Design Research Studio

thoughts + reflections from senior studio

8/29/17 Intro to Transitional Design + Meadows Reading

What did I get out of today? To provide an overview, I felt like I was transported to an observational room where I could get a sense of what the past 3 years of my education were focused around. I’ve heard the spiel a few times before, but now that I have much more context, understanding, and a bit of experience under my belt I’m very excited for what is to come this year. Transitional design… what an interesting field to enter with a whole new level of responsibility required.

I couldn’t be more excited. I think that sitting there in that room and understanding what being a transitional designer entails and how far reaching their skillset can be just feels inspiring. Of course, if we choose to have a more narrow focus that’s okay too. It’s what traditional training allows for and if someone can live a life of peace and prosperity doing something that can change people’s lives in just a small way every time they are somehow affected by that design, that’s still purposeful and exciting. If someone is happy doing that, then I will always be supportive of them.

Transitional design is something more. When I think about it, I like to compare it to something like basketball. It started off as just a fun pastime. As the sport developed, rules were created, an organization became structured, jobs emerged, and a whole new mini ecosystem was born. The world of the NBA and basketball worldwide is more than just a game. It’s a career for some, dreams and inspirations for others, and a platform that can support outreach for the entire world. Every player can make a decision about what the sport means to them. For some it can be an outlet, a way to work hard everyday, and even a means to an end. Others can use their status as a professional athlete to help support important issues going on in the world.

It takes time for an idea to turn from a pastime into an ecosystem. It has happened with basketball and I believe that it’s a very exciting time to be a designer because of the solid infrastructure in design that now exists. Design thinking can be used in important conversations and is capable of helping solve HUGE real world issues.

I want to leave a positive mark on this world in the future and my opportunity to do so will be here more quickly than I am probably going to be ready for. I think this class will provide me with a new perspective as to how complicated wicked problems really are (even if they are totally simplified like the bathtub analogy in the Meadows reading) and tools I can use (like the wicked problem matrix Terry provided) to get to the root of the problem in hopes of finding ways to better the situation.

8/30/17 Class Introducing Wicked Problems

I’ve previously been exposed to wicked problems in the past when I took social innovation, but it’s feels quite different when they are brought so close to home. The issues I learned about before had to do with access to clean water in Africa or access to technology. While I am absolutely well aware those problems exist right on my doorstep, really analyzing them makes me realize just how much of an issue they are and how difficult they are to help improve / solve.

Our group was given the task of learning about access to quality education in Pittsburgh. In a previous class I took I read a few articles about how poor the public school system is in Pittsburgh. I’ve also heard from friends interesting stories about what it’s like to go to a private school in Pittsburgh.

I’m also proud of our group for getting third place in the trivia game we played… proving we aren’t completely clueless about where we live.

Terry’s Ojai Reading Reflection

I found this reading a helpful jumping off point for the project. I think it was interesting to start to see the different systems framing being used to map out information about existing problems and possible solutions, stakeholder maps, and future scenario development.

One of the powerful pieces that stuck with me a bit more is the leverage points that Terry talked about. Whenever we talk about fixing a problem in the world we want to go straight to talking about the physical infrastructure, the economic issues, the politics that exist etc. Terry mentioned that the leverage points that may matter most are us… the people intertwined in that system that exists. The people who experience the problem that every day and have differing lifestyles, opinions, worldview, and motivations that all can contribute to the problem but may also be part of the solution. Being able to shift a person’s perspective and alter their behavior may even be something that can be done for free. It doesn’t take a budget to give someone knowledge that can alter their original opinion or behavior.

This is something that is very important and should definitely not be overlooked when we continue our research.

I think in regards to how this may apply to education we need to be able to shift people’s opinions about how poor the public school system is in Pittsburgh. We also need to show with information how important receiving an education is and how much it can impact someone’s future.

I also believe that while people may be the biggest leverage points for change, they are sometimes the most challenging components in the system to alter. People with deep rooted opinions may be hard to shift to a different mindset no matter how much data you throw at them that proves they need to switch their beliefs. In many cases people really need to be open to change.

Initial Team Research

Here are some notes I took as I was getting oriented with how education currently exists in Pittsburgh and some of the notable issues. (links to sources)

“I’m here representing a group whose voices are suppressed, and that’s the parents, mostly on the periphery,” said parent advocate Maria Searcy of the North Side. “My fight, my struggle, my passion is for parents who want to do the same for their children.”
Group most in need — predominantly African-American kids from impoverished Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
According to local advocacy group A+ Schools, African-American students represent the majority population in Pittsburgh Public Schools yet they are in the minority of students who reach or exceed expectations for success.
When resources such as quality teachers, support, and funding are scarce, the neighborhoods who have access tend to hold on tightly. Reinventing the way Pittsburgh education is governed is essential, King says.
Shimira Williams of TekStart, a STEM-based before- and after-school program, pointed out the need for not only better education but also access to quality employment that makes kids want to stay in Pittsburgh for careers after graduation.
Extending the invitation means thinking beyond just people involved directly in education and broadening the idea of stakeholders for issues of educational equity, she said.
“Educational equity is a workforce issue, and a housing issue, and a health care issue, and a policy issue, and we need to make sure that people who understand and represent other sectors are involved in these conversations as well,” Delale-O’Connor said.

“Remake Learning Days”

Ms. Lane said she believed teachers’ uncertainty about their jobs, increased security during the PSSA exams and the lack of funding for interim assessments in the 2011–12 school year contributed to the decrease in achievement. This year the interim assessments, which help identify areas where students might be struggling, have been reinstituted.
Ms. Lane said that as a result of the increased security surrounding the test, which was implemented to reduce the possibility of cheating, teachers felt less inclined to offer encouragement and the testing environment was less relaxed for students.
The district’s graduation rate decreased from 70 percent to 68.5 percent and the number of seniors who earned a 2.5 or higher grade point average — needed to qualify for Pittsburgh Promise scholarships — dropped 1 percentage point to 58 percent of students. For black students, the number dropped 4 percentage points to 39 percent.
Let’s start with the state, which, as we all know by now, cut nearly $1BILLION from public schools last year, then carried those draconian cuts forward into this year’s budget.
But Governor Corbett cut close to $30million from Pittsburgh schools, and it’s time the district started educating the community about exactly what the consequences of those cuts have been.
The school symbolizes the millions of dollars expended on schools no longer open as Pittsburgh Public Schools has struggled to decide which schools to keep open or reopen, which to close and which to renovate in the face of declining enrollment, increased charter school choices and deficit budgets.
Since 2004, the district has spent more than $23 million on capital improvements in 20 buildings that no longer house students.

9/6/17 — Class / Mapping our wicked problem

Our first attempt at pulling together different factors that affect access to education

Being part of a large team has its benefits when it comes to breaking up a project into bite sizes pieces. Each person in our team did initial research that encompassed all of public education so that we could each get a lay of the land. When we came back we delivered the different points that we each found and then went back to doing more research on individual topics.

9/09/17 Research Progress

So far our group has been able to identify some of the overarching principles and find topics within each that require more research.

Once our topics were categorized we broke down each and got more specific.

As we continue to break away from generalizations, our team has been reorganizing and trying to figure out which points refer to our project specifically. There are many issues that exist within public education from a general perspective, but it’s important that we don’t lose the scope of ‘access to quality education in Pittsburgh’.

After bringing up the level of specificity, our group began to organize the topics into a web (for infrastructure / tech, politics, social, economic, and environmental) to better highlight the overlaps of the problems that exist.

Next, we are looking to find specific details and examples to help support the data we have categorized. Having concrete facts will allow us to prioritize our focus and reveal the stakeholders in play.

  • Drug use
  • Environment (climate, school closing)
  • State / federal policy
  • After school / in school program cuts
  • Resource disparities between stereotypes of schools (black, white, rich, poor, etc)
  • Intellectual and physical accessibility
Depth into each sticky note allows for clarification and understanding for both our team and viewers not well versed in our wicked problem

One of the big issues we discussed in class was the fact that any bystander needs to be able to come up and read this information and have some kind of understanding quickly as to the information being displayed. I think our team did a really good job diving deep into every note to make sure it’s clear for us and anyone who reads our map.

Capra Reading

This reading really brought home the fact that we need to change the way we think about the world and I really love the comparison to the Copernican Revolution. It really is that drastic of a shift. Not just the fact that we need to shift the way we do things to become sustainable in every aspect, but also the concept that our world is connected far more than meets the eye. It reminds of some of my favorite movies like “Avatar” where the researchers say that all of the living organisms on the planet Pandora are connected. The way that the author talks about our world the more I start to believe the same thing. The fact that certain shifts can only take place if others come first.

The question I have about this reading is:

How do we make this more apparent to leaders? And is the way we make this necessary change in worldview the same for just the average person as well?

More mapping

Pictured below is our groups attempt at taking some of the categories that we broke down education into and mapping them with STEEP. Doing this afterwards was far easier than starting with STEEP which is something we’ve definitely done in past classes for research. Once we categorized our research it was just a matter of reorganizing them through another lens.

Using post its to map our education with STEEP

9/11/17 Terry Lecture

  • Worldview, belief systems, and cultural norms go largely unexamined and change so slowly as to be imperceptible.
  • Finding the root of the problem is the best place for intervention
  • Terry also brought up an interesting point about being able to map out a point until you really can’t get any further
  • Talking about Comcast and what truly is the root of the problem… Capitalism???

9/13/17 Interesting article for education

Lily Kim sent this to our group and it really had a huge impact on me. When someone without prior knowledge thinks about how education could possibly be fixed the first thing they might think is either: throw money at it or hire better teachers. This article says that there are much deeper rooted problems that exist. Things like the fact that some students may not be able to succeed because they live in poor housing -> dusty conditions -> heightens their asthma -> they don’t sleep well -> can’t concentrate in class -> does poor in school. These are problems that I definitely didn’t deal with and neither does the average kid growing up.

Another interesting point that was brought up was the fact that sometimes it doesn’t take better teachers or changing up the curriculum. Sometimes teachers need to communicate better with other teachers in order to make sure that kids are not being overloaded in all their classes as well as the fact that teachings is not something done in a silo. It takes time to prep with other teachers so that everyone has an understanding of what everyone else is teaching.

9/13/17 Class + Stakeholder mapping

After mapping out the major components that contribute to the problems that exist in education we began taking a look at the different stakeholders.

iPad sketch for initial stakeholder map

After taking an initial stab at who plays a part in the system, we began to dive deep into each. This time we made sure to elaborate on what each of the different categories of stakeholders meant and details about them to add to their purpose existing and being noted in our system.

The next thing we did was diagram the biggest stakeholders: Betsy Devos, Public Schools, and Tax Payers. Through connecting different components with green and red tape we saw which viewpoints and details complement each other and which conflict.

After working on this we broke our groups up into pairs to talk about “Hopes + Aspirations and Concerns + Fears”.

Lily and I worked together documenting what tax payers hopes and fears are in regards to education. Doing this allowed us to see how when it comes to each individual we are all self centered and want what’s best for ourselves and our children.

Block Reading

Peter Block talked all about communities and really broke down what it means to be part of one. I’ve never really had a hard time understanding what it means to be part of a group. In every phase of life I’ve been part of some sort of community — some of which I have felt that I belonged in more than others. At CMU I’ve become part of not only the School of Design community, but also the design community in general. It’s an incredible feeling learning and growing on my own and being able to talk to someone I have never met before and how we both make each other feel welcome.

I think this reading also relates to something that the United States is currently going through right now. The fact that some people don’t feel as represented as others. I think that it’s really interesting to start to dissect these issues the way that Block is talking about them and see how that can change perspective. The only way that these wicked problems will come to pass is by working together to solve them.

Jungk Reading

This writing gives me perspective as to how lucky we are to be getting the education we are receiving at CMU. I am very aware that futures thinking is definitely not something that popped up just a few years ago, but it’s interesting to see what people were thinking about when it first began. I can imagine us looking back at what the first futures workshops were like NOW being something similar to how people 50 YEARS FROM NOW will look back at this time period and talk about when we are just on the cusp of making VR mainstream. What’s also interesting to me is how well developed the idea of futures back then seems. Sure progress around futures thinking has been made, but it was powerful even back then — seeing how our actions will carry us forth into the lives and lifestyles of future generations…it’s always been important even when global warming wasn’t quite as prevalent.

9/18/17 Skits about Hopes + Fears

Today in class we took the different hopes and fears lists and basically turned it into a real life scenario to help make it digestible for people to understand. Our scenario embodied two different types of stakeholders: those that can afford housing and don’t want to pay taxes for people that can’t, and those that are struggling to afford suitable housing and can’t afford to pay for expensive taxes.

Our scenario was realistic and helped to highlight real issues that we believe both people could possibly encounter.

Some of the other groups chose to take a more comical route. We had a long discussion about how it was unfair for groups to do this because it poked fun at real issues people deal with that none of us ever have to deal with or have experienced before. It was a wakeup call to the fact that throughout the design process people need to continue to show empathy.

Writing a script for hopes and fears of “Taxpayers”

Taxpayers living in different districts with different costs of property tax and education quality

Max: Hi, I haven’t seen you in awhile. How are the boys? How is the house? Liking the old neighborhood?
Lily: Great to see you, I’m actually on my way to the realtors right now. I’m looking to move houses soon. I’ve actually heard great things about your neighborhood! What do you think?
Max: Well I’m enjoying it. I love the large lots — my house is a 4 bedroom and the streets are wide which makes parking easy, space for the kids to run around and I don’t have to worry too much about them getting in the way of traffic when they play in the street. Not to mention the public school my oldest son just graduated from was great. But now that I’m planning on having my younger children go to a private school, I wonder if I should stay around. The taxes are just so high. You’ve only been at your house for a year. What makes you think of moving?
Lily: There is a couple things actually. The neighborhood itself is okay. It’s not dangerous or anything, but I’ve noticed that a lot of parents are either moving out for towns with better schools or kids are moving out to private school. Timmy’s class size lost a lot of students this year, and I think it is taking a toll on his education. Now that Timmy is about the enter middle school, I am concerned with some of the issues regarding the school. I’m just considering other options.
Max: Yea, I totally get it. I’m finding it hard to justify the property tax rates in my current house. Especially now that Johnny has graduated and little Belinda will be going to private school.I just wanted to come in and look for other options.
Lily: Yea I’ve heard that your neighborhood has some of the highest tax rates in the city. I don’t mind paying it right now though. I’m hoping that when we move the new school will have a richer curriculum. My current school district lost a few arts and music teachers which I find so disappointing. I know its a little early, but I also heard that the school has programs that might help my kids figure out what they want to do after they graduate.
Max: I’m a little upset that the school doesn’t ask what we think is important. Taxes aren’t cheap and they are spending my hard earned money on things like public gardens at my expense when my children would much rather have better sports facilities to use after school.
Lily: I agree. Hey it looks like my appointment time is getting close. I’ll see you around!

9/20/17 Dator Reading + haikus

This was definitely an interesting reading in regards to the way the world thinks and the way that individuals think. I truly think it’s based on personality. It has to be. The world changes because a majority of people are interested in moving the world ‘forward’. Whatever that means. There will always be people who don’t see the world the same and this in itself is a complicated system of how they were raised, what ideals they were raised with, where they were raised. And the question really is what is ‘forward’? Is forward good?

Some people’s minds can’t be shifted though, as sad as it may be sometimes. I have recently seen videos with people interviewing white nationalists and they talk about their beliefs and sometimes I can’t believe my ears. I can’t believe people think about the world the way they do. Is this a personality problem?

We need to depend on people who help lead the majority to move the world not only forward… but in the right direction. For some time this may be backwards. It may be tearing things down and rebuilding them in a way that is thinking about the future, thinking about the far future. It takes individuals with a good state of mind and the ability to work on these problems. Those who are willing to sacrifice their time now so that those a hundred years from now will be thankful that they did.

It’s our responsibility, people like us at CMU to be humble and begin to think about these things before we’re moved to a direction where we feel we have no hope and have to start thinking about different options.


Individual in 2047:

I have worked so hard
I deserve this giant home
Will kids have it nice?

Community in 2047:

We don’t talk that much
But we know who we all are
Facebook owns our lives

9/20/17 Future Scenarios

Stuart’s lecture about future thinking was helpful in getting me to think about what I want for the future and the uneasiness in the unknowing of how I may end up getting there or not getting there. I’ve sort of always believed that if I set out to achieve a goal, whether I get to that goal or not if I worked very hard I will end up somewhere that makes me happy. As much as I would love for the Earth to be incredible and beautiful in the future for my children’s generation and their children’s generation after that, so much has to change. I need to be part of this change myself. I also believe that no matter what that if as a world we can set out a goal to change our current habits and take solid action, no matter what happens we will find a way to make people happy. (Maybe I’m just optimistic because it works for me sometimes)

Generating Alternative Futures

For this exercise we broke down four different categories of alternative futures: Grow, Collapse, Discipline, and Transform. Each group was given one of the different categories to apply as a lens for their wicked problem. Our group applied ‘Transform.’ To us, transform was a bit of a neutral future in which negative things could take place, but positive things were able to come out of these changes.

Using STEEP we thought of different things that may happen in each realm to help craft an overall scenario that could be considered believable.

We created a narrative for the future and made sure to create checks in our notes (the scenario is unfinished in the image below) so that we could go back and make everything flow together. After doing research on our topic and hearing about other wicked problems from group presentations throughout the class it wasn’t as difficult as you might think to connect different pieces and transform a world for 2050.

Candy, Dator, Dunagan Hawaii 2050 Reading

I actually remember doing an activity about this in futures last year during Peter’s class so it’s interesting to revisit this topic and go over it in a bit more depth. I think it perfectly parallels with what we are doing in class and I can definitely draw inspiration from the scenarios described.

The question I want to pose is: Why does this have to be in Hawaii?

I do understand from the perspective that it is a small island so it almost represents that story that everyone has thought about at least once in their life “What would I do if I was floating out at sea and wound up as the only person on this small island?” Sort of endless possibilities there… But I guess the point is that these scenarios seem very general in my opinion. They can be applied in different ways to all sorts of different places on Earth. Is that such a bad thing? No, I guess not, it was just what sparked my interest.

The new Bladerunner movie takes place in Los Angeles and it represents a very dystopian future with incredible climate change, over-population, shift from humanity to androids, and incredible corruption — all of which can take place in just about every major city in the future. Ironically the movie takes place in 2049, just one year before the futures that were suggested in this reading.

I think what helps to make these scenarios believable is not only the breadth at which the narratives are described, but also the depth at which different pieces are explained that people can relate to and understand. This to me, is what makes it feel real.

Porritt Reading

Another very interesting take on what the future of the world could be, this time in a little more detail about our day to day. I find scenarios that break down a world in this level of detail far more intriguing to read about and process because they become more easily accessible and applicable to YOUR life.

I found the interjections of cyber wars, hacking, and internet terror very interesting because I’m a huge fan of Mr. Robot. The show plays through a story, but interjects scenarios that are based on real cyber attacks to help tell the overarching narrative. The most interesting thing about the show to me is how devastating hacking can be in our present day. The show doesn’t take place in the future — Obama is president, people use iPhones and Androids, people have normal jobs just like you and me, and people can hack you and destroy your life.

The scenarios that Porritt paints really are not totally unrealistic and can definitely take place in our present, which is a bit frightening.

The question is pose is: I understand that one can project concepts that will take place in the future — ‘There will be a computer hack of 2032 and nobody will have online access for one hour while a team hacks the stock market’ but how does Porritt decide to add a face to these people he places in the scenarios. “The Great Hack of 2032” Siberia hacks China for nuclear launch codes and targets North Korea. Is this just a guess or are there facts that he uses to prove that ‘it could happen with these players at this time’?

9/25/17 Scenario Matrix

We got a chance to read our snapshot of the future to the class as well as listen to the other groups with different future narratives and lenses.

This activity reminded me of the haikus we did in class. We all live in the same present and are constantly being bombarded by the same media and information and yet have different, unique concepts for what the future could be like.

I think having the stories being framed with STEEP made them easier to follow by just listening in class, but after reading the different articles that proposed these incredibly detailed futures, it would have been nice to go into more detail to make me understand what my life day to day might be like. Very fun activity in general.

Notes I jotted down while the class talked about their scenarios

Our Pittsburgh ‘Transform’ Scenario 2050

As 2050 approaches, we notice minimizing segregation, as all demographics are equally distributed in social classes. Black populations no longer take up a large portion in poverty, and wealth inequality has subsided. As these levels have stabilized, families are now realizing the importance of education, and are agreeing to pay large taxes for the cause. This creates more affordable higher education for children attending university, and smaller class sizes are there are more choices for disciplines, and homeschooling/teaching hubs. All subjects in school hold equal value to students and teachers, as there are no more income discrepancies between professions. If a student is passionate about music, there is no stigma towards going into this field, as it is valued just as much as a job in the area of sciences. Because children also have infinite access to learning and resources, the teacher expectation has grown and the profession is now viewed with increased respect in 2050.
While collaboration in and across schools and disciplines is facilitated and encouraged, students now partake in more self-guided learning. They are evaluated more on a progress and qualitative basis now, by their peers and their parents and teachers. Schools are also required to have a robust program for kids with disabilities, meaning properly trained teachers, modified expectations of students that correlate to their evaluation, and resources that help with their learning. Standardized testing, overall, plays a very small role in the evaluation of kids, though a universal education package is available and free to all students and schools who follow a nation-wide education system. In addition to the students’ in-class education or self-guided research done online/virtually, students are required to partake in agricultural and environmental work. As sustainable practices are widely adopted throughout the entire country, learning by growing and by observing nature has become an incredibly crucial part of the education of all students.
Integrated trade curriculum in public schools
Self guided learning and evaluation based on progress as well as proficiency
Many other professions (that were unpopular in 2020) are of high value in 2050’s society.
Increase in access to all subjects and forms of education
Students are taught agriculture and environmental sustainability
Schools are now smaller, at least, for those that exist — saves a ton of money and space, uses less renewable energy
Education moves beyond classrooms and emphasizes more outdoor interaction
More teaching on sustainability
Due to the PACC of the 2030’s, education policy has been shaped by the sustainable initiatives and policies put into place. Schools require curricula to address and teach agriculture and sustainable habits to the newest generations. The “Go Outdoors” policy of 2045 ensures that children get exposure to growing their own gardens and practicing sustainable habits by giving children small plots of land on school grounds on which to cultivate whatever plants they choose. Class sizes have reduced considerably in order to reduce the carbon footprint made by the larger, 600-person schools of the 2000–2020’s. The green energy initiatives that shaped Pittsburgh’s infrastructural and economical landscapes also provide clean energy to all schools.
Access to online repository of information
New and state of the art facilities for education
Universal education package — teachers now raise the standards of education level because everyone has access to the same academic growth
No discrepancy in the resources that schools have (i.e. funds, learning tools, facilities)
Exchange program for kids working with other kids from different areas, cultural education
Growth over the past 30 years in technology has led to the accumulation of an incredible repository of information that has been useful in building an on demand and open source education system for the youth. While there has been construction on new state of the art facilities for higher education, teachers have begun to raise the standards of education and created a widespread curriculum that can be taught remotely from small communities by parents. This has created very little discrepancy between the resources children use and require that the public schools of the past of struggled to make equal from neighborhood to neighborhood. An exchange program has also been put into place in order to give children opportunities to learn slightly different teaching styles and be exposed to different environments.
No wealth inequality
Guaranteed base salary when graduating for nearly all fields, which encourages students to pursue their own passions
Everyone has access to free education, both higher and vocational
Pittsburgh in 2050 has come far beyond anyone could’ve expected back in the 2000s. With the realization that climate change was going to have devastating effects on our planet, the world rallied together against a common enemy and the results were transformative. The first changes came with education. At first, the federal push for a reimagined education system was met with protests and skepticism. As people began to understand the desperateness of the climate change situation, citizens of all backgrounds rallied behind public schools to lead the fight for our planet. The initial process was slow.
Schools started with a curriculum change that required public institutions to teach agriculture and sustainable habits to the newest generations. The “Go Outdoors” policy of 2032 ensured that children got exposure to growing their own gardens and practicing sustainable habits by giving children small plots of land on school grounds on which to cultivate whatever plants they choose. This caused school sizes to reduce considerably in terms of student numbers, even in urban areas like Pittsburgh, to ensure that there was enough land to accommodate every student. It \was agreed upon that amid the water crisis, that children were in need of fresh water and water pipes leading to schools were upgraded with the newest filtration system first.
In turn, schools became more localized and began to act as a cultural and social hub for the neighborhood to come and get their fresh foods. Schools brought together the community across ages and backgrounds and made learning a lifelong activity.
Despite smaller class sizes and more community based learning centers, state of the art technology allowed for optimized learning that could take place anywhere. Standardized testing, overall, plays a very small role in the evaluation of kids, though a universal education package via online/digital learning is available and free to all students and schools who follow a nation-wide education system. In addition to the students’ in-class education or self-guided research done online/virtually, students are required to partake in agricultural and environmental work. As sustainable practices are widely adopted throughout the entire country, learning by growing and by observing nature has become an incredibly crucial part of the education of all students. While collaboration in and across schools and disciplines is facilitated and encouraged, students now partake in more self-guided learning. They are evaluated more on a progress and qualitative basis now, by their peers and their parents and teachers. Schools are also required to have a robust program for kids with disabilities, meaning properly trained teachers, modified expectations of students that correlate to their evaluation, and resources that help with their learning.
The biggest influence education reform has had in Pittsburgh is the social changes that have come with a more educated and community based population. All subjects in school hold equal value to students and teachers, as there are no more income discrepancies between professions. If a student is passionate about music, there is no stigma towards going into this field, as it is valued just as much as a job in the area of sciences. Because children also have infinite access to learning and resources, the teacher expectation has grown and the profession is now viewed with increased respect in 2050. Post graduation from the public school system, students have access to affordable means of higher education, although not everyone chooses to attend. With the establishment of a universal baseline salary, students who wish to further pursue academics may choose to do so, while others prefer to work in their chosen field and pursue other interests and passions.

10/1/17 Futures timeline + Class

The next collaborative mapping assignment that our team worked on together had to deal with using the three horizons timeline. This map is a visual way or organizing events that take place over a period of time and helps to make users aware that each significant change in an overall scenario affects something and is affect by something. Something that goes up, must come down is a simplifies this principle.

We took the different pieces that were organized in our STEM map and placed them on this map to figure out when they would happen and how a rise in one thing might lead to a decline in the other, etc.

Next we took these events and mapped them onto a timeline. We started by just organizing with sticky notes, but after walking around the classroom and getting a look at what other groups were doing we realized there were small details that could make a big difference into how someone were to read the information.

Events placed on our timeline to help tell a 2050 future of Pittsburgh

Images helped to break up lots of the text, as well as adding titles and breaking up the information with phrasing and other resources. Adding context is also incredibly important because information lacking context can be ready in too many different directions.

Our timeline along with different artifacts to help sell our vision — some include a magazine, school calendar, and sample blueprint of a community

Below are a few examples of artifacts I helped make for our group, a flyer for a community gathering and a sample of 1 month of the school year for community schools.

10/03/17 Synergistic Solution + Max-Neef Lecture

Terry gave us an interesting lecture about Max-Neef and needs in everything that exists. The reason that things are created is because people either need them or realize that other people need them and that there is a business that surrounds something. Often this is the root cause of creating something with unintended consequences, people often think about the benefits of whatever they are creating and don’t consider many of the down sides, or what harm their product or service might unleash.

I analyzed BBB for a design with many unintended consequences

What I was able to learn from this design exercise is that when a design starts to affect many facets of life and goes from a product within one system to many — the unintended design flaws will follow. If Big Baller Brand had stayed local and been about promoting Southern California basketball I could see far few consequences. As soon as Lavar Ball raised the price of the clothing, turned his sons into iconic stars, began a TV show, and made himself and his family larger than the system they originally inhabited, problems began to arise. The message of who the brand is designed for completely changes and so do the people who follow its movement.

The Harman/Kardon speaker was different. I chose this product because I knew it was simple. Yes, it is quite pricey and has a modern look so it already only belongs in some residences, but if analyzed from a higher level, larger system level problems don’t surround this product. It changes the experience of music for me, which could in turn determine how often I use it. The speaker is also large and becomes something that I may not use as much because I can’t move it around. After the obvious issues have been addressed, it does solve its one purpose which is to produce incredible sound quality and I appreciate it’s pure and simplistic functionality and ease of use.

Sustainable Lifestyle Reading

This was a very interesting reading and what I really wanted to glean from it was how the world is supposed to make large scale change to a sustainable future. It reminds me of what Terry talked about before being that: if we can change people’s behavior then change will come much easier. Along with changing people’s behavior they need to encapsulated in an infrastructure and environment that is suitable for whatever change of action you want for them. If sustainability then they need to be in a place and be surrounded by an environment that makes it easy to be sustainable.

If there are very few repercussions for not living a sustainable lifestyle and no infrastructure that makes it possible people will likely not go out of their way to make a sudden change in their lives.

10/4/17 Mapping Interventions

Diving deeper into our original needs met/inhibited activity, our team created different components of future education and studied the different needs of students they met and inhibited. We built out small scenarios to help give life to the different case studies.

Mapped interventions with artifacts

Chapman Service Design Reading

I really like this piece — very clear and concise and gets me in the headspace to think about service design. Service design is definitely something that I really appreciate with companies who do it well, and there is such a difference between companies who do a poor job serving me as their user. One example that comes to mind is Starbucks. Yes their coffee is great, but when I go there I know exactly what I’m going to be ordering, exactly how much it’s going to cost, exactly what product I will be receiving, how long it will take, and how I will be treated by the baristas. They have an app that works well with their register so I can walk in, order, pay, wait, and leave.

LA Fitness on the other hand is awful. I hate going in there or calling and waiting to speak to someone on the phone. They computer system is very broken up to each location and it’s difficult to cancel a membership over the phone and deal with billing. It is an absolute pain and I wish I didn’t need to deal with them at all. I just want to walk in and work out and manage my account online because the employees have proved their unreliability.

Both products have proven something that I need and definitely makes me happy when it works, but one works all the time and the other fails me on many occasions — specifically from a service perspective.

10/11/17 Service Design Activity

Together with Molly leading our class our team spent an hour or 2 working on a service design blueprint in which we redesigned a service for music listeners in Pittsburgh. Our scenario worked in physical stations where users could listen to/exchange music and collaborate with others. Music is such an individual / online experience in today’s digital age and it was nice to design something that brought people into the same space to share music rather than searching on Spotify and seeing a little bubble of what a buddy has been listening to recently.

Music redesign service blueprint our team worked on

Flowers and Miller Reading

This reading definitely makes it concrete to me that I understand what the purpose of service design blueprints are. I know that if you use them it can help to identify problems that exist as well as explore new pathways to help users.

It reminds me of an article that I read years ago about Lego and their service design. Not only do they have incredible design in regards to helping children and adults put together their legos, connect with the Lego community, and create things for the future, their service design goes much deeper. The article talked about how when Lego flies someone out to visit their facility — they have the entire process planned out from start to finish.

The trip does not begin when they arrive at Lego — it begins a period ahead of time, helping to get the valued customer ready for travel. It continues on into the morning (the day of their flight) when they pick up the customer in some sort of car and help get them to the airport. It continues onto the plane and off the plane. The time they arrive at Lego and leave Lego. All the way until they are back home from their trip.

Lego believes that people will remember their experience from start to finish and if anything bad happens right before or right after, somehow it might negatively affect someone’s impression of what they were just doing. When someone has a bad day because of one specific thing that may have happened…somehow it has a way of covering up even the small good things that could have happened before or after the day went sour. Service design is no different and needs to be done end to end.

Education Service Design Blueprint

Working in groups of 3 my team and I used the service blueprint that Molly showed our class to craft an example scenario of what a day would be like for a 3rd grade class that we designed.

We mapped out the time and from left to right below a user can follow the different settings, what takes place, what touch points occur between students and faculty / service providers, the back end activity that needs to take place to make the entire system function, as well as dead space to help break up the system.

This really does culminate so much of what we are learning. There are factors of STEM as part of the curriculum without us even really needing to map out the different components as well as time and relationship that occur. I’m very proud of our group and how we were to work together efficiently to concept this and organize it not only well, but also relatively quickly.

Service design blueprint: touchpoints, artifacts, interactions, back end action

Cases Transition Reading

An interesting question was brought up at the beginning of the reading about belonging in a community and whether we would feel welcome if nothing from your culture or art was visible.

This makes me think about my move to Pittsburgh. At first I believe that I may not been so welcoming to the city — it was probably about the last place I thought I would be when I imaged going to college during high school. It was also far different from living in Irvine, everything felt so cramped and it didn’t quite feel as safe or new. The conveniences I was used to didn’t exist very close by here and I was doing something totally different than I had ever done.

While the setting may not have made me feel welcome I came to love living in Pittsburgh. It may be because I felt welcome at school (which is where I spend most of my time while I’m here). I felt comfortable on campus and around the people who were the same as me.

I don’t think people necessarily need their culture visibly painted around them for a place to feel like home. I think it’s really about the people, the time, and the willingness to let a new place into your heart.

LEAP Dialogues Reading

The most interesting piece I found in this reading was when Tommy Lynn mentioned that one of the most important things to find out in design is the “Why?”. If you can discover the Why? then not only will you be able to dive into solving the deeper issues, but you will be able to anticipate what people will need in the future. It’s truly about understanding people and is the key factor leading to “innovation” in a product that can result in overall improvement.

It means far more than just redesigning something from an aesthetic perspective or adding a new feature. It shows the importance of doing research before coming up with a solution.

TAPSE Forward Candy Reading

Candy’s writing really get me thinking about the other day when I was trying to get food at a Wendy’s just minutes after 10pm. The inside of the Wendy’s closes at 10pm and the drive through stays open. It didn’t quite seem to make much sense so my friend and I went inside at 10:04pm and asked to be served. The manager came running out from behind the counter “IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY ORDERED THEN I CAN’T SERVE YOU TONIGHT!”

This really didn’t make much sense at all… there are at least 8–10 people working behind the counter in the kitchen and there was a huge line of people in the drive through and almost nobody sitting in the actual store. Why couldn’t we just order and have our orders mixed in with those from the drive through and instead of handing the food out the window they would just hand us the food in the store and we would leave.

We argued for a bit and then decided to leave and go to McDonalds where the service would be better.

Seeing that manager really made my friend and I think about how these insanely huge businesses that have fast food stops all over the country have hire people who are unhappy, overworked, and then end up delivering poor service. Starbucks doesn’t have the same issues… granted the food they make might be less work so their jobs are easier? When we think about these large companies, many times down the line there is lack of care in their system and it leads to unhappiness.

10/16/17 Class Flip Labs

  • Social innovation benefits society as a whole rather than the individual
  • Transition design requires layer of change — change at each every intersection because existing conditions are incenizing people to do exactly what they do
  • People are doing what makes sense for them — how do we design scenarios for people so that they do the outcomes that we want them to do?
  • Fishing is one of the most wasteful industries in the world
  • Lots of mislabeling in the fishing industry
  • Framework for DSI — complexity → scale of impact

  • 30 Boats
  • Floating tire contraption to have fish start to live there
  • 25% fish gets lost because of cold transfer
  • Fisherman want to be interviewed as a group and not as individuals
  • Fisherman don’t really want to know when they’ve paid off their debt through an app or tech
  • Make collaborative decisions
  • The fisherman still loved taking pictures with the fish they caught

10/18/17 Class + Social Design Pathways

During this class we had a bit of time to reflect upon the last activity we did in class that revolved around social innovation.

Some points we discussed:

  • Social innovation can feel imposing design solutions on people that don’t want them

This felt very true. We heard a bit about what the fishermen normally use technology for and it feels like giving them more access to technology could be a powerful solution. It would give them an opportunity to track their routes, use GPS to understand their coordinates, make it easier to document their catch, and improve communication. Normally they use their phones to take pictures of themselves with the fish.

  • Social innovation might help solve one problem, but increases work for the users in other ways

If the fishermen were to begin documenting their catch by either paper record or using digital spreadsheets (or some other organizational method) it might help improve many things. It would provide locational data about the fish, seasonal info, as well as monetary values or fish too. This would require more time documenting the fish, locations, and processing the fish later — which again is more work and can seem imposing

  • Do the fishermen see flaws in the system? Do they know that what they are doing is environmentally unfriendly?
  • It’s hard to design a solution when you have very little background information about a user you tend to be unfamiliar with

This help true during the entire activity. Normally people could just throw money and add a business aspect to improve a situation like the fishermen deal with daily. There is such a barrier in regards to culture compared to the average American to these people that you really need to understand them in order to create a decent solution for them.

There are tons of lessons to learn in regards to designing for services and social innovation. It really takes true empathy to get it right. Without it, you could theoretically solve the problem with technology and money and upset the users — which isn’t really solving the problem in the end.

During class we also worked on social innovation that involved our group’s wicked problem

It’s helpful to think about social innovation and how it involves each different level of user from an individual to a group to a multi-faceted user sector and relating these from simple low hanging fruit interventions all the way to complete transformations.

New teams: Community Gardens to teach children and bring people together

We recently broke up into new teams for the second half of the semester to bring our knowledge of the first wicked problem we were solving together with people who have different backgrounds. Our aim with the second half of the semester is to work together to create some sort of intervention using the different research methods we have been working on for the past 9 weeks.

Our team is spent some time this weekend laying out a concept for what we plan to explore for the rest of the semester:

Our goal is to understand how implementing local community gardens can help children learn about growing food, their individual / worldwide impact on the environment, and being efficient and environmental into how they THINK about their waste → helps people think about the products they use and what they need / don’t need in their life. We want to help shift people’s mindsets and we are going to do it through a fun, tangible, and useful way like gardens that help to bring people together.

We also wrote down some questions that we want to explore further:

1. Research Questions
Physical implementation concerns
Deniz: Do we have to go out in Pittsburgh and find a school?
Deniz: How do we get financial support?
Heej: Who will maintain this and how?
Heej: How does pittsburgh weather effect implementing a garden?
Heej: What kind of space is available within schools for these gardens?
Heej: What exactly is needed in order to maintain the vitality of the garden itself including watering, nutrients, sunlight, types of plant rotations.
Deniz: Where can it be done
B. Considering what works / doesn’t work about existing alternatives
Max: How is it going to be implemented to current education?
Deniz: What is the current curriculum related to our topic
C. Making Content enjoyable
Max: How willing are children going to be to learn this?
Max: What incentives do people have to learn this?
Bettina: What are elements of an enjoyable activity? How do we sustain interest?
Bettina: What is the optimal balance of “fun” and “learning”?
D. Longer term / subsequent effects of intervention
Deniz: What will this help with
Max: What are the projected effects in long term?
Deniz: Does education change to become more environmental?
Bettina: How does this filter into life at home?
Bettina: How can this activity build trust and communication amongst participants?
Heej: How exactly will this intervention help? Future map?
3. What do you want to learn?
Is this something that we can implement in many schools?
How would a school without a campus implement gardens or this type of learning?
Bettina: How could a successful garden at a school lead to successful community gardens?
Bettina: How can compassion amongst children lead to compassion amongst adults?
4. What Impact do you want to have?
Max: We want kids (or maybe even adults to know what sort of impact they are having through their food consumption and waste
Max: We want people to feel like there are easy options to being more environmentally friendly and responsible with their food consumption
Heej: We want people to value food
Bettina: We want an activity that people from diverse backgrounds can bond over

11/01/17 Class

When we first broke into groups to tackle a new challenge we began by thinking a little bit too broad. Which in some cases might be okay… in this manner we are quick to understand our overall transition design goal — helping to educate younger children about the lifecycle of food and waste as well as spending more time broadening their minds about the importance of nutrition.

Stepping back this is a HUGE task. There are so many factors at play and with little time to intervene, yes, it is too large to tackle all at once.

Our mission is to understand a small portion of the accessible problem first, and based on what kind of data we get back, see what next steps we would need to take to continue to attack the problem.

11/06/17 Class

We sat down and talked to Stuart and he brought up a good point: do you want to spend time, energy, and resources on looking at the group you are interested in eventually intervening with, or do you want to research a less desirable group that will give you usable data in a very timely manner?

I realized this is probably an approach that I am going to have to take many times in the future. Sometimes, it simply will take too much time to access the people that a design is meant to affect. In this case, the best thing to do is work in a way that will still provide usable data and will be the next best alternative user group.

We decided that in our scenario being able to access younger children in schools was going to be difficult. We would have to go way out of the way to reach out to school teachers / principals, as well as parents — all of which we would do before we get to even see if our data gathering method works properly.

Instead, we decided that we might be able to talk to a more accessible user group, college students, and gather as much data as possible before moving onto the proposed next phase of our design intervention — with our target audience of children.

Last few weeks of group work

I don’t think I’m able to sum up day by day discoveries since these last few weeks have sort of blended together, but overall for my last medium post of the semester I believe that I can sort of identify the turning points and how things turned out for the group.

So we started off trying to create a digital product. We thought that having something digital meant that it could more sent and shared more widely to collect more data than a physical device that our team would have to be around to monitor. As we started to develop questions for our “game decision tree exhibit” we spoke with both Stuart and Stacie who provided us with similar feedback in some cases and different directions in others. Both professors did a great job listening to our idea and helped us to make sure that we used our time most efficiently. I thought our team did a great job hearing feedback and implementing it into our concept as the final weeks began to draw to a close. We created questions that were used to not only identify what our users (young adults — CMU students) knew about food sustainability, but also pose questions that really allowed them to think and even make a change or two in their own lives after they were done playing our game.

The piece that tripped us up was when we talked to Stuart and he told us that the kind of data that we would be collecting most likely would not be accurate. This is for many reasons, but there is a high chance that there may be some lack of accuracy when collecting information on the fly, especially if the questions were already not purely based on knowledge. Lots of the questions we were asking were cloaked in a superhero theme to help make the game a bit more exciting, this was also a problem.

Making something like this to get a starting point in regards to learning about our users is always going to be a balance between easing them into actually answering questions and participating compared to collecting truly impactful data.

Once we had accepted thing, our group was able to move forward and switch our concept to a more physical exhibit. Doing this allowed us to be a bit more creative and hopefully make the experience more exciting for whoever plays our game.

A word about the team — it was truly a pleasure to work with my teammates for the second half of this semester. Everyone on the team was good at communicating, contributing, and making the overall process enjoyable. Most of our team has decided to stay together for next semester to work on a new project so I would say that this group has been a success… which is actually saying alot because I have worked in many unsuccessful groups during my time over the past four years.

This semester has definitely not been easy and there have been some times I feel like I was forced to do things that I definitely did not want to do. I thought by the time I got to being a senior my classes would be something that I could control and organize myself. The transition design research portion of the class felt a little force fed, but in the end it was something I see being useful later in my career so I am very grateful for having gone through with it all.

Like what you read? Give Max Stein a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.