For our final presentation, we included the milestones and the highlights of our semester-long journey to tell the story of Common Ground.

We wanted to keep the presentation simple and straightforward so that even those people who were not at all familiar with our concept would be able to understand it with ease. We started by introducing our topic, income inequality and its connection to the landscape of service work. To explain the importance of the problem, present-day statistics of the people employed as low-income service workers was really powerful.

Explaining how we got here

To tell a cohesive story for our fourth presentation to Microsoft, we decided to start from the beginning, with our ‘how might we’ statement —

How might we enable empathy between consumers and low-income service workers to build solidarity that ensures the dignity of labor?

To further make this statement clearer, we needed to define solidarity. Here’s how we defined it—

Solidarity is a bond between individuals or groups formed by uniting around common goals or principles.

While empathy comes easily to people with shared identities, solidarity has the power to bring groups of people across their difference by providing…

In order to make sense of the data that we had collected in our generative workshop, we used different methods like content analysis, 2X2’s and affinity clustering.

For the first activity, we tried to find common themes through content analysis. We created a spreadsheet to record the different affinities and conflicts stated by participants and made a note of the common themes that emerged from multiple participants.

This week, we came up with a research plan to learn more about our stakeholders. For the service workers, we used three different techniques of research:

  1. Interviews and guided story-telling
  2. Appreciation letter and break-up letters
  3. Emotion mapping

Through the interviews, we tried learning about the service workers- their professional backgrounds, their work-days, the challenges that they face at work, their relationships with superiors as well as students, their hopes and dreams etc. By asking these questions, we were trying to understand if there were any pain points that could be addressed through empathy.

We interviewed six service workers on campus-

Inclusive Design or Universal Design is the design of buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability or other factors. — Wikipedia

Practicing ‘inclusive design’ is an essential requirement today and designers are mindful of incorporating it into their daily practice. When speaking about inclusive or universal design, we usually associate it with designing for a wider audience such as those people that have physical disabilities or those that belong to an older age group. These descriptions address the physical conditions of users.

In digital design, we are mindful of designing for accessibility…

At the beginning of the semester, we were asked to write our own definitions of Interaction Design. Here’s what I wrote —

A user communicates with a product or a service through various touch-points. These touch points could be tangible objects, digital interfaces, environments, people etc.

This communication or exchange between the users and the product/ service leads to the formation of an overall experience for the user. This overall experience is a collection of many kinds of tangible and intangible experiences- physical/ sensorial, psychological, intellectual, emotional and sometimes, even spiritual.

To me, Interaction Design is the intentional creation of…

In the article ‘AI Is Design’s Latest Material’, Paola Antonelli states that AI is a tool. Interestingly, in the paper ‘UX Design Innovation: Challenges for Working with Machine Learning as a Design Material’ by Graham Dove, Kim Halskov, Jodi Forlizzi, John Zimmerman, AI is referred to as ‘material’ for design.

This makes me question whether AI is a tool or material for design? Are they different, or one and the same? A tool is an enabler for action, something that helps achieve a goal. A material, on the other hand, is something that is used as a part of the…


Class Reflection — Thursday, 27th Sep

Drawing concepts and processes

This class was the beginning of our next project. We started the class with drawing! The words cat, sluggish, vibrant and quiet were given to us and we were supposed to depict them visually. When we compared everyone’s drawings, we learnt that collectively they did depict the words, but on their own they had many different meanings and the word that we were trying to draw was not the first that came to mind for the intangible words. The drawings were similar for the tangible word like cat, but became different for the intangible words like…

To illustrate the concept of plans and situated actions, Suchman gives the example of an article written by Thomas Gladwin, that compares the contrasting approaches taken by a European navigator and a Trukese navigator in order to navigate the open sea.The European navigator uses a fixed plan or course devised from certain universal principles, and sticks to that plan throughout his journey. On the other hand, the Trukese navigator starts with an objective instead of a plan. His actions are geared towards the fulfillment of that objective and change according to his conditions or situations in the present state. …

In the text ‘Social means do not justify corruptible ends’, the authors argue that social design has an idealist perspective, and that it concentrates on the process and not so much on the outcome. They claim that for producing socially beneficial outcomes, idealistic processes are not always the solution.

I agree with this argument. My example is not particularly in the social innovation space, but is about my experiences in the corporate world in general. I could very well relate to the “who whom?” questions —

  • Who is the user or stakeholder? What is in their interest?
  • Who is the…

Khushi Shah

Master’s student at Carnegie Mellon School of Design

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