Week 1: UCD Charrette

In this week’s studio, the whole class was given the task to design a smart vehicle interface for a specific user and my group focused on deaf users.

Designing Process

First, we listed user needs that are specific to deaf users. While some of their needs are similar to other drivers in that they often want access to a GPS system, phone synced messages, and settings, because they are deaf, we also wanted the users to be notified of communication from other drivers (honking/ sirens) and be able to communicate with others who may not know sign language. Because these users are not able to depend on their sense of hearing as much as other drivers, we wanted to take advantage of their senses of sight and touch.

Sketching out possible scenarios, a helpful method for brainstorming. Photo taken by Michael Fernandez.

Next, we began designing the interface to support these needs based on scenarios. When using a GPS, often times, the interface will say the directions so the driver can follow them without constantly looking at the map. For a deaf driver, it might be difficult to know when to change directions since they cannot hear them, so we decided to design a vibrating steering wheel and/ or a blinking light above the interface (driver has the option to choose in settings) to notify the driver of when a new set of directions need to be followed. In addition, this same vibrating wheel and blinking light can notify the driver of a siren or the horn of another driver that is picked up through a microphone system in the vehicle. Next, if the driver ever needs to communicate with the police or other drivers who do not know sign language, the interface allows the deaf driver to communicate through a text-to-speech/ speech-to-text app. Lastly, the driver will also have access to settings and messages that are synced with their phones for convenience.

A flow chart of the interface and its elements.

What is the takeaway from this?

Coming up with this design really surprised me as it was all done in two hours using brainstorming methods such as using post-its, whiteboarding, and sketching. I enjoyed using all of these techniques because they were efficient in listing ideas while making them easy to organize and eliminate (for ideas that were less promising). Through this process, I have learned that it is easier to write down all ideas, even the bad ones, and then later on filtering them out to avoid a writer’s block.

How will I apply these techniques in the future?

These techniques used in this studio can be used for other design processes. As a first step, identifying the user and their needs help guide and narrow down ideas. For example, if we were given the task to develop an app that encourages both adults and children to eat healthy. The app would function and look very different depending on the user. For adults, we would expect the app to be simple while providing data (charts) and feedback. On the other hand, if a child were to use this app, we would design it to appear more kid-friendly by using animations, pictures, colors, and perhaps design a feedback system that rewards children (collecting badges) for eating healthy. After identifying these users, I was able to design an app specific for that user and that leads me to design the interaction, which is very different between the two audiences as well. This process of identifying and brainstorming in user-design can be used in many scenarios and will be useful in studio sections and outside of the classroom.

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