In collaboration with:
Rachel Fazio, Camille Scukas, and Patrick Roller
A three month long research and product design project. We asked “How might we help people recognize, reflect, and archive mood shifts on a long term basis?” Our response was a music speaker and companion app focused on individual interpretation of mood and abstracted data visuals. Research methods included semi-structured interviews, artifact analysis, participatory design workshops, and user feedback reports. Deliverables included research based posters, storyboards, ideation exercises, and a final prototype and analysis paper.
I contributed in writing poster and interview material, finding and interviewing participants, analyzing and synthesizing research, initial ideation sketches, storyboard captions, making prototype in wood shop, layout design, companion app design in Figma, and writing of final analysis paper.
In forming our contextual inquiry, we found participants from varying demographics that were open to discussing topics of personal data and mental health. We sought to find an equilibrium between designing for a diverse user group and creating a personalized, effective product. To begin this process, it was important for us to gauge our participants’ current mindsets toward personal data. We asked our participants general questions regarding their interaction with, and reasoning behind the types of personal data they collected. They all questioned what personal data was. They immediately associated the word “data” with automatic, impersonal systems, like spreadsheets and strictly numerical information.
As a result, we decided to make the experience of collecting data more individualized. We found it especially important to make data collection for mental health more personal, as it is a very complex and vulnerable topic. Our participants shed light on their tendency to internalize mood and other facets of mental health. They found it difficult to reflect on the past and could not recall specific mood changes they had weeks prior. This confirmed that it is easy to be engaged with the present, but as time goes on, it becomes difficult to track and reflect on the progression of mental health.
Considering these insights, we ideated sixty possible design “responses” to connect mental health and personal data. These products would ideally fit into our users’ routines, feature abstract data, and function with minimal effort from the user. We decided on an “everything goes” mentality; even if an idea wasn’t realistic, it could inspire a more feasible design in the future. By ideating, we exercised a lot of vulnerability within our group, helping to bond us closer together and bounce ideas off of others more efficiently. We explored a wide variety of ideas, such as ink tracking pens, journal walls in the shower, an empathetic plant, and interactive art pieces.
In narrowing down our ideas, we chose three concepts that had the most potential for positive impact while meeting our three design principles. These concepts were a mood tracking radio, a prescription reminder lid, and a priority system app that sorts notifications. During the class critique, we found that most of our peers favored the mood radio idea. People appreciated the nostalgia and warmth in our design as well as the use of the color spectrum. They expressed a desire for long term reflection and requested more clarity for usability. (Sketches below done by Camille Scukas)
Participatory Design Workshop:
In the spirit of co-design, we excitedly organized a participatory design workshop with two new participants. We focused our activities around making, telling, and enacting. Our warm-up activity involved associating music with colors; a good ice breaker for us to get to know our participants and their music taste. This helped us solidify the association between color and music as enjoyable tools for expression. Our card sorting and prototyping activities provided clear insights into the physical components of our product. Participants desired a balance between industrial and organic aesthetics. The co-design processes taught us to let the participant be the specialist in our research. Listening to their specific needs and potential solutions helped us detach from our own ideas and imagine a more realistic use of our product moving forward.
Through storyboarding exercises, we imagined various scenarios of how and when our product would be used. Creating a storyline with realistic context helped us to refine the purpose of our project. It was essential that the storyboard was focused on a relevant and common scenario to help the viewer understand our product’s intended purpose. We showed our finished storyboard in class during a critique with our peers, as well as grad students who had no prior knowledge of our process. Multiple issues were addressed, such as the purpose of the sliders, how “smart” the device would be, and how the data is viewed on a long term scale. This feedback allowed us to think more critically about how people would specifically interact with our product and the data it collects. We started to put together an app and visualization of possible mood data to define exactly what the product does before returning to our participants for feedback. (Illustrations by Patrick Roller)
Early Prototyping and User Feedback Report:
In our user feedback report, we contacted two previous and one new participant to hear their opinions on our revised design. We showed them the 3D printed prototype and they reacted enthusiastically to the direction of our project. Participants thought that we incorporated their prior feedback well, while still giving the product our own stylistic sense and mindfulness. In light of their feedback, we decided to round the edges of our hexagonal speaker and make the dimensions smaller. To create our final prototype, we used a combination of laser cutting, 3D printing, and various processes in the wood shop. Adding an LED light strip inside the speaker allowed us to play “Wizard of Oz” at the showcase; we used the remote to change the light output as viewer’s moved the sliders in each direction. (Sketches below by Camille Scukas)
Our final deliverable consisted of two prototypes: the wooden speaker and companion app. I prototyped the app in Figma, with Camille's contribution of data visuals (circle motion graphics). The app needed to be both welcoming and nonintrusive. Therefore, I designed a minimalistic, yet comforting aesthetic. This initial design offers a fundamental look at what the experience of tracking mood through the radio would look and feel like.
In the showcase, we were greeted with positive affirmations from our peers as well as our participants.