Interface Design Sprint

Reflection upon Interaction Design process at the Sam Fox School of Design

Before the fall semester of 2018, human-centered design had remained an elusive yet enticing concept to me. My love affair with print design had so far been uninterrupted throughout my three years in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, so I was intrigued by the opportunity to expand my horizons and explore Interaction Design with designer and visiting professor Alix Gerber. I had been so comfortable with designing solely for myself and my professors, so I was both nervous and excited to begin learning how to design with another user in mind.

On the first day of the course, we immediately jumped into a design sprint. We grouped into pairs interviewed our partners about their frustrations with everything including the process, interface, and culture of sending emails. I found it illuminating to talk about a problem with the user before ever ideating a solution. My partner discussed his frustrations with overwhelming spam, managing multiple email accounts, and the fundamentals of writing an email. A notable problem that he mentioned was the clumsiness and discomfort of writing a long, polite email in response to a yes or no question. For example, if his boss sent him an email asking if he could cover a shift at work, he would then feel compelled to write a lengthy email with drawn-out introductions and thank-you’s. The culture of polite email manners was wasting his time both in writing and reading these emails. Additionally, the polite email courtesy culture created additional stress for my partner because the complicated response process made response times slow, and he would never know if or when someone was responding to his email (or even if they had seen it.)

A notable problem that he mentioned was the clumsiness and discomfort of writing a long, polite email in response to a yes or no question.

After the initial partner research, we were tasked with creating a design solution to address our partner’s problems. My first iteration of a design solution involved a wireframe for a reorganization of the email app.

Initial sketches of the email application’s reorganization

Email apps typically organize received emails into an Inbox folder and outgoing emails into a Sent folder. I wanted to address my partner’s issue with a cluttered inbox by creating the an additional folder in which the user can organize their simple request emails. Within that folder, there would be five button options, similar to the button responses built into iMessage. The user would be able to see if the recipient of their request had approved, denied, read, or not read their email. Additionally, it would have an ellipsis animation feature to indicate if the recipient was currently reading and / or responding to the email request. I wanted to create an interactive experience for my partner that saved time, organized his inbox, and eroded the culture of verbose email vernacular.

I wanted to create an interactive experience for my partner that saved time, organized his inbox, and eroded the culture of verbose email vernacular.

Additionally, the the lack of incoming responses would not only chip away at the institution of polite and unnecessary email vernacular in correspondence, but would also declutter his already overflowing inbox. For the sake of accessibility, these buttons would be color coded with additional icons drawn into them.

After this first iteration, we returned to our groups and I showed my partner my initial design solution. He felt that it would reduce organizational clutter in his inbox, but the colored buttons slapped onto the current interface would be visually overwhelming and distracting. I returned to the design process and improved upon the overstimulating design. And created multiple different email formats and notification options for my partner to provide feedback.

I received positive feedback from my partner from these final iterations, and proceeded to present to the larger group. Alix encouraged me to interrogate my process and question my final iteration, so with that in mind I felt that my wireframes simultaneously solved a problem and created a new one. My user wanted to quickly see responses to requests and declutter their mail app, and I addressed the first problem while further complicating the second.

I felt that my wireframes simultaneously solved the user’s problem while creating a new one.

After reflecting upon the process, I would be incredibly interested in revisiting this design sprint and continuing to design with my user and always interrogate my design solutions.


Maddy Angstreich is a junior in Communication Design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. She also has a minor in American Culture Studies. See more of her design work here!