My last design for social innovation utilized a mix of public perception and disruptive tech in order to combat ableism. Near school is a Juice Shop, one of those fancy places that offers fresh blended fruits and vegetables as a supplement or replacement for meals. That people would willingly forego full meals in favor of liquids in a world where hunger and famine are epidemics affecting people everyday is actually surprisingly [given how much I eat] an idea that has appealed to me in the past [though my grad school budget would never permit me spending $50/day on juice for an extended period of time]. On the topic of food, I also thought about what seems to be a perennially recent trend of blind eating - where people dine in the dark, depriving themselves of their sense of sight in order to be better able to taste their food. All of this combined and conspired in my mind and got me thinking: what if disability were rebranded?
Here we are at the last of the Social Design lenses - public perception. By way of an example, in Montana in 2005, an organization called The Meth Project used a hard-hitting advertising campaign targeted at current and potential abusers of crystal methamphetamine to educate state residents about the dangers associated with crystal meth abuse. As a result meth use dropped by an astonishing 72% amongst adults, and 45% amongst teens.
The penultimate lens of social design that we were forc-erm, asked, to consider was bright spots. These are easily replicable, scalable programs or interventions that offer simple solutions to complex problems. That sound esoteric, because it is. Bright spots are only bright because someone discovered them, otherwise they're as obscure as any other wildly effective solution that addresses social ills. I know, I don't sound bitter at all.
Data can be used to galvanize people into action by making them aware of the grossest injustices of society. Seems pretty straightforward right? When talking about the disabled community, there isn't any shortage of data points that would shock most people: high incidences of obesity and heart disease in the spinal cord injured population, the astronomically high costs of medical treatment, suicide. I chose to focus on employment for the purposes of this project, relevant as it seemed to the issue of social exclusion of people with disabilities.
Sorry for being inconsistent with the posting lately - a combination of a Products of Design Collateral/Gallery committee dinner and the all day affair that is the Harvard Yale game consumed all of my time on Friday and Saturday. Without any further ado, here is the policy social intervention that I developed for class last Monday.
I personally think that the name "disruptive technology" is a misnomer when it comes to this lens for social design. When I think of disruptive technology in the realm of disability, I think of things like cochlear implants or exoskeletons; but what this really means [or so it seemed from the reading that we were assigned for the week] is using an existing technology in novel ways. In particular, it seemed like there was an emphasis placed on an app or a website. In a way, I understand this point of view - one of the reasons that I got into design was this belief that we are at a point in human evolution where we've made the internet as a "tool" and populated it with information - the next step in our advancement as a species is, I believe, to interface with this information in novel ways, hence design. And while the advent of Candy Crush and Angry Birds might not seem that revolutionary, it is inarguable that a device like the iPhone and the concept of apps has fundamentally altered society.
I realized that even though I told you last night that I would be covering the first lever of social innovation design from my assignment with you today, I didn't tell you what I identified as my issue, or what my insight was for this assignment. I don't want to jump the gun here, so I'll take you through my issue, insight, and further qualifying statements, before telling you about the actual interventions tomorrow. Sorry, I'm not sorry.
Sorry for missing the post last night. We had a bit of a monstrous assignment due this week, and as a consequence, I was up until 5AM working on my presentation, only to get up again at 7:30AM to finish things up [and I actually overslept - I was supposed to wake up at 6:30AM]. That's enough of the pity party though; there's a ton of content that's directly inversely related to the amount of sleep that I got that I'm excited to share with you this week. As is my usual modus operandi, I will share with you the prompt today, while working through presenting the work that I managed to get done over the course of the week.
My second app explore new territory for my thesis. So far, I think I've been focused on very practical things - my services and products all address the physical aspects of paralysis and wheelchair use, without delving into the psychological. My thesis interviews and additional reading that I've been doing on the side [design meets disability by Graham Pullin - a great read] suggest that I can't begin to design for my users without addressing their psychological needs as well. A lot of those needs originate in the physical condition that my users have, but that doesn't mean that addressing one necessarily addresses both. Recognizing this, I designed my second app to really try to get to a deeper and more profound place than any of my previous designs.
In this first app design sprint, I decided to adapt one of my service designs into an app. Training Wheels, the service that I designed to make used wheelchairs more readily accessible to newly injured individuals to take the place of the traditional loaner chair. This service was intended to help individuals spend more time in the chair before committing to buying one of their own - an important thing to do as insurance typically only covers one chair every five years. I had always imagined this service living in app form, so continuing this idea was only natural. I began by storyboarding the app in Paper53, an app on the iPad that I recently rediscovered through my classmate Ziyun Qi.
After service design, the next design framework or lens that we were asked to design through was apps. It's weird, I suppose, that a program that is product design in name would have an app component to the thesis, but the reason that apps are emphasized as a lens through which we should view and develop our theses is because in today's world, nary a product is released without an app to go along with it. So - we were tasked with storyboarding, then wireframing two apps, related to our thesis, possibly related to our services [but not necessarily], giving them to users to test and then refining them into more designed and branded versions of the apps.
Before I get into the actual apps that I did design, I want to explain what ended up on the cutting room floor.
Today will be the last post [for now] about the services that I came up with as a part of my thesis. The original assignment asked for the 2nd year students at Products of Design to come up with two service ideas by using a presentation template as a generative tool for fleshing out our concepts. In addition to this, we were to brand the services in order to better convey the meaning and intent of them, and to make them seem more real. The human imagination is like a vine - if you put a structure in place that it can grow and wrap around, it can ascend to heights that are unbelievable [irony sort of unintended]. And so, I want to walk you through the decisions that I made when pulling together a brand for each of my services.
The second service design that I came up with is tentatively called Training Wheels. I can't tell yet if I love or hate this name - I think it's an apt description of the challenges that face someone who is transitioning to life in a wheelchair and what my service does, and yet can be perceived of as demeaning and infantilizing.
Today, I will share with you the first of two services for wheelchair users that I designed for last week's design sprint. We were tasked with "designing for service", a practice that seems initially seems straightforward. Uber, Lyft, Seamless, Amazon - these are services that we interact with on a daily basis. These are the types of ideas that seem so blindingly obvious once you've seen them, but can be tricky [to say the least] to design and conceptualize from scratch, not least because they rethink paradigms of what it means to ride in a cab, or order delivery or shop for cleaning supplies [among other things].
We've entered a new phase of our theses at SVA Products of Design, but first a history lesson: I'm armed with new ways to talk about my thesis in relation to the overall MFA program at Products of Design after today's department Open House for prospective students and I want to share the wealth.
When I originally set out to hold my co-design workshop, I intended to do so with a spinal cord injury support group up at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York. I had gotten the go-ahead from the doctor that ran the group, and began to do some preparatory work for the workshop, sending emails to the doctor for feedback intermittently. My initial ideas for the workshop had me presenting participants with two future scenarios, which I outlined using the STEEP methodology; one utopian and one dystopian.
The work for this week, as I mentioned last week, was to hold a co-design workshop with 3 to 6 people. When we were introduced to the prompt for these workshops, just two weeks ago [crazy, right?], it was in the context of futuring. For the uninitiated, futuring is a design methodology out of speculative design, a design practice whose medium is concepts and speculation, in the same way that wood, metal, plastic, and physical materials are the media of product design.
My second week of interviews saw me talking to many more doctors and researchers than wheelchair users. While it was intimidating at times to talk to people about their specialties as a design student, I got through it okay!
The work of late has been less about creating and ideating, and more about discovery. I'm talking, of course, about thesis interviews. In two weeks, we were tasked with interviewing 24+ people who are subject matter experts in our field of inquiry. For me, this meant talking to a broad group of people - from wheelchair users to occupational therapists; from registered nurses [RN] to electrical engineering PhDs; from activists to surgeons. In this blog post [which is slightly late - sorry for the delay, school has been killer], I'll talk about some of the earlier interviews that I've had while trying to develop my own expertise in the realm of spinal cord injury.
This past week marked the beginning of our phone interviews - as I put it in last week's post, it's time to get smart! A huge thank you to the people that I've already spoken to [and who've started to follow this blog] - the conversations that I've had have been universally enlightening, whether they were with wheelchair users, activists, start-up founders, or neuroscientists! I'll be posting some [un-attributed for the sake of anonymity] insights gleaned from this week's set of conversations next week. For now, here are three refinements of ideas from the 100 sketches that I posted last week.