Design Research Studio

This medium post is a work-in-progress reflection of CMU’s senior School of Design studio focused on transition design. Here I will document and reflect personal and group process work for tackling wicked problems and designing sustainable futures.

Scroll to the bottom to see team water’s final intervention!

Class 1: Aug, 28 2017
Transition Design — my current thoughts and take-aways
Our first introduction to transition design was exciting for me because as a product designer, I have always wondered how the things I design and release into the world will effect people and the environment. I feel a responsibility as a designer to make things that change the way the world works for the better. However, transition design is much more than making things. It’s high-level and abstracted analyzing, forecasting, and thinking. This goes beyond my comfort zone.

Today in furniture design, I felt a different type of challenge when Tom presented us with our first project.

“Make a table that fills 27 cubic feet and is designed to facilitate an interaction between two people”.

What we are supposed to make has already been determined. It’s up to me to decide the interaction, dimension, form, materials, and construction process. This type of design I feel comfortable with. I have experience developing form through sketching/prototyping, and using the shop to construct and assemble a finished artifact. Transition design is addressing huge wicked problems which affects billions of people, compared to crafting a piece of unique furniture which may bring a dozen people convenience and joy. I feel anxious from the ambiguity that comes with transition design. It lacks rigidity from established rules, because it is a new field of design and the world is constantly changing. However, I am excited to learn tools and methods that will enable me to design for a more sustainable future. I will also be able to pull from other design classes like systems, placing, futures, and persuasion. These wicked problems are issues that I care about, but have yet to grasp an effective way to contribute as a product designer.

Three things stuck out to me the most during Terry’s lecture:

  1. You have to know how the world works
    In order to design a sustainable future, you must gain a deep understanding of how the world currently works. The CA drought was caused by climate change, but what are other factors that are stopping the end to the drought? Wicked problems are complex, and deep rooted in current paradigms, social norms, and ways of living. To attempt at designing solutions for wicked problems, you have to understand even the smallest of implications.
  2. One irrational decision can have unintentional irreversible consequences
    Crisis are always happening, such as the BP oil spill. Although there are tragic events occurring, what we can’t do is react irrationally and irresponsibly. Big corporations will need to prioritize the planet instead of their image in the public eye. Our reactions are just as important and even more time sensitive than the root of the problem. There first needs to be responsibility on those addressing global crisis to respond with a well thought out solution and plan, not just a band-aid fix. Massive irreversible consequences happen when quick and easy fixes are implemented.
  3. The easy intervention is never the right intervention
    Wicked problems are too complex to solve with easy solutions. The most effective designs address the root of the problem or goal of a system. The easy intervention to a disastrous oil spill would be to push the oil to the bottom of the ocean. However, we should really be addressing why we are using oil in the first place. This even goes a level higher than addressing why the spill happened (mechanical or human error). It seems the right intervention will likely be the hardest, most expensive, and time consuming. This is where we come in as designers, to make the impossible seem possible by identifying where to intervene and what the right intervention is.

Lastly, during this semester I hope to loop in a lot of making. I think and work with others best when I am constantly making. This could mean a quick model or a white board sketch which communicates our thoughts. What I hope not to do is type a bunch of thoughts in a google doc. I believe research can still be visually engaging and hands-on. A personal goal I have for this studio is to improve my ability to “dance” with others, think critically, frame giant complex problems, and communicate clearly through writing.

Notes from “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System” by Donella Meadows—

  • Small changes in a complex system can produce a big change everywhere
  • Government and corporations are solving for growth! We should really be slowing down growth, and sometimes stopping growth.
  • Leverage points are used to describe what part of the system should be leveraged for change
  • Leverage points are not obvious or intuitive; if they are, we usually use the backwards and reverse the problem we are trying to solve
  • There is no simple, sure fire way to find the right leverage point
  • Meadows provides a list of 12 places to intervene in a system (from least effective to most effective); parameters — >paradigm shifts
  • Parameters (#12) are the most popular, and probably most obvious, place to intervene. These interventions don’t fix the problem and are usually a matter of changing numbers (water flow rate of a faucet); parameters don’t change behavior
  • Buffers (#11) are hard to change because they are typically physical entities
  • Leverage points in material structures (#10) are in the original design of the structure; not retrofitting or reactively making changes
  • Delays (#9) are difficult leverage points because they are not often modifiable; e.i. construction, natural processes, government systems
  • Negative feedback loops (#8) are more effective because they are not constrained by physical structures; negative feedback loops are designed relative to the positive loop it is made to correct
  • Positive feedback loops (#7) will collapse if it is not counter-balanced by a negative feedback loop
  • Re-designing information loops (#6) can cause behavior changes; e.i. moving the placement of a thermostat to increase energy consumption awareness in home owners
  • Rules of a system (#5) can evolve and change; rules drive our everyday behaviors
  • Introducing technological advancements or social revolutions, new structures, loops, rules, etc. influence how we self-organize (#4); systems evolve by changing itself
  • Addressing the goal of the system (#3) like survival, resilience, differentiation, and evolution will effect everything beneath in the system (physical structures, loops, info flows, etc.)
  • Paradigms, where system are derived from (#2), are shared ideas in the mind of society; open-minded people in an old paradigm can be influenced by advocates in a new-paradigm
  • No paradigm is true (#1); world views are changing and we cling to the paradigm that is true to what purpose we set out to achieve in the world
  • Meadows closing point is that leverage points are hard to identify and change; the most change comes from letting go of existing systems and embracing change

Class 2: Aug, 30 2017
Wicked Problems in Pittsburgh — reflection of lecture + activity
The wicked problems briefly explained to us during class came at no surprise to me because of a semester long research project I did last year in User-Centered Research and Evaluation. In this project, each group also tackled a wicked problem in Pittsburgh. My group focused on food deserts.

We did 5 contextual inquiries in food banks and food kitchens around the city. My group found it difficult to approach these establishments and their communities as privilege students from Carnegie Mellon. However, we found that people are actually very willing to talk to you if you approach them in the right way. The biggest thing I learned was that it needs to feel like a conversation, and not an interview. If they are sitting, get down on their level, sit and talk to them like you would your friends! You have to show compassion and empathy to get great information. By doing this, people opened up about why they visit food banks and how they feel about their experience. Through this field research I established a strong connection with the St. Paul food bank in the hill district which I occasionally volunteer at on Fridays.

I will use my experience researching food deserts to inform how my group goes about understanding clean water in Pittsburgh. I think we will face similar challenges as we will likely need to do home visits with Pittsburgh residents to talk about their water.

Notes from class taken with Paper 53 on the iPad Pro

During the class activity, I realized how much I don’t know about the city i’ve lived in for 3 going on 4 years! Although some seemed more like trivia, I do think it’s important I brush up on my Pittsburgh history knowledge. I also need to have a better understanding on how Pittsburgh developed these wicked problems. I am curious as to how the alarming statistics we saw in the game came to be.

I am excited to dive into clean drinking water in Pittsburgh as it is a topic I don’t know much about. I see the importance of clean drinking water and how it personally effects every single person in this city.

Response to “Mapping Ojai’s Water Shortage: A Workshop” by Terry Irwin and Gideon Kossoff —

I found this reading especially helpful because it broke down in a digestible way what transition design is and how it applies to a wicked problem like the drought in California. However, I think reading this before the meadows article would have given it a little more context. Understanding how the workshop was outlined gave me a better understanding of the process you go through in transition design. Although, this step-by-step guide seems cleaner than the messy design process when tackling giant problems. I am especially looking forward to backcasting because it is a technique we covered in Futures, but I haven’t applied it to a studio project. I am also looking forward to developing future narratives. This sounds like an opportunity to pair our teams research with my ability to sketch and story board to create a nice visual that explains a desirable world with clean drinking water for everyone.

I am foreshadowing that intervening in the clean water issue in Pittsburgh will require an organizational change at the government level. This means our team will need to have a solid understanding of stakeholder relations. Based on initial research, I foresee conflict arising between government officials and residents because they have different motives. I am making an assumption that government officials are more concerned about budget expenditures and how laborious it will be to re-construct the existing water infrastructure. Residents and tax payers are likely most concerned with getting clean water for their families. It would be really interesting and informative to hold a workshop with both parties, similar to the Ojai project.

I still have some open questions about this reading:
What were the outcomes of the workshop?
How did the different stakeholders work together? Were there conflicts?
What was the biggest challenge when putting this plan into practice?
What does a city do with the takeaways from a big workshop like this?

Initial Clean Water Team Research — 
Our team turned to online resources to learn about the current water situation in Pittsburgh. We individually read articles and took notes in a shared Google doc. I specifically learned about the history of the Pittsburgh water system and how it came to be. We came together to discuss our findings and make sense of all the information. We found it helpful to whiteboard out the systems in place that get us our drinking water. We also added sticky notes of stakeholders involved (blue) and problems (yellow).

Diagram showing how water is taken from nature, filtered, and brought to our faucets
Team H2O discussing + diagraming the water filtration process
Steven talking about his high-level findings on Pittsburgh water
White boarding the filtration process

Class 3: Sep, 6 2017
Diagramming for Wicked Problems —

Our team’s first attempt at diagramming the clean water issue in Pittsburgh consisted of a lot of post-its that were unclear to readers, but clear to us. They either lacked context, the problem, or the consequence. This was made clear to us during the class workshop where we talked about the importance of making diagrams comprehensible to others.

Class notes on diagraming with post-it notes
First clean water diagram (colors were not important)

Our revised diagram had better hierarchy (category post-its) that framed and categorized the problems we had uncovered. The colors represent categories or overall descriptors (blue), problems (white), + stakeholders (dark green). The post-its themselves were getting closer to being better written. In each post it we tried to include the problem, and what its causing.

Refined work in progress post-it diagram on clean water in Pittsburgh

Our team shifted to mural so we could work remotely, and also add content that butcher paper and post-its don’t lend itself towards. This included lines connecting post-it notes and links to articles that back the information on the post-it.

Here the diagram is outlined by 5 main categorical issues: social, technological/infrastructure, political, economic, environmental.

Mural diagram based on our second iteration on the butcher paper

Within each category we added sub-categories that emerged from our research. The orange post-it is the problem, the green is a quote supporting the problem, and the article is where is found the information. Looping in our sources has been helpful when we need clarification on a point.

Structure for the mural diagram: problem, quote/context, source article

Response to “Deep Ecology — a New Paradigm” by Fritjof Capra—

I took 1 main point away from this reading:

We have an outdated worldview that is limiting our ability to tackle the giant web of problems that are ruining our planet

Worldview is something I think about often. Because of the socially politically sensitive times we are in I find myself reflecting on what my worldview is compared to what I think it should be. Coming from the conservative suburbs of Kansas City, I empathize with individuals who have an outdated world view. I believe the most outdated worldviews, with the lowest change of change, are people who live in “bubbles” or echo chambers that are filled with people who share similar beliefs and upbringings to yours. It wasn’t until coming to CMU that I was exposed to people with largely different world views from mine. This is due to the cultural and intellectual diversity that this campus has to offer. Now as a designer, particularly working on this project, I am starting to see the world through a sustainability lens.

For example, I was at a retreat this weekend held at a hotel with catered breakfast. After our group of 50 people ate breakfast, the buffet still looked untouched. There was so much food! My mind immediately jumped to “What a waste!!! If I were in charge I would make sure that went directly to a local food kitchen”. Not to mention the extra time, money, and resources that went into making too much food for one group.

Capra refers to this worldview as a “perception of reality inadequate for dealing with our overpopulated, globally interconnected world.” Based on this reading, I think Fritjof would touch on two big things about the food waste problem I experienced:

  1. Food waste is an interconnected issue. Food waste is not untouched by other issues like transportation, water, crime, pollution etc. In order to solve this issue, we need to consider the web it lives in and the effect it has on other areas. Additionally, deep ecology means we have to reframe our outlook on life to including human in nature instead of human with nature. To frame this problem with deep ecology, we would need to think about feeding ourselves as part of nature. This likely means leaning towards eating locally with what nature provides instead of industrializing the food industry. We could garden in communities with little packaging waste instead of feeding our families with processed foods with non-biodegradable packaging that fills our land fills. These are assumptions I am making from the last project I did on food accessibility in Pittsburgh.
  2. Our worldview is stoping us from eating in a more sustainable way. In order to spark a paradigm shift we need to re-consider the entire system we use to nourish our bodies. The easy intervention would be to improve communication between the cooks and the guests. However, this is a bandaid fix. The best way to approach this problem would be to find the root of the system and re-consider how we feed our selves everyday. Should we get food from grocery stores? Should we prepare food in bulk? Where should the food come from? Should a few companies get to dominate the food industry? What are the right types of foods to be feeding our body? Should everyone be farmers? The list goes on. With changed perception comes openness and willingness to changing existing systems, ways, and protocols we subscribe to in order to get food.

One big open question I have after this reading:

I took away that Capra explains “ecofeminism” as the belief that stereotypical female traits align closer with the worldview needed for a paradigm shift. Is this ideology counter productive to the core motives of the feminist movement? I thought feminism pushes to break female stereotypes rooted globally in our culture. Feminism stands for equality between sexes free of gender stereotypes and biases. Capra’s ecofeminist pillar reminded me of the Google manifesto leak I experienced this summer as a Google intern. An engineer stated in a poorly written doc that women are biologically less-fit to be software engineers in the tech industry. Therefore, there shouldn’t be equal representation of women and men in tech, because men are biologically geared to be better engineers. It feels like Capra is also saying that biologically, women value things that men don’t such as cooperation, partnership, and integration. Because of these female traits, women are better equipped to have a new worldview. A worldview that will contribute to the paradigm shift which will save our planet. It’s unclear to me how Capra isn’t making similar sexist remarks towards men, as the Google manifesto did towards women.

Clean Water Team Research Post-its pt.2 —

Based on our mural diagram, we translated the sub-categories and problems to post-it notes (orange). While doing this, we had a hard time separating each problem into one specific category because they could fall under 2 or more. Because of this, our team used string to connect problems that were connected under different categories. This turned into a “web” effect that shows how tangled of a problem water is. Especially between physical infrastructure and government policy and organizations.

Diagram with string connecting the problems and sub-categories to other categories

Class 4: Sep, 11 2017
Deep dive into transition design —

I found Terry’s anecdote about Comcast interesting because it brought up a discussion around who is to blame. To me it seemed that Comcast is raising its prices due to pressure that the company is under to keep up with its competitors. Is the real problem capitalism? Are companies exploiting customers for cash because they need the money to pay their employees, keep investors happy, and turn a profit on their product? It seems like the problem is bigger than bad internet connection. It’s much bigger than the customer service women on the other end of that phone call. I felt empathy for her, because it’s not her fault, she is probably trying to make a decent living and provide for her self or her family.

This story also made me think about our privilege. Why are we complaining about bad wifi? I am guilty of this too. There are much bigger problems than losing internet at home for an evening. However, a big part of our world is online. Instead of comcast and other providers up-charging households, they should bring internet to areas that don’t have it! To counter that, then they would probably go under, because not every company has to be ethical, kind, or giving.

Maybe tackling greedy companies it will trigger an intervention that would solve problems which effect the ecosystem. If companies weren’t pressured to turn a huge profit to keep up, maybe the wealth and resources would be better distributed.

I have yet to formulate a solid stance on this- but the anecdote got me thinking. Lots of internal arguments and counter-arguments.

Notes in class from Terry’s lecture on transition design

Class 5: Sep, 13 2017 —

In this workshop, we talked about stake holders who are apart of the clean water issue in Pittsburgh. By listing the stakeholders we started to draw connections between them based on our research. We used string to visualize these connections.

Using the stakeholder relations map, we categorized stakeholders into the 3 main groups: PWSA, Pittsburgh Residents, + Water ecosystem. We then used tape to bring out viewpoints and opinions that aligned with each other, and problems that were conflicting.

This exercise was helpful to see where the overlap is between the stakeholders. It seems that the biggest area of conflict is between the PWSA and Pittsburgh residents. The water ecosystem is being harmed by societies way of receiving clean drinking water. This might be an area of intervention.

The next activity we did was listing the hopes + aspirations, and concerns + fears. I paired with Sara Remi Fields and listed hopes and fears of Pittsburgh residents. This helped us get into the find set for the skit assignments. We discussed hopes and fears that would be good to depict in a skit. We tried to get in the mind of Pittsburgh residents.

Response to “Community: The Structure of Belonging” by Peter Block —

“We need to create a community where each citizen has the experience of being connected to those around them and knows that their safety and success are dependent on the success of all others.”

I’ve found a community at Carnegie Mellon through the School of Design. I am lucky to be apart of such a tight-knit group of people. Our community comes from small class sizes, personal relationships with professors, studio structured courses, and one common goal: to become a great designer. We know that the safety of our education is in the hands of our professors, deans, and president of CMU. There is a trust and expectation you have in an institution when you pay for this type of high caliber education. I know that they want success for me, and dedicate their live to preparing us to design in the real world. Our success as students is also dependent on another to critique work, and work in groups to produce good work. The school of design has what Block describes as social capital.

I realize that even within CMU there aren’t strong communities. I do not feel a sense of belonging in other schools like CS and CIT. I can draw a parallel to the communities at CMU to communities out in the world. If you take Pittsburgh for example, the academic institutions like CMU and U Pitt in Oakland could be considered a community. Students dedicated four years to the school and find a home with other students. However, there is not a community between Oakland and the Hill district. Cities with large academic institutions must find it difficult to create communities between neighborhoods because they are dense with students who fly from all over the world to study for 4–5 years. After their time is done, they move away, and more students go through the same process. I don’t particularly know how to approach this issue, but I do think that designers are equipped to create experiences that can bring people together. We should feel a responsibility towards making a sense of belonging. Especially, in places like the bay area that are getting taken over by huge tech companies. We have the tools to foster a sense of community. I think that learning transition design will better equip us to lessen the gap between groups in cities.

Response to “Future Workshops: How to Create Desirable Futures” by Robert Jungk —

My favorite part of this reading was the anecdote about suppression and individuals in the workshop. It’s especially important that all members of a workshop feel empowered to speak up about their opinions. I can see this being challenging when there are multiple stake holders with conflicting opinions on the topic.

I tried my best to get through this reading but I found it difficult to digest because of when it was written. This gave me a new perspective on the history of futurism. For decades, people have been trying to bring groups of stakeholders together to design a better future. I have hope that as society continually becomes more progressive, that there are less prejudice, racism, and sexist stereotypes that underly discussions in future workshops.

Based on how the skit performances went, I can imagine the tension that there will be from people who are directly effected by the problem (i.e. low-income households, residents in food desert, displaced residents, etc) and government officials and large corporations whose actions impact their well-being. There has to be some sort of common ground which eliminates any hostility in the environment. Some sort of understanding and common goal between both parties. I think this responsibility mainly lies on the moderator. They need to set the tone for collaboration and agreement. However, people also need to feel empowered to voice their opinion if its conflicting.

Class 6: Sep, 18 2017 —

This was a difficult class for me. I felt uncomfortable during the skits because they were taken light-heartedly (my group included). When preparing my skit, I worked with Sara to try and make it as realistic as possible, but it was hard to make a skit that wasn’t based off of assumptions. Especially for a situation that directly impacts the well-being of people in the Pittsburgh community. I tried my best to keep it serious, although, i’m afraid my tone in the skit reflected poorly on what the professors were trying to teach. This was not my intention. I wanted to somber the mood in the room to bring light to the seriousness of these issues. I hope that my comment in our discussion explained why my demeanor was different than some of my class mates.

During this activity, I kept thinking about what a person who is actually in that position would be thinking if they watched the skits. Some seemed like a joke. I hope that as we continue to tackle wicked problems we can be more sensitive and empathetic to the seriousness of these issues. Myself included. I have full faith that with our professors guidance our class will successfully design something to relieve the tangled web of wicked problems in Pittsburgh :)

Storyboard from me + Sara Remi’s skit

Haiku Exercise + Futures:

Day in my Life of 2047
Nature surrounds me
Tech is free for anyone
Design with kindness
Day in my Community of 2047
The earth is healthy
Our children will see that too
Miami is gone

Response to “Caring for Future Generations” by Jim Dator —

I enjoyed this read because it was easier to comprehend than the last. I especially enjoyed this reading because it helped me saw where my value is as a designer designing for future generations. How we think sets us apart, not our hard skills like visuals or industrial design. Its our openness and willingness to explore wild ideas, and rethink the norm. We have been trained to become comfortable with ambiguity. And being at an intellectually stimulating school like CMU, we are comfortable challenging traditional ideologies and ways of doing things.

Unlike STEM courses, there is no right or no in design. We are encouraged to push the boundaries and think up unimaginable concepts. I really experienced this in the FCA project for junior products studio. Wayne really pushed us to imagine up a crazy future. My team used a mix of creativity and technology + climate change trends to envision a floating city where Miami once was. Although I didn’t recognize it then, there were times I wore all of the “hats” Dator described. However, in a forward thinking project like this, personal belief systems and values became important. Each member in my group came from a very different world view. Are personality and skills were also extremely varied. This helped us work well as a team, but also surfaced conflicts on how we should design the future. Whether its conscious or unconscious, we brought our own world views into play and I honestly think that influenced how we designed our future city with autonomous transportation. We could have pushed the boundaries more and really reconsidered how people get around.

I am lucky that I got to enter a field where creativity is encouraged. I hope that in early education kids are more encouraged to have divergent thinking. It’s sad that kids are told that drawing won’t get you places in life. This is a perfect example of old traditions and stereotypes being followed. Design drawing is a valuable skill for communication no matter the field you are in. If I become an educator I want to re-think how we teach kids. I want the most creative and wild thinking students to succeed, not the person thats best at regurgitating information on a test.

Class 7 “Whats Next?”: Sep 20 2017—

Stuart’s lecture on futurist methods got me thinking about my role in designing for the future. The more we talked about coming up with alternate futures, the more I realized I am negatively contributing to the future I want for this world. As a designer and hopefully mother (in the far future), I want a more sustainable world. I think it is our responsibility to leave a planet for our children in future generations that is a beautiful and healthy (if not more) than the one our generation and the one’s above us got to experience. However, I feel guilt for not doing my part so far. I am conscious of my habits that are not sustainable. The one I brought up in-class were Keurig cups which I use a couple times per week. I know these end up in a land-fill somewhere but I still use them out of convenience. If I truly want to go into the field of designing for the future, I should walk-the-walk, not just talk-the-talk. I think this mentality should apply to everyone. If we want to help Pittsburgh by tackling its wicked problems our lifestyles should directly reflect that. I’m not sure if this means we have to stop shopping at Whole Foods and perpetuating gentrification, but I know there needs to be a change. We often remove our selves from the equation because “you are not the user”, but I think with transition design especially we need to have more emotional and personal stakes in the equation. We are people too, not just removed designers. Our actions contribute to the problem too.

STEEP ideation poster for Pittsburgh in 2050
Our team met outside of class to refine our future for Pittsburgh; we focused on the depletion of natural resources like water, energy, and oil
My notes from Stuart’s lecture

Response to “Four Futures for Hawaii 2050” by Candy, Dator, Dunagan—

I found this reading helpful because it gave a good example of what our groups futures writing could be like. Unlike how futures are portrayed in the media, there is not going to be a complete utopia or dystopia. I believe that mankind will over come challenges to keep the human race alive and well, however, there will also be bad things that happen. Similar to history, there will always be positive and negatives in the world. I appreciate that the 4 futures for Hawaii had a balance of both. One was not complete bleak dystopias nor were they perfect utopias. This is also something we tried to do with our writing. Each Hawaii future considered a direction the world could go in, and depicts how Hawaii would be as a result.

I think our teams future aligns closest to the third Hawaii future because we focused on the depletion of natural resources. After brain storming this future with our team, I was pleased to see a similar future for Hawaii. Not because I want this for the world, but because a professional futurist had a similar idea to ours! We also both described a government implemented rationing system which would make sure the earths resources weren’t wasted. This is something that I could reasonably see becoming a reality.

I think the furthest stretched concept was the fourth future which focused on augmented reality and humans living forever. After spending some time with the VR team at Google this summer, I don’t believe technology will move that quickly. The adoption rate of VR is slow and as of now is mainly used for entertainment. I personally see many valuable applications of VR/AR such as healthcare and education which I would love to see come to life. I do not wish for a future where humans live forever in an alternate reality. I’m curious how the boomer generation would respond to this writing as they are considered “laggards” in adoption to VR/AR technology.

Lastly, my favorite thing from this reading was in the first future where they described Hawaii’s response to rising water. Instead of letting the rising sea level due to climate change destroy their buildings, they took it as an opportunity to rebuild hotels. By rebuilding the resorts, their economy benefitted due to the increased flow of tourists and vacationers. This made me smile. In this future man kind took a horrible event and spun it into a positive. I have faith that cities effected by rising waters will respond in a similar fashion that will benefit their city.

I’d love to hear from Stuart how the Hawaii community responded to the futures. Where they received well? Was one more appealing than another? How did different social classes and groups respond differently?

Response to “The World Made Me” by Porritt —

I found the timeline most interesting in this reading. As I was going through it, I kept thinking to myself- this has already happened! Such as 2045, the year with the worst record for climate change disaster. In light of the recent hurricanes, this is the worst year for natural disasters in my lifetime. If it gets worse than this, that Porritt’s 2045 must be globally horrific such as cities falling into water and dry land burning up from drought and heat. I hope that there is a smaller crisis before 2045 that would trigger behavior change which in result would start to hault or reverse climate change. Its sad, but I think that everyone needs to be effected by something such as a prolonged period without access to clean water in order to spark behavior change. We can’t predict the future, but as designers we can forecast how our lifestyles will effect the future, and design solutions and interventions to counteract the damage.

Another thing this reading brought to mind was how our world will look like with solar panels everywhere. I’m picturing a future where every ounce of real estate is covered with giant black shiny solar panels. I hope this isn’t a future that will come true. It sounds like a depressing environment to look at every day. Maybe for second semester i’ll design what beautiful solar panels could look like integrated into our infrastructure.

Future “Snapshots” Class 8 + 9: Sep 25, 27, 2017 —

Our group outlined what 2050 could be in a future focused on discipline. We used STEM forces (social, tech, economic, environmental, and political) to identify different aspects of what society might be like. The more we got into this, the more our ideas were outlandish or unbelievable. We

2050 snapshot (discipline):

Based on our stickies, we broke up sections for each team member to write about. I focused on political which mainly discussed how the government implemented a rationing system for natural resources. This system stemmed from climate change and the waste and depletion of natural resources such as water, oil, and energy.

During class, each team read aloud their snapshot of the future. These futures were general and overarching. The next step was to hone in on our snap shot by making it an ideal world for ourselves. It should also be more focused on our topic, clean water.

Matrix filled with highlights from other groups future snapshot narratives

Our groups personal narrative is filled with individual and personal ideals. We each wrote a glimpse of our ideal world in 2050. My 2050 includes:

  • Reduced waste — people no longer use disposable packaging; grocery stores and other retailers are designed to use reusable items like jars and canvas bags; each household produces 1 bin of waste/6 month
  • Accessibility — the world is more accessible for people with physical or mental disabilities; new tech like autonomous transportation is available for wheelchairs to ride in which; autonomous tech is also applied to wheelchairs so they are self driving (our groups ideal 2050 narrative)

Sketches I drew on Procreate that correspond to 5 main points brought up in our first 2050 snapshot

While listening to other groups share their snapshots, I sketched out some common ideas that were brought up in their 2050 such as bartering systems, VR/AR education, hyper loop/improved transportation, local gardens, and updated infrastructure/newer technology to solve issues.

Post-it sketches from narratives + Stuart’s lecture where we covered 3 horizons and backcasting

Futures Timelines + Class 10: Oct, 1 2017 —

Our group used the 3 horizons to map a timeline from present day to 2050. We used post-its to map ideas based on our STEM diagram.

Teal: high-level questions we have about our topic in that time
Yellow: monumental events that could cause behavior change
Blue: negative events that are projected to happen based on 2017
Pink: positive events that might happen based on 2017

7 First timeline diagram from today to 2050 with the artifacts from 2050 above the red line

During class, we had a crit for the timelines. I enjoyed this discussion because I felt like I had some very tangible take-aways on more successful practices for communicating through diagrams.

  • There needs to be an entry point: this could come through organization like color coding, high level executive summaries, titles, clustering, etc.
  • Write for communication: your thoughts should be written for someone else to understand, not your self; make the length approachable and digestable- not too much or too little
  • Give context: set up readers to connect the dots between your points, this will give them context and clearer understand of the content
  • Use process as an artifact: designers need people to be okay with lower-fidelity deliverables; your process work can be sketchy but it needs to be rich with thoughtful content and designed for someone else to understand your message
Stacy and Terry leading a class crit on diagraming for effective communication

Based on the feedback we got in class, our group improved our timeline by adding clearer text, context for future prediction (one event leads to the next), color coordination, title, and a flow (arrows).

Second version of the timeline diagram

Our team designed artifacts based on our future for 2050. We thought that in order for sustainable water behaviors something devestating had to happen such as having no access of water for 3-weeks. This kind of event would spark behavior change to more sustainable and healthy ways of living.

Coke is selling reusable glass bottles because consumers no longer want to litter the earth with plastic bottled water (Faith)
Coke is marketing reusable glass water bottles that filter for drinking water (Jesse)
Pittsburgh Residents are getting sick from polluted drinking water (Tina)
The rivers will provide a more sustainable form of transportation by boat and ferry (Me)
Major coastal cities are underwater because of global warming and rising waters (SR)
Pittsburgh is running out of water because of the global drought (Steven)

Max-Neef Met + Unmet Needs Activity —

Notes from Terry’s lecture on needs and lifestyles

For this exercise, I chose the amazon dot because it’s a device that me and my family use regularly. I use it for more trivial things like setting alarms and checking the weather or time. My family uses it to control their environment such as turning off the lights or TV. I chose to examine this object because I have mixed feelings about CUI’s. I think they are useful but encourage laziness. However, I see their biggest value propisition to those with limited physical mobility.

Object that my family uses everyday which fulfills needs and also undermines many needs

I chose a wheelchair because at first thought it seemed like an object that only meets needs (and doesn’t undermine any). While notating the met needs, I started thinking about how much more wheelchairs could be improved. For example, it could even further meet affection or identity if wheelchairs weren’t so ugly. I’m not sure if there’s any designed object that fully meets needs and doesn’t undermine any.

Object that doesn’t unintentionally undermine needs compared to the Amazon Alexa

Response to “Sustainable Lifestyles: Today’s facts + Tomorrow’s trends”—

Before even digging into this reading I have one question…

Did the people who designed the products and services that make up our current world know that it would lead to the political and climate crisis we are currently in? How do the people who design “sustainable” practices know that it won’t lead to something bad 50–100 years down the road?

I’d like to think the people who shape our world aren’t malicious people who only care about turning a profit. They must have seen legitimate merit in deploying their design into the world. Were they really that blind to how it would effect other aspects of our life?

I found this reading especially relevant as we start to shift from research to designing for sustainable futures. One quote stuck with me from this long pdf…

“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.” (Huesemann and Huesemann 2008: p. 815)

I think its extremely important to transition people into sustainable behaviors if you want them to stick. Humans have incredible will-power to change behavior, but only when motivated. There has to be something to motivate people to change. I think that using existing habits like TV, smartphones, water bottles will be the way to change behavior. Cigarettes are a great example. The marketing campaigns around smoking took a complete 180 and people habits quickly followed. Now it is frowned upon to smoke because everyone knows it’s bad for you. If we cared as much about the earth as we do ourselves, we wouldn’t use disposable packaging or plastic water bottles.

The charts in this pdf were helpful to identify areas of focus for changing to sustainable lifestyles, however, they are lacking tangible ways to make this change. I think that is where we come in as designers. Sure, I know that wasting less food is a sustainable habit, and so is packing my lunch. But how do I work that into my life? How can composting food seem like a lifestyle that isn’t weird and gross and annoying? We are so used to convenience because every thing is disposable and at my fingertips. Because we live in a world of convenience there has to be something more attractive about adopting these behaviors.

Mapping Clean Water Interventions Class 11: Oct 4 2017—

During class we documented the major events from our clean water time line (present-2050). Based on each event we labeled what needs it satisfied and inhibited. By doing this we were able to see the breakdown of each event and determine whether it was good, bad, or neutral based on how many needs it inhibited or satisfied.

The green stands for satisfied and red for inhibit; the number corresponds with the event in our timeline
Assigning satisfied and inhibited needs to milestones on our timeline

Our group came up with 6 different interventions for the clean water situation in Pittsburgh:

  1. Water Visibility Filter —
  • Devices to make the quality of drinking water visible before it comes out of the faucet
  • Water problems like lead contamination are invisible, so showing levels of contamination at access points would change awareness of the problem
  • Expanded ideas include changing the appearance of water in public places (physically or virtually) to accurately reflect its cleanliness as a public awareness campaign

2. Pittsburgh Water Testing Start-up —

  • A startup that provides Pittsburgh citizens tools to detect the water pollutants
  • Visibility is the main problem for Pittsburgh citizens to not adopt active measures to protect themselves
  • Subsistence, protection and understanding, but also inhibit protection

3. Pittsburgh Water Challenge —

  • Targeting younger generations through virality of social media
  • Awareness about the contamination in water accessed at homes
  • Encouraging people to change their filters at home

4. Pittsburgh “Blue City” Campaign —

  • Pittsburgh government decides that “water is a fundamental right.” They help PWSA set up a new public water fountain infrastructure
  • Make water more accessible to everyone
  • Acts as first stage of rebuilding PWSA’s very old infrastructure

5. Pittsburgh Tunnel Exhibit —

  • Accessible from Strip District, Downtown and Oakland
  • Travels across both rivers
  • Educational Exhibit + transportation
  • Visibility in the water improves over time as the city water gets cleaner

6. CMU Environmental Major —

  • Funding students to create solutions
  • Partnering with Pittsburgh businesses, encouraging environmental practices
  • Bringing in the community to help make clean water accessible

After coming up with interventions we assigned each one to a group member to visualize. I took the underwater tunnel idea because I saw it as a good opportunity to sketch a cool scenario on my ipad.

Clean water intervention map

For our interventions I focused on visualizing the underwater tunnel concept that is an educational exhibit for Pittsburgh Residents. It can also act as a form of transportation from residents wanting to get from Downtown, Oakland, or South Side across the river. In this digital sketch you can see residents entering the underground tunnel system and traveling across the river. You can also see residents entering the exhibit tunnel and walking or biking across. This tunnel is meant to educate people about the water situation in Pittsburgh. By this I mean how water gets to their faucets and the current crisis the PWSA is facing with water contamination. By increasing awareness and education around the topic we hope that people will invest more in their water and their health which will in return put pressure on the government to fix the situation. I think this idea could be especially interesting because the cleaner the water gets the more visible the water will be while in the tunnel. This means if the water gets worse, so would the visibility from inside the tunnel. I’m hoping because of this people will get emotionally invested in the state of their city’s water.

Digital sketch of underwater tunnel intervention

Response to “Service Design 101” by Lauren Chapman Ruiz —

I found this short article helpful going into Molly’s lecture on Service Design. It made me think about the services and intangible customer experiences that I rely on in addition to the physical products in my life. One service I depend on frequently is Uber and Lyft. I can think back to freshman year when I would have to call a taxi if I needed a ride to the airport or doctors appointment. They were unreliable and expensive. Now, I have faith in car sharing services to pick me up on time, exactly where I am, and get me to my destination quickly and for a fair price. The service that ride sharing has created is an example of good service design. Much thought went into the back stage and front stage components of the service.

This service has truly changed the way my generation gets around in major cities. Its interesting that my parents have less trust in ride sharing than I do because they haven’t used it as much as me. This is partly because they live in the suburbs where they have cars and parking everywhere so there is no need for ride sharing. My family is also reliant on a handicap conversion van which isn’t offered by Uber or Lyft. The service has helped fill this gap by being able to share your ride status with friends and family. I am able to ease my parents nervousness when I am in a car with a stranger in a 45 minute ride home by sending them my location and car information during the ride. This is a product of service design.

Service Design Lecture + Activity Class 12: Oct 9, 2017 —

During the service design session with Molly our class split up into teams (by tables) and designed a service for music sharing. We first started with a brainstorm where our group ideated different avenues worth exploring. During this time we identified that we wanted to interpret music sharing as co-creation in a public space like Times Square in NYC.

Brainstorming what direction to take our prompt: design a music sharing service

After narrowing in on music sharing as co-creation we broke up into pairs of two to brainstorm three scenarios. Each of us used different people, props, processes, places, and partners. We came back together and shared our ideas as a group. The direction we went in was Steven’s and Jesse’s idea of creating an interactive jungle gym installation that made different noises and rhythms based on what part of the playground you touched. We also incorporated Faith and I’s idea of bringing together two different groups of people, old and young, through co-creation of music.

Concept brainstorm for music sharing experience services

Our group created “Jungle Jam”, a space to co-create music through an interactive playground sponsored by the New York City Philharmonic and Sony. They paired up together to create an interactive jungle gym that plays music based on what parts of the playground are being used. Each piece of jungle jam uses different tones, beats, and instruments. The more people are in the installation the faster the music plays. In order to flesh out this concept we used a service blueprint map (below). We sketched out the user journey and identified touch-points, actors, and systems for each step in the experience.

Service blueprint and Jungle Jam model

For our pitch we made a model of Jungle Jam with building blocks and used figurines as visitors. Jesse used Garage Band on the iPad to show the music that would play as Tina and Faith moved the actors around in Jungle Jam. After the short skit, Steven and I explained our service blueprint and discussed the touch-points throughout the service.

Adults who brought their young loved ones to Jungle Jam

Response to “Practical Service Blueprinting” by Erik Flowers & Megan Erin Miller —

Blueprinting is a method that I have heard about but never used in practice. My first real time using a service blueprint was during the activity we did in class. We first sketched out the user journey on a time line than went in to fill the details in after (actors, touch points, systems). I think this was an unusual case because we were still designing as we were sketching out the service so we couldn’t identify the details step by step. Had we had more time to flesh out the blueprint we could have been more thorough with each column.

I don’t see myself going into service design because right now I am very passionate about designing physical products. Although it doesn’t currently align with my interests I can see service design blueprinting being a tool I can apply to other areas of design. Specifically, a project I am working on now. I am designing tangible wheelchair controls for wheelchairs that are autonomous and work within the internet of things. To approach this problem, I could service blueprint how wheelchairs currently operate within services in society (ex. eating at a restaurant, using public transportation, going to a doctors appointment). Based on this reading, I should be able to identify common themes and pain points between all three services that I would be able to fix in the design of my wheelchair controls.

Presenting 6 interventions + 1 intervention Deep Dive Class 13: Oct, 11 2017 —

During class each group presented their six intervention ideas. Each of our group members presented the idea that they visualized (I did water tunnels). Our idea that we thought was the most worth diving into revolved around the visibility of contaminates in Pittsburgh water. We chose to dive into this idea because it seemed like a tangible product and service that could clean Pittsburgh water and also source data for the government to use to improve the outdated water system infrastructure in Pittsburgh. This filters main goal is to bring awareness to the lead levels in the water. Currently, this is a huge issue because the lead level is not visible in water which means residents aren’t aware of the toxins they are drinking.

This IoT filter would be distributed to residential and public faucets throughout the city. The filter would indicate the lead levels in the water through an animated and visual interface. The data would be communicated to the user and be sent to the government and also publicly available. With the Pittsburgh community knowing about the invisible lead levels the government would feel pressured to fix the corroded pipes. The PWSA could also use the geographical data to pinpoint the pipes in Pittsburgh that need to be fixed which they currently don’t know.

IoT lead water filter for residential and public water spouts
Diagram for IoT filter used in our presentation (Steven)
Pittsburgh being connected by the IoT filter diagram (Steven)

Response to “Transition Design Cases” —

The transition design case studies in this doc were helpful to dig into because it actually showed me how transition design is being applied to the world outside of the CMU school of design. One that particularly sparked my interest was the Criterion Institute because of its affiliation with churches. It seemed like they were trying to tackle a lot — domestic violence, financial economies, and churches to create “God’s economy”? I think if you are in the space of transitional design you should be very clear about your goals and what your mission is. I think that fliplabs did a great job of this, they are trying to fix overfishing for x, y, z, reasons. The Criterion Institute could benefit by being more clear about their objectives if they want buy in for their cause. They use vague solutions like blueprints, workshops, and tool kits as means to intervene in the system but still I left their website not knowing what they are actually trying to do. I took away from this reading that you need to be very thoughtful about your approach when communicating your purpose. Especially in such a new and controversial field of design. If you do it well and gain enough traction and interest from investors or the community you might actually gain the resources to make your intervention possible. It very much becomes a communication design challenge on top of transition design.

Response to “LEAP Dialogs” by Tommy Lynn & Suzi Sosa—

Which do you think is the more powerful skill of designers, the ability to make things beautiful or a new way of solving problems?
TL: I think it is the ability to pair the two. 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…Designers have an edge on others by being able to think big, and then bring that to life by actually creating their vision.

This is a powerful message, and one I have never been able to articulate myself. What’s so amazing about CMU Product Design is the emphasis on problem solving. I experienced this most during junior and senior studio. We get to pair that with sensitivity to form which I learned through sophomore studio and experimental form. We are being trained to solve problems visually regardless of what track you chose. Often times when people describe design (especially in HCI), they suck the life out of it, it’s not about emotion or elegance or problem solving. It’s some dry formulated version of how to make a “good design”. I’ve been feeling around in the dark lately as to what design is to me and this was a fresh and pleasant reminder of who I am and the purpose I serve. I hope as transition designers in this studio we don’t lose sight of our visual skills and begin to fold that more into our research next semester.

Response to “Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise” by Matthew Manos & Stuart Candy —

This piece made me re-visit the topic of practicing sustainable habits if you trying to be a social entrepreneur. I think you lose credibility as a designer if you claim to be designing a better future if you are part of the problem. I don’t mean part of the problem in the sense that we are all consumers feeding capitalism and we are all ruining the planet. I mean part of the problem in the sense that you are obviously continuing habits out of convenience even though you say your self they are killing the earth. I think this class could benefit from a “walk-the-walk” challenge for a week. Don’t use plastic water bottles, don’t use disposable packaging, etc. Not to say that these are the answers to our problems. But it’s a place to start, right? We should personally each have more pride and stake in the matter. Lets say I go to a poor neighborhood to research clean water because their pipes are corroded with lead and the government doesn’t have the resources to fix them. I’m talking to this family while drinking out of a $4 disposable plastic water bottle I brought from entropy. How does that make me look? Isn’t that completely contradictory while I tell them that I am here to design a better future with clean water and less pollution for all? I feel like we shouldn’t be bi-standers as we design in this space. We should also be activists. We should talk-the-talk AND walk-the-walk. When I say we I mean myself, my peers, and anyone working in or close to transition design. — side note, I looked at Stuart’s vimeo page and learned that he worked on Nature Pod. I saw this video awhile back and thought it was disgusting until I learned that its a satirical piece meant to get people thinking about emerging technologies and how they will shape our future. It would be really cool if we could use our P, E, + C skills to make an experience like this. Something to spark conversation about the future that also flexes our making muscles.

Service Design for Clean Water —

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.

“Blue City” Water Station Service touchpoint map
Sketching out the touch points for our Blue City water station service

Fish Lecture + Activity Class 15: Oct 18, 2017 —

Notes from fish lecture

Reflecting on 1/2 of a semester of Transition Design —

After our discussion in class, I have been reflecting on my overall thoughts and experiences in this studio so far. I think its cool were on the forefront of transition design education. It’s exciting to be apart of shaping something so new and untapped. I have learned about new ways to think critically and approach giant problems. I have also learned what it means to diagram and map is legible and communicative ways. I have trust in this school and my professors to teach me valuable topics.

For my personal goals, I want to come out of senior year with a kick-ass product design project where I get to work with C and E people. You need all of those skills to really create something with innovative thinking and fantastic craft. I have come to terms that it won’t come out of this studio, at least first semester. I learned that this is about learning the frameworks and methodologies of transition design, not a viable intervention. I don’t know where that fits into my pitch as a designer. I want to make physical products. I want to design really beautiful objects that can help people. I’m still trying to figure out where that will place me in the UX dominated job market, let alone figure out how transition design makes me a more attractive candidate at a company for what I want to do.

I am excited to see what comes of next semester as it seems more geared towards making :)

Mapping Intervention Ideas Class 17 + 18: Oct 18, 2017 —

Our group members individually wrote down one service design idea and one social innovation idea that we felt were worth pursuing. We came together and narrowed them into 6 different interventions. From there, we showed how they connected to different topics in our studio. There was the most overlap with education. However, our team of 6 decided to split up into teams of 3 and work on a 2-part intervention: IoT water filter + water filter data.

intervention Map with 6 interventions, how they connect to other topics, and open questions we have about each intervention

The IoT water filter is a device that residents of Pittsburgh would use on their faucets at home. The filter would sense the quality of water and communicate the contaminants to the owner. This will increase awareness and education around what is in the water we are drinking. Additionally it will filter the water to a healthy drinking level.

The filter data collected about the contaminants in the water will be used by the Pittsburgh government and PWSA. With this information they will be able to pinpoint the highest priority pipes that are effected by lead corrosion. The aggregated data will also be viewable by the public to learn more about the areas in Pittsburgh that are directly effected by corroded pipes. This could be helpful for example if you personally do not have a filter, but your neighbors do, and your neighbors have contaminated water. It is likely that you are also effected by unhealthy drinking water, which would motivate you to get a filter too. Lastly, the filter would alert you when the water is too unhealthy to drink. Imagine a water advisory that is communicated to you through your water filter.

This 2-part service design intervention will help the government tackle the outdated infrastructure by providing accurate real time data about the pipes in Pittsburgh. It will also increase public awareness and knowledge about the water situation in the city. Which will then put more pressure on the government to fix it. Imagine if an entire neighborhood was contaminated because of one parent pipe. If we were able to identify the source then it could be fixed, especially with the entire neighborhood aware of the issue.

schedule / timeline for water team project

We sketched out a rough timeline for our project. We are broken up into two groups 1. Me, Tina, and Faith — working on the IoT filter for homes; 2. Jesse, Sara Remi, and Steven — working on the data visualizer for the public and the government. Together these components will be apart of one brand or company that brings clean water and education to cities effected by contaminated water. Some of our deliverables include the design of the filter (sketches, CAD model, animations) and design of the visualizer. Our team will work together to create a cohesive visual brand and message.

Service Blueprint for IoT Water Filter System—

Our group worked together to flesh out a service blueprint. By doing this, we were able to iron out exactly how the two systems overlap and work as a system. We started with a first pass on the white board and transferred to mural. I believe the touch points on this blueprint will continue to evolve as we develop our concept.

sketching out map in class
Steven’s digitized version of the blueprint

Proposals —

Our water team crafted project proposals that went through multiple drafts and iterations to narrow down on exactly what problem we were trying to solve/investigate.

These were some of our big questions going into the design phase
Team water’s original timeline for the project and deliverables

Filter Inspiration —

Faith, Tina, and I spent a week collecting images that aligned with our water theme. We used existing product design, graphic design, and packaging design to inspire our IoT water filter solution. This came to life on a shared pinterest board. The images that we found particularly inspiring we printed, cut out, and pinned up for the entire water group to see.

Shared pinterest board of water images for the filter device
The filter process board: we used this white board to sketch ideas, pin up inspiration imagery , and note things to change/try/test

Pittsburgh Water (GROSS!!!!!) —

After researching water for half a semester you become sensitive to the water you’re drinking. We’ve noticed some sketchy water things happening such as dirty water from the tap. Veolia trucks in the city, which is the company that caused the first lead water advisory last year. Dirty toilet water in Margaret Morrison (FYI that is not my pee). And lastly a chain of emails about water pipe construction going on on campus.

Initial Design, Speed Dating, + Feedback —

Our intial filter design was a primitive pill shape that was 3-d printed. We chose to move forward with a pill shape, vs. rectilinear or cylindrical because the shape worked well with the contaminant graphics faith was designing in parallel. The pill made the device approachable and fun but still have a serious and sleek tone.

This model was made using Fusion 360, makerbot with grey plastic filament, and laser-cut acrylic screens. In this model you can see they are too thick.

For the speed dating session we ordered a chrome dipped faucet to mount the filter on. This way it gave the filter scale and context.

Faith designed and animated graphics for the interface that represented water with contaminants. For the feedback session we printed the screens out and taped it inside

This was the first time we presented our idea as a company, safe2o. We started getting feedback on how to present ourselves and our pitch. We also showed the filter screen animation, and diagram of the break down of products.

Steven, Sara, and Jesse showed initial designs for the educational tool, AR tool, and government tool.

In google doc each group documented the feedback they got on their presentation. For the filter, we focused on these main points:

  1. How do people learn about the filter?
  2. How do people buy/afford a filter?
  3. How can they read the screen if its behind the water?
  4. How will people know how to decode the interface?
  5. What are the right ways to communicate contaminates?
  6. Can a filter be that small? Where do the electronics go?
  7. Does the owner need to replace the filter monthly? weekly?
  8. Is real time lead sensing possible? Or will it be possible in 2030?
  9. What if the user doesn’t have access to a computer?

Team water came together after the speed dating to review feedback from each round.

Two Weeks of Making, Making, Making —

We re-grouped after break to flesh out changes that needed to be made in the system. After multiple group meetings we settled on a flow that made sense and each person really dug into their own deliverable.

Maggie + Tina: Filter + packaging design + fabrication
Faith: Filter interface, animation, + packaging graphics
Sara: Safe2o Website Tool
AR Tool + System Overview
Government Tool

The following photos are all process shots our team put into the group chat throughout the heavy making process. We did this as a way to update our group and also get quick feedback. Everyone was very responsive, critical, and encouraging, which ultimately led to better designs.

Whiteboard sketch of the safe2o service plan

We used the group chat to check things off our list and collaborate between group meetings.

Maggie, Tina, and Faith’s to-do list // Tina showing me where to find the model she left in Porter

Sara focused on the web tool which was important to teach residents about water quality and the safe2o filter. She experimented with different styles, colors, types, and icons.

Early versions of Sara’s website splash page

Tina made renderings on Fusion360 and Keyshot of the filter device. We chose a white exterior with chrome trim to have a “clean” appearance and also look cohesive mounted on a sink faucet.

Faith made multiple iterations of the filter interface which she animated on after effects. These show two concepts we explored that communicate the contaminants in the Pittsburgh water. The left one is too busy, and we learned that the right is too simplified.

Animation of water and contaminants running through the filter overlayed on the filter rendering

Our team worked with Sara and Faith to develop a visual language that embodied safe2o. We landed on something similar to the right image: a blue color pallete with black stroke lines and offset color blocks.

Sara’s exploration with icons for the Web tool

Jesse sketched out the AR tool using the wacom tablet and photoshop. Because AR is a new technology, a refined sketch made the most sense versus trying to prototype a working AR concept for safe2o.

Close up of the safe2o AR sticker which would be near public water stations in Pittsburgh

Tina and I worked together to design and fabricate the packaging for the safe2o filter. Tina made another CAD model to 3d print which included finger holes for packaging that you might find in your iphone box. We used this as a mold to vacuum form over. After multiple trials and errors we got a model and pull on the machine that fit our filter nearly perfectly. Tina cut it out to a size that fit into the box I printed and assembled.

3d printed model in the vacuum formed .020 styrene sheet

I continued to work on fabricating the filter. This was the second iteration of the filter. On the CAD model I made more room for the 1/8th in. acrylic screen that snapped into the front and back. I also laser cut and painted the second iteration of the interface design. Overall, this model was very cute and clean, however, it didn’t communicate enough information because the icons are so simplified. It’s too abstracted from what is really going on. The linear line of the icons also made it confusing, as if one contaminant is more important than another.

3d printed, laser cut, and spray painted safe2o filter

Faith explored how to show the amount and size of contaminants on the screen. This design ended up being too small for legibility because the actual screen is less than 3 inches long.

safe2o filter interface design, the arrow represents clean water coming out the bottom of the filter

Sara first experimented with really bright colors. This accomplished the fun tone we wanted the branding to have, however, it didn’t communicate water very well. We transitioned into a more blue focused palette to convey water, with orange as an accent color to indicate contaminants.

Color and landing page studies
Iteration of the main navigation page on the web tool

Tina played with different colors to make the back drop of the filter render. We ultimately chose a blue that matches the safe2o branded blue. However, it was easy to test colors because the render was a png with a transparent background. These renders were done on keyshot.

Color study for the landing page/product renderings

After switching to a blue color theme, the site began to feel more connected to water. The icons represent important parts of our product and each sub-section dives into content about water quality and ways to learn about water in Pittsburgh + the safe2o filter.

Main sections for the safe2o Web tool

Faith explored different logos for safe2o. We decided that the punched out “o” made the most sense for readability, although the filled “o” made sense because it is the same icon as the contaminants.

safe2o logo explorations

The final home page for the web tool used the pipe graphics to connect each section. The contaminants running through the pipes add visual interest and work well with the animation as it transitions from one page to the next.

Final design for the web tool home page

Having quality content for the website was an important part of the tool. As a team, we worked together on creating accurate and well-written copy for Sara to use in the web tool.

Google doc of the copy Sara used for the Web tool

Presenting as a cohesive company was a big part of our pitch as an intervention. In order to sell the story more of a game-changing start-up in 2030, I made tee-shirts for the team with our logo. We all planned to wear these on the day of the show.

teeshirts made with a styrene laser cut stencil, super 77, blue fabric paint, and a sponge brush

To make the sink look more presentable, I made a base for it to rest on. This way it could stand on its own without any distracting hardware beneath where the countertop would normally be. I made this stand out of high density foam. To make it appear more cohesive with the faucet, I routed a radius on the top perimeter edge and rounded the corners on the disk sander.

Faucet stand made out of foam and finished with 180 sandpaper and a light grey primer

With Chris’s help, I 3d printed the filter on the SLA resin printer in porter. This type of print has a much better surface quality compared to the filament printers. We use a white resin to print two final filters: one for the faucet display and one for the packaging. I can see a future where the filters use cheap additive manufacturing in real life production.

form labs resin printer making 2 safe2o filters

Steven worked on the tool which made sense of the filter data for the government. These are iterations on his interface design. The map of pittsburgh shows the areas with pipes that need to be fixed more immediately.

Tool for the government made using Sketch

We used 6 icons throughout the entire product that represent water and contaminants. Each shape corresponds to a different element that is dangerous to your health if it passes a certain level in your water. The blue circle represents water. These particular contaminants are specific to Pittsburgh water.

contaminant and water icons

Faith designed pipe graphics to wrap around the box of the filter. The pipes are representative of what our company does, and are also assets that Sara tied into the web tool.

Packaging graphics with and without contaminants

The last change to our interface was scaling up the sizes of the contaminants. We did this to increase visibility when reading the sensor data.

Files I used to laser etch the interface into clear acrylic

After we finalized the interface design, I took a still from the animation and laser etched it into clear acrylic. I used the mask on the acrylic to layer up paint for the different shapes an colors. I painted, sanded, and assembled the product in Porter.

Painting the filter and filter screens in the spray booth

Faith, Tina, Steven, and I spent Friday photographing the safe2o products in the photo studio. We used the white backdrop and the ortho rig to document the booklets.

Safe2o Final Outcomes —

Team safe2o:
These are some of my favorite people. Together we make safe2o, a start-up solving the clean water crisis that has devastated Pittsburgh and other cities with outdated infrastructure through a water sensing filtration device. It was awesome to work with a group of people with diverse skills that mesh so well. From these pictures you can tell we took our project seriously, but had fun doing it.

Moments before Faith dropped the filter lol^

Safe2o Adoption Timeline:
The adoption timeline outlines the steps and impact our start-up safe2o will have on cities with low access to clean water, from initial funding to replicating the models in new cities.

IoT Filter:
The safe2o water filter is an internet of things device. This filter is valuable because it senses the contaminants in resident’s faucet water in real time. The interface visualizes the types and amount of contaminants to the user. This way they learn more about their water health before it is filtered to be clean enough to drink. The data sensed about your water is sent the government to inform them which pipes are experiencing the worst contamination. This way, they are able to pin-point pipes and fix them quicker.

Filter Interface:
The filter interface uses an e-ink screen that requires a small amount of energy to power. It only needs power when water flowing through the filter. A small propeller inside the device uses the flow of water to power the screen. The screen display the types and amounts of contaminants in the water. It also alerts you of water advisories in Pittsburgh that are too contaminated for the filter to handle.

Filter Instructions:
The filter instructions are part of the safe2o filter package. Its a booklet that teaches you how to install, read, and use the filter. For more detailed information, owners can refer to the safe2o website.

Government Tool:
Steven’s government tool is a digital experience designed for water government officials like the PWSA. The interface allows workers to interact with the geographical and sensor data that is collected through the IoT Filter. This is an important part of the system because the government needs to be able to make sense of the valuable filter data in order to repair the infrastructure in Pittsburgh.

Web Tool:
Sara Remi’s web tool is essential to the safe2o service. Residents can visit to learn about water health in Pittsburgh and also purchase (or request for free) a filter. This site will be a large entry point for citizens to buy into safe2o and caring about water quality in their city.

AR Tool:
Jesse’s AR Tool sketch explains an augmented reality experience that allows citizens to check water quality in public areas. This is an important part of the system because it encourages pittsburgh residents to learn about their cities water quality, even if they don’t have the safe2o filter. If they interact with this, and are curious about their home specifically, they are likely to go purchase a filter and learn more about water health at