The final presentation of my thesis project for my MFA in Interaction Design at the School of Visual arts. Presented during the Shift Thesis Festival Class of 2019.

My key takeaway from feedback on my prototype presentation is that I showed and worked on a lot of stuff and now it is time to cut down.

Local Biz Collective Toolkit (cover, introduction, how it works, and workshop activities)

As our guest critic and former professor Gary Chou said to our class this past Monday:

We needed to work on all complexity to find simplicity.

My next step is finding the most appealing and valuable aspects of my thesis project and tell this story.

Another takeaway is that when I’m presenting, I need to explain my design decisions behind each feature of the prototype based on my research insights, as opposed to doing a walkthrough of how it works.

User testing of the website V2

Project Overview

Being a small business owner can be very lonely. NYC small business owners struggle to keep their businesses open due to the high cost of rent. To save money, they often work alone or with very few employees. They don’t have a team with which they can share their challenges or from whom they can get feedback.

Local Biz Collective is a supportive network that helps business owners build an alliance in their neighborhood. I have developed a set of engaging activities to build empathy, spark collaboration and inspire action. …

Plan & Script

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash


  • Conduct one-on-one interviews with the target audience.
  • Card sorting of the meetings and workshop’s activities.


  • Small business owners, who I interviewed and/or participate in the previous workshops.
  • Small business owners, who I haven’t met yet and replied to my last survey.


Audio recording, photos, and note-taking.


  1. Learn if the users understand the concept and purpose of the toolkit based on the voice and tone of the website and materials.
  2. Learn what would entice users to learn more about the toolkit and continue using the tools.
  3. Learn what could be a barrier to business owners accessing the tools.
  4. Improve the design…

Here are my reflections after my proof of concept presentation last Monday, based on my professors and class feedback.

  • Show more examples of what the toolkit does for business owners versus telling how it works.
  • Show more close-ups of people using the toolkit.
  • More examples of why the toolkit works.
  • Highlight details and features in the presentation.
  • More clarity of who is responsible for vetting which ideas business owners share on the website.
  • Connect the problem with the solution further, why Juan would use the toolkit, what entices him to use these tools?
  • An overview of the content in categories could help to make the concept more compelling.
  • Explain better what how the tools are being designed specific yo business owners.
  • What happens when it doesn’t go right?

Why Local Biz Collective?

There are platforms like Alignable in the market that connects business owners to exchange resources and knowledge with one another.

Local Biz Collective toolkit

Juan is the owner of a petite Mexican restaurant in the West Village, who is barely making ends meet.

What inspired him to open his business was that every time he would go back from Mexico to visit his family, he would miss the authentic Mexican food that he couldn’t find anywhere else in New York City.

User journeys of the personas: Juan, “The Observer,” and Anna, “The Advocate.”

Juan, “The Observer”

Small business owner just making ends meet.

Age: 40 years old
Location: Long Island City, NYC
3 years in business
Hires 4 part-time employees
Archetype: The Observer


He is the owner of a Mexican restaurant. What inspired him to open his business was that every time he would go back from Mexico to visit his family, he would miss the authentic Mexican food that he couldn’t find anywhere in New York.


He wears many hats to run his business. He is the chef, manages the restaurant, and does the bookkeeping.

During the summer months, a lot of his loyal customers are away. There are a lot…

Yesterday I met with the West Village business owners group for a follow-up meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to continue working on the idea they had during our last meeting. I designed and tested a worksheet that guided them during the meeting.

West Village business owners during the Follow-Up Meeting on February 12, 2019. Left to right: Esther Moreno (Village Gyrotonic), Zack Goldstein (Hemp Garden), Leslie Polizzotto (The Doughnut Project), and Peter Godhard (Merriweather Coffee + Kitchen).


Activity 1: Idea Recap

What worked
Section 1 of the worksheet and bringing the google sheet I created for them with the tasks list was very helpful to guide the conversation, and figure it out what tasks should be kept or the ones people need extra help with. Leslie shared that she needed help finding a list of companies in the West Village, and Esther offered to help her.

They came up with the idea of creating a West Village Alliance during brainstorming and are excited to continue working together.

They made a plan to invite new people for the next meeting.

Mini prototype proposal of the follow-up meetings framework and my reflections based on class feedback.

Problem Space

NYC small business owners don’t have enough support from their local community and government.

  • Small business owners are lonely. They don’t have a team, in which they can share their challenges or get advice from. Due to high rentals in gentrified areas, they need to save money, which means they wear many heats and often work alone or with very few employees.
  • Their needs are not being met by local non-profits and government services.
  • There are no local laws supporting businesses, such as commercial rent control and more security on leases.
  • They don’t feel listened to. Advocates from BID and…

Paula Daneze

Interaction Designer and MFA Interaction Design Student at the School of Visual Arts

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