Design Research Studio

Thursday, December 7

Woke up from a 20 hour sleep.

The project is finally done! We made a board game/research activity in which we try to understand how self-aware Pittsburghers are of how much air pollution they actually emit — directly and indirectly. With this knowledge by the second-half of the game, we observe how willing the players are to change their behavior for the betterment of air quality.

Although everything was made well, the process was definitely a bit rushed. Because we were receiving feedback every studio session, we often pivoted before we had the chance to move forward with the making phase.

I also noticed that we didn’t have much of the opportunity to perform user tests even during the show. Maybe the parts felt too long and/or arduous, maybe there was a ton of instructions that the facilitator had to communicate, or maybe it was the environment around us that was too hectic that made it nearly impossible to focus.

Whatever the reason was, it wouldn’t make sense to end the project right here, but most of myself doesn’t have the motivation to continue the project. I’m not sure. It’s selfish, I know. But I just want something to put on my portfolio that I will want to show everyone. How can I bridge that with social-innovation? A graphic novel? A series of editorial illustrations?

I feel like I’ve been going insane this semester. I’ve been drawing nearly every day — illustration is the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed. It’s been years since I have felt this kind of drive before.

Saturday November 12

Our group is still trying to figure out our concept. I think we’ve been feeling like we were going around in circles but now we’re at a conclusion that we have a solid idea for tomorrow.

Our artifact isn’t a physically-built object, but more of a storyboard in a Google Slides format — to keep the speed dating alive and engaging.

The senioritis with the other work in my other classes are definitely still creeping in strong, but hopefully making this cater to our interests (for myself, using illustration and art) in order to put my best effort into it. Truthfully I’ve been having trouble staying engaged, but it may be mostly due to us being in the senior plan stage, where we are exploring different ideas getting feedback on our concepts.

Monday October 30

Figuring out our project!! Feeling really excited to work on it with my group — I’m glad that we have a diverse set of skills to easily be able to divide the work amongst the 5 of us.

I’m still pretty worried because hopefully my other (HCI) group projects don’t become too much for me to stop myself from working on the motion piece (which would need to be done before we film our skit).

Although our project isn’t as illustrative as we intended from the beginning, this is still a great opportunity to work on something super experimental and out of the box.

Monday October 30

A reflection on studio so far, via zine.

Sunday October 29

My group — Albert Yang, Kate Martin, Lily Fulop, and Lucy Yu — came together to create an immersive and artistic experience that would educate the audience about air pollution. Since most of us are interested in artistic pursuits, we want to create something experimental that goes beyond our comfort zones.

We were thinking about something similar to a pop-up museum, at least, that’s the ideal. However, we would have to consider technical feasibility — assessing our coding abilities, it wouldn’t make sense to complete the entire project by end of the fall semester. We could potential mock this up instead, or create a minimal viable product.

Here’s the full document where we are answering questions for next week.

Monday October 16

Sunday October 15

Service Blueprint for a hypothetical popup after-school activity

“The pop-up afterschool (POP) program is first planned during the summer months when school is either not in session or classes are less frequent. During this time, teachers, volunteers, and organizers of POP reach out to companies and organizations in the local Pittsburgh area to set up partnerships and build a curriculum for the POP sessions. They reach out to places like The Sprout Fund, Turbo Tax, and Eat Unique in order to develop an agenda throughout the year with diverse topics that explore a variety of important skills: the importance of ideas, filing taxes, and cooking your own food. Different topics are organized into different age brackets, but organizers focus on creating a fun and welcoming atmosphere for all students, regardless of the topic. Once the organizations have been chosen, contracts are drafted that detail the place and time of each event. Most POP sessions occur in the school’s community centre, but occasionally students have the opportunity to take a POP session at an organization’s location. Once the contracts are signed, a calendar of the schedule of events is sent out to parents, students, the community, and the school in order to publicize the POP sessions. POP sessions happen 3–4 times a week and any open spots are open to community members.

When it’s time for a POP session, volunteers and organizers draft instructional materials to provide to the students. They help set up the community centre for the event with all materials and information necessary for the session. The students are called in and the collaborators introduce themselves and the activity. Once the session is over, students are able to talk with the collaborators at an “open floor” meeting if they have further questions. In addition, the students help volunteers and organizers with clean up. The students are then free to go home, continue studying at school in the community centre/library, or wait in the pickup zone for their guardian.

The pop-up afterschool program satisfies multiple needs, including ones that are external to Max-Neef’s Theory of Needs. Of the Max-Neef needs, the POP satisfies Participation, Idleness, Creation, and Understanding. Of external needs, it also provides a physical location that students can stay at when their parents are working longer hours or multiple jobs. It serves as an additional learning environment that ensures students get exposure to important life skills, potential hobbies/passions, and helps student become more independent through this exposure.”

Thursday October 12

It’s interesting to think that even though we wouldn’t see the immediate results of our new systems, that in a way we’re still preparing ourselves in the long run, that just being trained in this mindset is shaping the future.

This may sound too hypothetical, but I’m curious of the future of design from today, especially since the definition of design has been changing. What would happen if the day that every business and company as a social enterprise would arrive? Can we assume that by then, the definition of design would change again — or at least evolve so the designers would need to be constantly innovating the business model, making it better to compete with the company’s competitors? (I also hypothesize that wicked problems would never completely disappear as a whole — as one dies, another will appear. In that case, transition design will always remain relevant)

Friday October 6

I took Service Design last semester with Molly — and I think the trouble that our team had with the most was focusing too much on a touchpoint. Usually it was an app. Although we started going into physical touchpoints as well, we were worried that the service was being pushed too thin and that whether users would even interact with the entire service. We also didn’t have time to figure out partner services as well — how will we determine those?

However, I’m pretty excited to work with service design — it’s open ended enough that each track can contribute equally.

Tuesday Oct 3

Neef + SPREAD readings

Saturday Sept 30

Saturday Sept 23

Friday Sept 22

A reflection on studio so far and how it relates to design

In an odd way, studio almost feels like deja vu to all our previous semesters, especially Futures and Systems, making a little more sense every semester. Studio actually feels like a larger Systems class, where we were required to make in addition to learn about the conceptual topics about systems and futures thinking. It doesn’t seem like we’re quite there at the “making” stage in studio, but I’m sure my perception will change when we enter that part of the syllabus.

I understand how we — as designers — are caught in this weird loop of being affected by what we make and vice versa. That concept in one of our readings stuck with me the most. It’s more clear to me how digital products play a role, for example, smartphones and sharing economies are changing industry standards and the culture of local transportation. Physical products and environments are slightly more vague — I can only think about how the spacial structure and physical interaction are shaped, and could shape what our (future) audience would deem acceptable. For example, it would be ethically inappropriate to make a diesel machine for one of the Hawaii futures, where using oil and other fossil fuels are seen as selfish.

Although this isn’t an art or purely a graphic design school, a few of us are considering going into those routes post-graduation. I’m curious to learn how we could learn to apply futures and systems thinking into those mediums. Art and illustration could go viral and make an impact in present-day, but is there room for those fields in transition design?

Tuesday Sept 19

2047 Haikus

A 2047 Community:

War is upon us
We fear indoors, wondering,
Life without borders

A 2047 Day:

Borrowing shared bikes,
To catch the next hyperloop
Across the country

Sunday Sept 17

Dator Reading

Block Reading

Sunday Sept 10

Capra “Deep Ecology” Reading

The Capra and Meadows are again both emphasizing the importance of paradigm shifts — how in order to solve some of these environmental and wicked problems, we must be open to changing our worldviews, which are now outdated due to us being stuck in a timeframe where the world is less populated and interconnected.

I’ve never thought about the connection between exploitation of nature with women. In a way, it makes sense to me since how shallow ecology — a human-centric idea — is connected to another deeper, embedded idea that men are above women. The same way us women expect men to know and act in ways that is clear that we are equal, should be applied to how all humans are a part of nature, and not separate from it. Women would need to expect the same standards of proactively moving towards a direction that allows us to want to care for futures and lives that are not our own.

Monday Sept 4

Group meeting + Deeper research into Charter Schools

Friday Sept 1

Ojai Readings

Reading about envisioning futures before designing for them almost feels like deja vu back to Futures a few semesters ago (and the Meadows reading, of course). In the course, we were taught how to imagine Masdar, a futuristic eco/sustainable city in the United Arab Emirates in 2050 based on invented concepts and artifacts. Many of us also envisioned narratives in which a citizen would perform everyday activities. My story involved having to wake up very early to retrieve groceries to avoid the intense midday heat. Bike sharing, underground transportation, and self-sustaining grocery stores were part of my narrative.

Although the workshop reading — which I foresee this almost being a template for the current project — was arranged to be step-by-step and quite straight-to-the-point, I can imagine how difficult nonlinear the process actually is. It’s clear that for this upcoming project, each team will have to backtrack multiple times in order to get to the place where we desire to be.

On the subject of the reading itself however, I’m curious about root causes of wicked problems that are smaller than others. Do we need to cover all bases or are those smaller issues meant to be prioritized as equally? Much like viruses, a situation where something tiny can be mutated into a huge epidemic seems plausible.

Thursday Aug 31

Access to Quality Education • Initial Research

Main Takeaways:

  • Funding becomes the responsibility of local districts, who raise property taxes (much higher rates than those in wealthier communities). This makes the poorer communities struggle.
  • Pennsylvania schools are becoming increasingly segregated; some schools have even become colloquially labeled as “white” or “black” schools.
  • Forced busing to further districts say that communities aren’t meant anything, “integration isn’t enough”.
  • Current initiatives: Pittsburgh Promise (granting scholarships to eligible students attending college), Career ladder (promotional opportunities for teachers to take on leadership roles; higher pay).
  • Schools are indirectly dependent on test scores. Not achieving expectations could risk lower funding or even total shutdown.

Tuesday Aug 29

Thoughts on Transition Design + Meadows Reading

Being at the School of Design for 3 full years, I have been exposed to systems thinking for a while. However, interestingly enough, the more I think and read into it, the more work I engage in, I actually realize that this isn’t the area I’d choose as a profession. Which isn’t to say I would slack off or not put in any interest or visible effort into my work––transition design interests me to some extent, and I am aware of the value of systems thinking and how each designer’s work has its consequence. I understand how, even as an illustrator, the way I represent people through race, clothes, and build, affects media representation as a whole, which in turn would affect younger generations trying to see themselves in others’ work. I am very aware I play a part in the system.

Ironically, after attending Hugh Dubberly’s day-long interactive workshop in San Francisco this summer, I left in the mindset confirming this isn’t the focus for me. Subconsciously, I wanted to be good at systems thinking, but the emotional passion wasn’t there during the workshop. Logically, yes, I can engage in thoughtful conversations and see the world differently as I did a year ago. Emotionally, however, my mental energy feels depleted by the end, and I usually resort to drawing to feel refreshed again. I wonder if the drainage has to do with trying to simultaneously force myself to naturally, emotionally, enjoy systems design.

Thinking ahead, there’s a certain amount of energy I need to reserve in order to work in transition design before I become exhausted. Is that normal? I guess I’ll find out this semester.

Some of the principles in the Meadows Reading seemed to correspond to yesterday’s lecture — the first one being about setting a system with initial guidelines that are meant to evolve. There seemed to be a connection between Terry’s initial plan for the shift of the School of Design curriculum and the author’s emphasized point of having the 12 different leverage points list be highly subjective to change. Both times were the terms “humility” and “empathy” mentioned, being able to be open to change.

A slightly irrelevant point, but it was interesting how the list went backwards from 12 to 1 to discuss the unchangeable leverage points before the more flexible ones. The reasoning for this order is anyone’s guess, but my theory is the intention to end the abstract topic on a hopeful note rather than leave it hanging with stationary leverage points. Most likely, the author didn’t want the reader to have a fuzzier memory of the easier system-manipulation methods by the end of the text.

Although several real-world examples were given with each leverage point, I struggled slightly at the beginning trying to apply this to social issues — but overall, it began to make a little more sense as the reading progressed, and the leverage points became more and more flexible, less physical, and more about society and worldviews. It felt a little more obvious relating back to the beginning by the end. For instance, where does racism come from? How do we define it, and how do physical aspects play into the system? Because it’s usually discussed as a social issue, it’s not as talked about as a problem that we could actually point out with our own eyes. The quality of school systems split by district borders, towns and cities that have a clear “good” and “bad” side — these are all leverage points that truly impact racism and other wicked problems. Of course, as said in the reading, it’s extremely difficult to literally pick up homes to rearrange a town, as well as being effective only in the short term.

With this in mind, I realized that more obviously physical examples, also have racist (and classist) roots as well. For instance, the Flint Water Crisis seems to be a physical, more logistically difficult situation to resolve. Although it feels like a problem that also requires a ton of much-needed renovation (which wouldn’t even be completed until 2020), it’s not as obvious at first to point out that there are social paradigms that (intentionally?) permitted this to occur. Many civil rights activists accused the Michigan government of environmental racism and classism, basically segregating underrepresented minorities into less environmentally-safe areas.

Overall, the text engaged and refreshed my memory of the previous semesters’ teachings. Somehow, I feel as though I understand the concepts better when they are ordered in that direction of changeability. Although I can map these leverage points more clearly today, I’m curious to see how we can approach potential solutions with a design mind.

Monday, Aug 28

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