Designing a System
My group, Nina Flores and Sharon Yu received the topic of “healthy work habits”. This is going to be a challenge for me because maintaining an efficient work schedule is something I myself have not resolved (not even close), so designing something to accomplish that goal is going to be very abstract.
We didn’t get much time to talk deeply into this topic with the group, but somehow it reminded me of the project called “Stallcation” by Lizzy Nolan and another student. Last year, there was a bathroom stall in the CFA which had a full-length 360 picture of mountains and lakes and beautiful landscape pasted on the stall walls and door. Its goal was to offer a few minutes of get-away to stressed students while they were using the toilet. Supposedly, it would be efficient in that students don’t actually have to physically travel outside their studios and it would not waste their time because they’re there to use the bathroom, after all. After they are done, the students would be refreshed and ready to get back to work. (correct me if I’m wrong)
While this doesn’t really have much to do with work habits, I thought the installation bit was similar in that we are making something that would physically interact with our audience to make some change in them.
I think our audience could be narrowed down to students, as they are one of the biggest sufferers of having to maintain efficient work schedule. Especially at CMU, managing time efficiently to finish all given projects is an issue. I think one of the most important things to consider in attacking this problem is that we, or the design, doesn’t come off a ‘naggy’ or ‘anxiety inducing’. It’s essential to find a way to help students manage time and work habits by being self motivated rather than forcing them into it. It is also going to be one of the big challenges we will face — what the voice of our design speaks to the audience.
Figuring Out the Project | 3.31.16
In class, we got together as a group to discuss questions to be asked during the ‘speed-dating’ session. Some important things to touch on were the scope of the project, who the audience was, and what ‘working effectively’ even meant. In general, we agreed that effective working meant getting a lot done in a short amount of time and managing time well while not being distracted. However, the question was how different people interpret effective working. Some people might think getting a lot of insight means progress while some people might think moving further along in steps of a project may mean progress. We also thought it was important that our design is a call to action .
The questions we narrowed down were:
- How do you work or not work effectively?
- How do you like receiving information?
- What do you find motivates you?
- How do you define effective?
Our questions revolved mostly around discovering the views of our audience which, in this case, were design students. We also asked how they like to receive information to figure out direction of mediums we would like to use.
After the speed-dating was done, we gathered the answers, and what was interesting was to find out the ways people work.
The most common method among classmates seemed to be prioritizing tasks, setting personal deadlines, and keeping progress with other classmates. Within these methods, there were various, personalized ways of working, such as setting general deadlines for the day or setting hour-by-hour strict deadlines. Also, since we are in the studio space, collaboration and bouncing ideas off of each other and seeing how everyone else is progressing is also a way to be working effectively. Studio space was a double-edged sword,however, as people commented that sometimes other people become distractions and they would often get off-task chatting or going to get snacks etc…While there were varying answers on the ways of working effectively, as we have thought, everyone had the general idea of effective working=getting more work done(getting closer to finishing project, hw etc…)in short amount of time.
Finding the SCOPE | 4.3.16
With the information we found through speed dating, we tried to do some personal reflection as well as reflection of the responses from others and began categorizing what factors and essential in shaping the project.
The categories were based on what we needed to know to decide on our approach, voice, scale, and context. We added sticky note ideas based on what we knew so far, and defined our goals which were: Promoting and helping people achieve effective work habits, reduce stress and wasted time, and guide audience through steps of adopting effective work habits. However, we were still unsure of where this was taking us. Did we want to assert effectiveness upon people? Did we just want to initiate it? Does this mean we want to promote time management? What would be our medium and how would it attract people’s attention? How do we make these changes within people? What did people work towards?
We also discussed a little about the available resources on campus such as time management seminars (we sometimes get emails about it) and how ineffective they are. In addition, we were only considering work habits in context of studio space, aka design students, so we wanted to also focus on non-design majors and how they define effective work habits.
Talking to the Audience | 4.4.16
So to find out more and give us a better idea of shaping the project, we decided to get more feedback from people outside of the sophomore c studio.
Here were the questions we had:
- Definition — What do you define as an effective work habit? Do you work effectively? If not, what do you want to change?
- Indicators — When do you know that you are not working effectively? (i.e. pulling all-nighters, not having time for other classes, etc…)
- Distractions- What are your distractions?
- Available resources — Are you aware of the resources on campus to help you become effective? Have you ever been to one? Why or why not? Who or what do you turn to get advice on effective work habits?
- Environment — Where do you like to work? What type of work do you do at the environment? Do you like working along or as a group?
- Motivations — What do you work towards? Are they long term or short term goals? (i.e. doing good work to get a good job vs. finishing project to have time for night out)
- Breaks — Do you take breaks while you work? What do you do? When you take breaks, does it help you focus afterwards?
- Communication strategies — What makes you change your ways? People? Blog posts? Just yourself? etc…
First, we went down to the freshman design studio together.
(from Sharon Yu’s post)
Monica (Des ‘19)
- Know her schedule vaguely (when she needs to work, etc.)
- Feels like she’s in a good place because she finishes work on time so she doesn’t think she needs to change the way she works
- Distracted in studio by people around her
- Being in studio still helps more than hurt, most of the time
- Best place to work is still the studio
- Distractions: people, social media, hunger
- Indicators of good work habits: not distracted, non-stop working for 40 minutes (at least)
- Taking breaks make her more distracted
- Talks to professors when need of help with pacing/working but doesn’t really reach out or feel the need to
- Good environment to work is Tepper, by herself for non-Design work
- Goals/Motivations: long term wants to be able to make things look professional, be skilled, and prepare for a portfolio; short term tries to meet deadlines, not working towards anything in particular
- When she’s not doing well (bad grades and harsh critiques), she feels like she should do something to change the way she’s working
- mainly motivated by peer pressure and personal standards
Heidi (Des ‘19)
- Motivation changes when results affect her, self-reflection plays a lot into changes in work habits
- Knows that she’s not doing well when she is spending a lot more time on the same project than everybody else is.
- Work habits depend on comparisons with other people in studio, but tries to stay individual
- Actions and products made from other people can affect thinking and action
- Aware that she should use time more effectively, quality is very important
- Procrastination is ingrained in her
- Tries to fix problems on her own by drawing a clock and planning what can happen at each hour — trying to structure her day around deadlines
- Resources like emails sent to her about time management seminars and lectures very seldom helps with changing work habits
Lucas (Des ‘19)
- Thinks he has good work habits — enjoys the work he does
- Compares himself with other people to see progress
- Distractions: when working on non-Design work, he needs silence and alone time to do work in his room
- Conversations with other people aid in design work, constructive criticism comes hand in hand with that
- Motivations for moving forward in work: short-term being able to sleep; long-term beneficial for future
- Breaks: Taking naps, going home, making him more energized
- Peers make him change the way he thinks and works, feels like reaching out to professors will help too
- Stays away from self-help books or resources, thinks it’s better to have peer-to-peer input or case-by-case solutions
- Environments can be the most distracting
- Try to avoid always being social when working, understands difference in work habits when it comes to soft and hard skills
Miriam (Des ‘16)
- Knows she’s good with time management
- Know she’s doing well when she hits flow state — time passes by quickly and in groove, don’t need to think, knows in flow state if work is exciting to her
- Distractions: noise, crazy people, don’t like it when there are alot of people in studio
- Trying to change work habits can spark from getting upset with herself and progress, don’t like to go to professionals, talks to professors when it’s necessary
- Don’t have issues with putting off work until the very end
- Don’t need to have a strict deadline, just needs to keep up with work and work on weekends
- Copes by listing what she needs to do, she decides what she needs to do next, writing up short term goals leading to long term goals.
- Having more work helps structure her work time
- Reflects on herself to motivate and change herself, communication methods don’t really help
From here, we split off to ask different people we know from different majors.
Mario (MechE ‘18)
- Happy with his work habits/ efficiency, but believes there’s still room for improvements
- Knows he if he pushes off work/studying, he’ll suffer later, so tries to start early
- Distractions tend to be other people, friends, or social networking, and watching videos online
- Takes breaks by surfing the web, looking at things online, but also takes breaks when he doesn’t really need them because he wants to get off track, in which case doesn’t help him focus afterwards
- When working in groups, gets less done due to being distracted by each other
- Likes to work in libraries for individual work and study rooms or group designated rooms when working in groups
- Works towards short term goals such as small rewards like getting a drink
- MechE labs exist, but not really a personal space for work and too cluttered and loud with people going in and out
- Has never been to time management seminars because he just doesn’t have time for it or expect it to help
- Has asked advisor to discuss how to handle having many classes and keep track of them
- Urge to change is within self and dependent on personal performance such as not getting a good grade on assignments or not having enough time to finish assignments or feeling like e did not do well on something
- Would talk to friends to keep track of progress and what needs to be done based on what they are doing and have accomplished
Saiprasad/Sai (MechE Masters)
- Ends up doing things toward the deadline
- Has a habit of procrastination and doesn’t really understand how to work effective
- Tried getting self-help through reading time management books like Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog
- Distractions include TV shows and online surfing
- Likes to work by himself rather than groups because working with people he knows become distractions
- Usually works at first floor of Hunt Library and study rooms for group work — mechE labs are too small to work together and it’s not really an individual work place
- Noise level doesn’t really affect him
- Tries to write down goals for the day and things that need to be accomplished to keep track of tasks
- Doesn’t take breaks if the topic he is studying is interesting
- Takes breaks by reading news articles online or surfing the web
- Gets inspired to change by others who do better in class/get better grades or if they are able to finish an assignment very fast
- Tried putting up motivational posters around room etc… but they don’t really help and ended up being just wallpaper
After conducting the interviews, we got together to share what we learned. The similarities across all departments and grades were:
- People are urged to change when it is based on self reflection rather than outside force
- Context of design students and other department students is very different, so they also have very different work habits/preferences
- People generally are not too eager to change their work habits, even if it is not the most efficient way of working
So with this in mind, we decided to reshape our audience and message so that it is more specific because we judged that it will be too difficult to target students across all departments. We realized through the interview that even design people do a lot of academic work such as writing essays outside of design classes, which is in common with people in other departments. When people are doing this kind of individual work, they have trouble keeping track of what they are doing in scope of other classmates and it becomes hard to stay efficient.
Going off of this, we thought of possible approaches we can take:
- Help manage time by not getting distracted
- Encourage people to become efficient through collaboration
- Help people stay on top of their tasks through setting deadlines and keeping track of thing that need to be accomplished
Visualizing the Project | 4.5.16
In class, we did some fun experiments with visualizing adjectives for our approach to the project. The adjectives I thought of were ‘Fun’, ‘Convincing’, and ‘Trustworthy’.
This was fun but also eye-opening, because I have not considered the visualization or aesthetic of our design and its voice. It was also interesting to see that my group members and I had different thoughts on what the project should speak. While I thought it should be interactive and fun, Nina thought that it should be calming because our goal is to make them stay on task and finish their work. I had not thought of this specific detail. I agree that while it should still be interesting for the users or audience, it should also accomplish the goal of not distracting them but help them stay focused. I’m curious to see how we could apply this visualization to our project, whether it is just to help us come up with ideas or actually integrating it into the design.
Next steps are having definite scope of the project and coming up with concrete ideas.
Making Concrete Ideas | 4.6.16
It was time for us to have some concrete ideas of what we want to produce.
Our goal was to help people create effective work habits, but the problem we found from surveys and research was that many people are okay with their work habits, even though it may not be that effective (i.e. pulling all nighters the last day it is due). So the first step we thought to take was to help people realize the problem with their work habits. Since talking to different people, writing down the things to do and making personal deadlines seemed to be an effective method, we wanted to promote creating structure and organization in their schedule.
Going ff of his, our message would be something like “You don’t always have to pull an all nighter”, or something that shows that bringing structure to their lives could increase the quality of their lives, and suggesting that it is possible to finish work early to have free time or time to sleep.
We had the theme/general idea down, and it was time to think about the specific medium of our communication.
We started with the print piece (and this is nothing solid — just general idea). Since we wanted to focus on creating structure and organizing, our first thoughts went straight to some sort of a planner form. In the interviews, we received a feedback that commented on the feeling of accomplishment one gets from crossing out finished tasks from a to-do list, which we generally agreed with. Because of this factor, the direction of our print piece headed towards a list of tasks which people would write down their daily tasks that need to be completed. In order to emphasize structure, they would also prioritize those tasks.
For the digital piece, we first discussed whether the app would be a one-time experience or something they refer back to daily. Our print piece being a task-list-like form, we didn’t want to do the same thing (a schedule-tracking app) for the digital. We decided that the digital would be an encouragement for people to become organized, and introduce our print piece (and would be a one-time experience).
We had a bit of trouble with thinking of the installation/spatial piece, because we wanted to create something that is a come-together of the other two designs. We thought of things such as the list dispenser, digital display of reminders for people to go back to work, an isolated room that doesn’t let you get distracted(idea immediately trashed), a place people can collaborate with each other to keep track of their schedule/compare schedules, etc…
Of all the ideas, we liked the physical representation of crossing off the to-do list. A possible translation would be a place with a shredder that people can put their accomplished lists (our print piece) into, and together, they would accumulate enough lists to a certain goal (i.e. free coffee for whoever participated!), also showing how many people were being effective with their time.
While our designs were not completely determined, this meeting gave us a good brief of what steps to take next.
We still wanted to discuss more options for the next time we meet, however…
Added sticky notes for the new changes we made to the design (pink)
Rethinking | 4.7.16
Today in class, we were prompted to think about the visual vocabulary of our designs. In addition, we saw some examples from the previous years of the spatial piece, which got us thinking about our own. While we had some ideas of the spatial piece from the last meeting, after seeing the examples, we thought our design might be a bit difficult to actually implement.
In addition, after talking to Stacie, we realized that we lacked the motivator to make people want to start structuring their lives. She also helped us direct our message to resonate more with the audience while encouraging them to engage. She suggested that we shape our message into a question rather than a statement or a command.
So to ‘start fresh’ and reconstruct our ideas, we went to brainstorm at the whiteboards. We tried to clear any design ideas we had previously and start from what message we wanted to say to the audience.
Like Stacie said, instead of commanding the audience, we wanted to encourage them. Our message shouldn’t tell the audience that they should implement our solution, or that we have a complete solution at all, but it should encourage them to create structure in their lives because it could help with having effective work habits and save their time.
We thought about how to approach people who are already feeling bad about not being able to finish work on time or not being able to manage their work and time efficiently. Based on this, we thought of our catch:
“Feeling overwhelmed? We are too. Let’s do this together — we can help you.”
This has a friendlier and understanding tone, which could help creating an encouraging voice. Also, by sharing that we are also feeling overwhelmed by having to manage so many tasks effectively, the audience feels that they are not alone in their struggles.
And even though our audience is the whole student body and not everyone may be feeling overwhelmed, like said in the interview, everyone feels that there is at least a bit of room for improvement in their work habits, so the phrase “We can help you” would resonate with everyone.
This catch is also call-to-action to seek help if students feel that their work habits are not efficient, because their work habits can be improved and it is possible to finish all their assignments on time given that they have effective ways of work.
For validation, we would use the quotes and stats from our interviews as well as statistics based on research that we find online, which shows that structuring tasks and writing them down/being able to see all the tasks that need to be done with organization, helps increase productivity.
And since our message tries to reach the audience in a friendly, compassionate way, the forms we use in our design pieces would be organic and rounded rather than geometric shapes.
During our brainstorming, we also discussed the motivation for people to actually want structure in their lives. Why would they want to work efficiently? What are the incentives? Why should they have to do it? We listed out some motivations that were brought up during the interview and some goals that we ourselves work towards. These ranged from long-term goals such as getting a good job to getting sleep after the work is done. How would we show that creating structure in your life could lead to these things?
For our print piece, we redesigned the single list to span out for the whole week, and the audience would put in goals for the week, and goals for the day. In addition, there would be a priority list where they number tasks that need to be accomplished according to importance. The tasks would be written on stickers and placed on the list so that the interaction could be fun. They would also set deadline for themselves through the day so that they would be encouraged to spend planned amount of time on a certain task.
With the print piece, we are encouraging creating a structure with a set of long term and short term goal in mind, so students can work towards those goals by dividing up and organizing their work.
We chose our digital piece to be the incentive, or the motivation. The reason why people would want to stay on-task and finish their work on time or even early, is because they want to do other things for themselves such as going out to eat, sleeping, or just having some free time in general. So to help make people want to finish early, we will promote activities on campus that could be fun or relaxing that people may not know about. By finding out fun events such as events offered by activity board or even clubs people may not know about, people will be promoted to finish their work early.
We stayed with our idea of the digital piece being a one time interaction, like a promotional video for the activities. The video would be animated (to stay consistent with the graphic print piece) and have specific instances of what people could be doing once they finish work. (i.e. go join the astronomy club on their field trip!)
The animation would be displayed on public displays that people see as they walk on campus such as the tennis court display screen.
The spatial piece seemed very abstract to us still, and we threw around a lot of ideas that we just couldn’t settle on. We liked the idea of keeping track of how much work was done and how much work was still left, which goes along with the print piece that visualizes the tasks to be done throughout the day. If there was a physical way the audience can visualize how much time they have spent on a task and what’s still left, it would help them stay on track of what they need to do next and when they need to move on.
We first thought of a physical, abstract clock that would show students how much time is left until the day ends, so they know how to fit in what needs to be accomplished. Then, we moved into the digital realms where students’ tasks would be represented as a dot and when they click on it, it would tell them how much time they have spent on the task. We developed this idea further.
Our installation piece would be a screen on the tables of work places such as Hunt, where students can input their tasks they want to keep track of and they would be represented as dots floating around, kind of like Agario(below)
and when the student activates a task, it would start counting down from whatever amount of time they set, as the circle gets smaller. When the time reaches 0, the student would be notified by the screen lighting up, in which they could add more time to the task, or move onto the next task by activating another circle.
We thought this way of visualizing time passing and tasks on deck could help students with setting deadlines for themselves and trying to finish work according to a time schedule.
As for plausibility, this will probably have to be a mockup since we can’t actually install screens in the library tables.
We also thought of making this as an actual, physical rather than digital piece, so an example would be putting pins representing tasks on a board or balloons with slips of tasks tied onto them, but liked the change-according-to-time aspect of the digital much better.
Rethinking (Again) | 4.12.16
We talked to Stacie again, in class, and she brought up the question of missing incentives and details that we had not thought about or assumed/ignored.
- Would people actually be willing to watch the videos?
- Why would they want to go through the troubles of writing down such a complex list?
- Who is “we” and who are “them”?
- Why should our group be separated from the audience?
- Aren’t we coming off as forcing a solution on them?
And I think these questions, although may have discouraged us a little, were really helpful, because until now, I wasn’t really confident in the designs we were coming up with. A lot of our ideas were assumption based and ignored the fact that students aren’t always willing to spend time on what we present, especially if there are a lot of steps involved. We were also doing a lot of conceptualization and talking, but never dug deep into an idea, or actual making.
We were also segregating ourselves from the ‘audience’ when we ourselves as students who are struggling with the exact same issue. We had to look at this problem as part of those being impacted. Instead of forcing a solution that may or may not work upon the audience, we should be hinting or suggesting that they try structuring their day. Our designs should be guiding them, not shoving them into templates.
So here is what we’ve gained from today:
When we were talking to Stacie, she said that even the print piece itself may be too complicated, and we would want to point of interaction to be minimal and fun. We started to think of what we think about when we are trying to finish a task. Personally, when I am hard at work, I think to myself, “Okay, after one more iteration, I can go get dinner.” So I basically set myself to a reward system, which encourages me to finish the task without getting off track. Going off of this, an idea I brought up was, having stickers on food packaging that says “I can have this food when I finish:” and the student would write down what they want to get done before they get to eat whatever is inside — so it acts as a conceptual ‘lock’.
Nina and I further developed this idea, and our idea ended up cutting the current ‘list’ print piece into one-step.
Since food is something all students come in contact with everyday, we thought having something on the food packaging would target our audience appropriately. In addition, when students are getting food, their mind might be wondering off, so we thought this would be a good place of reminder for them to think about what they want to do with their time.
The stickers on the food package would have different messages throughout the day (morning, lunch, dinner, midnight like blocks) that is 1. reminding students to think about tasks that need to be accomplished and that have been accomplished (setting goals for themselves and creating structure in their day when working) and 2. encouraging them to keep going or they’re doing well.
Students could either actually write down their tasks (there will be space provided) or just be reminded. And just by interacting with these stickers, they will also get a feeling of reward, since there is food inside.
Personally, I think something like this could really help me because when I work, I get bogged down on that one thing, that I never take a step back to look at the whole picture, often forgetting about other assignments or things to do. So this reminder to think about or write down what other things need to be done would be really helpful.
The messages would include:
- Morning: What do you have to accomplish today?Get working!
- Lunch: What have you done so far? You’re halfway through!
- Dinner: What do you still have left to do? Keep pushing through!
- Midnight: What can you put off for tomorrow (need better wording)? Make sure to get some rest!
We talked with Andrew briefly about what design rules we should keep in mind. 1| The engagement should be minimal and easy. 2| The interaction/placement should be unexpected. 3| It should exist in a place that people come in contact with often.
So naturally, with this in our mind, we chose our context to be on laptop screens, as people interact with it daily when they work.
We still wanted the digital piece to help students set goals for themselves and stick to those goals while staying on task. While I was thinking about the unexpected, I thought of “popping up” and how Facebook and Pintrest, when you are not logged on and scrolling through their pages has a screen that slides up telling you to sign in.
This drove us to the idea of using something like Chrome plug-in that would require student to set a work goal, and where (website wise) they would be working on. (i.e. “write medium post” “www.medium.com”) and when you are on that site, a character would pop-up at the bottom of the window intermittently to remind you how long you have been working on that goal and encouragements or suggestions that depend on the time of the day like the print pieces do. (i.e. You’ve been working on “write medium post” for 3hours! Have you eaten lunch yet?) And the character would be click-dismissable.
When you open a tab that is unrelated to the work site, then the character would pop up, asking “Have you finished ‘write medium post?’” Suggesting the students to stay on-track. ( Was also thinking about inputting distraction-sites when student first opens chrome, since from the interviews, people seemed to know what online distracts them personally).
Leaving the two pieces at that point, we still liked the spatial piece idea from the previous discussion, so we are developing the idea more and how mock-up would be possible.
Since we are thinking of using animated graphic characters for the digital piece, it would be a good idea use the same characters throughout all our pieces to tie them together.
I was inspired by the likable, colorful characters from ‘Dumb Ways to Die’.
Often times, a boring, characterless notification would come off as an interruption or nuisance to people working, but a character may be more stress relieving and personal. In addition, it would harbor a feeling of being taken care of by a little buddy.
So here are some explorations on the aesthetics of the characters.
Since the dialogue may be time-based, I based the characters on night, day etc… but I am not entirely sure if it would be necessary to change characters or just use one universal.
Since our pieces are time-of-the-day based, we chose our color palette based on colors that we’d see depending on the time of the day.
We are discussing having variation palettes of representative colors for the different times of the day.
For our typefaces, since we are exploring something that would be fun, engaging, and easy to read.
Check Point | 4.18.16
When we got together to make our concepts more concrete, we ran into the problem of making the system — a system. We were still very unsure of whether our system would hold itself together, and our spatial piece has evolved from work-tracking technology to paper towels with working suggestions (how to be more productive, etc…) because we wanted it to be more tangible and applicable, while keeping consistent with the approach that we are interacting with them in a space they go to take a break (bathroom).
With that, we developed specific aspects of our system.
For the Print:
Breakfast-A new day’s ahead of us. What do we want to get done?
Lunch-We have half of a day left. What have we accomplished?
Dinner-It’s starting to get late. What else do we have to do?
Late Night-It’s the final stretch. Are we ready to call it a day?
For the Digital:
Did you accomplish your goal? (The word ‘work’ can be altered when goals are set)
For the Spatial:
1. Focus on one thing at a time.
Productivity drops up to 40% when you try to do two or more things at once.
2. Make a to-do list.
To-do lists not only help you prioritize what tasks you need to get done first, but they can also serve as a record of the loose ends.
3. Set a deadline.
For every hour of planning, three to four hours are saved from poorly managed time.
4. Take a break.
During a study, subjects who were allowed two brief breaks within one hour of working performed better than those who didn’t.
Maximum productivity occurs at no more than 8 hours a day.
5. Change up the scenery.
Exposure to natural settings increases student performance and reduces stress.
6. Disconnect yourself from the internet.
Online distractions can become attention residue that makes it harder to switch between tasks and focusing.
7. Work in 60–90 minute blocks.
Your alertness decreases after 60 to 90 minute blocks.
For the visual vocabulary, we decided to use the font Din 1451 Std Mittelschrift for headers and Gill Sans Std for the body text. We wanted to use very fun and flashy colors to keep people interested, so we didn’t want the text to be overly decorative or standing out too much.
Stopping to Record Our Steps | 4.21.17
It has actually been a while since I recorded our process since the last post, and we have made several changes as well as iterations of our project.
After the class critique, my group realized that our approach of reminding people of work even when they are trying to take a rest(eating for example) may become too stressful. In addition, our voice of questioning how much work the students have done may also become pressuring.
This was definitely not the approach we were planning to take, so we had to stop ourselves to think of how we can help students stay on task while not being too stressed about being reminded of work.
We first decided to look back at our steps and redefine our catch and message for each medium. As of now, our system seemed too disconnected from each other and our visual vocabulary was not consistent.
Rather than pressuring students with questioning how much work they are getting done, we wanted our message to be encouraging and supportive. We then developed a new catch: Let’s Keep Going.
In addition to the new catch, we wanted to reach our audience where it would be not stressful, but helpful to be urged to get back to work.
While we were constantly generating ideas and pitching them, we got inspired by Sharon taking a water break. A short break such as a water break would be a perfect place to remind students to get back to work and keep going.
Thus, we got the idea to redirect our spatial piece to be the water bottle label, much like Fiji Water or Smart Water to have a message for the students to see on the inside of the bottle. In order to keep parallel to the encouraging, and refreshing message, we thought a landscape would be appropriate. And since our catch is “Let’s keep going”, a landscape with a path that shows the endpoint almost reached became our visual concept
We tested various versions of our landscape. Some difficulties arose from matching our color palette to the visuals and creating the image in our head with limited abilities. In the end, we were not very happy with the iterations we came up with.
Hitting a Wall
We were once again stuck. None of us were happy with the landscapes but we had invested so much into them that we were burnt out and didn’t dare to start new again.
Unable to move forward (ironically to our catch), we turned to Stacie for help. We were advised to rethink about catch, call to action, and validation and let those factors help determine our visuals. Stacie also advised us to decide on what we wanted to get done for one meeting, and try to accomplish those goals.
After meeting, we chose to redefine our approaches by wiping our plate of the initial catch, validations, and call to action and starting a new chart.
We liked our catch, “Let’s Keep Going” because it was the encouraging, hopeful voice that we wanted. So with that overarching catch, we revisited the call to action and validation.
Since we wanted every part to be a part of a system, yet not too similar, each medium had to be a step in creating effective work habits. This is what we came up with.
Print: During work, you’re almost there, keep pushing through
Digital: How’s it going? Checking in, providing tips to stay on task
Spatial: Don’t give up, suggestions on how to get past obstacles
We wanted to reach our audience in different parts and context of their work. So our print piece would speak to them while they are working to keep going on, the digital piece would check in with them when they are distracted online, and the spatial piece would help them when they want to get away from their work by providing them tips on how to get back to work and stay focused.
We also realized that visual vocabulary does not have to be literal like a landscape but an abstract representation. So we played around with traditional media in order to give us some inspiration. We still had the idea of a ‘path’ in our mind while playing around with traditional media such as ripped paper, strings, and tape, and how to abstractly represent a path (the process of doing work).
While trying to position the strings to look like a road, in frustration, we wrapped the string around a bottle and had a good idea.
The strings randomly wrapped around the bottle looked like a good representation of frustration students feel when they are stuck in their work and do not know how to go on, which leads them often to be distracted. As the string gets to the bottom of the bottle, it would unwind and the pattern would be more regular to represent how everything may seem cluttered and impossible at first, but if they keep at it, it would work out.
To transfer this aesthetic to the transparencies for bottle labels, we decided to wrap paper around the bottle in order to put the string around, glue it down, and scan to edit. Our concept of the the string gradually becoming untangled as it winds down the bottle is easy to see. While Andrew mentioned using actual strings to wrap around the bottles, we didn’t want to limit ourselves to the color of strings we had, so in photoshop, we masked all the white spaces between and around the strings and used gradient maps to change the string hue to our desired color, which turned out to be a tedious task.
Our message on the bottles emphasized the difficulty of starting to work and being constant, but once you keep going, you will be able to finish soon. We explored variations of color and image to text layout but the one that we liked the most and communicated our idea was when the strings were covering the text. It reflects how at the start when there seems to be a long way to go and you are stuck, everything in unclear but it will clear up as you go.
We were finally happy with our aesthetic and decided to transfer this look cross other mediums as well.
After receiving feedback from peers and Stacie and Andrew, we found that while the approach we were taking worked, the visual vocabulary was not coming through. We definitely needed color and the concept was a little hard to tell based on our current message. Some of the feedback even mentioned how the printing on paper towels may make them avoid using it. Our system was also hard to pull together as one.
While we were talking to Stacie, we found that our print piece (bottle labels) could serve as a spatial piece, assuming their context (place people use to take a break when feeling frustrated) is just as important as their content. So this lead us to pitch the paper towels and use the bottle labels as our spatial piece, leaving us to discuss what our print piece would be.
We had said previously that we wanted to reach the audience in different stages of their work flow; we had already found ways to reach them when they are distracted and taking a break, which leaves when they are working as the missing piece.
With Stacie’s advice, our print piece was determined to be in context of working/studying — something that goes on a desk. We kept thinking too much about its relation to context, making all our print piece ideas more like a spatial piece, so this time, we decided to think very simply about the print aspect. This lead us to placement cards. Placement cards are not only easily seen, but also has two sides that we could display different kinds of messages on. It seemed perfectly fit for our message and visual, which shows a transition from being frustrated/tangled, to resolved.
We also revisited our color palette, because the message and visuals were changed. We were very unsure of how to find colors that would look good together, but at the same time, fit our approach.
We knew that we wanted vibrant colors to catch our audience’s attention when they are feeling stuck and distracted, but also something energizing to help them keep going. Keeping this in mind, we started to look online for photos to give us inspiration. We found the above image which seemed to suit our voice, so with some alterations, we chose our color palette.
Developing the print piece was much easier than we thought, with a clear concept of visuals and color palette in mind.
Similar to the spatial piece, we used the tangled strings as our visuals for the print piece. On one side, it would have the catch for the print with tangled string on top, and on the other side, it would unravel, leading the audience to tips on how to stay focused on work. When students are working and are about get distracted, they would look up to see this card, turn it over, and see helpful tips.
We also developed color principles for our system so that the overall catch on each piece would be the same color as the string, while the sub-catch is varies depending on the medium.
Stacie had told us that our message would be better communicated if the whole clump of string was visible rather then only a part, so we decided to re-position and re-scan our images. Meanwhile, we also experimented with some other string clusters to use in other parts of this project.
In addition, we made changes to the catch to be more congruent with the overall system which is to encourage students to keep going without getting distracted.
Our message on the bottles were now “ Feeling Stuck? Don’t Veer Off Now.” “You’re almost there” was omitted because we thought it was straying away from our overall message and “Don’t veer off now” kind of implies that the students are almost finished.
When we tested our spatial piece on transparencies, we ran into a problem that we had not anticipated. The color were not showing up very well on transparent background. We consulted Andrew about this, and he told us about the white ‘flash’ that would go underneath to make the colors true, but unfortunately, it required industrial equipment we did not have. So we had to find a compromise, which was 1. Screen printing white first and the color and 2. Going in with white acrylic paint and brush to cover the backs of printed area. Both of these choices required macho-precision, and we were not sure of how clean either would turn out and also, we were short of time for such measures. We decided to test acrylic paint first, but the result was a mess.
With the spatial piece printing problem floating over our heads, we decided to finish the print piece first and deal with the other other two mediums once the print is out of the way.
Our print piece now had contained strings that we had to re-position the text around, and Stacie told us that it should refer to the digital piece, which meant extra text. We had some troubles trying to find the right layout for the text to be under the string and also visible and also some troubles finding the right placement for the tips and catch according to the single strand of string.
However, the biggest problem we encountered was with printing — the printer colors were off from the computer screen.
We had to spend hours trying to find the right print color according to our vibrant color palette, resulting in pages after pages of test prints. The colors were also different across our computers, and we realized that we had not thought about our color spaces before printing. In addition, the green we had chosen for our palette against the orange string and yellow text looked perfectly fine on screen, but when printed, the colors vibrated, making the text impossible to read. It was very difficult trying to balance all these factors out, while each print was a throw of the dice, because we did not know how the colors on screen would transition on the page.
With all these problems, we were finally able to find the right colors to print.
As mentioned before, we were stuck with the spatial piece because we didn’t know how to show the colors show through the transparencies, and the acrylic was too messy and screen printing would take too much time and precision to be exact. As a result, we decided to print on solid color backgrounds, and print on two sides (which was like our previous idea) so that the audience would be able to read the message on the back of the label through the bottle.
We printed our spatial layout on top of a color background on glossy paper. Until then, this seemed like the route we would take. However, when we applied the labels on the bottles, we were not happy with the look at all. It got rid of the whole ‘string wrapped around the bottle’ idea because you could not see through the bottle, and it took away from the clear aesthetic of the bottles. We quickly decided to change back to our transparencies, even if it meant less vibrant colors.
To our surprise, the colors turned out pretty good with the print-adjusted palette. We were happy with the result and decided to move on.
Until this point, we haven’t done much ‘execution’ of the digital piece. We had changed the concept of the digital piece to fit our system more, so that its only role was to restrict the audience from distracted. Instead of the audience setting goals and distractions, they would only set their distraction sites, and once they activate the plug-in and access the distraction site, there would be a reminder on screen (can terminate with click) before they gain access to the distraction site. Until recently, the reminder was planned to consist of some tips on avoiding distractions and going back to work. However, a conversation with Sharon’s friend changed our direction. We decided that the audience would set their own reminders such as “Don’t you have to write an essay by tomorrow?” because people are self-motivated, and a personalized message would resonate with them the most. It would also validate itself, because users are entering in facts that they know is true — at least to them.
When we were developing the visuals, we had some troubles trying the make the plug-in options webpage simple yet correspond to our overall visual vocabulary. Our first iteration used the dark blue background, which we were not sure about, since it seemed to be too calm compared to the rest of our system. We were also not considering the fact that there would have to be a separate catch somewhere on the page. The detail that we did like was that the message would correspond with the string visual. We envisioned that the reminder/notification would somehow incorporate our tangled strings into its aesthetic. We also liked the interaction where the user inputs the website they are distracted by and it would show up immediately underneath, labeled as distraction website.
We changed our color scheme to be more energetic but also a combination we had not used before because we didn’t want the digital page to refer to a particular piece in the system. We also tried including every single color in the webpage, but it got too distracting and hard to tell the hierarchy, so we settled for two colors.
We played around with composition of text and string and was conflicted between whether to make the title ‘KeepGoing” bigger or the message bigger, but decided that the title was more important in a webpage.
Since we were conceptualizing a chrome plugin, we also had to make the app window. We discussed what kind of content should be contained in this window and whether the user would be able to input anything in the window. Based on analysis of different chrome plugins, we determined that the app window should only the app state and users would have to access the options webpage to actually input reminders and websites. In addition, we had to categorize the kinds of content (such as ones that show current state of user like how many websites are blocked and ones that executes commands such as pause app) but we were not certain how we could accomplish this.
Since we already had the webpage developed, making the app window correspond to the visual was not too difficult. We experimented with different placement of the text according the to string.
In the end, we made the execution commands as icons to create distinction and hierarchy.
We also added our digital catch to the app window which became our main text, when it was vise versa on the options webpage.
We liked that this made the app window look simplified and also have enough breathing space around each content to fit in the string image.
We also had to create a logo to represent our plugin. We played around with different representations of string and reminders, but we also had to keep in mind how small the logo would be, so it had to be as simple as possible. In the end, we came up with a representation of three strands of string wrapping around a circle that corresponds to the webpage color scheme.
Our reminder pop-up was going to follow our visual vocabulary with the string, but we decided that it looked too cheesy and simplified it down to a window with the customized message. The reminder would not be too forcive in that they could exit out of it, but it would still have a major presence because it would black out the screen and center the website before they could go on to the distraction site.
We also created an invision prototype of the plugin: https://invis.io/V376IVMMF