UX Portfolio Pt. 2 — Building up my empathy

Craft & Breakfast Case Study

Joaquín Alverde
9 min readFeb 10, 2020

Overview

Empathy is one of the most important soft skills a designer can develop. I want to share with you a great project that was created from literally “putting up in the shoes of the other.”

I realized that making products with artisans didn’t let them generate enough income to maintain their families, so I wanted to help.

Role:Product design from research, conception, visualization, and testing. Then my team integrated to improve the product and scale the project.
Status:
Live website, App UI (drafts)
Time: One Year

60% of the 4 million artisans in Mexico are making less than 4 USD a day, they are losing their skills due to age, and younger generations don’t want to continue these traditions because they can’t live out of this occupation.

Craft & Breakfast is a social impact platform promoting craftsmanship with genuine tourism experiences.

www.craftandbreakfast.com

Reconnecting with my roots

After participating in the Hult Prize in 2016, I changed my mindset of what design can do for society. I had the opportunity to learn a lot from my colleagues. I get to chat with fascinating people that opened my mind to new perspectives.

So, I started getting deeper into things. The first thing I did was to understand the whole process of my designs. One of my first projects at school was a collection of craft products inspired in Mexico, redesigned to be more aesthetic and functional. I end up working with artisans of different skills to develop my concept of contemporary craft. One day I asked one of the artisans, Pedro, to teach me how to make a molcajete (a device used to make Mexican salsas). That day changed my life!

A day with Pedro Ramirez — Stone Craftsmen

Long story short, I spent a whole day with Pedro and his family trying to understand from A to Z the process of something I thought could sell more expensive and lower the production costs. I was a fool!

I was trying to learn something that took years of apprenticeship. Obviously, I undervalued a lot of things because I didn’t know the full process behind them. Stone carving was Pedro’s primary source of income and family heritage. He told me his dream was to keep this tradition alive, and hopefully, one day, his son followed his steps. All of this was during the dinner his wife, Paty, settle up for a tiring day of stone carving. Hand made tortillas and spicy chicken stew. I told you there was going to be food in this Portfolio, haha.

I felt a little selfish, and I put myself to analyze the real problem this sector was confronting. The time they spent doing a craft vs. the final price. More and more designers wanted to do this kind of new contemporary products with ancient techniques, and the only one taking advantage of this situation was the designer brands. Did we think about the greater good before grabbing a pencil and sketch things?

Let’s review the user experience.

I had a fantastic day with Pedro and his family, so I mapped a journey to understand everything that happened. I wanted to find something that could help Pedro improve his income. I decided to see my day with Pedro as a product, and start asking some questions:

  • How much more is an experience valued than a product?
  • Are people willing to pay for what I just lived?
  • Is this going to feel genuine if I invite other people to do it?
  • Is this experience replicable with other artisans?
  • Is this product scalable?
  • Does this fit into a sustainable business plan?

I was very excited about the possibility of developing this project, so I called all the artisans that I knew. I shared with them my day with Pedro and asked them if they can replicate this experience. The results amazed me!

I spent a day with Saul learning ceramics in Metepec, another day with Chucho carving wood in Malinalco, and designing Jewelry in Taxco with Adelaido, the formula was the same.

I started my day with a cozy breakfast, which I later understood it works as an icebreaker between professor and apprentice. Then they took me to explore their neighborhood as an act of inspiration. Some invited me to see other friends’ work and their favorite place in town. After this great start, they showed me about their process and guided me through a piece that I could finish the same day. At the end of the workshop, I immediately felt more value for their work and proud of what I achieved. I felt like an artisan for one day! I wanted everyone to feel that way.

Mexico is well known for having great hosts, and maybe its something natural. Everyone treated me like part of their family. I was really excited and thankful to all of them. I had to take the next step!

What do you understand for craft experiences?

I built a quick presentation with my idea, and start pitching to everyone I knew. I had to see if this was something interesting to other people than me.

The first thing that came to my mind was Airbnb, so I made a Frankenstein out of the most relevant specs in their platform to help others imagine the product. I asked friends, professors, and family members if they would like to try one of these craft experiences.

The steps were similar to other products I’ve seen before. It may work.

  1. Need: Desire to live a genuine craft experience making a social impact.
  2. Search: A platform that has the best workshops with local experts.
  3. Product: See an itinerary and pictures of the workshop.
  4. Transaction: Pay for it and receive all the info from the host.
  5. Experience: Go to the workshop and do a review of your experience.
  6. Review: Tell us about your day with the artisan. If you like what you lived, repeat.

People liked the idea, so with help from a classmate, we developed the branding and some flyers to publish them on social media and campus. Craft & Breakfast began to exist.

The first month was exciting. I received an e-mail from a french guy that wanted to spent one month in Mexico doing these workshops! I was thrilled, I told him that he could stay at my place, and I would personally take him to this craft experiences.

Max with Pedro and the molcajete he carved.

It’s like finding inner peace. I liked the exchange of knowledge with the artisans. More than a craft project it feels like a life-changing project.

Maxime Huvelin — Art Designer

With more than ten experiences with different people and artisans, we were ready to scale the project. We were invited to SWSX to pitch our project in one particular event of social entrepreneurs. We have to start thinking about making our first approach to a real digital product.

You have one week to pitch your idea.

Everything was happening so quickly! Before we could sit down to think about how to design our platform. We had one week to make it look functional and try to land our first round of investment. Things needed to get done.

So we draw a quick map of what we thought was going to be our app and made essential mockups to help us explain our project.

We wanted to talk about three main points people were intrigued before willing to make one of our craft experiences.

Product Information

Do you have any pictures? I like the idea, but I want to see the place, my professor, and an itinerary.

Reachability

How do I get there? Does he have a phone? I don’t want to get lost!

Safety

Is it safe? I don’t know the person, what if I’m a woman and end up with a weird artisan?

We made some screens of the UI to talk about those important points. We designed the artisan profile with information about his workshop. You’ll see an itinerary, photos, and reviews of other people. Even though you have a map, the exact location with other essential recommendations will arrive at your e-mail after booking your Craft & Breakfast. We explained that the quality of these experiences would rely on reviews of people and artisans. The community should help to build trust.

We presented our project to various investors and received very constructive comments about Craft & Breakfast; an app wasn’t the answer. We needed to start with a website, and more people doing these experiences before we could think of something else.

Reality doesn’t kill dreams. It only makes them stronger.

Reaching that point was enlightening. I understood that even though I liked designing apps, they aren’t the solution to everything. Digital products offer different solutions according to the nature of the project. We needed to prioritize our goals and design a tool that would let us validate the idea before going further.

Building a website without knowing code.

I wanted to make a straightforward site with a strong message, using our first promo video and explaining twice what Craft & Breakfast consists. This will allow the user to browse with confidence any of the workshops available and choose the best experience for them.

Without any knowledge of coding, I built the website on Squarespace. This will let us have a website working on different devices and monitor metrics to make rapid changes if needed while we test our product in real life.

www.craftandbreakfast.com

This was the next step to scale our impact and began growing the number of artisans and experiences. We went live in about a week and started sharing on every social media account we had. Goosebumps!

These are the six families we end up in 2018 that did more than 50 craft experiences.

In less than a year, we were helping six families to improve their incomes through a fully functional digital platform. We were receiving contacts from inside and out of the country. We end up 2018 with more than 50 craft experiences and start thinking to grow the team to make this project bigger. One more time, I was very thoughtful about the impact and reachability that digital products have in our lives.

Reflections

  • Being a social entrepreneur is quite a challenge; it involves vision, teamwork, leadership, and GRIT. It’s enriching to understand what design can do for society when you have a great purpose.
  • Although I like mapping things to find solutions, human interaction is crucial for creating a good user experience. This project was a clear example of developing my empathic skills to design a product.
  • Always think about the possibility of having a product you can test and redesign almost immediately. This feature lets you achieve amazing results in the first stage of any project.
  • Having a clear message, it’s your best marketing weapon. During summer vacation, I end up chatting with a girl who wanted to make a Craft & Breakfast! I didn’t know her, but she even explained the concept and showed me the video we made about the project. That was a big win.

Even though I have a job now, I’m still finding new ways to improve this project. I plan to collaborate with similar platforms that have a clear social impact and can involve the sector of people I was working like Rutopia, Rutas y Raices, and VAWAA. I hope more designers in the future take into account their impact on society. The world will thank you!

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