Exploring Problems in The World
Reflections on Thesis, Week 1
After 3 years of learning technical UX skills, it’s time to put them to the test with a thesis project. Every senior has to work on an independent project for two semesters and a thesis can be any topic of my choosing as long as you create a working prototype by the end of this semester. Ideally, it should be something you care about.
To be honest, I never really thought about the things I consciously care about. I find myself to be someone who has an interest in most things, but without a passion or point of view, you won’t be able to create to your fullest potential.
My professor Christina Wodtke wanted us to work on finding problems to explore. For our first class, we did exercises that allowed us to think deeply and gather inspiration from the things we least expected.
Our class came up with processes we learned from our internships to utilize and create our own process when we start working on our own projects. This would allow us to manage our time more effectively and help us create a framework of things we need to get done and how to get there.
Because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I did exercises that would allow me to draw out potential problems from my personal experiences. This included going back to my past and mapping out a timeline with what I wanted to be when I grew up, my heroes, big fears and struggles. I also mapped out stories, ideally of stories of struggle, to help me get into the mindset of discovering problems I wanted to tackle.
From there, I started prioritizing these problems onto a “Eisenhower matrix” which allowed me to organize these ideas and prioritize the ones I was most passionate for and the world needs it vs I don’t care as much and/or the problem has been taken care of.
I did some thinking of my own and thought about problems I personally had. The problems I faced in the past were driving forces to things I care about and hopefully I can get other people to care about as well. Here are my top ideas on what I want to do for thesis with pros and cons for each one.
Finance app that helps create plans to save up on big items
As millennials, we struggle with new problems the previous generation has not faced as much, particularly problems with rising costs in education and financial security. This leads to settling down later and working more to save up on big things such as a house and car. I believe there is potential to provide easier ways for millennials to save money and meet goals in a painless way while enhancing financial literary in the long run. We need help more than ever if we want to settle student loans and save money for basic living. An example of this is a chart from U.S. News Millennial Report 2014 which visualizes the concern millennials have regarding finances.
Do millennials even care about being financially literate? Their stance on living has changed to the point where there is less emphasis on saving up for big things, but instead has shifted to spending money on experiences. The motivation to save up and gain financial literary isn’t a main priority anymore if the change in lifestyle has shifted and a millennial’s focus isn’t on saving money for long-term.
The market is already saturated with apps that help people manage their finances such as Mint, Simple, Olivia, Clarity Money, Penny, Betterment, Wealthfront etc. I need to focus on a specific area on finance management or find a way to differentiate my solution from others in the market.
Safety for women
As a woman, I hear things all the time, whether it’s from the media or my parents that I need to protect myself at all times. It sucks that women are often portrayed as vulnerable and easier targets for sexual assault or getting robbed. Something simple as walking back home late at night from work can be a huge feat and really, what has the world come to where it’s okay to approach women and invade their space? How can we empower women and challenge gender stereotypes? How can we change the way we think about gender and educate people that it’s not ever okay to jeopardize one’s safety, a basic human right everyone should have.
The topic itself is very broad and it may be a challenge to gather articles unless I scale the idea down to one specific area. Will I focus on safety for women in the Bay Area or in a country where gender equality is looked down upon? I must be vigilant in finding resources to back up on data about the way women are treated and why safety could be considered a commodity for them.
Managing and having access physical/dental health (affordable options)
Not everyone, particularly people in low-income families, can afford good insurance for healthcare. One can even say that the poorer you are, the harder it is to find health care which is affordable AND of high quality. There are opportunities to bridge the gap between high quality healthcare and low income families who are lacking it or are in urgent need for it. An article I was reading from IDEO addresses the general gap between the health care system and patients which I found helpful in providing direction for this idea.
Healthcare is a more of a government problem vs a normal problem. It can get very complicated and I would have to understand the system of how people currently receive healthcare/insurance. This is also a very broad problem and there are currently affordable options. If I were to continue exploring this problem, I might focus on the quality of healthcare vs the accessibility of healthcare.
- Balancing out the good and bad of my ideas allows me make a thought out decision because once I choose my idea, it’s a matter of planning and executing on time.
- Thinking about the things I care on a deeper level will allow me to take initiative of my future and path as a designer moving forward.
- Exploring problems will make me more aware of what’s already out there in the world and how I can make impact in a less focused area.
- Thinking about problems has made me think about more problems that I care about (more)!