the Dator reading which discusses considering and planning for future generations.]

This graph drawn by Stuart illustrated the different levels will.

Stuart Candy drawing

It goes Administrative Opportunities -> Planning/Strategy ->Foresight? (There’s a ? after foresight because it doesn’t always happen.) These are the different levels that we can use when Futuring.

We then talked about “inside out” and “outside in” thinking. It’s best to balance the two. You can see the diagram below.

“Inside Out” Thinking x “Outside In” Thinking

We did a brief haiku activity where we considered our and our communities futures in 2047. I thought this was super challenging and fun. It was interesting to notice that most people’s were dystopian futures. Many were trends we worry about now but extrapolated.

Stuart brought up that we need to get out of this thinking and consider alternate futures. His emphasized the S at the end of Futures because we need to explore different possibilities. In the first 4 moves of a game of chess, there are 288+ billion possibilities. With the billions of people on the planet, it’s crazy to consider how many futures there could be.

Futures should be “possible, probable, and preferable.”

Stuart’s sketch

We’ll be exploring where different futures fit into this diagram in the next class.

I thought this was a great recap of ideas we explored in Futures with Peter and a great intro to our next unit.

09.19.2017 | Futures Haikus

My Life in 2047

Four-eyes augmented,
I inhale toxic dust from
A rose-colored world.

My Community in 2047

A female future:
A round-table discussion
Where women belong.

09.19.2017 | Reflection on Dator Reading

The reading talked about our previous ideologies, whether they stem from religion, philosophy, etc. do not prep us to consider the ethical problems of helping future generations by identifying their needs and then acting responsibly in the present to help satisfy these needs. We have to be social inventors, practicing convergent and critical thinking methods to figure out ways that we can intervene to create an alternative future.

But to imagine an alternative (and possible, probable, preferable future) is the hard part.

Dator talks about how good architects are very similar to good futurists.

Nonetheless, a good architect needs to “see” things which ordinary people cannot see, and to see them whole and functioning — to see a building (or maybe an entire community) actually in use on a physical site before it is built.
In addition to being “visionary,” architects need to be “creative” in the sense of being able to actually make their dreams come true — to “create” the building.”

It carries on below —

At the same time, an architect needs also to be a good, practical, effective manager, not only of the people who actually do the digging, laying building, and finishing (so that things are done in proper sequence, on time, which minimal delays and errors), but also how to obtain and manage the finances necessary to “meet the payroll” for all the many and varied workers involved.
In addition, architects need to be aware of all the health, safety, and similar rules and regulations, and how and where to obtain all of the various permits which law and society requires of any new construction. They must be skilled at the “politics” involved in negotiating the gamut of permissions, union rules, community concerns, clients’ whims, and all the other human factors which much be tended to promptly and smoothly.

I really appreciate this comparison to the “attributes of a futurist.” However, I read an article in Dan Boyarski’s Time, Motion, and Communication course that really resonated with me. It was a piece by Brian Eno about how composers should be architects, but also gardeners.

Here is how he described the composition process of John Cage:

Of course, I was also familiar with Cage and his use of randomness, and new ways of making musical decisions. Or not making them. What fascinated me about these kinds of music was that they really completely moved away from that old idea of how a composer worked. It was quite clear with these pieces,
for example “In C,” that the composer didn’t have a picture of the finished piece in his head when he started. What the composer had was a kind of menu, a packet of seeds, you might say. And those musical seeds, once planted, turned into the piece. And they turned into a different version of that piece every time.
So for me, this was really a new paradigm of composing. Changing the idea of the composer from somebody who stood at the top of a process and dictated precisely how it was carried out, to somebody who stood at the bottom of a process who carefully planted some rather well-selected seeds, hopefully, and watched them turn into something.

I think what this means of futurists and transition designers is that we should be the one’s planting the seeds and planning but also observing how they actually play out and reconfiguring/intervening from there. The future will never go as we plan, as Dator does mention later when he says:

“The future” cannot be “predicted” because “the future” does not exist.


“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Futurists/Transition Designers should be good architects and good gardeners.

Another interesting point that I got from this article was “Lateral Thinking,” inspired by the expert Edward de Bono. I am familiar with this term because of a meeting that I had with Stacie during my Sophomore Spring Semester. She suggested to me to take risks with my design work, and practice lateral thinking. It has been an idea I have constantly considered ever since.

I thought that the haikus we have been doing our great ways to get us in the mode of being creative.

But I also appreciate the method of trying on different hats:

  • Green: Creative thinking
  • Yellow: Optimism and logical positive view of things
  • Red: Feelings, intuition, hunches, emotions
  • Black: The caution hat
  • White: Neutral, data and information
  • Blue: Process-control, agenda

I admit that I often fall into the Blue hat. I’d like to actively try to wear more of them.

Lastly, I think it is exciting that Futurists are invited to explore wild, even absurd futures. An art piece I’m fond of are the “Wish You Were Here Postcards” by Steve Lambert, which explore exaggerated, over-the-top futures.

09.20.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

The topic of today’s class was Generating Alternative Futures.

Stuart told us that a purely predictive or linear stance is a trap for the following reasons:

  1. It’s based off our own conceptions of the future. (Any single image of the future, no matter how compelling, is incomplete. Monofuturism is incorrect.)
  2. It’s a parade of mistaken predictions.
  3. The nature and shape of change over time itself.

Because the “future” is an open-ended space of possibilities, we need to draw boundaries in a boundary-less vision of the future. To draw boundaries, we draft scenarios. I thought it was really interesting the tie Stuart made to science fiction. I took an art class in my sophomore year called Digital Worlds where we had to create futures scenarios inspired by scifi movies that we watched. The one I had used was Bladerunner.

The following are what we aim for with scenarios;


There are 4 different types of scenarios:

  1. Grow
  2. Collapse
  3. Discipline
  4. Transformation

Stuart also brought up how sometimes movies / scenarios can have elements from all four. Take, for instance: the movie, Robocop.

We did an activity where, as a class, we were the “skeletal sculptors” of the “world in 2050” through using the STEEP principles. It was a really fun brainstorming activity.

STEEP as a class

From there, we broke into our teams to start constructing a scenario in the same way but toward our own wicked problem. Stuart assigned us to make a “discipline” future for Pittsburgh in the year of 2050.

09.23.2017 | Group Meeting

The water group met to discuss different ideas we had for the future scenario. Through lots of post-it note idea-generation, we landed on the concept of water being a commodity regulated by the government following a drought and drying-up of the Pittsburgh rivers.

Generating Alternative Futures Ideas — Group Meeting
Generating Alternative Futures Ideas

09.24.2017 | Four Futures for Hawaii 2050

I thought it was really helpful to read the four futures written by Stuart Candy, Jim Dator, and Jake Dunagan before embarking on our own Futures Scenario. Especially since my role was to figure out how everything tied together into one complete narrative, I found it really helpful to read how each narrative is from a present-tense perspective and paints a very descriptive image of what the city looks like through using the STEEP technique.

Stacie has often said that a lot of the best designers are also great writers, and that is what came to mind as I read this piece. Story-telling is something we use to communicate our research findings and perspective, and it’s nice to see that this also applies to Futures Thinking. When I read the four scenarios, I felt like all seemed quite possible. There were definitely some that seemed more preferable or plausible, but all seemed very likely. Again, I think this relates to story-telling. Yes, a terribly dystopian image would frighten readers. But, it still won’t feel like it relates to them. If you can create a scenario that hints of problems in the future yet also seems possible, then I think it will be harder hitting and more effective at communicating why we must transition toward a more sustainable future.

09.25.2017 | Pittsburgh in 2050: The Water Perspective

This is the scenario our team wrote together:

Climate change and overuse of energy has resulted in a shortage of natural resources. Natural gas and oil reserves are depleted. Additionally, a long drought hit the United States, and many cities did not know how to adjust their living styles to accustom the lack of resources. Pittsburgh’s rivers have been diverted to provide water elsewhere, causing widespread drought within the city. Once a city plentiful with water, the three rivers began to dry up. Due to depletion of natural resources like water, oil, and energy, the government had to step in before the world completely ran out. City officials, even those who are not environmentalists, determine that water, as well as other natural resources, are commodities that require strict government regulation. Otherwise, the residents will use it all up!

A boom in renewable energy technology has lessened the world’s reliance on consumable energy sources and slowed the rate of global warming, but water and power usage must still be closely controlled. In order to maintain access to essential resources, the government’s rationing program strictly limits individuals’ direct usage of resources, as well as consumption of resource-intensive food and products.

The Pittsburgh municipal government and neighborhoods put forward new rules, regulations, and social contracts in order to ensure the survivability of Pittsburgh. Every Pittsburgh citizen receives an equal amount of ration on water, electricity and likewise natural resources. The ration is enough for most of the population. Residents who need more resources beyond their quota have to pay far more money on them than before 40 years ago. Consequently, the financial burden on people who are less immune to diseases are much greater. To get the fluids they need at the hospital to recover, is far beyond what the water quota allows, and it is often too expensive to afford. On the other hand, even though the privileged receive the same resource ration, their wealth allow them to obtain extra natural resources. They spend fortunes on cutting edge environmental technologies, such as rain water purifiers and solar panels, to produce extra natural resources.

Having been the ones to initiate the rules, the Government officials are held responsible for fairly distributing resource rations. The ration sizes are enough to provide what is essential to their living. Meanwhile, new rules are enforced to keep the planet healthy by not wasting any resources (i.e. no pools, long showers, diesel trucks, etc). Crime against the planet has become a large legal issue. Using more than your allotted resource ration is considered a federal offense, unless it is naturally obtained through environmental technologies. In the eyes of the government, there has been an ideological shift in values toward keeping the planet healthy for generations to come. A huge political scandal happened when a mayor of an especially drought-stricken area was using an excessive amount of water. He was charged for embezzlement of water and is serving time in prison. He became subject to a lot of hate from the Pittsburgh citizens. Additionally, the residents started to worry that their government might be profiting more than they should from the rationing system.

Since water is scarce in Pittsburgh in the year of 2050, people’s lives revolve around water much more than they did 40 years ago. A new social norm becomes prevalent: people see spending money outside of sheer necessity as wasteful. But thanks to the agreement that citizens can invest money in technology that generates natural resources, investing in environmental technology becomes something that many people want to spend their life savings on. It has been made so that more people can help out generating energy and water. However, the imbalance in the amount of water supplied to each household caused not only the crime of siphoning off water from neighborhoods to increase, but also created a social class system. There’s a clash between those that can afford extra resources and those that cannot. The government officials are in a class of their own, being the ones rationing out the resources. The citizens understand the need for the quota and being environmentally conscious, yet still long for more than what the government is giving them.

Yinzers have historically had a strong sense of pride for their city. But now, it extends into a distrust toward outsiders. The xenophobia stems from the root cause of Pittsburgh’s rivers drying up: other cities taking their water. The residents used to blame the state government and the PWSA for their water issues, but now they direct all their frustration at the other cities. They do not leave the city borders and they feel unsettled when those who are not Pittsburgh born-and-raised visit their city to use up their already limited resources.

Gone are the days of luxurious beauty regimens; bath bombs, lotions, face masks, etc. are considered “wasteful.” The average number of people taking shower in a week has decreased significantly thanks to improved sanitation technology. People now depend heavily on dry-shampoo, dry-body-scrub, and dry-shower gel, since its usage does not draw from their water ration. Compared to the ones that were in the market 40 years ago, the dry-bath equipments are much more improved and eco-friendly. They are enough to keep people away from dirt and germs.

Since the drought lead to extreme regulations and rationing of natural resources, the environmental technology market has seen a boom. Citizens will rarely spend their money on anything else! Companies are competing at unprecedented levels to provide citizens with new cutting-edge, environmentally friendly technology at affordable prices. Many citizens also find themselves employed at these companies. In Pittsburgh alone, there are 5 solar power companies, 3 water purifying companies, and 1 solar car company.

Since the Government controls the natural resources, they have several factories in place around Pittsburgh where they will provide gallons of water, gasoline, wood, and other natural resources at the regulated amount for citizens to collect. The rationing has led to smaller workplaces, and companies do not want to be seen as wasteful with natural resources for frivolous reasons.

Pittsburgh solidifies its image as a “green city” through the success of its rationing system at sustaining resources. Other cities look to them for inspiration and try to initiate similar systems. But try as they might, the amount of natural resources at a nation-wide level continues to decrease. Though they are able to extend the amount of time the cities can carry on with such a limited supply, the government knows in the back of their mind, that it is only a matter of time before the rivers run completely dry.

09.25.2017 | Post-Class Reflection


We did an activity that assisted us in analyzing the different groups scenarios. We split the class in half so everyone could hear a Growth, Collapse, Discipline, and Transform Scenario.

Reflecting on the Activity

Stuart described the challenge as walking a “tightrope between imaginative challenge / unusual ideas and analytical convergence that can be held up to scrutiny. I guess it means that it needs to be a combination of creativity and logic. It was really nice listening to the other groups. The way that my team did it is that we would switch off who was listening for preferred or undesirable qualities of the future scenario.

Stuart brought up the technosalvationism / singularity future that is popular in Silicon Valley. I actually had heard of this thanks to Angela Washko, my art professor. He brought up the 1960s aged aquarius theory of a non-cyborg transform theory. I think that was a good example to bring up because so many transform scenarios involve cyborgs. Angee taught me about this. Stuart mentioned that people who wrote the Transform scenarios probably had the hardest jobs.

A lot of people rated how probable the different scenarios were on a scale from 0 to 1. Interestingly, if you add up these scores, they will be greater than 1. What Stuart says this means is that they are not mutually exclusive.

Now with our teams, we are moving toward creating ideal or preferred futures.

09.26.2017 | Ideal, Preferred Future Activity

Before the Meeting

Before meeting, each member of our team independently wrote out an ideal Pittsburgh Clean Water “snapshot” of 2050.

This was the criteria we used:

  • A written vision of ideal version of 2050
  • Resolving issues we found in research of wicked problem
  • A “transformation scenario” driven by our own beliefs and values
  • A “preferred” future
  • Consider STEEP

Bringing Ideas Together With STEEP

Then, once we met up, we wrote out ideas from the paragraph on post-its that we organized onto the STEEP chart. This allowed us to understand how our ideas were tying together and fill in any holes in the narrative.

Using STEEP for organization

After that, we grouped similar ideas since we wanted our story to be more concise than last time. Then we divided up who would write the different paragraphs. Maggie has agreed to do drawings to create visual representations of the scenario.

Organizing by topic

Preferred Future Scenario

Pittsburgh has now become synonymous with a water city. Though it is not coastal by any means, the city has boomed since the rivers have been cleaned up and made safe to swim, boat, and relax in, leading to Pittsburgh residents being more active. With public, cool water fountains every few blocks, many residents have switched to drinking only water, which has increased public health and walking efforts.

Pittsburgh in 2050 is also renowned for its governmental efforts in building a state of art water infrastructure as well as its environmentalism.

All Pittsburgh water pipes are lead free. Families, expectant mothers, children and other vulnerable populations never need to worry about lead poisoning affecting their health. The water reservoir system is also pristine. Water alerts because of animal droppings in reservoirs are never heard of in this era. Wastes from households and companies are treated before they enter the sewer. As a result, Pittsburgh rivers are so clear that people are able to see their bottoms.

Environmentalism enjoys popular support across the city. To continue protecting the environment, citizens unanimously endorse the natural resource rationing. On the other hand, wasting water or other natural resources is the most despicable act in Pittsburgh.

Unlike thirty years ago, Pittsburgh is more considered a nature-friendly city. Generation Z has been exposed to dystopian scenarios since childhood, so people feel more responsibility in every action they take, although Pittsburgh has plenty of water in the city. The foliage in Pittsburgh became more flourish due to much more regular water routine for them, which also made the air even cleaner. That also led people to appreciating the weather and spending more time doing outdoor activities. Ever since water has been abundant, thanks to the help of citizens and the government’s support, the relationship between human and nature has improved significantly.

In addition to improvements in water management, the world has moved toward sustainable technologies in all aspects of life. Green buildings regulate their own energy usage, public transit is electric and autonomous, and manufacturers no longer carelessly produce disposable products and packaging. Nearly everything consumers buy is reusable or recyclable, and renewable energy sources power the country’s businesses and homes. The resulting decrease in pollution has made natural water sources cleaner, and water can be easily shipped from abundant sources or desalination plants to where it is needed thanks to autonomous, electric vehicles.

Always a “green city,” Pittsburgh is now booming as an example to other cities. And overall, the US produces the most energy from renewable sources compared to all other nations. There has been a lot of advancements made in environmental technology, allowing for it to be much easier for residents to live a healthier lifestyle. In every home, there is a recycling system that allows for there to be no waste. Water is filtered through a cutting-edge nanoparticle filtration system that removes chemicals from water. It was developed here in Pittsburgh! The development of desalination technology also solves the problem of having a shortage of fresh water. Ocean water is now a source of drinkable water. Pittsburgh continues to lead the way in developing technology to combat pollution and waste.

09.27.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Preferred Futures

We began by having each team read their preferred futures.

Affordable Housing

  • renewable energy
  • training students in ethics, altruism, and humanitarianism
  • material wealth = wastefulness
  • valuing community -> more time to invest in families
  • investing in tech -> storage for virtual belongings
  • PGH = internationally recognized green tech hub
  • shelters
  • want their city to be beautiful, so invest in community gardens
  • “we’ve outgrown democracy”


  • building compost system
  • accepted by community you live with
  • universal housing
  • hologram -> work
  • autonomous technology including cars
  • renewable energy
  • politicians working to help environment
  • no worries about pollution or natural disasters
  • and emphasis on self-actualization
  • government stipends because less money spent on military
  • there is less terrorism
  • hyperloop is the main form of travel
  • countries acknowledge the need to work together


  • neighborhoods take responsibility for crimes
  • easier for criminals to get the help that they need
  • increased tech reduces brutality
  • reducing overcrowding in prisons


  • realization of climate change
  • teaching sustainable practice
  • smaller class sizes
  • more local -> social / cultural hubs
  • community based learning centers
  • universal education
  • subjects hold equal value to students
  • can pursue other interests as well


  • more awareness, compassionate, inclusive
  • less crime
  • set work/life balance
  • education: “learning t learn”
  • opportunities to return to school
  • companies to use their powers to stop illness
  • understand how brain works now
  • understand cancer
  • result -> people can live healthier lives
  • sharing economy, subscription based system
  • communities adopt barter system
  • better pay, universal healthcare, etc.
  • department of agriculture soars
  • farming in the new tech
  • tech like airpipes -> ecofriendly city
  • vertical gardening is trending


  • pgh residents drink only water
  • lead-free pipes
  • reservoir is clean
  • so clear can see bottom of water
  • most despicable act is wasting resources
  • people feel more responsible
  • spending more time outside -?


  • good public schools
  • community service
  • recycling old infrastructure
  • increased job opportunities plus increase in real estate. the middle class booms
  • bridging gap between classes
  • better balance of racial demographics
  • decrease in illness caused by air pollution
  • alt. farming methods, less pesticides
  • protecting coastal cities


  • basic human right provided to all
  • vistiing other communities, and understanding how come together
  • valuing local products
  • no “bad schools”
  • can attend schools
  • diversity in education
  • people become more active in politics because they feel their voice matters

We noticed similarities between all of the groups as a class:

  • there are paradigm shifts about appreciating resources
  • a lot of AI taking over
  • Deniz: “has to always be some kind of conflict”
  • benefit of a collapse -> leads to rebirth

Stuart Lecture on Unfolding a Visions

We talked about how visions are another kind of scenario–the kind you actually want. They are the preferred part of the possibility space. It’s something that you can bring to life based off of the “now.”

We talked about the “Three Horizons” Model of Change.

three horizons
  • The First Horizon is fading paradigms / technologies. Also called the “world in crisis,” the current prevailing system continuing into the future. Some of these things don’t have much of a future (opposite of third horizon).
  • The Second Horizon, also called “in transition,” is about transition paradigms and technologies. The conflict of h1 and h3 creates transitioning phenomena. This is the intermediate space.
  • The Third Horizon is the “viable world” and is pockets of the future that can be found in the present

We see h1 and h3 more visibly than h2.

Then we talked about backcasting, which is where you can identify something in the future, and then identify concrete things that need to happen (design interventions) in order to get there.

In class, we plotted our horizons. And now, our assignment for homework is to create a timeline based off of it that will concretely tell us how things will happen, combining rigor + imagination. Through backtracking, we will be able to figure out what we can make. Stuart suggested designing actual artifacts for these points in the timeline.

Our group talked a lot about the “collapse” that happened in California, and how everyone there is a lot more water-conscious now, even older generations. I happened to take a trip to California this weekend, so I printed out evidence that I saw. These are design interventions. But, the one on the left is an example of “greenwashing” meaning that the company is trying to profit off of appearing more eco-friendly and sustainable. This is a big concern I think we should have for the future. The example on the right is one that I believe to be more effective in actually getting people to waste less water than they’re in the bathroom. We are supposed to start considering design interventions like this for our topic.

Green washing on left / Save water propaganda on right

10.01.2017 | Studio Meeting

Working Together on the Timeline

Filling the timeline with concrete details
Finished Timeline

Design Interventions/Artifacts

Restructured map after the ocean levels rise
Coca Cola Campaign
The 2030 It-girl in Coca Cola reusable water campaign (created on their 150th anniversary)
The Pittsburgh Water Plague
PWSA breakdown leads to extended shutdown in Pittsburgh. Surgeon General issues new regulations in response to the water problem.
Water becomes preferred method of transportation.

10.02.2017 | Reflections on Readings

Porrit / The World We Made

Sir Jonathon Espie Porritt, CBE (born 6 July 1950)[1] is a leading British environmentalist and writer, who has been described as “Britain’s most influential green thinker”.[2] He is known for his advocacy of the Green Party of England and Wales.[3] Porritt frequently contributes to magazines, newspapers and books, and appears on radio and television (Wikipedia).

[I was a little bit late to getting to this reading. I was out of town this weekend so unfortunately fell a little behind– all caught up now!]

This was a super captivating timeline, because it felt so detailed that I could actually envision the vision myself. On the actual timeline itself, Porrit fleshes out every year with events, campaigns, innovations, problems that happen. Through stating them so concretely without even elaboration on the timeline and positioning them by year, the events feel like a real retrospective. Additionally, the pairing with personal events like “got married!” or “started teaching at Ashton Vale” make the timeline feel more personal. I can hear the voice of the person remembering this vision of what happened in their lifetime. As a narrative, the first-person account is really strong. Up until now, we have explored third-person objective accounts. But, I liked Porrit’s approach more. He also brings out handwritten explanations of the artifacts as additional context.

In the paragraphs of description following the timeline. One major thing I noticed while reading is the emphasis on “main ideas” and “trends” and how they have changed. Though the narrator included personal events on the timeline, his account of the timeline is much more focused on community-based ideological shifts toward sustainability and collaborative consumption. The importance of trends reminded me of my group’s vision of the 2030 girl, who makes being sustainable mainstream and desirable. How do we make this idea trend to the greater mass? To show as Porrit says that “‘not-consuming’ can be just as rewarding as consuming” in a materialistic and consumption-oriented world like ours? I wonder if it would be easier to spread sustainability in a non-western culture.

Making of a single t-shirt

Of the artifacts, I thought that “the making of a cotton shirt” was very effective. I really appreciated being able to see the amount of water that goes into the making of a single shirt ,something relatable to anyone and also something people have multiple of. It’s scary and effective because it’s put into the terms of things that I know. It’s not so higher-level that I don’t feel that it applies to me.

Wahl / The Three Horizons

Daniel Wahl has 14 years of experience in sustainability education and consultancy and has been a careful student of nature and ecological systems for more than 20 years. Originally trained as a biologist and zoologist (University of Edinburgh), in 2002 he completed his MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College with distinction, and in 2006 received his PhD in Natural Design (University of Dundee) for a thesis entitled “Design for Human and Planetary Health — A Holistic/Integral Approach to Complexity and Sustainability” (

I thought that this reading was useful in describing a little bit further than Peter did on why we did this activity. It’s a “foresight tool that can help us to structure our thinking about the future in ways that spark innovation.” It allows us “to develop both an individual and a shared awareness of all three horizons” because it allows us to see from multiple perspectives. It’s effective in getting everyone on the same page. I think it’s a really helpful tool in brainstorming creative interventions. One idea our team came up with was a Coca Cola advertising campaign and I don’t think we would have come up with it if it weren’t for us using the horizons to identify things we wanted to avoid like “greenwashing” and things to boost like “the 2030 it-girl” who rejects fast fashion for sustainable clothing/products.

Something I wonder about is what it would be like to do the horizons activity as a collaboration with various stakeholders. Would everyone agree on what to avoid? And what to promote? It seems to me like a really great way to get everyone aligned on moving forward toward the same vision.

Curry + Hodgson / Seeing in Multiple Horizons: Connecting Futures to Strategy (get to this later because it’s optional)

10.02.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Discussion: What Diagrams are Compelling and Communicative?

Examples of Timelines

Walking Around Room

We spent some time walking around the room to familiarize ourselves with the content created by other teams. Since everyone is now creating visual artifacts, the diagrams had become more compelling and drew me in more.

The following are examples of two artifacts that really drew me in. The one on the left is a campaign poster and plastic bag ticket, giving an idea of the politics/legislature of the time period. The one on the right is a fashion line by Jeremy Meeks, the “hot felon” pretty well known to pop-culture. I thought it was cool how them starting with a current figure that people knew was really compelling and drew people through their whole timeline.

Examples of Artifacts

Two Great Examples

We were given red post-its so that we could each choose a group’s diagram that we thought were communicating well. Terry mentioned that making things clear from the beginning is our job as designers, especially given the emphasis right now on co-designing with clients or stakeholders. There needs to be rough quality so that it doesn’t look finished (flashback to freshman year visualizing class). Terry described this as “we need diversity in the landscape” meaning it has a human quality so that you can see the hand that made it. I was reminded of the Porrit reading where you could really feel this. I think the reason that this group’s diagram communicated well was the way that the post-its were color coordinated to the three horizons, making it easier to follow. I’m reminded of how Stuart told us to be intentional with our post-it colors.

Affordable Housing Team

I chose the second team that got to share because what I noted above about the “hot felon” fashion line (Meeks) drawing people into the narrative and compelling them to look through the rest of the timeline. It effectively builds a “cultural narrative.” This group chose a different technique of whiteboarding instead of post-it noting and we think it was more effective. It’s nice being able to read it from far away. Theirs also takes a journalistic / newslike voice, which Stuart has people do in Futures workshops as a method for making the future sound like it already happened, and thus more real.

Crime Team

One last part of the discussion was when we talked about how a lot of used bad things happening to spark change. We’re hopeful that the horribly deadly shooting that happened this weekend in Vegas can spark a change in gun control. Lily’s team mentioned that they tried for “only good things in their narrative” and that made it really hard for change to happen quickly enough.

Making Ours Communicate Better

Ours was not a compelling narrative because some of the post-its felt discontinuous with the rest of the narrative. Also, we had been designing it for ourselves and not knowing others would be reading it, so the language was in terms of what our team already knew.

Original Timeline

Sara Remi and Steven took it upon themselves to translate our timeline into a format that communicates better, inspired by the teams that we saw in class.

Improved timeline

The rest of us are going to add to it before class.

Transition Design Lecture: Strategies for New Ways of Designing

The two main focuses of this lecture was to:

  1. Examining needs and satisfiers
  2. Establishing everyday life and lifestyles as a context for design

We are focusing on designing synergistic solutions, that satisfy more than one need at a time. They can be on the spectrum from good to bad. We need to think about the consequences associated with design artifacts. Not all are starkly clear as “violators” or “inhibitors” so we must closely inspect artifacts. (This is what our homework will be.) And this will be our approach for the year.

synergistic solutions

We learned about Max-Neef’s Theory of Needs. Terry asked us to compare this to the Hierarchy of Needs model that we are more familiar with. Max-Neef turned this theory on its head by decoupling needs from how we satisfy needs. The main takeaway was that how we satisfy needs is unique to our historical era, culture, locale in which we live. Thus, locality is very important, despite our generation’s focus on globalization.

We talked about needs, which arise from circumstances that motivate activity. Satisfiers are planned courses of action that satisfy needs. Design is a tangible result of an action which manifests as messages, artifacts, scripted actions, and the built environment. Design leads to different ways for us to satisfy needs!! Design can be so important! So inspiring to hear this.

Synergistic solutions happen within the context of entire lifestyles. A problem is that when we design, we’re not asking what level of everyday life are the needs that we’re trying to satisfy. (I should keep this in mind when doing the homework.)

Different levels you can design for // domains of everyday life

Terry mentioned that her husband, Gideon’s, work suggests that we’ve lost control of satisfaction of everyday needs because everything is coming from nonlocal sources. We should move toward cosmopolitan localism as opposed to our current globalization. This shift toward localism will build resilience for communities, making them more self-sufficient and able to satisfy their own needs at the local level.

She ended the lecture with the following question: “Can the reconnection of entire lifestyles become a transition design strategy? Can we view ilfestyles and everyday life as the context for everything we design?”

10.03.2017 | Reflection on Readings

SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050

I loved this reading but it was really long at 150 pages. I thought it was great peek into possible social innovation strategies for design.

It explained that “lifestyles” are “social conversations” through which we “communicate our social position in society and the products we consume, the services we use and the possessions we keep.” It’s how we “differentiate ourselves from others.” Thus, it’s closely tied to identity, however as we’ve talked about in class, we need to move toward more community-based lifestyles.

The collective challenge is “meeting our individual needs and desires within the limits of available recourses.” I’m reminded a lot of what Don Norman talks about in The Design of Everyday Things about constraints, which is when you design in a way to communicate what limitations are. How can we communicate limits and constraints of our planet better to lead to changed lifestyles?

I think one way I want to change my own lifestyle after this reading is with my diet. I eat a lot of artificial, unhealthy foods, and don’t consider it affects anyone other than myself. But, it kept coming up in the reading that even our own diets can have an effect on our resources. I hadn’t thought about this before.

A quote that got me enthusiastic about the power of advertising to do good was:

If television could transform the entire planet into a global materialistic consumer culture within just 50 years, it could also be used to efficiently promote alternative non-materialistic lifestyles and sustainable consumption.

This is an area where I can really see myself working in my professional career. I’ve done art projects that examine topics within marketing/advertising/media such as greenwashing, and feel really passionate about going against this. How do we promote actual change? It reminds me of our HES project from sophomore year – how to get people to actually want to retrofit their home? Going back to Porrits reading, we need to create trends of sustainability and community. I would love to spark this through my design interventions. Design can bring “seductive potential” to a new lifestyle.

Is this design for social innovation? Does this incorporate service design? I’m curious right now about how the two are intertwined. It almost feels like understanding service design will help you be better at design for social innovation if you’re intervening/manipulating the current model of service. Am I jumbled in my thinking? I’m curious to talk to Stacie, Terry, and Stuart about this.

I learned a lot from this reading about how important it is to invest in poorer areas. Obviously, this is something we’ve always known to be the right thing, but it really can help the entire community. There needs to be a value change toward the community and not the self. How do we do this when there are 7 billion individuals on the planet? Economical growth is always the goal of our nations but how do we change that to be toward the well-being of their people?

A big part of this will be through making this a “participatory process.” I’m reminded of all the hype right now on codesigning. I took a tour of Maya Design and they talked about how their rooms are designed so that people have to move around and collaborate and this makes it so everyone feels included in the process. Questions I have right now while doing this reading is how we can spark the same feeling of ownership toward sustainable practice in our communities.

Max Neef Explained

We need to consider how these different needs can be met simultaneously:

Different areas

The back of the worksheet looks into violators/destroyers, pseudo-satisfiers, inhibiting satisfiers, singular satisfiers, and synergistic satisfiers, all things that we discussed in class. I think that categorizing objects/experiences/concepts/etc. into these terms will help me figure out what consequences they have.

10.04.2017 | Objects/Experiences With/Without Consequences

Focus on Consequences
Less Consequences

10.04.2017 | Post-Class Reflection


We walked around looking at everyone’s responses to the assignment. These ones stood out to me as either shocking (because I hadn’t considered the consequences before) or as communicating well. Lily’s piece, the red and blue one on the left, was really clear to me through her use of color. I love being able to easily notice the shift in the red and blue (bad and good).


We launched into a great discussion following the walk-around.

Terry and Stacie talked about how we should definitely be paying a lot of attention to the communication design of homework assignments like this. When they make things like this, they also upload a template version to so that others can use it as well. This is especially important since Transition Design is a new field.

We talked about how addressing the satisfiers/inhibitors of needs seems very human-centered. We need to also think about the needs of the planet. But sometimes, this can be an approach to get people to actually care. Think about bees and how a lot of people have trouble sympathizing with them until they know how their presence allows them to live on this planet as well.


We broke into our groups and looked deeper into the events on our timeline. We thought about which needs from Max Neef’s list were being satisfied and/or inhibited.

Events -> Needs -> Interactions

10.07.2017 | Group Meeting

Intervention Diagrams

The Interventions We Brainstormed as a Team

[I’ve also noted who’s been assigned to create which artifacts to create for class.]

  • Pittsburgh “Blue-City” Campaign (Faith) — Pittsburgh creates a blue city campaign which encourages people to use water recreationally and to drink water often. This includes the building of public water stations where anyone (including the homeless) can always have access to clean, filtered water.
  • Pitt + CMU Joined New major in around Environmental Design and Engineering (Sara Remi) — CMU and the University of Pittsburgh join forces to create a new major around Environmental Design and Engineering. As part of the grant for the new major, the universities will be working with locals to tackle the problem of polluted water in Pittsburgh.
  • Pittsburgh Water Challenge (Tina) — Pittsburgh creates a water challenge with donations going to financing water filters for Pittsburgh residents. This program is centered around the idea of giving power to the people of Pittsburgh as well as being an educational and awareness experiment.
  • Pittsburgh Water Testing Start-Up (Steven) — Pittsburgh residents send live-data of water quality and can track their neighborhoods through an online live-map. There is a link to this map above public water fountains and sinks. The goal here is to form a community through addressing the water problem.
  • Water Visibility Initiative from Pittsburgh (Jesse) — Pittsburgh creates a campaign around making the water problem in Pittsburgh more visible and “in your face.” Ideas include an AR (augmented reality) experiences, a pipe water instillation downtown, visibility of how water flows through the system, and giving away visibility filters for water.
  • Tunnel Through Water Instead of Another Bridge (Maggie) — This tunnel would act as both a means of transportation and a see-through exhibit about water quality in Pittsburgh. We are thinking of some kind of combination of public transportation and aquarium-like instillation. This inspired by the tourist attraction of Falling Water, that seems to perfectly balance man-made infrastructure with the natural landscape. The viewer is very appreciative of the harmonious balance at this site, and we want to create something similar. The money that the space/exhibit brings in could also go toward funding a new infrastructure for the PWSA.

10.08.2017 | Reflection on “Service Design 101” Reading

The article was written by CMU Grad Alum, Laren Chapman Ruiz. “Her work has spanned several industries, from crafting the mobile e-commerce experience for a major airlines, to designing predictive oncology tools, a web-based intelligent financial planner and self-service health kiosks. She has experience with project and client management, business development, recruiting and mentoring, along with leading and fostering career growth with design teams” (

I think that last semester’s course in Persuasion was a great introduction into Service Design. We did a lot of activities mapping crusis:

Crusis Activity 1
Crusis Activity

Crusis in music means “The performance of a macrobeat, often referred to as a downbeat” (ref). Many things happen on one beat and we learned to recognize this in the class.

I felt there was a connection when Lauren Chapman Ruiz talked about touchpoints, which are mediums where outcomes are generated and value exchanges occur.

There are different types of touchpoints: People, Place, Props, Partners, and Processes. In a way, it reminds me of what we learned freshmen year about drawing a space in a storyboard: AEIOU (actions, environments, interactions, objects, user).

The author also talks about who is involved in a service. I thought it was really interesting that there are employees that you see (frontstage) and also those that you don’t see (backstage). She says to think about it like a theater. Since her grad school education is from CMU, I wonder if this metaphor is at all inspired by Dan Boyarski, who taught us to think about design like a stage, where the different elements are actors.

After reading about service design from the article, it seems very aligned to the many different topics we’ve covered in my time at CMU. I’m excited to see what else we will learn about it as we dive in deeper this coming week with Molly as a guest lecturer.

10.09.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Molly’s Lecture

Molly asked us:

What is a service?

Someone replied with “airbnb.” It rents something out that you typically could not (a house), lets you meet new people, allows for co-creation, and gives the home-owner tangible money in return.

Someone else responded “hair salon.” It’s somewhere you to go to pay for something you can’t do yourself.

— sidenote —

As I write this, I realize the way that services address needs. That sounds very obvious–Of course they address needs, that’s why they are useful. But needs, as we have been learning last week, are very closely related to wicked problems. I’m realizing the connection between what we learned about simultaneous satisfiers and this lecture, and am seeing how we can use service design to tackle wicked problems. It doesn’t have to be for just commercial services!

— end of sidenote —

She compared service design to programming because of the way that you must zoom in and zoom out all at once. I’m excited by this because though a detail-oriented person, I love making connections and seeing problems at a higher level.

Molly also went into more detail about things from the reading, such as touchpoints and front-stage/back-stage actors.

It was really helpful to understand Service Design when she used her favorite restaurant in San Francisco, the Slanted Door, as an example. She noted things she liked about the experience such as the delicious food and how the waiters have worked there for 12 years. But, she also liked having an eye into what’s going on in the kitchen from the bar — a peek into the behind-the-scenes part of the experience.

This quote by Molly said is so thought provoking:

Service Design is what makes you choose one coffee shop over the other.

I love this quote, and try to keep it in mind often. It’s such a great way to describe the role of design to other people, too, because it puts it into terms anyone can understand.

She showed us some cool examples of service design interventions before getting us started on a Service Design Jam to put what we had just learned to practice.

“Music Sharing” Service Design Jam

We broke away from our Water topic briefly for a fun workshop on Service Design with Molly. :)

I loved this activity!!

  1. Exploring the Opportunity Space
Exploring what “sharing” means

Given a prompt to design an experience for “sharing music” and a constraint of “no Spotify,” we got to work as a team defining what that could be. We had to create an experience that did not already exist.

In the end, we were most inspired by the idea of sharing by co-creating music and making music accessible. We thought that a public space would reach a more diverse set of people than a device you have to buy for your home.

Before breaking into smaller groups for scenarios, we wrote up a quick mission statement so that we would all be on the same page. We are creating:

A public space that allows everyone to participate in co-creating an interactive live music experience.

2. Choosing Scenarios

We split into teams: Faith + Maggie, Sara Remi + Steven, and Jesse + Steven. Our ideas were:

  • Scenario 1: In a place of worship, special musical instruments that vibrate both your sounds and the sound of the church community to create an experience that surpasses generational differences. Though we didn’t go with this idea, the generational difference thing was something we wanted to keep in mind for our final skit.
  • Scenario 2: Mechanics based on the city to be placed in New York. Lights up, uses buttons, and vibrates when you move things around.
  • Scenario 3: A playground that comes to life with music as you interact with it. Even parents who aren’t on the playground can contribute to the music collaboration.
The three scenarios that we came up with as a team after dividing up.

After going through the three scenarios, we decided to go with the playground idea, and named it the Jungle Jam.

3. Blueprinting Our Scenario

We created our first Service Blueprint ever, following an example provided by Molly. Maggie sketched out different parts of the experience and we all post-it noted the different elements: actors, touch points, systems, etc. Then below it all, we made a plan for how to communicate this when we present.

As I write this out now and look over what we did, I realize we didn’t do so great a job within the short amount of time to also talk about the back-stage actors of the experience. That’s an area where we could definitely improve.

Service Blueprint

4. Presenting Our Blueprint to the Class Through a Skit

Finally, we had to create a skit to present our concept to the class. We found blocks and made a physical representation of the Jungle Jam to set the scene.

Jungle Jam in front of Service Blueprint

We included characters of many different ages/abilities in order to demonstrate that this experience was designed to be enjoyed for many different stakeholders, and not just children with good hearing and mobility.

Different Users

We took on the roles of different characters that experienced the Jungle Jam.

I played Justin, a little boy that hears about the playground on the Subway, and asks his mother if he can go.

Justin, the child.

Tina played my character’s mom, who takes Justin to the park.

Justin’s mother played by Tina

Through making this skit, we thought through holes in the experience, such as what happens next with the music they create? Can they keep it?

We played around with ideas such as wearable bracelets, inspired by the Cooper Hewitt pens. In the end, we created a sign with a link to a website where you can find a live-streaming of the music being made on the playground, plus a heat-map of where people are on the playground.

Other teams

We went around the room and listened to other teams present! The inclusion of music and props made listening to the other responses to the assignment very fun for everyone in the class. (The photos below are a poor representation of how much fun this activity was.)

Viewing other teams’ music-sharing experiences.
Viewing other teams’ music-sharing experiences.

Reflection on Service Design Experience

I really enjoyed this activity. Of Service Design and Design for Social Innovation, I had been worried that Service Design would be the less fun option, but I think Molly did a really great job of showing us that it can be super fun. In fact, I realized that elements of Lunar Gala, a fashion show and creative showcase that I am part of, involves a lot of service design, especially for the planning of how event-attendees will experience the day of the show. Following class, I messaged Experience Designers on the team that we should get a group of stakeholders together and potentially make a Service Blueprint of the show’s experience.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to take a break from Water and think through a new problem. I think it will make us return to our main problem space with more energy from the exercise.

I definitely think the exercise opened my eyes even more to the back-stage element of service design. This is something I want to bring more attention and intention to in my design practice.

10.09.2017 + 10.10.2017 | The Pittsburgh “Blue-City” Campaign

Part 1 of Campaign

Part 1 of this scenario

Part 2 of Campaign

Part 2 of this scenario

10.09.2017 | Group Meeting

2 hours after class, we met up to discuss our scenarios a little bit more in order to craft a presentation for the class on our design intervention ideas.

We also gave each other tips on how to improve our interventions:

  • Maggie: Consider how to make it more of an educational exhibit.
  • Sara Remi: How do the students in the major interact with other majors?
  • Steven: Who is making this pitch? Should the intervention be more of an artifact?
  • Faith: Incorporate a map of where the water fountain infrastructure would be.
  • Jesse: Visualize the level of contamination with color.
  • Tina: Consider how to maintain interest after the virality of the challenge wears off.

We decided as a team that the Visibility idea that Jesse presented is the one that we are most excited about. We’ll go into the most detail about that design intervention when we present to the class.

Here is what our presentation ended up looking like:

10.11.2017 | Reflection on “Practical Service Blueprinting” Reading

This was a reading provided by Practical Service Design. I visited their website to find out more about the authors of the piece:

Hi! We’re Erik & Megan, and together we’re the founders of Practical Service Design. We started this collaboration in order to help educate, motivate, and integrate service design into practical work contexts. We believe strongly in building a community of practice around service design to help advance the industry, and help us all grow as service designers.

In class, we had done our best guess and made a very fast and very message Service Blueprint without knowing much about what it is, and what the right way to do it is. This reading was helpful to understand how to create more legitimate blueprints. The steps are very similar to what we did in class, however it focuses more on meeting with the stakeholders to figure out pain-points in the experience, rather than creating a new experience. The blueprint is a means of creating a game plan after finding strategic themes for what action items to take and what the timeline for them will be. I think that tactical fixes would be a great thing to indicate when we are creating our timelines for the future in class.

I also think it would be interesting to map events on our timeline with different levels of visibility. What do residents of pittsburgh know is happening? What is going on that they don’t know? I think this is an interesting question to address. A lot of times the problem is that things are going on behind-the-scenes. A lack of awareness can lead to unregulated actions and thus, can make our wicked problems even worse. This is just a hypothesis I have, but I do think that maybe it would be helpful to look at our wicked problem through a Service Blueprint. The article mentions that:

Blueprinting works when you are dealing with “wicked” problems that are particularly hard to diagnose, and need a holistic approach to effectively uncover the root cause of the problem.

Unfortunately, the article does not go into detail on how to do this. It’s easy for me to see Service Blueprints incorporated for Experience Design, like of a restaurant for example, but much harder for me to understand how it would relate to our wicked problem research. My guess is that since we are learning how to create scenarios from Stuart, that possibly, we could map Futures Scenarios to understand the problem. I do think, however, it’s important to ground it in the present and look at the blueprint from there, as well. So maybe, creating a Service Blueprint of a Present-2050 timeline would be the way to go.

The article felt a little bit buzz-wordy and vague to me, with words like “opportunity space,” “end-to-end,” “surface-to-core,” etc., and so I’m itching to dive in a bit deeper to Service Design and what it means. I think we will be doing this in class today!!

10.11.2017 | Post-Class Reflection


The main focus of class today was on presenting our intervention ideas to the other teams.

A big concern a lot of teams had when coming up with ideas was “what if there’s no funding.” Our teachers brought up that this is appropriate, but you have to know when and when not to put on the “money hat.” I was reminded of the Dator reading we did that discussed hats and how sometimes you have to take on different hats. This also relates to what Terry has lectured us on taking on different postures. We don’t want to propose something too outrageous, to the point where it doesn’t feel plausible. Instead, we want to design interventions that will be able to provoke audiences toward transition design.

We’re prepping for next weeks lectures on Design for Social Innovation. Stacie suggested poking around in alternative economics to find out a little more about paradigm shifts.


One of the teams presenting their interventions to the class

I took notes on all the presentations. My intention between what I wrote was searching for connections to different groups.

I noticed that overall many groups’ interventions had to do with educating people. This seems to be our collected idea that public awareness is how to cause a paradigm shift. I think the question this provokes is what is the correct technique to educate? At first I thought that this means that all groups should work with the education group, but I think that their focus is more on formal education in schools.

Stacie and Stuart brought up the idea that Steve brought up to us freshmen year about not trying to invent the wheel. They were happy to see that we weren’t all trying to push originality, though we were trying to come up with creative and new interventions. They are founded on our research of existing technologies, etc.

They were also happy to note that the change in the curriculum has changed how we speak and work to make us more mindful in our design for the present and future. We reflected on our growth since freshmen year and it was really exciting to think about the different ways that we have changed. :)


From here, we broke into two groups of 3 within Water to come up with service design scenarios based off of the interventions that we proposed. Maggie, Jesse, and SR decided to work on the Blue Pittsburgh Campaign. Steven, Tina, and I decided to tackle the water filter intervention.

We had some time in class to get started on the intervention. The approach we took was to plot out the People, Place, Props, Partners, and Process parts of the service.

10.15.2017–10.16.2017 | Group Meeting


Basic Service Blueprint


Other Team in Our Group

Their focus was creating a bottle system that would interact with the blue water campaign idea. The bottle is branded to fit the campaign.

A quote from Maggie’s medium about her, Jesse, and Sara Remi’s blueprint:

For our clean water service, Jesse, Sara Remi, and I fleshed out the “Blue City” Pittsburgh initiative that was presented with our 6 interventions. This idea stems from the movement in Pittsburgh for clean water stations throughout the city. Our bottle service idea communicates with the stations and the home filter (Steven, Faith + Tina service).
The station services provide an RFID tag that residents can put on their bottle. This tag tracks how much water and where you are getting it in the city. This information is available for you to see your impact, for example, how many plastic water bottles you personally are saving by using the station. The data collected from your tag is also given to the PWSA to use for pinpointing geographical areas that need infrastructure updates. If there is a resident that constantly uses the Blue City station instead of their home faucet, the government would know that the home probably has high lead levels and needs new pipes. Currently, they are facing the issue of not knowing what pipes are corroded in the city.
The second tier to this service is the Pittsburgh water bottle with the RFID tag incorporated. The city will sell these bottles to raise money for updating water pipes. The buyer may receive some sort of bonus in addition to getting the bottle such as free city parking on Saturdays.
In order to map out this service, we used butcher paper, post-it notes, and markers to illustrate each step.
Adding Visuals to Blueprint

10.15.2017 | Reflections on Design For Social Good Readings

Written by Stuart Candy, a Futurist and the Professor of this class.

Toward A Preemptive Social Enterprise

Main Notes

The main thing about this article is that business needs to keep in mind “the advancement of the greater good of society.”

We shape our images of the future, and meanwhile they shape us.


I think that I don’t quite see the relevance of this to me yet, since business is that key of an element in my work. I’m interested to hear more in class about how it relates.

LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation

Dialog between Suzi Sosa, of Verb, and Tommy Lynn, of Dell.


The role of the designer is:

  1. Simplifying the Complex
  2. Reducing Friction
  3. Delighting All Involved

It’s also to:

  1. Make things beautiful
  2. Solve problems
One of my favorite quotes is from Saul Bass: “Design is thinking made visual.” The ability to see the world differently aligns to the basic idea of design, which is to create something new. When we empower ourselves to create something new we open our minds to divergent thinking that allows random associations and new ideas. Designers have an edge on others by being able to think big, and then bring that to life by actually creating their vision.


This dialog felt very buzzwordy, but I thought the notes from above did a really great job of explaining what the role of a designer is.

10.16.2017 | Design for Social Innovation — Post-Class Reflection

Cheryl Dahle, a new faculty member at CMU School of Design, is the CEO of Flip Labs. She came into our studio to lecture to us about Design for Social Innovation through sharing a case study of hers on Overfishing.

She defined Design for Social Innovation as being social good that serves society as a whole, rather than individuals.

Definition of Design for Social Innovation

Cheryl brought up issues with global fisheries such as overfishing, fraud in labelling fish, and health of fishes.

Her case study included the way that she collected research by sending anthropologists to 8 sites in 4 countries. I thought that this was super interesting! I would love to get to work with anthropologists and practice ethnography. They collected data about fish and looked for stories. She said that, “any story helps you understand if sustainable.” Her goal was to get more market leverage behind sustainable practice. The notes we took were highly technical related to the culture that she explored, so that we could do a group activity within her problem space.

Notes From the Lecture

We did a activity within our groups where we applied the 2x2 matrix to the fish problem — not on our water problem.

Group Activity

I think it was a nice break from our problem space, but given only a short intro into overfishing, I felt massively overwhelmed and underprepared to begin creating interventions for the issue. However, I do think it was a good way to come up with creative ideas by determining the two different axis.

Our discussion also drifted toward “designing for extremes” because someone brought up how we weren’t exactly helping the fishermen in this scenario of helping them use a technology to count fish.

10.18.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Beginning of Class Discussion

At the beginning of class, we talked about how we should start using Medium as a way to bookmark things that we want to understand better.

Stuart and Stacie talked about how we’re using the word “intervention” because we’re not actually trying to solve the problem, but instead develop a starting point.

I brought up my question about how Design for Social Innovation and Service Design overlap. Stuart mentioned that though it can be confusing by the diagram we were showed on the first day of class, Design for Social Innovation can be a service, but isn’t always.


The lecture was a way to decompress what Cheryl taught us about Social Innovation, plus introduce to a different matrix/framework.

The Social Design Pathways Matrix was created by Bill Drentel. An image of it applied by my former professor, Kristin Hughes, can be viewed below.

The bottom left is pure design (posters and toasters) leading up to the top right, which is transition design.

Images of Slides form class

Group Activity

We broke into our groups to apply the framework to our problem of water. It was pretty challenging. The top right, we realized, often has to do with policy.

Social Design Pathways Matrix Applied to Water

End of Class Discussion

We talked about how we need to start thinking about questions we might want to ask for when we do our capstone in the spring. For the next class, we need to come in with a service design idea and a social innovation idea.

10.18.2017 | Mid-Semester Reflection

On my mid-semester review, I reflected on how I think that I am meeting expectations and doing a good job. However, I wish that I was doing a better job at communication. Also, though the artifacts we made for class were quick exercises, I don’t think I put into that the effort that I should have. So I am going to use this as motivation to push harder as we go into the next half of the semester!

10.22.2017 | Homework

Our homework was to write out post-its with interventions that we would actually want to pursue for a project.

I think this activity helped me establish that I want to do service design. I was able to generate more ideas I was excited about for

After I came up with my post-its, I had to make connections to other wicked problem groups so that I could see which groups of people I may be able to partner up with.

Post-it note interventions

10.23.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Beginning of Class Discussion

Since this past weekend was mid-semester, we spent some time discussing grades and criteria for what we should be learning. Stacie and Stuart spent time going through our feedback. A lot of people mentioned in their feedback that they were worried that we haven’t done enough research. Stuart mentioned that the research shouldn’t be finished. We need to “continue our inquiry” even as we go into other diagrams.

The point of interventions like we are making is, we discussed, to get information back to inform what you know. We are not creating an end solution. Stuart said to avoid solutionism, which is the idea that we’re just gonna go in and solve everything really quickly. Instead, we should have the posture that this is a hypothesis and a proposal that we will get feedback on.


We took our group’s homework of bringing in interventions on post-its and narrowed them down to our top 6 favorites which we rewrote so that they communicate better.

Group conceptualizing
Group conceptualizing of the postits

We drew connections to the different topics of affordable housing, gentrification, crime, education, food, transportation, and air quality.

We also listed below which interventions we would be interested in doing once we split into teams.


Exploring the Other Diagrams

We hung up our diagram and got to check out those of other teams as well, marking which of their projects we would be interested in working on.

Exploring other diagrams

This was our final diagram, with the notes included from other teams.

Final Diagram

By next class, we need to discuss with the people who wrote on our posters and start to find teams.

10.24.2017 | Prepping for Tomorrow’s Studio

Independent Work

Today my plan is to catch up on my medium and update my water research! Steven and I had a discussion together about how we feel like a lot of our diagrams/frameworks are based off of what we learned when we did the STEEP diagram. We talked about what Stuart mentioned in class about how we need to continue to research.

This was the STEEP diagram

We decided to move the diagram to Mural, so that we will be able to keep a digital record as we add to our previous knowledge. It’s not completely transferred but hopefully we can finish that up soon.

Mural version

Finishing “Mapping Water Quality Intervention Ideas” Diagram

Finishing Up the Diagram

Figuring Out Teams

I talked to a few others including Lily and Adella, since I was interested in their teams’ ideas. However, our Water group does think it might be best to stick together but break into two smaller teams. SR, Jesse, and Steven could focus on aggregating the data to give real-time information. And Tina, Maggie, and I would focus on the design, interface, and branding of the IOT water filter. I was excited to be on the water filter team because we thought that there might be a lot of opportunity for Communication Design and also human interaction.

Team divide

10.25.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Forming Teams

The main focus of today was forming teams!

Obstacles that we’ve faced as a class is that there hasn’t been a time to really go around and talk to the other teams, so that was what the first half of class was used for. My team also wanted to ask for permission to keep working together but divide our team into two. I feel so blessed to get to continue to work with them! I’m super inspired by the talent on my team. I think the best part is that everyone on the team has a really strong respect for each others’ skill-sets.

Afterwards, we came back together to discuss the near-finalized team concepts with the class. Each group had only a minute to give their pitch. I spoke for my team by saying the following:

Our team is creating an IOT Water Filter. It will collect data about the quality of water to tell the filter-owners. The data will also be relayed to the government or PWSA so that they know which parts of the water infrastructure require repair most urgently. We’re interested in exploring product design, interaction design, and branding. Most importantly will be ensuring that we can get people excited about the filter as well.

We’re thinking we may have discussions with the education teams as well.

Discussion About Project Proposals

We talked about how there a lot of tensions that we feel right now, but often that is the case with the “zone of proximal development.” In the words of Stuart, we want it to be “a stretch but not a snap.”

Sweet Spots

We talked a little bit as well about what criteria for good interventions are:

  • Facilitates the asking of critical questions
  • Is scaled appropriately (duration, # of team members, expertise)
  • All members lead the impact
  • Leverages content and research
  • Results in an output that you see as useful

We have action items to take care of:

  • Start telling stories (documentation of our reasoning and how we got here. so much better to do this now. )
  • Define design opportunity
  • Define your problems and how you got here
  • Who are you empowering/helping?
  • What are shifts in power?
  • Ask what you want to learn?
  • What kind of impact do we want to have?

I asked about what we should expect to finish this semester versus next. Stacie replied that this semester is just about getting something out there. Next semester will probably be about testing and iterating and figuring out if it is working. I was happy to hear that that would be more of when we start talking to stakeholders.

Since this is in essence making a proposal, my group wants to actually collect our goals and intentions into the form of a proposal. We’ll finish that for Friday. We’re gonna meet on Sunday to think about deliverables, to create a calendar for the rest of the semester, and to figure out how we want to document the thinking we have had thus far.

A key thing brought up by my peer Max Stein in class today was that we’re really only going to get as much out of this as we put in. I think that is inspiring my team to get a really great start on the project by setting up our calendar and scope.

10.29.2017 | Group Meeting

We came up with a tentative calendar by forecasting what we might what to have done before Thanksgiving backwards, and then backcasting from there.

We also spent some time working on our proposals.

Team Calendar

Deliverables for Monday

Deliverables for Tuesday

  • Documentation

Deliverables for Wednesday

  • brainstorms on form + use


10.30.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Maggie, Tina, Faith Proposal

Team Name: Water — IoT Filter

Team Members:

A) Maggie Banks (Products)

B) Tina Park (Products)

C) Faith Kaufman (Communications)

What do you plan to investigate?

The goal of this project is to create a branded device that cleans water and provides valuable data to consumers and the government about the contaminants in their water. Our team specifically is creating an IOT Water Filter. It will collect data about the quality of water to tell the filter-owners through a physical or digital interface. This interface will identify types and levels of contaminants in their water. The water filter will additionally clean their water before drinking. The data from the filter will be relayed to the government or PWSA so they know which parts of the water infrastructure require repair most urgently. We are striving for longevity, creating a filter that is a long-lasting solution toward clean water. Therefore, we will also be exploring how to get the brand to catch on, through business plans and advertising strategies

The other water group; Jesse, Sara, Steven, will be designing a way for the PWSA and public to interact with the collective data from the IoT water filters. This will create one cohesive service that:

  1. Cleans water for residents and business owners
  2. Informs residents about their water and what’s in it
  3. Collects data in a valuable way for the government to take action + update infrastructure
  4. Educate the public about their water which will increase pressure put on the government to dedicated resources to fixing the infrastructure

We’re interested in exploring product design, interaction design, and branding through creating a branded experience with a physical product (IoT filter). Most importantly, we will be ensuring that we can get people excited about the filter and create a long-lasting intervention to accessing clean water in Pittsburgh.

Why? (Describe how the work you’ve done earlier in the term has helped you define the defined investigation as a worthy design opportunity.)

We will be creating a visual to illustrate how the frameworks we have learned have allowed us to get to our current takeaways. Through most of the process, we had considered the IOT Water Filter as a potential solution. However, the form and concept evolved as we better understood the problem-space.

We have come to this direction as a valuable place of intervention through our research and mapping. Through research we uncovered 3 big problems that this intervention is tackling:

  1. The PWSA isn’t aware of what pipes in the city are corroded with lead. This makes it extremely difficult to replace deteriorating and dangerous infrastructure
  2. Homeowners and businesses are worried for their families and establishments safety due to increased level of lead in tap water
  3. There is a general public lack of awareness and education about the quality of our water and why it matters; this is especially because water is clear and you can’t see the levels of contaminants you are drinking

Do you plan to investigate it more through a service design or design for social innovation lens? Why?

Service design because we see this being a service that connects with the other water team (Sara, Steven, Jesse). We are focusing on the consumer touchpoint and they are focusing on how the data from our product will be used by the public and PWSA.. We want to identify key touch points in the water filter experience, including how to gather users as well as how the water filter educates the user about the quality of their water.

What do you hope to learn through the study?

We hope to uncover answers to the following questions:

Does access to information about the water quality prompt behavior change?

  • How do we help citizens understand how to respond to the information by providing them with actionable steps to alleviate the water quality problem?
  • How do we introduce the water filter to Pittsburgh residents so that they want to use it or buy one?
  • How do we retain engagement so that the filter can be a long-term solution?
  • How do we make citizens be aware of the current water situation?

What do you perceive as stumbling blocks?

  • How do we connect our product to the work being done by the data group? (making the two products cohesive). The difficulty comes from being two distinct groups trying to work together to create products that work conjunctively.
  • How do we mitigate existing mistrust between citizens and the government?
  • How do we measure the effectiveness of information provided to citizens in relation to their behavior change? The actual launch of the campaign we are creating is hypothetical.
  • What kind of business model supports the growth of the product?

Given resources on hand, how do you plan to address the stumbling blocks?

  • In order to create cohesion between our and the data teams’ projects, we will consistently have both teams meet together. We will create style guides to connect our products visually. A fully fleshed service blueprint will help us find where interactions with our product connects with their data visualization. We have established in our time working together that 4:30 on Tuesdays is a time that works for the 6 of us, so we will continue to reserve this time for meeting as a team.
  • We will connect with experts in the field of access to clean water, including CMU Design alumni Uriel Eisen. This will help us understand what has worked or failed in the past. It help us with the design of our product as well as with the creation of a business plan.
  • We will find ways to incentivize both citizens and government and other parties involved.
  • We will narrow the scale of the focus. We will consider what information on water quality is useful to all parties.

What facets do you plan to include in your intervention and who in your team will lead them?


  • Maggie Banks: Product + Interactions
  • Tina Jiwoo Park: Product + Interactions
  • Faith Kaufman: Branding/Visuals + Interactions


  • Models: renders (CAD, keyshot), conceptual form model (foam/3D printed), working prototype (electronics), packaging mock-up
  • Branding: visuals, advertising, experience of interactions, packaging graphics
  • Interactions: on the filter, connections to the data
  • Longevity: Business plan for the brand that we create, marketing strategy

Steven, SR, Jesse Proposal

Team Name: Water — Data Visualization

Team Members:

  • Jesse Klein
  • Steven Ji
  • Sara Remi Fields

What do you plan to investigate?

Working in tandem with the Product team for water, we will be designing ways to make aggregate data about Pittsburgh’s water quality accessible and useful to both residents and the government. Our intervention is enabled by residents’ adoption and use of smart filtering and testing devices (designed by the Product team). The data collected from those devices contributes to a high level overview of water quality in Pittsburgh, which can be served to individuals in creative and engaging ways as a tool for creating change and awareness.

Why? (Describe how the work you’ve done earlier in the term has helped you define the defined investigation as a worthy design opportunity.)

Our idea is centered around not only informing people about the water quality in different areas of Pittsburgh, but also instilling accountability in local governments. We hope to use this data to provide public pressure through greater awareness of the problem, while also giving the government better tools to target and fix city-wide infrastructure failures.

How earlier work has inspired our current direction:

  • In our research so far, we determined that the Pittsburgh government lacks specific information about the scope of water problems, and that citizens are uninformed about these problems because water contamination is largely invisible. We want to use high level data as a tool for changing the dialogue around water by creating greater public awareness of water problems.
  • We’ve also found that residents do not often know to question the quality of their water until they are made aware of a problem (such as the water shutdowns that occurred in early 2017/late 2016), and then often forget about it once the shutdown has been lifted.
  • The current tools to track water quality are confusing and often buried deep in websites (such as on PWSA’s website) and therefore becomes inaccessible.

Do you plan to investigate it more through a service design or design for social innovation lens? Why?

We plan to investigate our intervention through the service design lens because we are part of the service product system provided by the Product Water team. Therefore, the methodologies in service design can help guide us develop our data visualization intervention. Together, the data visualization team and product water team serve the same demographics and the interaction with the data visualization is part of the touch point we provide.

We are also coming from the perspective that by obtaining and using a smart filter, people can participate in the larger service by contributing data from their own homes to the larger data set.

What do you hope to learn through the study?

  • What kind of data will empower people to change their behavior? What can they do the information?
  • How can we create a data visualization that promotes excitement and action from people who interact with it and instills education and care for clean water in Pittsburgh.
  • How can we identify which data is most useful to individual users and serve it in targeted ways?

What do you perceive as stumbling blocks?

  • Creating a data experience that is both easy to use and informative. This means we will have to juggle between how much data to show, which ways to visualize it, how to present it (poster, using AR, a website, a mobile application, etc).
  • How to provide incentives for people to keep using their water filters once they have been educated about water. We also want to figure out how to introduce people to the system who may first interact with the data visualization before owning the filter.
  • How to satisfy conflicting goals of stakeholders (citizens and govt.)
  • Issues of privacy — will people be okay with their homes’ water data being shared publicly (and how specific should our data visualization be as to keep anonymity?)
  • How do we make sure lower income people can access this data? They are the most susceptible to water contamination problems due to their living situation, but they may be less likely to buy filters or use phone-based services

Given resources on hand, how do you plan to address the stumbling blocks?

  • Narrow our focus on the context where the data visualization is installed and the its specific audience.
  • Identify several possible use cases, but target a limited number of specific ones to detail more fully
  • Work closely with product team to create a unified experience and encourage adoption of both the product and the service
  • Creating user profiles to help understand the needs of our stakeholders
  • Embedding information in easily accessible public places to facilitate access for everybody

What facets do you plan to include in your intervention and who in your team will lead them?

  • Create an augmented reality experience linked to physical markers in order to embed our data within the city and provide location-specific information as people move through it 
    *Jesse, Steven
  • Make the experience exploratory and discovery-based, encouraging people to take initiative in finding out about the water they use and rewarding that discovery 
    *SR — Interested in motion aspects that could make this feel immersive
  • Creating a visual experience that is exciting and promotes inquiry 
  • Give users tools for reporting problems they discover to the government 
  • Leverage touchpoints that many people use regularly as places to communicate information (bus stops, restaurants, water fountains) 
  • Exploring the data on water quality and its meaningful interpretations for different audiences of the data-visualization *Steven

11.01.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Team Progress

Our teams split in two. Maggie, Tina and I got started on creating a mood board, compiling together images from three mood boards we created as a team.

Then we got together with the other group to create a service blueprint mapping key touchpoints. It involves how people find out about our product all the way to the actual purchase of the product.

11.06.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Prep for Class

We finished up our moodboard and also came up with different forms for the filter. We also brainstormed different ways that we could visualize the water. We really want to use a screen of some kind, so we looked into cheaper technologies such as e-ink so that it could still be affordable.

Other prep for class was writing a second version of our proposal. The final one (third pass) will be for class on Wednesday.

Mood Board + Form Brainstorming

We had a small checkin as a class and then were given time to work with our teams.

Check In With Stacie

We met with Stacie. She reminded us to consider our questions as designers. One thing I realized we are questioning with this form of making as reasearch is whether augmented reality can be a medium to visualize the invisible contaminants in water.

Other ones we discussed with Stacie were:

  • What sort of behavior are we trying to create?
  • How do we communicate to regular citizens vs to the government? Will this involve a tone change?
  • How do we encourage positive action? What will encourage that? What pathway are we building through the information?
  • How do we make it so it’s not too scary?
  • What is our call to action?
  • We also talked about how transparency and accountability can be utilized to create feelings of responsibility.
  • How do we help people understand what their next steps to take are?

Editing our Proposal

After our meeting, we spent the remainder of class creating a proposal that combines our two groups’ ideas.

Something else I realized during this process was that the “micro” and “macro” words that the other group was using were not totally all-encompassing. It was good though that they were picking up on that we are dealing with different levels of scale. What I realized though is that my group is dealing with the “home” scale, whereas the data allows for “neighborhood” and “city” contexts.

This is the new mission statement that we came up with:

To make Pittsburgh’s water problem more transparent by providing residents and the government with common tools to understand it in context, thus creating accountability through awareness and social pressure.

And our key questions as a group are:

  1. How do we use transparency and accountability to create feelings of responsibility?
  2. How do we design for very different stakeholders in effective ways (Government vs Residents)
  3. What water cleaning/purification behaviors do we hope people adopt after they experience our project?
  4. How might we inspire/persuade people to adopt the water cleaning/purification behavior?
  5. How do we promote positive action if seeing the contaminants visualized causes anger, distress, or disgust?
  6. How do we create pressure on the government while also encouraging trust?
  7. How might we hold Pittsburgh citizens accountable for being aware of the lead conditions/problems in Pittsburgh? (When citizens are aware of the problem, we hope they can put more pressure on Pittsburgh)
  8. What kind of data will encourage/enable people to take action or change behavior?
  9. Is augmenting what people normally see an effective way to educate about invisible contaminants?
  10. Scales of context: Whose problem is it?
    (The product team) How data-visualization at this scale can help raise awareness about possible presence and danger of lead and other contaminants in Pittsburgh residents’ homes? How can we persuade residents to monitor contaminant levels and help them understand what options they have?
    (The social system team) How can data-visualization at this scale help raise awareness of the presence and danger of water contaminants in Pittsburgh neighborhoods? How can it be effective? How can we help residents understand the connections between their own problems and those of their community? What conversations will be helpful in tackling those problems?
    (The Social System team) How can data-visualization at this scale help raise awareness of Pittsburgh’s systemic water problems? What form should it take? How can we communicate to the residents that by being aware of water problems, they contribute to alleviating them?
  11. Will an IOT database allow for comparisons that prove problems are systemic and worthy of the government’s intervention?

11.08.2017 | Post-Class Reflection


We talked about challenges all of the groups are experiencing.

Stacie and Stuart shared a list of things to keep in mind as we are designing:

  • scaling/scoping
  • what are you investigating with this project?
  • addressing every team member’s interests
  • “seeing making as research” -> making is a form of hypothesis and not an end point
  • targeting of audience

Another thing brought up was the need for us all to have a mentality shift in how we address constraints. They are challenges we need to conquer as designers.

Meeting With Stuart

  • The conversation made both me and Steven realize that the work he has been doing on the poster i something that should be passed to my group.
  • He asked us, like Stacie, to think about how we are speaking to alternative audiences.
  • What is the entry point to the system? How do they learn about it?
  • A relief was that Stuart told us not to worry so much about the materials the filter is made of.

Meeting With Group

Tina, Maggie, and I did research into different visualization techniques, based off of our mood board. We also looked it to ways we could use light to change the color of bubbles, like fish tanks do.

In the end, we were most inspired by the visualization techniques being done by slack.

Use of Shape

So we want to go down a similar path to this for the screen on the filter.

11.10.2017 | Group Meeting

Before diving into our work, Maggie, Tina, and I met to figure out the interactions of the filter a little bit more. For example, how do we want to advertise? How do we want the screen to look? We also figured out approximate size of the filter. We ordered a faucet and it arrived in the mail today. We plan to have a our first 3D printed prototype for class on Monday, as well as the brand and a mockup of the animation. I’ll probably project my animation on the 3d model that they send me.

Notes from Brainstorming

11.11.2017 | Defining Brand

Which Contaminants to Visualize?

EWG is a great website that I found out about!!! They already have a database in the works. I sent it to the data team to see if their data will allow them to make comparisons on a national level, as well as city and neighborhood.

From research that I did on the PWSA’s top contaminants, as well as which contaminants filters typically test for, I deduced that these are the top contaminants to test for:

  • Lead
  • Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs): Chloroform, Bromodichloromethane, Dibromochloromethane, Bromoform
  • Radium-226 and Radium-228 (AKA Radiological Contaminants)
  • Chromium
  • “Other”

Brand Concept

As a group, we brainstormed names. For now, we want to use “safe2o” for the name, derived from “h2o.”

Exploring Names and Typography

I created a wordmark. My favorite typefaces were GT Pressura and Rubik because of the rounded edges. I thought it could relate to the shapes that we wanted to use.

Tentative Wordmark

Beginning Visualization Explorations

I explored different ways to bring the structure of water into the visualizations.

Sketching Ideas

I saw the most possibilities in the microscopic zooms.

Microscopic Graphics

Water under the microscope has a circular structure. A collage of shapes occurs when you look at things under a microscope.

Our filter can zoomin on the contaminants inside water, in a way similar to a microscope.

In our visualization, the growth of contaminant shapes in white circles represents bacteria growth and pays homage to petri dishes.


I dived into Pinterest, looking at patterns for inspiration.


Creating the Visualization

In its normal state, I used blue graphics that appear as bubbling, clean water.

When contaminants are identified, I can visualize the invisible with shape graphics. The orange/red colors will be used to show that these contaminants are bad, since they are appearing in the clean blue water.

Shapes for Graphics
Blue and Red

To test how it would look in the filter, I would hold it up to the screen and imagine it attached to the sink.

Testing them out
Dormant vs. Contaminated States

I printed it out so that the water team would be able to place it inside the filter that they printed.

Assembling Prototype 1!

Animations of Contaminants

I created a gif to show that we are starting to think through the interactions.

Gif of how it could work

11.13.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Slides We Created For Class

To prep for speed-dating, our team(s) created deck(s).


Speed Dating Activity

Our team split into 4 groups: Faith, Sara, Maggie and Tina, Jesse and Steven to give quick presentations to our teammates and gather feedback. I got so much. I found this super helpful. It was overwhelming for sure, because my classmates brought up so many good questions that we can add to our research.

My group later compiled all of the different feedback we got into a doc: We’re going to meet before class to go through it all.

Here are a few of the most valuable pieces of feedback that I got:

Why should people care about if contaminants are detected. Isn’t the filter cleaning the water? Are there contaminants that aren’t being filtered out.
How do they interact with the filter?
Aren’t you making everyone into the role of “reporter?”
Is it ok to have cute animations about something as serious as someone’s or their family’s health?
Should the dormant state be animated? Or should it turn on when people come near to the sink? Should the filter only turn on when there is an urgent alert?
How do you design a background issue vs an alert?
How do you make it so that they don’t want to just buy a waterbottle after seeing how contaminated their water is? It needs to be reassuring that the filter is working.
This isn’t just a knowledge problem, as you have framed it right now. It’s also a money issue. How do you change their priorities so that they want to spend their money on this.

I really would like to take another stab at the filter interface before tomorrow’s class, but it’s very difficult to find the time due to our senior show quickly approaching.

11.14.2017 | Prepping for Class

We read and commented through each others notes from the speeddating activity.

Commenting on the notes

11.15.2017 | Post-Class Reflection

Discussion With Group

We went over questions and concerns brought up during the speed-dating activity:

  • The difference between a sensor and a filter
  • The changing private pipes rule -> can we assume it doesn’t exist by 2025?
  • Can we assume screens are less expensive in 2025? So that anyone could afford this if they ahve to pay for it?
  • Is it free? // Do people have to pay for it? // Who pays for it?
  • Why are we doing AR?
  • Should it be in public places?
  • Do you really need real-time updates?
  • How will people with less education about the contaminants interpret the information? We need to not be too esoteric with our communication.
  • Should we segment the market? By creating different priced products.
  • We want to make sure we aren’t shaming the resident if they cannot afford to improve their pipes.
  • What are the actions you take with each tool?
  • Advertising should show that your contribution goes toward helping all of pittsburgh.
  • How do we make sure everyone gets this filter?
  • Is this filter safe or not safe?
  • Before or after states for visualization
  • We need some kind of tagline to inform advertising
  • Something I didn’t know about before this meeting is that all the pipes are connected together under homes. We need to show the way that one bad pipe affects the rest of the bad pipes. The reason we are framing it as an epidemic is because water is a shared water source.
  • Steven brought up that “as clean as we filter the water, it will only get worse.” Therefore, it makes sense to assume that in 2025, it will be really bad.

Group Discussion With Stacie

We were a little concerned because we felt like we were making a lot of assumptions. We met with Stacie and she showed us that actually what we are creating is a negative future, where water has declined dramatically, so it’s fine to come up with what needs to happen in order for Safe2O to happen, such as the rule being changed about changing pipes on private property. What we are doing is positioning our design within a scenario, which is great! We just need to flesh it out more. :) We felt very reassured after this. I think a concern a lot of us have is in the hypothetical nature of this, but thinking of this as a design within a scenario helps me understand how this is an intervention that we will propose and hear feedback on.

I was reminded of “What’s in it for me?” from the HES project sophomore year. But in this case, we are trying to balance the values/needs/wants of many different stakeholders. This seems to be pretty similar to Terry’s explanation of the work she did for the Ojai Water Crisis, and our role as a designer.

To expand upon the need for this, Stacie gave a really interesting example about a previous student who’s father owned a grocery store. She talked about how the use of a blackboard allowed for a mutual agreement between the different community. Her father would purchase the things that they wanted (healthy items) if they agreed to buy them.

Going off of this, we need to display our information as community-based. We’ll have to be cognizant of scale, showing residents how their contribution relates to the entire amount. A word I hadn’t really known before this project is granularity. It’s been a common theme in our studies of visual communication of the data. Stacie brought up ordinal scale, as something to consider.

We need to make sure that we have a cognitive connection between form and content. For example, red meaning danger, green meaning good, etc.

We also brought up the question of a business model and how everyone had asked us if the product is free? She told us to consider who in Pittsburgh has money, places like the Gates Foundation, and think further about companies that would want to partner. Someone in my group asked if the gov could pay for data?

Whiteboarding with Maggie and Tina

After this discussion, Maggie,Tina, and I spent time sketching out new form ideas for the water filter.


11.19.2017 | Prep for Class

Interface Ideas

trapped contaminants
eliminating contaminants

Scenario Doc

We worked in a doc to flesh out the scenario more, as well as determine who’s doing what before/after Thanksgiving break.

11.20.2018 |Post-Class Reflection

Conversation As Team

We created a timeline of the user’s interactions with the filter and the effect that it has.

group meeting

Conversation with Stuart

We talked quickly with Stuart about our plans for the presentation. He suggested creating an experience out of it, possibly by presenting as Safe20. We really liked this idea. He also asked about where we want to position the viewer in the timeline that we made. We think it makes most sense for it to be Safe20 pitching to other cities, after Pittsburgh has been a success. Therefore, we can bring up how Pittsburgh used to have such horrible water, using stories similar to what you hear nowadays about the air quality improving since Pittsburgh’s steel days.

I also had an idea while he was talking that the first 1000 to get the filter are given a cultural-probe like experience since their job is to collect enough info for the filter to become useful to everyone else.

Beginning Packaging

Maggie and I went over to Porter to get a book about packaging from Josaiah.

packaging book

11.27.2018 |Post-Class Reflection

Today was our first day back from break.

We met briefly as a team to touch base.

Maggie / Faith / Tina Planning

Maggie, Tina, and I made plans for how we want the screen and packaging to look. We also planned out our schedule for the next week.

Planning out the next week

11.28.2018 | Screen Interface

another iteration of filter
added the arrow back

This iteration shows that we established that we want the contaminants to appear to be sensed and filtered out before the water exits the filter device. After making the animation, I realized that the arrow we had before might be relevant again. I know we need a better way to indicate that it is clean water that is coming out. I also still need to animate the screen to give the contaminants more personality as they are eliminated.

Adjusted Screen

I adjusted it to be more clear that the water is coming out without the contaminants.

12.02.2018 | Font Styles + Colors

Our team met in the morning to decide on colors and typestyles. We went with Proxima Soft because we thought it would look good with the rounded corners in our shapes.

Style Guide

12.03.2018 | Filter Interface

Cleaning Up Wordmark + Contaminants

Matching widths, heights, and corners

I sent the wordmark to Maggie after so that she could make tshirts.

Filter Interface

Though playing around with the wordmark, I realized that something might be nice is to connect the o to the concept behind the visuals.

Brainstorming about if wordmark were to be animated

This allowed me to come up with a new design for the filter interface.

When the water is turned on, the contaminants are sorted out when they reach the filter bar in the middle. Only the circle water droplets are able to pass through. I think once animated, this will do a good job of showing the filtering out process within our visual style.

Filter Interface

12.04.2018 | Prepping for Studio

Intervention Sheet

I filled out a first draft of our intervention sheet, but we definitely need to go over it all together.

intervention sheet


Initial Explorations of Complexity and Color

Sara Remi asked me to illustrate some things for her UI.

I began by researching pipe illustrations and found the following as reference:

Pipe Inspiration

Looking at these, I created the following illustration using our colors.

First try at illustration

Sara Remi reminded me that the illustrations are more for the purpose of accenting the page and possibly being animated.

I tested out a single section of a pipe to test what colors would work. I realized that for the sake of uniformity, we would need to keep the background light.

Testing colors

Final Illustration
Then I completed the illustration. I imagine the contaminants flowing through the pipes using Skrollr as the user scrolls down the page.


12.04.2018 | Post-Class Reflection

At the beginning of class, Sara Remi asked me to determine what the different contaminant shapes represent. After that Maggie had some suggestions for the screen interface (mostly making the shapes larger since I hadn’t been looking at it to scale), so we finalized that together so that she could lasercut the file.

Items I passed off to group members

Sara Remi has been writing a lot of copy, so she asked us all to spend time reading and editing it, so I did that for a while.

Maggie delivered our beautiful team shirts that she made. :)

Safe2O Shirt

Then, Maggie sent me an illustrator template of our packaging form so I could get started on the design.


12.05.2017 | Working on Packaging Illustrations

I illustrated the pipes to create a wrapper for the box. I’m still unsure about how/if to include the shapes, so I sent my iterations to Stacie to see if she has any feedback or suggestions.


We’re also still playing with whether the inside box should be white or navy. It’s something I’ll be figuring out with Tina and Maggie. It’s so exciting to get to work with product designers on a packaging project! Tina and Maggie were doing very cool models and vacuum forms today during class in Porter, which is way outside my realm of skills. Collaborating with P people is really great.

Inside box color options

To Do Tomorrow

  • Finalize packaging design for print and handoff to Maggie/Tina **
  • Final Animation of Filter UI and handoff to Sara Remi **
  • Finalize + print intervention poster
  • Making sure everything is on brand with Sara Remi and Steven (color, corners, stroke, type, logo)
  • Coordinate with team on big drawing with Safe2O Timeline
  • If time, help Sara Remi with web animations
  • Add in descriptions to above images to document my process

12.05.2017 | Final Push

Creating of the Final Form

CAD modeling by Tina

Finalizing Packaging

Trying different scales and orientations

I emailed Stacie for feedback, and she noted that the more condensed pattern I had originally was most effective in creating a pattern. Maggie and Tina had the great idea of incorporating our pop of color through a pull tag on the packaging.

Creating Instructions Booklet

I chose a booklet fold that I’ve done before for zines, because I that not having to use staples/sewing to assemble it would help it fit into the clean aesthetic we had crafted for the brand.

I used mostly illustrations we had already created, but added in a few of my own. I printed on a thin opaque white drafting paper, to make it feel like the paper quality you expect in instructions. The paper was also so thin that it helped with the folds needed.

Maggie and Tina helped me to figure out what content we needed on the pages, and how to illustrate it.

Documentation of two stages of process while making the booklet.

Creating Animation of How Filter Works

I created animations showing two different states for the filter: the normal cleaning process + an alert state for when the water is undrinkable.

Finishing Template

Lastly I cleaned up our file that Stacie had given us to fill in that explains our process.

File about our study

12.08.2017 | Documentation

Today is our senior final show. Before, we spent some time documenting safe2o.

documenting the filter

12.10.2017 | Team’s Final Deliverables + Personal Reflection

Final Works


IOT Filter

Iot Filter + How It Works
Product shots

Instruction Booklet

Data Visualizer

Designed for Web
Info Tool

AR Tool

Gov Tool

Dashboard visualizing paths of contaminants

Final Reflection

  1. What did you learn? (Knowledge: Know what, Know how , Know when. Regulation: Planning, Assessing, What would you do differently? Experience: Emotions, Distractions, Management, Motivation)
    I learned about how to use frameworks to determine interventions. Since our team stayed together throughout the entire semester, I think that they helped us create an intervention that we felt really confident moving forward with in the second half of the semester. I learned that a team of 6, though large, can, work well together. I think we learned how to incorporate each others interests and skills into a project proposal we all felt excited about.
    There are still a few holes to be filled such as advertising. I think if I were to do this project again, I would have spent more time on that, thinking about what advertising looks like in the year 2025.
    I think that I did a good job as a team-member and team-player. I worked well with my teammates, and that that I contributed fairly to our design decisions and productivity. I was pretty motivated throughout the final semester, but definitely think my participation dwindled a bit when we were also setting up for our final show. I was pretty rarely distracted during our meetings. We used our class-time well and would always ask for feedback and critique.
  2. What were you challenged by? 
    Initially, my main problem was my lack of understanding about the water infrastructure. But as my knowledge grew, I started to feel more comfortable making design decisions. I do still think it would be helpful to have done some expert interviews, since a lot of our research came from google. I think another challenge that I felt was dealing with something set so far in the future. We had to make a lot of guesses and assumptions. Something that helped me feel more comfortable with this was imagining it as a scenario that we were visualizing.
  3. What did you do really well? / What are the things you were proud of? 
    I think that something my team did really well was settle on an idea that we liked pretty early, which allowed us to have enough time to flesh it out before the final show. We were always looking for holes in our project, which I think was good, because it would drive us to do more research to figure out the answers. This caused me to feel like I had a good grasp on the water problem. An example would be I had to assign shapes to the contaminants. To do this, I had to figure out what the contaminants were. What I am most proud of is that my group was able to create something that felt real, which I think does a good job of making things that are speculative and future-oriented more tangible to people in the present.
  4. What would you do differently? What were the lessons learned?
    I think something I could have done better is communicate better with the data visualizer group, since I was part of the IOT filter group. I think it caused there to be some inconsistencies in the brand’s visuals. Additionally, something I plan to do is create new visuals that show how everything goes together as a system. We learned a lot in this class about communicating our research to others, and I’m not sure if our documentation is doing that yet. I also don’t think it’s clear yet that the filter only works when water is going through the faucet and filter, so this is something else I need to communicate. I plan to address these problems soon.
Team Pics ❤