Reflective Design Practice

Reflection on Design Studio, Spring 2020

These are my reflections on Design Studio II at Carnegie Mellon School of Design. This course is part of the Master of Design, Design for Interactions. The detailed documentation of the team progress on the project can be found here

Week 1: Introduction and Initial thoughts

January 13–18, 2020

January 13, 2020 was our first class for the subject and we were given the brief for our 15 week project along with an outline of the syllabus. The project is a part of the Index Project. Based on the 17 sustainable development goals laid out by the UN and 5 others added by Index, the aim of the project is ‘design to improve life’. We’ll be working in groups, my group has 3 other amazing designers that I’m excited to work with:

Deepika Dixit — practical and logical, clarity of thought

Jiyoung Ohn — efficient researcher, impeccable visual skills

Jisoo Shon — human-centered designer, open to ambiguity and exploration

I find this brief to be based on a compelling question, not only because its about designing something for the real world, but also because it makes me think about what defines improvement to life. I had seen the movie Enough White teacups in October when Arnold Wasserman had last come to campus and was intrigued by the differing nature of the projects, tied by one common thread: intent to improvise the existing ‘something’. I use the word ‘something’ because each project tackles a specific problem in a unique and contextual manner, without the tag of a category. While on one end of the spectrum are innovations driven by simplicity, personal stories and motivation, the other end of the spectrum are large scale complex challenges like ways to store electrical energy to minimize reliance on fossil fuels. I had a mini aha! moment when I realized the strategic approach Tesla adopted, by flipping the existing model on its head by first creating a fancy electric car to then close the loop by making electric batteries. It first changed the visualization barrier people had with respect to electric cars to fuel the urgency of finding alternatives to fossil fuels for energy production.

Notes from January 13, 2020

As I keep wondering about this question of improvement, one thing that comes up over and over in my mind is the idea of time horizon and metrics for measuring improvement. Is improvement a spectrum, where in something that seems to be generating value today might be a problem tomorrow? For example, industrial revolution has changed the way we live and has deniably created a lot of value in people’s everyday lives. Global economies, ability to travel near and far for work, transportation for agricultural produce, raising the general income and affordability are just a handful of examples of ‘improvement’. But we are paying a heavy price for the damage done to the environments. Also, what are the metrics for measuring improvement? How do these metrics vary for different scales, different nature of interventions, different cultural contexts?

While my teammates and I are looking for areas that we are interested in this week, I will keep pondering over these questions. For this week, my team started by talking about the broad areas we were interested in, why we feel interested in them and sharing useful examples in these areas. This was particularly helpful and we have done iterations of our thoughts over 2 days.

We had Financial innovation, Recycling, Urban farming and Healthcare on the list. Deepika has shared a compelling idea for a responsible and transparent health insurance and we were all thrilled with it. We have written down a few initial thoughts on it and the next step is to do some research to understand this problem space.

Week 2: Definition through Territory Maps

January 19 — January 25, 2020

The week before, we had concluded on looking at healthcare as the larger territory to explore for this project. So, as decided, we started talking about our findings about the healthcare systems in different countries around the world and in comparison, its broken condition in USA. The research and the discussion helped us realize how little we (the legal aliens!) knew about this ecosystem and felt like we still had a cloud of confusion about it. We were convinced that this is an interesting area that needs innovation, but Jiyoung and I had some discomfort about the fact that we didn’t have enough understanding or experience of using healthcare in the US and hence couldn’t relate to it very well. We were concerned that this might impede our progress for the given time frame of the project because we might end up taking more time to understand the basic things, instead of being able to zoom in and out of scales easily. Jiyoung, Jisoo and I also openly expressed that this might make us lose interest in the project and we didn’t want that. The four of us collectively decided that it wasn’t too late to re-visit the other topics we wanted to explore.

Although we did this switching of gears just a day before the presentation, honestly, I felt a little relieved. My major reason for that was my belief in being able to relate to the problem to intuit what can be done. There are plenty of problems around us and I’d rather that we pick one that we are all invested in right now and use that to learn the framework for tackling any problem of similar scale. This does not mean that healthcare isn’t important or that we wouldn’t have learnt anything there, but just that we first start by doing justice to what is a size-able bite to begin with. Settling on the idea of ‘mindful consumption’ resonated with all of us and we decided to stick to it.

Additionally, the UX Research Methods class added a layer of clarity to the overall process for the project. Hajira walked us through the stages of research needed for a project of this nature and it came in at the right moment to see the larger picture of how to do this. We also spoke about the aspects of qualitative data, quantitative data, big data and small data. This helped us make our presentation for Wednesday a lot more enriching and well thought of, specially with respect to the research methods we could possibly leverage.

Left and Centre: Notes from Research methods class about types of research and data, Right: Research methods proposed in the first presentation

My synthesis on the feedback from on our presentation:

  • We need to identify which sector/industry/area do we want to focus on to bring about mindful consumption?
  • Identify the barriers to mindful consumption?
  • How can we create a large enough impact instead of creating one more tiny impact idea?
  • What are the examples of circular cradle economy?

I’m intrigued by the idea of intangible consumption patterns, specially related to the digital consumption. I would like to question the digital consumption, not only in terms of how it impacts the psychology of consumers, but also how it impacts the environment. I question:

“Are internet and data the fossil fuels of today?”

This has been going on in my mind for a while and if we decide to go in this direction, then we might have to be very innovative with our research methods. Dan Lockton’s presentation on Thursday about devising our own research tools was interesting and I’m going to keep that in mind.

  • What did you learn this deliverable?

Territory maps are really hard to make. Looking at every group’s territory map and reflecting on our own, I learnt that there’s no right or wrong in a territory map. Keeping it contextual what you want to solve is the most important guiding factor.

  • What are you most proud of? What did your team do really well?

For me these questions are related. I’m really proud of how the team was able to do justice to the deliverable, collate our understanding of the territory at this stage and present it in a very clear manner, despite the fact that we pivoted less than 24 hours before the presentation. I’m also impressed with how we were able to build a consensus at that critical juncture, be time efficient and not freak out!

  • What did you question about your experience?

Whether we are a bit behind, since we are yet to zoom in on one specific area

Week 3: Picking a sector and refining the topic

January 26— February 01, 2020

We began this week with the mission to narrow down our topic to a very specific problem, and I’m happy that we’ve successfully been able to achieve that. I think that this week was a lot of hard work, back and forth and understanding each other that made this possible.

Our first step in this direction came from discussing a few topics under the umbrella of mindful consumption. We had recycling, single use plastic waste, digital consumption all on one board and criteria for selection on another. We were being rational, good students, going by the advice we had gotten to help us move forward, but we hadn’t hit the nail on its head. We still didn't know how to choose one and on Monday we decided to be the first ones to discuss with Peter to get direction. He asked a simple question ‘What do you guys want to show on your portfolio, beyond the fact that you care about a problem?’ (BTW, that’s me paraphrasing what he meant!). We had a spark in our eyes cz we individually had figured what we wanted to explore. I wanted to make the revealing a lot more fun and dramatic by writing it on pieces of paper, folding them and opening them one by one to build suspense and lighten the mood. it turned out, we all had the same thing we wanted, wohooo!! This is our first baby step.

From here one we started looking at different problematic facets of the ‘digital domain’ and the factors that contribute to them. I had been the one to plant the seeds of this idea in my team members mind, but had no formed thoughts of my own, or preconceived notions of these problems. This meant that we were a ship without a captain (ooops!!) Peter’s presentation on Wednesday however brought a lot of interesting concepts. One that stayed with me while I was constantly thinking about our topic was the idea of forecasting to identify milestones for a roadmap from the present to the future. I know this was constantly on my mind, because I had dream wherein I was noticing milestones during a car journey but I couldn’t read any of the labels clearly.

Notes from Peter’s presentation in class
Notes from the questions that Peter raised during discussion

Even though we had decided to look at digital minimalism through a democratic process, I noticed one of my team members’ discomfort with the fuzziness of the topic we were dealing with. Upon checking in with her and building a conversation about how she felt about the topic and our approach, I realized that the lack of clear vision for what the problem is, is an impediment in our progress. She mentioned she just couldn’t visualize the problem itself in the web of interconnected systems we had been looking at. So we did two major things this week to help our progress as well as make sure everyone was comfortable:

  1. She and I together facilitated a short exercise to understand each of the team members’ wants, preferences and fears, both with respect to the design outcome and the design process. We got this idea by talking to another classmate of ours who had done the same exercise with their team. The outcome of this process helped us see the tangible aspects of our goals with the project and we identified two areas of slight tension that we needed to navigate: a) whether our project would lean to the speculative side or the practical side, b)whether we wanted a digital+physical outcome or purely digital

2. We used the questions that Peter had raised during our last discussion with him to structure our thinking around two topics we had narrowed down to from the entire web. These helped us think of specific problems, the anticipated future of those problems, the people who are affected by it and what we, as designers, could do to help it.

To narrow down further, I had invited Erica Dorn, a Phd student in transition design whose past experience has been facilitating workshops for groups of people through an emerging format. She helped us identify which of the two we personally thought was an important problem to address through an informal exercise. Pheww! we have a concrete topic now but it still feels like a new and slightly unknown territory. This has made me question my own comfort level with ‘the unknown’. Why am I okay with, and even excited by, the fuzziness of this topic and not the healthcare one we started with in the first week? Is it because I enjoy exploration in areas that seem to get less attention? Is it that I enjoy working in new and emerging spaces (with weaker signals) more than the ones that already seem to have signs of innovation? Or is it only a matter of preference?

In progress for Week 4, 8 and 9. It’s taking me more time to look back and unpack my thoughts than expected, but stay tuned, because I have loads to share!

Week 4: Narrowing Down and Understanding our own intent

February 02 —February 08, 2020

fdrfre

Week 5: Exploratory Research and Insights

February 9 — February 15, 2020

Notes from Interview with Prof. Lorrie Cranor
Feedback from Hajira and Sophia during the research methods class

This was the hardest part of our topic and there were 3 clear reasons for it:

  1. The first and the obvious one was that our topic was still too broad. We kept going back and forth on what we are trying to achieve through this project
  2. As a team, we had different degrees of comfort with ambiguity.
  3. We kept switching positions between who was comfortable with what kind of ambiguity.

The last was a big one for me in particular. Not knowing the final outcome was exciting to me at first, but some time around mid week it started to feel like an obstacle. I couldn’t visualize which direction we might go in or what could be our final outcome. While I had been grappling with this, during one of the research methods class, Ashley and Reileen shared their generative research work with us. Their examples often included ideas that the client wanted to test. This meant that there was a vision prior to going into generative research, which was different from the way we had been progressing. The nature of our process: from Exploratory research to test hypothesis to Generative research to come up with ideas, wasn’t helpful since it existed in some sort of a vacuum at that point. I had asked them how do we know what are we trying to generate ideas about when we don’t a clear vision of what our final outcome could mean. Their response was super helpful, that it might be useful for us to think of the final outcome.

Week 6:

February 16 — February 22, 2020

There were two things that caught my attention in Arnold’s and Mariano’s feedback to us.

  1. This is a very important question and there is a “tsunami of literature on this topic” from Shabana Zuboff, to the Private Eye, to Jaron Lanier to a bunch of others who advocate erasing individual digital footprint. “You are going to try to swim in the flood of this discourse”. The problem with all of these is that none of them are prescriptive of a rational approach to dealing with this issue. “You’ve to decide where do you want to step in: at an institutional scale or an individual level, do you want to go as far as Jaron Lanier recommending to throw away your cell phone or do you want be in the middle.”
  2. It would be interesting if the team could came out with guidelines for designers and engineers, or for data platforms to shift the power from data takers to data makers. What would that set of rules, the 10 commandments of Design for Digital Agency be, that Peter is going to teach from now on to witness this shift of power.

These resonated with me. But as we reflected on our topic and this feedback for the rest of the week, we kept having discussions about the complexity of looking at both data takers and makers. Meanwhile, the studio session with Liz Sanders was helpful in developing an initial vision for a generative workshop. This was a really blurred vision and it took us some time to realize that the reason for that was the huge scope of what we were trying to fit within one semester.

The way I saw it, there was two major challenges.

  1. The in between of Data Makers and Data Takers: As interesting as that is, finding enough data takers would have been difficult.
  2. Even though creating something substantially impactful for giving agency to data makers was important to us, we had doubts about our ability to do justice to this user group in the constrained space of 2 months.

Week 7 : Designing the Generative Design Workshop

February 23— February 29, 2020

Week 8: Generating ideas with the Data Makers

March 01 — March 07, 2020

Week 9: Sense Making and further direction

March 08 — March 14, 2020

Week 10: Conceptualizing in the midst of chaos

March 15— March 21, 2020

This week has been an absolute roller coaster ride with the classes going virtual. The whole team has struggled to work because of various reasons, least of which was not being certain about how to synthesize our findings from the workshop. Amidst internship cancellations, adjusting to the virtual format of school, setting up a new work space, blurred boundaries between living room and study environment, increased time to cook; our project has taken somewhat of a backseat in my brain. (Side note: I never thought I’ll miss the campus food, or miss going to Au Bon Pain so soon!) Don’t get me wrong, we’ve still been trying to work hard, but personally, I haven’t felt as connected to the project as I had up until two weeks ago. It has made me reflect in new interesting ways:

  1. My reliance on the digital world has increased dramatically suddenly. With everything else that had been a priority, I didn’t think twice about my own digital habits (the old ones and the new ones I’m making) and the trails of data I’m leaving everywhere right now. Despite my awareness of the subject, it’s so out of sight out of mind for me in this situation. Additionally, it doesn’t help that it is an invisible entity amongst my daily struggles, which deceptively feels ephemeral but I know its my unconscious permanent imprint. This has just reinforced our insight that privacy is always entangled with other values, often in messy ways and that individual circumstances dictate how much they can afford to care about it.
  2. I’m intrigued by the tools that aid in mirroring a sense of physical privacy while being on digital mediums. This isn’t about digital privacy per se, but it’s interesting how noise cancelling headphones help me disconnect from my surroundings to have focussed attention on my digital presence.

Or how virtual backgrounds in zoom create a curtain between my actual surroundings and the digital relay of that image. For example, my husband uses a virtual background in zoom of a home office set up. In reality, we’ve been sitting back to back, but no one could tell that he’d been using a virtual background till one fine day I emerged from it as if I was coming out of the wall.

I’ve also been realizing that we were fortunate enough to have done the workshop well in time before this unprecedented situation hit us in this manner. And also feeling grateful that despite the challenges, I have the support of family and friends, enabled by the digital technology. This is huge benefit which is definitely out weighing the negative right now. It makes me feel even more strongly about the urgency of this topic, without saying that the use of phones or internet should be stopped altogether. I worked on the seeds of a decentralized system idea for this week and looking forward to how that can be evolved, given the 6 week timeline left for the semester.

Notes from my diary. The random colorful faces are pieces of tape that I had put on random pages in my notebook and my teammate Jisoo Shon drew on them. The idea was that this would be a fun greeting from my notebook to me once in a while. Coincidentally, I did this just before the spring break, who knew this would be so valuable during home schooling phase!

Week 11: Concept Development in today’s surveillance landscape

March 22 — March 28, 2020

This week has again been stressful, but there’s a slight silver lining that has appeared this week. The news for how Zoom has been sending data to facebook came out and has been doing rounds on social media as well as the cohort’s slack channel.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/01/do-you-know-how-zoom-is-using-your-data-heres-why-you-should

This has really highlighted two things:

  1. How easy it is for tech companies to take advantage of users through their data. Everyone adjusting to this new reality of remote work sort of adapted to doing meetings via Zoom, without the blink of an eye. Universities and businesses alike saw this as an immediate fix to the problem of how to meet, without digging into the specifics of the software. This isn’t unexpected when there’s a mass struggle to adapt in new ways, how much energy can individuals spend on digging into the specifics of the software.
  2. The incapability of an individual: despite this news spreading, no one has stopped using Zoom. We all read about it, imagine the Zoom CEO and engineers to have devil horns, but we can neither stop using it nor do something to fix it ourselves. We have to wait till at least Facebook fixes it (as per the first news), or apple fixes it by marking the code as malware for in its software update. Individuals, by themselves, have no capability even if they are aware and understand the problem comprehensively.

(Irrespective, shout out to me amazing team working together on Zoom!)

The second one is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot personally. The more I think about it, the more I realize that for our intervention we definitely need to look at the larger systemic level. From the very beginning I had not been super comfortable with our approach being only creating awareness for individuals about data privacy. I believed that just awareness doesn’t necessitate action and hence doesn’t necessarily lead to choice. This current situation has just illustrated that very well and has also echoed Lisa’s recommendation that we need to do a systemic helicopter view of how to change this paradigm. The challenge with that, specifically with respect to our team, is that we all don’t think on systemic levels. We have different mental models and bring in different ways of thinking to the group, which has been great so far. But if systemic level were to be important, I would need to devise better ways of visually illustrating and supporting my thoughts with examples to convey that to the whole team. I’m going to work on this over the weekend before saying anything regarding this to the team.

I also took the Transforming Smart Cities micro mini this weekend. Although focussed on the use of emerging technology at urban level, a lot of the speakers spoke about digital privacy and surveillance in IoT devices. The ubiquitous concern in this area has also made me feel strongly about the contribution we can make to this discourse through our project. In that sense, it has real and huge potential for ‘designing to improve life’, we just need to keep pushing ourselves to figure out what would be truly impactful. I’ll be starting the new week with a fresh spirit and motivation, something that has been lacking in the last few days because of how dull this situation of being purely virtual is!

Week 12: Connecting the Dots

March 29 — April 04, 2020

I’ve made some progress this week in sharing my thoughts about the systemic level with the team. It hit me on Sunday while reading for transition design, at 3am in the morning (or night?), that borrowing from Transitions Design’s multi level perspective would be a helpful way of looking beyond the small scale of a product intervention. More importantly, thinking about how a singular concept, like digital profiling can help the larger aim of digital privacy is the missing piece of our puzzle. This would also help us brainstorm on the future vision and break out of what is possible only in the current paradigm.

This idea really resonated with the group at first and has been the meat of our challenge for the entire week. We’ve definitely made giant strides this week and I feel better. But I’ve to admit that I’ve been very pushy this week to force us to think and answer ‘So What’, ‘How does that help’ ‘How is that different from what exists and we know that it doesn’t do much’ questions for everything. Hope my team doesn’t resent me for that!!

I could say that I’ve been pushy because digital privacy is an area of interest for me plus I truly believe that it’s an important topic. But the truth is that this project seems like the last opportunity to get something good out of this semester. My thought process has been ‘Okay, Internship might not work out, what is it that I can do to not feel like this semester was a total bust due to bleddy COVID-19?’ Coming up with sort of a world changing idea is my desperate attempt to keep myself motivated to work in this crazy time. I’ve been cooking lesser, eating my feelings in ice cream (something that I have never done before BTW, I’ve eaten my feelings in fruit at worst!) but channeling all my energy into this project has become a means of escape from the sad reality of the world right now. It feels like we are moving towards towards an impactful idea, there is something there and it seems like all hope is not lost!

Cheers to hope, cheers to the Beatles!

Week 13: The fruit of hardwork

April 05 — April 11, 2020

First of all check out Happy Monday from my notebook!

The colorful faces are pieces of tape that I had put on random pages in my notebook and my teammate Jisoo Shon drew on them. The idea was that this would be a fun greeting from my notebook to me once in a while. Coincidentally, I did this just before the spring break, who knew this would be so valuable during home schooling phase!

This is the third week in a row which was full of mixed feelings, but definitely more positive than the rest. Since I was pushing so hard, fully supported by the team, I had a burn out early this week. We had been working for 3.5–4 hours on an average every day for 9 days in a row and I felt like I needed a break from the nearsightedness of my thought process. Supported by my wonderful team again, I took about a day off to take some distance, gauge the value of our idea from afar and come back refreshed. This was really helpful!

Three cheers for my wonderful teammates! From top: Jisoo Shon, Myself (Isha Hans), Jiyoung Ohn, Deepika Dixit

We’ve made giant strides this week, I’m supremely proud of the consistent and immense progress in our work. This realization came through an affirmation we had least expected. We’d been keeping Dr. Lorrie Cranor updated of our progress and her comment this week was “this is a great idea, I know it because I built something very similar 20 years ago but it was way ahead of its time”. This was music to our ears because this was the first validation of what we had been spending blood and sweat on for the last 2 weeks. The rest flowed smoothly from there on and has given me a tiny feeling of achievement.

Notes from discussion with Dr. Lorrie Cranor

The next affirmation, for me personally, came during user testing. When one of my participants backed out at the last minute due to unavoidable circumstances, I texted multiple friends hoping someone would be available in time before our team meeting. The friend who I finally ended up testing with, was in awe of our idea, believes that this is a viable intervention needed in the real world and has offered to connect me to potential investors or think tanks if I’d be interested. While, I’m still ruminating on the offer, I truly believe that it is a game changer that should be executed.

Other little victory this week has been that I’ve been able to secure an interview with Dr. Ann Cavoukian who is a privacy expert and wrote 7 Principles of Privacy by Design. Although I’m interviewing her for a paper on Data governance for a smart neighborhood in Toronto, of course I wouldn’t mind slipping in information about our project in hopes of getting useful insights (LOL!). That’s something to look forward to for next week!

Week 14: Little Joys and new goals

April 12— April 18, 2020

The week started on a good note because we got positive responses for our intervention idea. But one thing that I personally feel we need to do better is the storytelling and visual aspect of the presentation. We were way over time for this presentation and it was not succinct. We have been thinking through every aspect in depth, which I’m really proud of, but our narrative feels dry, technical and devoid of emotion. On sharing this with the team, I have discovered that everyone has been feeling the same way and we have decided to pay closer attention to that for our final presentation.

The milestones we have set for our process

I’m really excited for this phase of the project to try two specific things:

  1. Dive deeper into visual design: Two of my teammates are highly skilled at this, I’m excited to see their process. Working on UI is usually not my top priority in my own process, because I believe that having a robust and clear intent first is the bigger meatier challenge. But since I feel happy with our direction, I’m hoping to use this project as an opportunity to design the UI. Doing that would also be great for my portfolio because it’ll help me add the UI skill in a formal manner, which is missing right now.
  2. Build Usability testing skills: I believe this would be a really important skill to have, specially if I want to work in the capacity of a UX Researcher. Thankfully my team is also excited to explore more on this area and we were able to try card sorting this week. Surprisingly, it also turned out to be a fun exercise for all participants.

Update on chat with Dr. Ann Cavoukian: She mentioned that making users aware is all good, and there indeed is an increasing amount of awareness for an average user. But when it comes to finding a solution, they often don’t know what to do and look to experts or advocates. Hence it is so important for experts, or individuals who have the capability to do something to make bigger strides. This has made me reflect on how grateful I am that we aimed higher than creating awareness. It was a difficult decision for the team at the time since it felt tough and overwhelming, but in hindsight I’m glad that we were able to push through!

Week 15: The week of strategy

April 19— April 25, 2020

This week was a little slow in terms of productivity because all of us had other major deadlines but we are moving along. But it’s been great because we have a strategy of divide and conquer, finding a balance between individual skills and what each of us wants to learn in the process. Working on the UI has been both challenging and rewarding for me. I’m learning a lot under the tutelage of one of the team members who is working on the UI with me. Despite a really busy week, I’ve felt a deep motivation to return back to work on the visual design.

It’s really the first time ever that I’ve have closely looked at the design of different apps in great detail. While looking at apps designed for data privacy, I felt that most of them seemed over designed, or even cluttered in some cases.

Data Privacy and Data trade app called Universal Basic Data Income

Such examples have helped me realize that for abstract concepts like data privacy, it is important to have minimal UI supported by data visualizations. I turned to finance app: Wealthsimple because their UI is minimal and highly appreciated.

Left: Wealthsimple desktop site, Centre and Right: screenshots of the app

This means that the next strategy is to spend time on a minimal branding and a simple visualization. I shared this thought with the team and it was well received. Since basic wireframes are almost done, I’m looking forward to working on branding in the coming week, something is an uncharted territory so far. It is going to be demanding, yet exciting for me, to be come up with something that needs to be absolutely polished so close to the end of the semester.

Week 16: The Last Mile

April 26— May 2, 2020

The last phase of the project has been simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. I took on two tasks for this phase and through these I have learnt something about my own skills:

The first is about working on the UI. Jisoo and I have been working on the UI together and although I haven’t been as quick as her at it, I’ve been amused by my own ability to notice details. Being around so many amazing visual designers in our cohort had made me doubt my own ability at visual design in the last few months. I had previously thought of myself as a detail oriented designer but lately, working alongside other detail oriented designers led to calibration of what that means to me. Through my contributions to making the UI for our intervention, I have found my place on that scale. I also feel happy to realize that I indeed have an eye for details and can think of ways to make them better. I just need more practice and better pace to develop quick iterations.

The second is about making crisp articulations for the presentation. I wasn’t aware of my storytelling prowess until I came to grad school, when my classmates started pointing out to it. Ever since I have started noticing it myself, I have been thinking of ways and opportunities to sharpen my skills consciously. I guess this has been at the back of my head and this particular project, and specially at this stage, has presented the perfect opportunity to put my ability to test. As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion earlier, I have been disappointed by our presentations so far and it’s personally important to me to do the last one really well. Our topic is quite complex and the attempts at explaining everything in a technical and clinical manner has only led to cognitive burden and yawns from our audience. I believe, that in order to catch a genuine interest from our audience, it is imperative to make the presentation as a narrative that helps to build a connection on an emotional level. During one of the discussions with my husband, who has been consistently involved in giving me feedback, he mentioned a metaphor that struck a chord with me. I shared this with the team and we have been thinking about using metaphors for all our videos. This has been a breakthrough realization for us and I have been working on improving our draft presentation side by side to make it more clear, crisp and succinct. I’m really excited for our final outcome and am going to make sure that we come up with, and thoroughly rehearse, an impactful presentation.

Week 17: Finishing with finesse

May 3— May 08, 2020

I think we nailed our presentation and the overall pitch. Our presentation was clear, impactful, well rehearsed, well within time and much appreciated by everyone. I was really proud of our team and how we brought in our individual expressions to the project. We worked really hard and as cheesy as it might sound, I truly feel that I couldn’t have done all this without my team. Deepika contributed to thinking through the technicalities of how our intervention would work, Jiyoung brought in her expertise as an art director, Jisoo helped to speed up the process of making the UI and I brought in critical analysis and effective storytelling for our presentation. I was also impressed by every team’s presentation. It’s incredible how every one pulled through such high quality of work despite the lack of motivation every so often.

On thing that I did miss during this week was being with my team for shooting the video. Even though three of us live within 2 blocks from each other on the same street, we never got together to work anywhere except at the studio. And when it finally happened, that too over tea and cookies (for shooting one of the videos), I missed it because I’m not in the city.

The day of tea and cookies for shooting the final video, with me on video call with the team!

The end to this semester feels more sentimental than I would have imagined. Ever since the semester became virtual, I spent most of my time and energy on this project. The dips in motivation throughout the semester, because of the current situation and internship cancellations, had the least impact on my ability to work on this project. Through this project, I have also developed a passion for the subject of data privacy, so much so that it is a part of my thesis topic now! I’m thinking of the ways I can take this project further and have a mighty ambition of developing it further over the summer. We’ll see how that goes.

This was the last studio for the MDes program and I’m kind of going to miss working in this format. But to conclude this project and this post, the song that describes how I’m feeling right now is:

Research-driven Designer, Thinker and Strategist with Entrepreneurship skills — https://www.ishahans.site/