AC4D Q1 Recap / by Scott Magee

My first quarter at AC4D has recently concluded and it's been a whirlwind of big ideas and project management. 


IDSE 101: Design Research & Synthesis

We learned how to conduct primary research and synthesize new ideas based on our findings. Our main project was assigned as an investigation into some form of recycling. My team decided to focus on water since that was a topic of recycling that usually wasn't as top of mind as paper, plastic or aluminum. We further honed our focus to investigate how restaurants in the Austin area use water.

The research phase was interesting and intimidating to say the least. Finding willing participants proved to be the most difficult part as most businesses are not too fond of a few students rolling in and asking a lot of probing questions while taking video of everything. We conducted a Contextual Inquiry (shadowing everyday activities) and three Participatory Interviews where participants used stickers of words and images to build their current and ideal experiences around water usage. It sounds abstract but it actually worked well after the participants were in the right frame of thought.


After we completed the research phase (and transcribed everything) we began the synthesis phase. Here we analyzed our findings into new insights. We created maps describing personal and physical connections as work gets done in the restaurant and then created models to describe deeper insight into our findings. The ultimate result was a thirty minute presentation given to the class. Click here for the deck we used during the presentation.


IDSE 102: Interaction Design, Society & the Public Sector

This class focused on design theory from a huge variety of perspectives. It's great to know how the evolution of Design (that's Design with a big D) has evolved a discipline. It's pretty exciting to know that we are part of the evolution of Design to be it's own mindset apart from Art and Science. Abstract? Yes. But, after reading the copious amount of authors that we did will definitely melt your brain and then reframe it in a different structure. I've never taken a theory class as involved and abstract as this, which yielded a little frustration from time to time on my part- but nothing I couldn't think through.

This class really challenged my opinions as we wrote numerous position papers. Coming from a business background, I had a difficult time writing an opinionated paper instead of a thorough analysis. I was docked points numerous times for not being direct and controversial. I guess coming from the corporate world, those terms are not your allies when trying to be persuasive from a position in the middle of a giant silo. But I digress...


IDSE 103: Interaction Design Prototyping

Super cool class. This class challenged my perfectionist instincts of waiting until something is 99% done before releasing it into the wild. The main idea in this class was to do something simple (and attainable), and do it great. Now revise it. That's prototyping. We covered a slew of topics in this Saturday studio class from drawing circles, lines and squares on the whiteboard to telling complex stories visually. By the way, my lines are super straight and my circles are perfect every time (after lots of practice).

Our prototyping class covered visual storytelling, web frameworks, mobile frameworks and video frameworks. We also developed an idea into a pitch. My idea is called CityConnect, a iPhone app that is a 311 service with your community. I created a website and iphone app wireframe. Be on the look out for a polished version in the coming weeks as I really think this idea has some legs.

My main takeaway for this class is to always have a compelling narrative in every story you tell. Grab the listener and keep them hanging on every word. It sounds simple in a common sense way, but think about it. Do you have friends that are great storytellers? Think about why their stories are so compelling. It's not just the story but how it's told.

As a final deliverable, I had to create a video describing why I deserved an A in this class. We had to cover a few main points but it was basically a summary of our learnings. Below is mine created entirely in Powerpoint (yes, really) with audio added in iMovie.

All in all, this was a great quarter. I think my main issue was having enough time to devote to class. I really wanted to give 110% to each and every assignment, but I also have paying clients since money doesn't grow on trees, at least not in Austin. So time management has been my friend (and nemesis) these past couple months. I was asked to create my personal work manifesto since I seem to be able to get a large amount of things done (plan a wedding, honeymoon, three classes and client work). That's a great idea to formalize my own thoughts into a model... or ecosystem... or some other visualization.


What's Next?

This quarter we begin a project with a local homeless shelter and resource center ARCH. This project will apply all our learnings form the first quarter as we research topics ranging from donor funding motivations to homeless employment to case management database consolidation. I'm the project manager of this gigantic moving research project. So far so good!

We're also learning more about developing comprehensive modeling techniques: concept models, ecosystems, customer journey maps and semantic zooms. this is still a work in progress, but there is a process and it makes sense. I anticipate making a lot of diagrams with circles and arrows in the near future.