I'm back from India and [more or less] ready to kick thesis into high gear in the coming semester. We just had our first class of five yesterday morning, called Thesis II. As you may guess from the name, Thesis II is primarily concerned with thesis, as are all of the classes that the second year students at Products of Design take during our second semester. What this means is that updates will be plentiful, blog posts will be lengthy, and I'll be blogging at least five times a week, to post incremental updates on our progress.
Now, the focus of Thesis II is information architecture, and more specifically about how to architect the information, or the story, around our individual theses. It might seem odd to begin to do that prior to finishing up the thesis work in its entirety, akin to counting chickens before they hatch, but in fact, it is important to consciously consider what the end goal of the thesis is as it develops. It's similar to how industrial design, even though it might typically be used at the end of product development after the engineering of a new product has been figured out completely as a solely aesthetic treatment, really ought to be invoked throughout the engineering and product development process. It'll be fascinating, at any rate, to see how my thesis develops, and how this class helps to shape that development.
For our first class, we developed conceptual maps of our thesis as a way to use the next 3.5 months to their maximum potential. For me, this meant making choices between the different ideas that I outlined in my blog post, to really bunker down on a few of them and think about what I want my design output to be in May. I realized that there are three speculative objects/designs that I want to pursue, as well as three concrete designs, which take the form of 2 products and 1 app.
On the speculative side, I want to continue to explore the bluetooth incontinence implant - and though I've already prototyped this product, I think that implants and medical devices have such a long lead time in terms of development, that it's hard for me to picture what next steps are, aside from contacting people at Medtronic about the design [which I have done, just waiting back for a response now]. The FES exoskeleton is another one of these areas of exploration, and is something that I think I could probably prototype on a really small scale, thanks to a few people that I contacted at MIT who worked on a similar project called LIMBO. The Training Wheels [name pending] service is another speculative design that I want to work on; I need to reach out to occupational therapists in order to validate the idea first.
On the concrete side, and where the bulk of my work will be in the next few months, I want to continue to develop the Rollable Ramp [although based on Boris' feedback, which I posted late last year, it probably won't be rollable anymore], the wheelchair frame that uses bike parts, and the Journey app, which helps to pair recently injured individuals to one another. The development of the rollable ramp will have to be equal parts engineering, to make sure that the ramp is structurally sound, yet portable, and design, to make sure that wheelchair users will actually benefit from carrying this thing around with them. The bike-wheelchair frame will mostly be an exercise in engineering, to get all of the parts to fit together with much of the design language inherited from existing parts, and the further development of Journey will involve more app design and prototyping. It appears to me that the work that I'm doing for this semester exists along a spectrum, first from speculative to concrete, and second from engineering to design.
Finally, a note on tone from here on out. One of the graduation requirements from Products of Design is that each 2nd year student needs to publish a midterm thesis book that summarizes work done up until December, and a final thesis book that is at least 25,000 words in length that summarizes work done up until May. My thesis defense book was around 12,000 words, give or take, and was around 140 pages long, so I can reasonably expect my final book to be twice as long. In order to facilitate the process of literally doubling the length of my writing thus far, I'll be adopting a more formal tone in future blogposts, so that it's easier to dump that writing into my final book!