Page 1

Learning to

think bigger make better Thesis work of Tash Wong Class of 2013

Exhibition Edition MFA Interaction Design School of Visual Arts




preface to the exhibition edition


Part 1: Figuring it out Early days A more engaging home


35 43 59 67 81 89

A personal light

Part 2: it’s A gender thing Going deeper Marginalized perspectives Generative applications of gender Testing the water Thinking big Bringing it back Interviews

The quiz The cards 113

Think Bigger Make Better




preface to the Exhibition Edition

Welcome to the first edition of my process book. Like many creative endeavors, it’s not quite complete. It’s missing a few formal elements, like references and acknowledgements. Some of the images may not yet have their color balanced, and there are still many bullet points to set. What is here, however, are some of the major moments of the last 12 months. My thesis process, meta rollercoaster that it was, took me through a wide range of ideas, conversations, prototypes, and emotions, many of which find themselves in these pages. Together they form something of a narrative, and hopefully a peak into what took place in my head this year.


The work I did is the work I know, and the work I do is the work I don’t know. That’s why I can’t tell you, I don’t know what I’m doing. And it’s the not knowing that makes it interesting.

– Philip Glass

Part 1

figuring it out

March 2012 – April 2012

Early days

Toilet paper problems New ideas in surprising places I’m working on a project for my Physical Computing

rassment of this problem. Thats 140M people in the

midterm, its called ‘tp minder’. Guri, Minnie, and I were

US alone. Think thats not enough? Think of the time

brainstorming for small problems to solve and focused

it takes to check toilet paper levels of every single stall

in on toilet paper notification. At the time, we though

of a movie theater or stadium bathroom.

this would be a fantastically fun and silly project - a

system that lets you know there’s no toilet paper in a

guess is that the ‘problem solvers’ of our world have

bathroom stall.

been predominantly male for a long time. I’m not say-

During our presentation the question was

ing they didn’t want to solve this problem, but more

asked, “Who’s suffered from this problem before - be-

that this slice of life isn’t lived by them. I’ve learned

ing stranded in a bathroom with no paper?”. 9 out of

from recent conversations that when a dude needs to

the 10 women raised their hands. It was then I realized,

use toilet paper - he’s damn sure its there.

that this isn’t actually a small problem, but an indica-

tor of something much bigger.

scratching the surface of something much bigger. We

Why hasn’t this problem been solved? My

I’ve been thinking of our project as just

live in a world dominated by products made through a It was then I realized, that this isn’t actually a small

masculine view of the world. What happens if we look

problem, but an indicator of something much bigger.

through a feminine lens?

Think about it - using the numbers in this unscientific

I have a feeling we’ll find more interesting

problems to solve than toilet paper dispensing.

survey, roughly 90% of women in toilet paper using countries have endured the uncomfortable embar-


tp minder indicated whether toilet paper levels were ‘low’ or ‘satisfactory’, helping people avoid uncomfortable situations.

An Arduino and flex sensor were used to detect toilet paper levels, communicating them to a servo motor outside the stall.


Good ideas are not everywhere “We’ve finished everything, except the design.“ - Overheard at SXSW Strange as it sounds, this was a somewhat surprising

upon arrival to SXSW. He told me, proudly, about

insight. At grad school we’re constantly surrounded

how they’d conceived and built their service in a very

by concepting sessions, thesis ideas, and astounding

compressed time frame, I suspect without much user

guest lectures; so much so that I tend to forget that

testing and iteration or even testing if there was any

theres a lot of half-baked work out there.

demand for the product in the first place.

The startup mania that happens at SXSW was

a rather amazing reminder of how many undercooked

The startup mania that happens at SXSW was a rather

or just downright creepy ideas become a reality. On

amazing reminder of how many undercooked or just

the first night, Prachi and I went to a few sites for

downright creepy ideas become a reality.

the Startup Crawl. We were excited to see new ideas and speak to people about their startup experience,

Believe it or not, but I found this all really inspiring.

but instead we found offices with beer pong, meeting

It gave me renewed faith in my work and my ideas.

rooms named after sushi, and services that hold on

Thanks to my time at SVAIXD, it seems obvious to me

to your social network activity…for your employer.

that you must consider and design for the people at

Each to their own, but we didn’t find there was much

the center of a product or service, and not for the sake

to construct conversation around. The abundance of

of building the product itself, but I realized that’s an

bad office furniture didn’t help either.

insight not everyone has.

A couple of nights later, I had the opportunity

to meet a few new people over dinner. One person I


spoke to had launched a startup just the day before,

One of the startup offices we visited. The graph in the background tracks the sake bombs consumed in the space.


Elusive confidence Finding a voice Down at SXSW, earlier this month, I had a few fantastic conversations with women who work in the digital + creative industry. I spoke with them about their work and how they got to where they are today. These talks ended up going deeper into conversations about what it feels like to be bold with your ideas. One of them said, “For a while, I never really knew what everyone else was doing, but I assumed they did it better than me.” This shot through me like a bolt and made me instantly realize a couple of things: 1.

I often make the same assumption.


I’m not alone.

This got me thinking about why I, and other women, often undervalue their work. I know that this isn’t a problem restricted to the female gender, but there is something pervasive in our culture and that causes more women than men to undervalue their work and their opinions.

Sheryl Sandberg hits on this point in her talk,

Why we have too few women leaders1. She references a few studies that show how women systematically underestimate their own abilities, and attribute their success to external factors.

This is a problem, and not just for women, but

for everyone. As the old guard falls2 around us, being able to see problems from as many angles as possible is steadily becoming a necessity. You can’t disrupt industry3 from the inside, and in order to face the future we need a more gender and ethnically diverse range of problem solvers. More importantly, to get there, we need as many people as possible to be confident with their ideas, who understand and embrace the fact that their experience in the world gives them a unique perspective.


Sheryl Sandberg at TED.4

So, where do we go from here? After chatting with a few people about this issue, I’ve got a few starting points: •

Know your worth, this means actually talking to people about money

Be vocal, blogging is really hard, but do it anyway

Say no, to projects that don’t fit in the ‘feature list’ of your life

Take the time, daily, to reflect positively on your work

This is where I’m at, if you have anything to add, I’d love to hear from you. 3/23/2013

thesis fiction As part of thesis preparation, I presented Diller + Scofidio’s Blur Building as if it was my own


May 2012 – November 2012

a more engaging home

thesis proposal My first thesis stake in the ground, and some feedback from Liz Danzico

[thesis prep] proposal feedback Date: 4/23/2012 from: liz danzico Tash, Thanks for your thesis proposal. Below are thoughts on the proposal itself and suggestions on how to modify the proposal for the final version. Please submit the final proposal directly to me on Tuesday, May 1, by the end of the day. Thanks and looking forward to seeing this develop. Liz == This is a terrific pursuit, one that is rich with possibilities. As an area to investigate, it’s both personal and pragmatic, progressive and has legacy. I have no doubt that you’ll raise the capital and take the summer to investigate Beam in in more detail. I like your take on “new ways to solve old problems.” What is the old problem you’re posing here? There is a tension in the proposal -- perhaps an intentional one -- between the “city of renters” and the city “for living.” Is there a connection between the transience of renters and the service of Beam? Is Beam about creating a space, or creating a space within a, or the, home?


Further, I like the specificity of your summer research proposal. Out of it, what do you wish to achieve? What are your research goals? What would constitute a successful summer? I’d like to see these incorporated in a modified proposal. Some further texts to consider: * Ascher, Kate: The Works: Anatomy of a City * Banham, Reyner: The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment * Botton, Alaine de: The Architecture of Happiness * Suchman, Lucy: Plans and Situated Actions * Whyte, Holly: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces Looking forward to seeing this develop over the summer. -Liz Danzico Chair MFA in Interaction Design School of VISUAL ARTS New York City (212) 592-2702

Tash Wong MFA in Interaction Design Thesis Proposal v2 5/1/2012

I’m incredibly interested in the global shift in perspective that appears to be taking place throughout the world. As the democratization of communication allows for more voices to be heard, I believe that we will start to uncover new ways to solve old problems. From the shifts in the recording industry, to the changes in the formation of government policy, the tension between traditional structures and a new large and diverse set of voices is already beginning to alter the way we understand the world. I see many parallels between this shift and one described by french sociologist, Henri Lefebvre. To briefly summarize, Lefebvre understands space as a social production. He describes the environment created through the rise of Capitalism as abstract space, one that suppresses difference in local culture, history, and natural landscape while creating ‘spaces of modernity’ that are divided into grids of private property, market and labor. However, as the abstract mode of spatial production evolves, contradictions within it gives rise to a new differential or lived space, one that accentuates difference or peculiarities. I see the shift to the creation of communication platforms as product as a dramatic step in the emergence of differential space. Here in NYC we all live under the auspices of abstract space. Manhattan is actually a grid, and much of the space in NYC is developed for speculative financial gain. We are largely a city of renters, living in a developers dream. We live in spaces that were conceived and built for the purpose of generating money first, and for living in second. The home, in NYC, is a site where the lived and the abstract are in constant tension with each other. This tension creates a rich place to explore examples ‘difference’ and potentially find ways to help enrich the everyday experience of many. This is why I see the home as a key point of exploration. Over the summer I will begin to explore the home through the lens of interaction design with Tom. We intend to turn our focus to the less tangible elements of lighting - the mood it creates, and understanding the various ways people use it - to help create more engaging spaces within the home. We will work together to develop a product called Beam. Beam is a lighting system that can be easily installed, and allows for lights to be controlled in a single place. Tom and I believe that more people should have access to better control over the lighting in their home, not just those willing to invest the time and money to install complex home automation systems. Through Beam I hope to achieve a number of goals: 1. Test my working relationship with Tom without the framework of school. 2. Understand how people use lighting throughout the home. 3. Discover and test how we can use networked technologies to enable better lighting design. We plan to create a 10 week framework, during which we will conduct 2 weeks sprints on particular aspects of Beam. We will publicly blog our process, work and research within a variety of spaces, and establish relationships with a number of advisors. At the end of the summer we intend to present our prototype and process to a number of firms in New York, London, and San Francisco. To fund our work we will raise $20k through a combination of Coastermatic sales, freelance work, and grants. Summer reading The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard Shaping Things, Bruce Sterling Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory, Lukasz Stanek Cinematic Storytelling, Jennifer Van Sijll The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau


thesis time is here A reflection on our first thesis class, hosted by Amit Pitaru

“Our job is to understand enough about tech-

Execution: where we sprint into making mode and

nology, to see potential, and have enough empa-

don’t stop, or second guess, until we’re done.

thy for humans to see a need. Then have the design capabilities to bring these things together.” - Amit Pitaru

Thesis is about creativity and constraint. There are 2 kinds of constraints, internal and external.

This is how Amit describes what we do as Interaction

Here are a few to think about:

Designers. I think its the most concise definition I’ve

heard to date. For a while now, I’ve struggled with how

is it about the crazy sequence of events in my life that

to explain what I do to friends and family, and am real-

makes me the only person who can do this project?

ly glad to have something concrete to hold on to as we

begin the journey into thesis. As a second year student

talk to get there?

in the MFA IXD program at SVA, thesis is my opportu-

and most importantly, what story will I tell them?

nity to bring together the lessons learned over the last

year to create something that is uniquely mine, and

available? What do I want to learn?

hopefully something that gives back to the Interac-

tion Design community at large.

design? What are the metrics of my project? Examples:

Yesterday, our new department co-chair Amit

Pitaru hosted our first class. Having worked with Amit over the last year, I’m incredibly excited to have him

What can I do that no one else can? or What

Where do I want to be after this? Who will I

What can I reasonably accomplish in the time What’s my goal, how will I affect interaction Audience: everyone with a smartphone? or 12 people in Bushwick?

Accessibility of the deliverable: a 1 off custom

guiding us through thesis. He spent the class giving

made prototype? or a diy platform so everyone

us a few ways to frame thesis, both in terms of how

can make their own?

to think about it and how to start staking our project ideas. Here are some of my notes:

Amit likened thesis to wandering into the forest and coming out with some magical berries. Those berries

This year is about risk.

might be lethal, but if you went far enough, you’ll have

When else will we ever have a year to immerse our-

a really good story to tell about them.

selves into a topic with all the support of svaixd and

its friends?

start to flesh out a few of my ideas.

Thesis has 3 parts.


Exploration: we’re wide eyed and open to possiblity, unclouded by restraint and doubt. Decision: when we draw the line and decide what to make. 18

I’ll be keeping this little parable in mind as I

thesis thinking Week 1 Five Levels of Human Needs and Desires


Designing for the Five Levels of Human Needs & Desires

Amusement Attention

Last year I submitted a thesis proposal, and it was Determination


all about a focus on the home. Over the summer that


intention grew into the phrase: “creating more engag-

Understanding Progress

ing experiences in the home”. Well intentioned, but

Knowledge Recognition

not particularly clear. To try to make some headway


Validation Growth


into what this might mean for thesis, I did some deep



tions and decided that I’m not specifically interested

Expression Belonging


thinking this week. I teased out those original explora-






Trust Control

in the home, but I am interested making engaging ex-

Passion Affection

periences for people. I’ve worked on a couple of proj-



ects, Beam and Coastermatic, that both ask the user to


actively participate in changing their space - whether creating the right lighting, or selecting images to be

Participation Engagement Productivity Happiness Well Being


Pleasure Exertion Attraction

printed to coasters. What’s important to me about

Designing for the FiveRecreation Levels of Human Needs & Desires. PHYSICAL Dirk Knemeyer, 20062

both is the intention to create a product that people

give us a structure to think through the products we

engage with and get day to day value from.

design in terms of how fulfilling they are.

nvolutionstudios Version 1.0 7/15/2006

So, my next question: how do we design for this? How do we create something that makes a mean-

I find his framework fascinating. It’s the first I’ve seen

ingful change in someone’s life, to the point where

within our industry that considers a ‘user’ as a whole

it contributes to their day to day? If we know more

person. It gives us a toolkit to work from by organizing

about what makes something engaging, can we use

a potential experience into Physical, Analytical, and

that knowledge as a starting point, rather than first

Emotional elements.

making a product and hoping for the best? As I asked myself this question, I recalled


then re-watched a talk I went to earlier this year, by Dirk Knemeyer1. I found his presentation memorable because of his Applied Empathy Framework. His position is that to design for people, we need to better understand all facets of them, and going forward, creating holistic experiences will become more and more important. To help guide work in this realm, he created the Applied Empathy Framework, and wrote several articles about it for UX Matters in 2006. The framework combines what he calls the ‘5 states of Being’ with ‘Dimensions of Human Behavior’ to start to 19

thesis thinking week 2 Defining a core and a trajectory

Back on Monday, Amit introduced us to all to a frame-

first, and to house people second. This is how housing

work to start thinking about our thesis. It kind of

is constructed in our present economic model, leaving

looks like a donut with skewers in it. The idea is that

little room for things like ethnographic research, or

we all have a core interest that is unique to us. From

user testing. The result is that the design of my apart-

that core, there are 360+ possible directions you could

ment, the place I spend at least 1/3 of my time and

go with it. If your core was say, healthcare, one trajec-

money on, doesn’t consider my identity or respond

tory could lead you to creating a documentary about

to my physicality anywhere near as much as my $200

healthy food choices, and another could be figuring

iPhone does.

out how to 3D print a replacement heart. Same core, very different destinations.

I think the home needs to be more sympathetic to

human needs and desires, and I think we can do this

With this approach, we can chart out possible

deliverables along a single trajectory. That way thesis

through smarter products.

doesn’t have to be a giant scary thing, but a lot of small steps that add up to a larger whole. Also, but having

As the pace of urbanization increases around

this mapped out, if we run into trouble, it’s not so hard

the world, more and more of us will be living in cities

to pivot slightly and keep going.

and renting apartments. In order to keep cities habit-

Amit also put a lot of emphasis on making. It’s

able, I believe we will need to design spaces that care

all very well to do research, in fact, its very important.

about people living them. In the future, once we’re all

However, the research shouldn’t come at the expense

used to using our exquisitely designed devices, I can’t

of actually making. Through making we can test our

imagine we’d demand anything less. Eventually, build-

ideas. He suggested that we make something each

ing materials and Architecture will catch up, but we’re


not quite there yet. In the mean time, I believe that smarter products will bridge the gap, and I hope to

So, what is my core? Despite last weeks post, I think my core is making homes more human, and in the end I’ll be making some kind of product (which is hopefully manufactured, sustainably, in the USA).

I think the home needs to be more sympa-

thetic to human needs and desires, and I think we can do this through smarter products. Here’s my rationale: Living in NYC, I, like many others, rent. The apartment I live in was built to generate income for its owners


make at least one of them. 9/23/12

Exploring past projects using the core and trajectory model.

Whiteboard from a ‘genius brainstorm’ with Tom Harman

Brainstorming adjacencies while listening to Kronos Quartet



October - November 2013

A Personal light


thesis thinking week 3 Choosing the trajectory of light

Last week I wrote about my core - making the home

The Punchdrunk designers understand lighting as a

more sympathetic to those who live in it. Following

“sculptural” element, one that can “create drama in the

that, I felt like I was a lost in the forest. The home is

space even when there are no performers around”.

pretty broad, we do lots of things there. I’ve made lists about various rooms, various functions, written lots of

In the few days since my conversation with

random thoughts, and came up with a idea for creat-

Amit, lighting has begun to make sense again. While

ing a web/phone based maintenance system for older

the products I mentioned a moment ago tackle the

buildings. Kind of interesting, but not really. I even

technological aspects of our intent with Beam, they

tracked back and charted out a few of my past proj-

don’t capture the experiential. I want to help people

ects. Through this exercise, I reaffirmed my interest in

shape their spaces, and selective lighting can do just

this domain, but didn’t find much to push me forward.

that. This was proved to me, beyond a doubt, when I

(If you don’t mind some scrappy handwriting, you can

attended Sleep No More on Saturday night. The event

see that charthere.)

is an experiential theater production by the UK based

Then on Thursday, I had a chat with Amit. He

group Punchdrunk, that transforms several levels of

reintroduced me to the idea of lighting. The notion of

a building in West Chelsea into a foreboding mix of

a lighting project has been floating around since last

hotel and mental hospital. I found that the lighting,

December when Tom and I put together a pitch for

or lack there of, made me much more aware of tex-

Beam, “The only light switch you’ll ever need”, for our

tures, smells and sound. The Punchdrunk designers

strategy final. The project came out of a desire to cre-

understand lighting as a “sculptural” element, one that

ate easily controllable lighting conditions in the home

can “create drama in the space even when there are no

and a vague understanding of how we could do it with

performers around”. Low lighting helps us focus our

networked technology. Since then, some of technologi-

attention, it slows us down. Now I’m beginning to feel

cal aspects of the project have been expressed in the

like I’ve found my way.

release of Belkin’s WeMo and a very successful Kickstarter campaign by Lifx. These products, combined with the success of Coastermatic (which was initially a concept fo fund work on Beam), have pushed thoughts of lighting to the back of my mind.



reading About the history of artificial light

Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light Jane Brox

Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century


Wolfgang Schivelbusch (Author), Angela Davies (Translator) 1995


artifact 1 Light Whales

To get us into the spirit of making, Amit asked us all to


create something tangible for this week. In an attempt


Light is my area of focus.

to stop being so serious about thesis I decided to paint


Tom suggested that ‘painting’ with it would be

some whales with light.

fun, and force me to learn a bit more about my camera. 3.

Whale oil lit the lamps of the Western world for over a century.



On Making, a response to Artifact 1 Last week’s exercise of making something, anything, just to get us into the spirit of making definitely hit is mark with me. The light whales didn’t take me long, but they pushed me into places I wasn’t comfortable - namely, drawing and photography. The prospect of the entire thing made me feel nervous, so I figured I had to do it. And it was FUN. The process took an hour or so, which was much less time then I usually spend on thesis related tasks. The outcome: I ended up making these cool drawings that conveyed my ideas, I enjoyed doing it, and a few other people enjoyed them too.

On Monday, Amit asked us what part of our

first artifact we were going to keep, and what we’d throw away. I’m going to move away from the whale representations, but I’m keeping the simplicity, fun, and delight that I experienced with the light painting. Lighting is an amazing part of our lives, and we’re lucky enough to be able to take it for granted. As I work through the rest of thesis, I want to be able to keep that sense of wonder with me, and hopefully convey it through my work. 10/4/2012

These light whales were made with a flashlight app, an iPhone, and a 6 second exposure on a Canon T2i.


artifact 2 A personal light

“Because the candle, a company of the solitude, is

vineint thing I face is finding a spare bulb in the rare

above all a company of solitary work. The candle does

event that one goes out. We’ve made massive gains in

not illuminate an empty room, it illuminates a book.”

productivity, but I’ve been thinking: what did we lose

- Bachelard

with the electrical lighting? If a candle only lights a book, then how has electricity changed our perception

Over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot about the

of intimacy and space?

history of light, and its place in our lives. I read Janet Brox’s “Brilliant: The Evolution of Artifical Light”,

We’ve made massive gains in productivity, but I’ve been

which gave me a fantastic overview of where light,

thinking: what did we lose with the electrical lighting?

after dark, has come from since the beginnings of hu-

If a candle only lights a book, then how has electricity

man civilization. After reading through the evolution

changed our perception of intimacy and space?

from tallow candles, whale oil, gas, kerosene, and finally to electricity what sticks with me is the story of our

To explore this idea, I’m working on a ‘personal light’.

insatiable desire for a brighter and more stable light.

It’s purpose is to provide just enough light to wander

In the Western world, we’ve gone through a

to the bathroom or get a glass of water in the middle

multitude of extremes to extend the day. Ships of men

of the night. The intention is to create a personal space

were sent to kill and extract oil from giant sea crea-

with light, one that’s sympathetic to a sleepy mental

tures, gas made people crazy, and kerosene lanterns

state. The image above is from my first iteration.

caused thousands of deaths annually. Now, that’s all well in the past. With electric lights, the most incon-



Making a personal light

Figuring out the wiring an desired physical interaction.

Breaking down an led tea light.

The initial prototype was made from found materials in studio. This drawing represents those parts.

The first working circuit.

Completed initial prototype. The button shown was to a reverse switch held down with the weight of a coaster.

The cirucuit installed in the container

First prototype complete.


Personal Light, Explained

Tony has been hanging out at my place over the last

and arc lights. Throughout this evolution, our society

few days, he’s my East Village refugee. Over dinner last

has shifted and changed in response to each period of

night, he pointed out that I haven’t clearly explained

lighting. Each dominant mode of artificial light cre-

my rationale for the personal light. He wanted to know

ated a particular framework for the economy, social

why it’s important and what makes it more than just a

relationships, understandings of autonomy and con-

maker-y thing I decided to do. Our conversation made

trol of one’s surrounds, and the relationship to work

me decide that I should actually write this down and

and productivity.

share it. Thanks Tony!

Right now, electric lights provide the struc-

ture that we live within. As I mentioned before, our We live in a time and place where abundant artificial

homes are connected to a grid, which is outside of our

light is fundamental part of our daily lives. At work

control (Hello Sandy!). Inside, the electrical wiring of

and at home, lights illuminate our surroundings,

our homes leads to thinking about light in a particular

helping us see so we can get things done. Our current

way - switches and ceiling lights. These overhead are

mode of lighting is powered through a complex grid

generally found in most rooms and hallways and have

that delivers electricity to our homes, feeding our light

2 modes - on or off.

fixtures and power sockets.

Electric light is the product of a long evolution in

room as we use it. When switched on, it’s brightness al-

artificial light technology. Now over a century old, it

lows and encourages us to see everything in the space,

comes to us after candles, oil lanterns, gas lighting,

it nudges us to finish whatever task is at hand. When


What does this light do for us? It illuminates a

it’s off, the room is no longer in a state to do anything (except perhaps sleeping). This is obvious to many, but if we think about light as an affordance - an indicator of the intended use of a space - these binary states speak to a limited understanding of how rooms in our homes can be used. The ceiling light says a room is to be used at a fixed level, or not at all.

This is an insensitive approach to our living

spaces - human beings do not live in a binary fashion. Our homes shelter us whilst we are being productive, when we are relaxing, while we sleep, and everything in between. I believe we can make our spaces more sympathetic, more sensitive to the human condition, by examining our relationship with light.

The ‘personal light’ project that I’ve been

working on is the first embodiment of this line of thought. This light speaks to a number of issues I’ve been thinking about: 1.

Autonomy. This light is for an individual. It

is not fixed to a room or a grid. It is designed to create an intimate space that moves with you. 2.

Productivity. Unlike most lights, this one is

not about being awake and working. It acknowledges the drowsy, dreamy state of mind of the night time. 3.

History. I believe that we can look back to

previous modes of lighting to find new ways to incorporate it into our lives. The inspiration for this light comes from a Gaston Bachelard quote about the candle (see below). 4.

Awareness. I hope that this light helps to cre-

ate an awareness of how lighting affects our state of mind. It can show people how jarring standard lights can be, and hopefully open the door to new ideas and questions around place of lighting in our homes. “Because the candle, a company of the solitude, is above all a company of solitary work. The candle does not illuminate an empty room, it illuminates a book.” - Bachelard 11/02/12 A personal light in action, flip over to turn on.


We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.

– Margaret Mead

Part 2

it’s a gender thing

November 2012

going deeper

A pivotal read Women Don’t Ask

Speaking Notes Date: 12/17/2013 - Examination of how modern Western culture discourages women from pursuing their ambitions. - This is a complex issue that is not for women to ‘fix’ themselves - But for our culture as a whole to learn to address - Example: - baked into our lives from birth - discuss social + economic costs - and propose several solutions for seeking change Through reading the book I - better understand systems that effect me + friends - think systems can be understood and measured - can be changed

Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation-and Positive Strategies for Change Linda Babcock, Sara Laschever 2003


Case study of gender based systemic change

Speaking Notes Date: 12/17/2013

- improvements based on insights

Deliotte case study, example of cultural change - low female partner and retention rate - $13M cost

- better worklife for everyone - saved $250M

- task force - interviews, gender stereotype workshops - 5000 employees - women weren’t leaving for kids, but culture - 80h


an uncomfortable email The turning point in shifting my thesis focus was choosing to address an potential oversight in class class concern Date: 11/14/2012 To: Amit pitaru Hi Amit, There was a particular situation that happened a few weeks ago that I'd like to have a conversation around. It's a little bit uncomfortable, but given our academic context I feel like this is the place to try out uncomfortable conversation. Lately, I've been thinking + reading a lot about the ways women are discouraged from more actively participating in their lives and how to change this. My interest stems from both the quiet nature of my classmates (which has changed substantially with the new structure of thesis class), and also concerns about my personal + professional development. The other day, a particular event jumped into my head when reading about studies that show how women who do voice concerns are often coddled, ignored, or punished in some way - whether consciously or not - by their peers + superiors, adding to a cycle of discouragement. A few weeks ago Tom and Tony spoke with you about the format of our class. The next time we had Thesis, you made it clear that you were happy about the conversation you had with both Tom and Tony, and their engagement with the operations of the course, implementing much of their feedback. The success of this interaction led the 2 of them to then approach Ian with similar concerns. Again, their input prompted Ian to make changes similar to those that have been implemented our Thesis class. The result of this has been fantastic, all members of our class are now much much more engaged with giving feedback, leading to more productive critiques and better work all round.


While all of this is fantastic, getting us all to closer to our common goal - more engagement + better work, I can't help but recall that before Tom and Tony spoke with you, you and I had a meeting. We mostly spoke about my thesis, but I too brought up concerns I had with the format of the class, and suggested things that were quite similar to what Tom and Tony brought up only moments later (the 3 of us had been emailing about our concerns + possible solutions over the prev week). Yet, you didn't refer to the our conversation while commending Tom + Tony in class. I'm about 100% sure that you didn't consciously leave me out when praising the other 2 for their input, but this is the part I want to have a conversation around. As awkward as it is for me to admit - while these events encouraged Tom + Tony to discuss concerns with Ian, they led me to choose not to take part in that conversation because I was afraid that I'd somehow derail the situation. I don't mean to accuse you of ignoring my concerns, nor am I looking for praise, but I think that creating space to discuss messages that are sent with each interaction is an important one. Given the gender balance of our program, and of the field most of us will go in to, I'm concerned that our department doesn't currently do enough to help us become aware of and ask difficult questions of the institutions that we operate within. I'm really interested to hear what you think and hope your preparations for Japan are going well, tash

Re: class concern Date: 11/15/2012 To: tash wong

Re: class concern Date: 11/15/2012 To: amit pitaru

Hey Tash,

Hi Amit,

Thanks for bringing this up - I’m very sorry to hear about the way you feel. As an immigrant who experienced a thing or two on his way to citizenship, I can personally relate to the overall sentiment of your email. My wife had an even harder time as an immigrant, and I’ll never forget that. I sat down to think and try to recall the conversations I had that day. I remember having a serious talk with you about thesis, and a serious talk with Tom and Tony about the class format. I don’t doubt you also brought up the issue, but it seems that my mind played a trick and I chose to attribute one topic per conversation. You got me thinking - If it was Tom who came in to talk with me first, and then you and Tony came to talk about the class format, would I have left Tom out? Considering how swamped and exhausted I was during that period, I think I would have forgotten Tom just the same. I also thought about the great respect I have for you and your work (as I expressed over the past year both to you and others), and I just don’t feel that gender contributed to my absent mindedness. As I care deeply about issues of inequality, it’s hard to find myself on the other end of this conversation. The bottom line is that I’m deeply sorry - it pains me on a personal level to think you’ve felt this way for the past weeks. You should have received the same recognition and praise as Tom and Tony. I’ll be sure to set the record straight during next class!

Thanks for your thoughtful response! Don’t worry about saying anything about me in the next class, it’s fine - I just wanted to have the opportunity to express my thoughts on the situation. It would be great to chat quickly though, I’m starting to have second thoughts about thesis all round that would be good to talk to you about. I’ll be in the studio, most likely in the south classroom. thanks, tash

Respectfully, Amit


750 words entry Date: 2/19/2013 What need to write about is my thesis shift. what where when why how? i need to put something down so i have a base to speak to people from. I already know i want to speak with liz, karen, and carla about this. i'm also wary of doing something that is 'feminist' and therefore excluded from mainstream conversation. So where does this come from? Where was I and where am i going? A -> C = B. A. I've been working on lights. Thinking about how we can improve our living spaces by paying more attention and being sensitive to the lighting around us. I find this question pretty interesting, but after building my little light, I've found my attention on it waning. I've made something that's fun to play with, but I'm not sure how much practical use it has, and have found that the next steps for it are mostly hardware based. Do I want to spend the next couple of weeks sourcing a specific shade of led and figuring out how to get my tilt switch to hesitate? I would if I felt keenly that it would get me to the next level, trouble is, I'm not sure what that is. Is making a low light enough? focus! whats important here, a blow by blow? or concepts? Since long before I started my masters, I've been interested in gender studies. Primarily the question - how is my experience of the world influenced due to my gender? How am I advantaged, how am I disadvantaged? How much of this do I have control over? how much am I trying to fit myself into an unwelcoming paradigm? These questions have followed me throughout my personal + professional development. Feminism in architectural space has always been fascinating to me - this concept of 'the other'. In between schools, I read a bunch of bell hooks and delved into psychology a bit more. Now that I'm back at school, I'm becoming aware of how these ideas have influenced my perspective. Lately, I've been frustrated with my ability to ask questions. Here, the majority of questions are asked by male voices, and I find it frustrating to try and counter. My anxiety of representing my entire sex ends up getting the better of me, and I become mute. I'm aware I'm not the only one this happens to.


Because of this, I looked out for some new material to read, and came across Women Don't Ask, which is about... Feminist principles ask us to look outside of our day to day to discover new ways of seeing. By being empathic towards other peoples experiences, we can design for them. Also, being that most stuff has been designed from a male lens, there's probably a lot that can be improved in the world. Case in point, tp minder. Last year I wrote about a little mid-term project we did for physical computing. It was a little system that let you know the toilet paper levels were in a stall you were about to enter - either satisfactory or low. When we presented this idea to the class, it got a good round of giggles, but upon further examination we found that this is a prevalent problem that could be fixed with good design. Rather than focusing the burden of problem on the user (what? you don't check?), we make it a part of the space. Anyway, boys don't get this because when they need toilet paper, they're a little more deliberate about it. wow, this feels so obvious now. If we look at our world through a feminist lens, and recognize the systems of oppression that surround us, we can design solutions for them. Where is this going? I want to focus the rest of the time I have for thesis on understanding ways we can apply feminist thinking to interaction design. What do i mean by feminist thinking? I mean gaining a critical understanding of the environments that we work within, listening to all participants, and decoding stereotypes to create a better experience for all. According to bell hooks, feminism is a movement to end sexism, exploitation, and oppression. If we can get past our biases and acknowledge what is going on around us, it opens the door to a number of design opportunities. wow, this feels so obvious now. If we look at our world through a feminist lens, and recognize the systems of oppression that surround us, we can design solutions for them. I'm aware that this is a huge problem, which will

new perspectives Officially introducing my new thesis direction I’m changing the focus of my thesis. I’ve been think-

theory to gain a better understanding of how broad

ing about this for a week now, and it feels right. Previ-

power structures work against people like me, as well

ously, I was working with the topic of light. My ap-

as participate in activism to raise awareness around

proach was to question our current assumptions of

issues such as genital diversity.

how artificial light operates and its place in our lives,

then find space for new design opportunities within

area has become more localized. Instead of concen-

the domain. While this has been incredibly interesting

trating on how these social structures affect people

- I’ve learned a lot about the history of light, and built

around me, I’ve become acutely aware of the impact

a delightful lamp - I’ve figured out that the lighting

they have on me from day to day. There are biases

part isn’t want’s interesting to me, it’s the approach.

embedded in my environment, in the people I interact

Since beginning my masters, my focus in this

How can we question current assumptions

with, as well as in my own head. To gain more insight

about our environment to find new perspectives and

into this I recently read Women Don’t Ask. Instead of

new opportunities for design?

being about ways women can ‘fix’ themselves to over-

I recently went back and read through a

come anxieties, the book is an examination of how our

few blog posts from last school year and proved to

culture strongly discourages women from being asser-

myself that this is something I’ve been musing over

tive on their own behalf. The authors, Linda Babcock

for a while. One project in particular unexpectedly

& Sara Laschever, systematically deconstruct various

opened me up this as a new line of thought. Back

layers of our cultural experience to uncover the ways

then I said, ”I’ve been thinking of our project as just

that gender stereotypes are perpetuated, and suggest

scratching the surface of something much bigger. We

that by understanding where these stereotypes come

live in a world dominated by products made through

from we can work to counteract them.

a masculine view of the world. What happens if we

look through a feminine lens? I have a feeling we’ll find

Sara Wachter-Boettcher, have inspired me to think

more interesting problems to solve than toilet paper

about my experience through the lens of interac-

dispensing.” (yes, that project was about toilet paper)

tion design and shift the course of my thesis. If we

I know that my desire to uncover new per-

can study and understand the oppressive biases built

spectives comes from an understanding of how my

into the systems around us, then how can we take

gender affects my experience of the world. I’m aware

that knowledge and iterate our way to new and bet-

that my perspective, as a woman of mixed race, is rare

ter systems? By becoming aware of the water we’re

within the field of interaction design and entrepre-

swimming in we can actively construct systems that

neurialism. I’m also aware that as a woman of mixed

encourage participation, expose us to new ways of see-

race I face challenges that my white male counterparts

ing, and open up a whole lot of new opportunity.

don’t. This has been an ongoing a source of great anxi-

ety and frustration in my life. To work through it, I’ve


This book, paired with the recent article by

spent a lot of time reading feminist and post-colonial


November 2013 - January 2013

marginalized perspectives

thesis retreat A weeken in Hudson with 5 classmates and no wifi

This weekend I embarked on a thesis retreat with

and a special edition of Interacting with Computers

about half of my class. Friday afternoon, we packed

in the same vein - both organized by Bardzell and

up Min’s car and headed upstate to a house (pictured

Elizabeth Churchill. Unfortunately, since I go to design

above) that was just outside of Hudson, NY. Once

school, pulling these ‘science’ papers isn’t quite as easy

there, we proceeded to eat, drink, read, talk, and play

as I expected. I’m working on it though. (Hit me up if

for the next 48 hours. It was fantastic!

you have a login toScience Direct.)

Surprisingly, we all managed to get some solid

Fortunately, the extended abstract from the

work done on thesis. Something about the country air

workshop is online. Thursday afternoon, as my mac

+ no internet really makes you focus. I got through a

n cheese was in the oven, I combed through the ab-

lot of reading, and figured out my next line of inquiry.

stract’s references and downloaded a few papers to

read over the weekend. Though I read through 7 or

Last week, I discovered that the term ‘Femi-

nist HCI’ exists and was coined 2 years ago by Shaowen Bardzell. In the same year, there was also a workshop


so, these 3 really stood out:

Sugared puppy-dog tales, Elizabeth Churchill (Interactions, 2010 - pay wall)

She goes on to illustrate where these assump-

tions have caused serious problems in the design of products, both digital and physical. The most ghastly of her examples are airbags. The first generation of the

REALizing our messy future, Woodrow Winchester (Interactions, 2010 - pay wall) A response to Churchill’s piece, Winchester brings in

safety device seriously injured and killed (by decapitation!) many upon its release. This was due to the fact that airbags were initially calibrated for men of average weight and height.

his experience working on HIV interventions and discusses the need for design lenses.

Made in Patriarchy, Cheryl Buckley (MIT Press, 1986)  Buckely’s excellent piece examines the pariarchal context within which design history frames female interaction with design as practitioners, theorists, consumers, historians, and as objects of representation. Overall, I was struck by how eloquently others have said what I was trying to say in my last blog post. Essentially, they all very strongly make the case to bring a critical perspective to design. 

Churchill’s article sums it up best: ‘Designers

are not passive bystanders in the production, reproduction, reinforcing, or challenging of cultural values. We actively create artifacts and experiences. We design products with implicit or explicit assumptions about how products will be used and by whom. We mentally simulate the product user who is part of an imagined story of the product in use—these imaginary people are drawn from our everyday lives and usually have a gender, perhaps a shape, size, age and ethnicity. Thus we embed imagined, gendered others into our designs, inadvertently reproducing cultural norms because they seem so “natural.” And so in a

One of the many amzing views from our retreat.

It is incredible to me that a group of talented engineers could somehow forget that women and children are smaller than men, and thus could be greivously injured by their invention. It really speaks to the need to be aware of the perspectives we bring to the table.

I’ve finished the weekend feeling more ex-

cited than ever about my thesis. There is a real, if not dire, need to incorporate a critical perspective into our work as interaction designers. My next big question is how? How can I help to bridge the gap between academic theory and professional reality? 11/26/2012

chain of reification and reproduction, products are wired in subtle ways that reflect and reinforce existing cultural assumptions.’1


Artifact 3 Waiting to Pee, an app for the bathroom line Waiting to Pee is a location based app that helps you

ganizations on how much potential revenue they’re

estimate the wait time at a public bathrooms. The app

missing out on for every 5min someone has to wait to

also anonymously records the actual wait time and


location to a database that can be used to quantify the

amount of time people (usually women) wait in line.

the most tangible relics of gender discrimina-

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

tion within the western world. Aside from taking

This information could then be used to help

foreeeeevvvvvveeerrr, waiting in long bathroom lines

with the creation and enforcement of newer, fixture

can cause and aggravate numerous kidney and blad-

based, potty parity laws, or spin reports for larger or-

der issues, which can be a serious health risk.


Restroom disparity remains one of

waiting to pee on the whiteboard

Understanding the user flow

An early sketch to decide if Waiting to Pee could be a physical installation

Sketching out wireframes, flow, etc

The wait time calculator, early sketch

Wireframe for the wait time calculator and result screen


winter presentation Telling the story of the first semester

figuring out the narrative

Working through the presentation

These post its represet key parts of the presentation

Fleshing out the talk progression and thesis statement

The lower part of this board is the early stage of the goals and means chart displayed on the next page.


thesis goals and means

Change the world

Change systems of discrimination

Change workplace dynamics for interaction designers

Encourage the application of marginalized perspectives

Express business opportunities


Winter presentation: slides



A pitch and prototype In January, I started to actually make stuff

Thesis statement FOR Interaction Designers WHO NEED to design products and services for a wide audience, X IS A series of interactions THAT highlight implicit gender bias and offers strategies to over come them. UNLIKE bell hooks Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, THE PRODUCT is accessible to and helps designers become aware of the perspectives they carry.

Thesis goal MY GOAL IS TO start a conversation about implicit bias FOR interaction designers. I WILL ACHIEVE THIS BY creating a series interactions where these biases are highlighted.

Professional goal MY GOAL IS TO demonstrate an expertise in the consideration of implicit bias FOR organizations who could hire me as a consultant, or conferences who could invite me to speak. I WILL ACHIEVE THIS BY conveying the huge potential of improving business and design when these biases are addressed. Jan 15




Something to say A couple of strong voices that kept me on track.

“I like to refer to the anecdotal story of the Apple Store glass stairs. While visually appealing one unforeseen consequence to their design was the large groups of strange men that spend hours each day sitting under them looking up. As a women, the first time I saw them I thought ‘thank god I’m not wearing a skirt today.’ Such considerations were not taken in designing these stairs, I think it’s probable, if not easily predictable, that in a few years we will see such holes in the design of the web.”

– Sara J Chipps


“We all have implicit biases that subtly but profoundly affect our expectations of the people we work with. We have all been exposed to and share the implicit bias that women aren’t as good at work as men. And we share a similarly deep bias that men aren’t as good at home as women. These biases are so deeply ingrained in us that we usually don’t realize we have them.”

– Catherine de Lange

Reinventing Feminism

“This isn’t to say we give up our wildest, biggest

by Courtney Martin, has really helped me feel less

dreams. It’s to say we operate on two levels. On one,

paralyzed about by my thesis topic. She speaks about

we really go after changing these broken systems of

embracing the paradox we find in life and finding ways

which we find ourselves a part. But on the other, we

to feel fulfilled by our failures. The way Martin frames

root our self-esteem in the daily acts of trying to make

failure feels incredibly different than the ‘fail fast, fail

one person’s day more kind, more just, etc.”

often’ we hear so much about in startup culture. ‘Failing fast’ tells us to kill our darlings, and ‘feeling ful-

Thanks Courtney.

filled’ lets us love and respect them before letting go. 1/21/2013


thesis is quite a journey I don’t want to tell people what to do It’s been a while since I’ve written a solid thesis post,

maybe I can change design processes + hiring

so here goes.


Since the thesis retreat, my head has been in

Then, I went out for dinner with my good friend Jerri

a few different places. I’ve proved to myself, beyond a

Chou. We talked about my thesis, where it came from,

reasonable doubt, that turning up the volume on mar-

where I see it going. I told her about my plans to make

ginalized perspectives in design is what I need to be

implicit bias more visible, then we got to talking about

working on. I’ve also spent time with the fact that this

the opportunity of diverse perspectives. This is some-

is a wicked problem, and that I’m now in for what will

thing I keep coming back to - If most of our environ-

likely be a very bumpy and intensely personal road

ment (physical + digital) has been designed from a

from here.

mainstream perspective, what if we shift that view

Carving out a small part of this issue to work

slightly, does it mean that we can rebuild everything?

on for the next few months is going to be scary, and

No doubt there are some serious opportunities there,

difficult. At the moment, it feels like whenever I fo-

$$ and otherwise.

cus in on something I can come up with a laundry list

of reasons not to do it, or why that particular issue is

‘women-related’ (I need a better phrase than that)

impossible to overcome in such a small time. It’s an

topics + issues throughout the evening. Jerri wasn’t

interesting form of paralysis that’s a fun mix of thesis

all that convinced by my implicit bias focus, and sug-

stress, cultural conditioning, and plain old procrasti-

gested that my project needs to be more personal


than that - it needs to solve a problem that I have, fix

Over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot

We discussed an immensely wide range of

something that bothers me, help me overcome deeper

about implicit bias, and was planning on creating a

issues, or reach personal goals.

few interactions that express the biases we all hold.

One idea was switching the gender of names in several

bias exercises would be interesting, and definitely

news articles to see if it had any impact on the reader.

spark some good conversation. However, this comes

My rationale went something like this:

with a negative slant - my work would be focused at

To make better products, we need more di-

the ‘mainstream’ designer, saying, “Your perspective

1. 2. 3.

She’s totally right. I knew that the implicit

verse perspectives in design.

is wrong, now here’s how to fix you”. This isn’t what I


80% of the people who make websites are

male, 87% are white*.

right, now here’s the opportunity” and say it to the

People have implicit bias, which impacts how

What I want to say is: “Your perspective is

they view others.

large segment of the population that doesn’t hear it


People like to hire people like them.

enough. Perhaps the best way to do that is to follow


If I can teach people about bias, I can show

Jerri’s advice, acknowledge that I’m part of that large

them how deeply ingrained certain stereotypes

segment, and say it to myself.

are. 6.


If I can teach ways to overcome bias, then

Jan 20, 2013


February 2013

Generative applications of gender

‘butch’ & ‘femme’ A clearer way to discuss gender and perspective

‘Femme‘ Interaction Design

between these 2 views, without dragging it into a con-

I’ve been thinking about perspectives in design for a

versation about stereotypes.

while, but I until yesterday I’ve lacked the ability to

comfortably articulate what I mean. So far I’ve used


“feminine”, “traditionally marginalized”, “female”,

“women”, and “under-represented” to express the type

as a tool that helps you do something better or more

of perspective I feel is missing from interaction design.

easily, or that connects you. Facebook is an example

The problem with all of these words is that they all

of a femme technology. It allows you to share ideas

carry a lot of baggage - they victimize, exclude, illicit

and moments with your friends and family and stay

value judgements, etc, etc. This has posed a big prob-


lem with figuring out how to narrow my topic focus,

A butch perspective on technology is that it gives you

since starting from a point of victimisation seems to

this enormous power to transcend the limitations of

reinforce certain types of systematic oppression.

time, space, and the body. Airplanes are a butch tech-


Last night, I watched Cornelia Brunner’s talk,

Here’s her breakdown on the two different “A femme perspective on technology sees it

‘On Girls, Boys, and IT Careers’, where she expertly jumps this hurdle. In her research, which began in

So, now that I can be clear about it:

the 70s, she has consistently found 2 gendered ways

For my thesis, I’m interested in uncovering modes of

of imagining technology. She points out that gender

‘femme’ interaction design.

is socially constructed, not biologically assigned. To make this distinction clear, and to avoid confusion, she

Big thanks to Clint Beharry, who shared Brunner’s talk

uses the terms “butch” and “femme” when describing

with me.

her findings. Through this decoupling, it becomes A LOT easier to talk about the distinctive differences



cornelia brunner, 2006


linguistics research Gender impacts storytelling and the way we use language

changelog entry Date: 2/2/2013 Did LOTS of reading Several chapters from Gender and Conversational Interaction

Gender and Conversational Interaction (Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics) Deborah Tannen 1993


Pickel Fights: Gendered Talk in Preschool Disputes by Amy Sheldon This essay reviews the conflict mediation strategies of 3 year olds. Sheldon separately observed small groups of boys and girls at play. The boys "use language to assert one's position of dominance", while girls "use language to create and maintain relationships of closeness and equality". Community and Contest: Midwestern Men and Women Creating Their Worlds in Conversational Storytelling by Barbara Johnstone Johnstone is interested in the relationship between the social world created in a story, and the social world that gives rise to the story. She suggests that men and women come from separate sub-cultures, and make choices in storytelling based on this. In her study of 58 personal narratives, she finds that "women's stories tend to be about community, while men's tend to be about contest". Who's Got the Floor? by Carole Edelsky In this 1981 study, Edelsky identifies technical limitations in the transcription of face to face communication. She used "participant-sense" to determine "floor" and "turn" within the context of 5 informal meetings. She identifies 2 kinds of floors. F1 is a "singularly developed floor" - where people take turns in communicating, F2 is a collaborative venture where many may be speaking concurrently "on the same wavelength" or engaging in a "free-for-all".


In F1 interactions, men took more and longer turns, this gender difference was neutralized in F2's. Several papers from Language @ Internet Computer- Mediated Conversation: Introduction and Overview by Susan C. Herring An introduction to a 2-part special issue of Language @ Internet, this paper is review of computer-mediated conversation (CMC) since the rise of the internet. Main focus is on text-based communication, as the most popular mode of online communication. Internet users "often refer to textual exchanges as conversations". CMC differs from oral conversation in the way it handles turn taking, there is no allowance for overlapping exchanges.

Women and Children Last: The Discursive Construction of Weblogs This 2004 paper undertakes an examination of the blog space to determine whether blogs are in fact "inherently democratizing". Through their analysis they found that blogs were primarily maintained by teenage girls as personal diaries, but mainstream media was primarily reporting on the small percentage of men who maintained "filter" or "knowledge" blogs. The suggest that blogging as a medium can not be democratic/egalitarian so long as mainstream representation of blog content is not consistent with the actual use of blogs.

A Faceted Classification Scheme for Computer-Mediated Discourse by Susan C. Herring This paper describes a classification scheme for CMC. I didn't get to far into this one as it's focus is on linguistic classification rather than conversation + gender or technology, but may come in handy later on. Who's Got the Floor in Computer-Mediated Conversation? Edelsky's Gender Patterns Revisited by Susan C. Herring Just my luck to find a follow up paper to one I'd read earlier! Herring describes the findings of Edelsky and several other researchers who came after - reiterating the finding of F1 and F2 floors. She repeats Edelsky's study using data from several email message-boards in the early 90s. The large takeaway is that CMC closely resembles F1 interactions, and therefore holds a bias towards males. One final paper from elsewhere, also by Susan C. Herring


a 3 part update Where I get an awesome thesis advisor.

1. Jerri Chou agreed to be my thesis advisor! Jerri is the co-founder of The Feast, All Day Buffet, TBD and Lovely Day. She’s also super awesome, and I’m very excited to have her on my thesis team.  2. I went to Interaction 13. It was Toronto, and it was cold. I enjoyed a few of the talks, which hopefully I’ll post about later. 3. I started a thesis changelog. Based on some code Tom pulled together, the changelog is where I’ll be posting daily thesis updates. Styling is on the list for this weekend. Feb 8, 2013


pen moms Where I get an awesome thesis advisor.

Pen Moms wireframes and flow

The small group diagram

Having fun while working

Alex and Jerri hard at work

what are you making? If it’s broke, don’t fix it

This has been a big question in the thesis discussion

no amount of makeover will really make them differ-

for the last couple of weeks. Driving me a little crazy,

ent. Kind of like lipstick on a pig.

and its valid one. In the spirit of publishing things that aren’t polished, here’s part of a wrap up I sent to my

Kind of like lipstick on a pig.

thesisadvisers this week:

On Sunday, I had a big talk with Rachel Li-

What needs to happen next is that I have to

ebert, a very good friend of mine who’s done lots of

define what femme interaction design is and start

work within the gender + psychology space. Rachel

finding examples of it. For the last of week or so, I

suggested that perhaps my thesis isn’t creating a prod-

thought I’d create some magical model and that would

uct, but is actually the act of becoming a femme inter-

lead me to some crazy innovative new way of design.

action designer, and the documentation of that act. It’s

Chatting with Rachel made me realize that that’s to-

kind of meta, but it feels like the right place to start.

tally not how it’ll work - the femme pov has existed

Jerri and I previously had a conversation about how

long before any of us, so there are/have been people

this needs to be a personal project. The act of becom-

doing work with this perspective already, they are just

ing a femme interaction designer will probably lead to

not highlighted as such. An applicable project, which I

the production of something, it’s just too soon to tell

saw at Interaction 13, was Kate Hartman’s Nudgeables,

what that will be.

which allows you to discretely nudge a friend from a

It’s been floated a couple of times that I should

short distance, perhaps to rescue you from an awk-

redesign certain products/services from a femme per-

ward conversation. The iPad + iPhone are arguably

spective, but this has never really sat right. Through

pieces of femme technology, as they are meant to act

talking to Rachel, we worked out that this would in

as windows to connect you to information and people,

fact be kind of a butch approach - taking something

the physical features of the devices are designed to be

and reshaping/fixing it - and that most products are


probably made from a butch perspective anyway, so 2/8/2013 66

Februray 2013



thesis Hq A home for my work, online

Every week I seem to become a little bit more articu-

that forms our understanding of ‘masculine’ and ‘femi-

late about what exactly I’m doing for thesis. One thing

nine’. It’s why some may find it odd that grown men

that came up this week is that the act of this articula-

enjoy watching My Little Ponies. It’s not that men, bio-

tion is really important - basically, how can I make my

logically, aren’t able to watch My Little Ponies, it just

thesis accessible to people that don’t live in my brain

it seems like they’re not supposed to like it. Here’s a

and don’t think about gender stuff all the time?

quick video about these so-called ‘Bronies’.

To help with this, I’ve put together a thesis hq.

Gender affects the way that we interact with the

It’s a slightly modified view of my blog that displays

world. There are ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ modes of

my thesis related posts, a link to my changelog, as well

doing lots of things, including language use and un-

as the the most up-to-date description of my thesis.

derstandings of technology. I think that understanding the differences between these perspectives can

As of today, that description is:

give us a new framework for designing engaging in-

My thesis explores the generative application of gen-


der analysis to interaction design. What does that mean?

At SVA IxD, thesis is a consistent approach to a persis-


tent idea. I think a lot about gendered perspectives. The term ‘gender’ refers to the socio-cultural process


advisor update Date: 2/12/2013 To: Jerri Chou, chole Gottlieb, tim allen Hi everyone, I've made some pretty decent progress over the last few days, and wanted to get you all up to speed on where I'm headed. I've got an alternative version of the whitespace + user research assignments, so it'd be great to hear what you think about that. I'm really excited about where things are going! Thesis is starting to get fun. tash ---Thesis description Chloe + Tim: I'm continuing to evolve the description my thesis, and created a landing page for it. It lives at http:// Here I've got my current description, thesis blog posts, and a link to my thesis changelog. All future experiments + process work will be accessible via this page.  Curated Collection After a discussion with Jerri on Saturday, I'm shifting from just defining + documenting femme projects. Instead, I'm finding projects and categorizing them based on a set of gendered characteristics. The intention is to show that both femme + butch perspectives are valid and work well within different contexts. To that end, I've started collecting + analyzing projects here: I'm charting the projects against this set of 11 femme + butch tech characteristics I pulled from a paper by Brunner. For example, is it amedium (f) or is it a product (b)? I initially wanted to chart the work on a continuum (femme to butch), as it better expresses the fluidity of gender, but that was too difficult to start with. For now I'm going with: femme characteristic, butch characteristic, in the middle, not sure, not applicable.

My next steps on this project: - Write a methodology statement I'm aware that though I'm working with in a framework, my categorization is highly subjective. I think this is fine, so long as I'm very transparent about how I'm going about it.  - Formalize project entry more (right now its text based).  This will allow me to eventually sort projects by characteristic and start to see patterns that form as I get more projects into this system. My MVP version will be a google form + resulting spreadsheet that pushes to a tumblr post. Tumblr allows for DISQUS comments - in case anyone interested wants to dispute/needs clarification of my methodology - and project sharing.  Alternatives to whitespace + user research assignments Keeping in the spirit of the 2 assignments, i’m planning: by Feb 13 - A [well articulated] survey on the resources experience/ interaction designers + product developers/entrepreneurs use to keep up with whats going on in the domain, to find inspiration etc. I think that this is better as a survey than as a user interview because it'll allow me to pull in more answers, as well as break outside of the MFA IxD studio. My hope is that if I write a compelling survey, combined with an amazing letter + accompanying tweets, I can lean on SVA IxD faculty + alums to push the survey to people outside of my networks. by Feb 20 - Package up the results And send to all survey respondents as a reward (who doesn't want to know what everyone else is looking at?) - Conduct a competitive analysis on the results This will help me understand the landscape of IxD resources, to analyze the types projects displayed (do they lean in one direction or another? how are they presented?), and also find projects to review for my own collection. 


gendered interaCtions A serious thesis experiement

pitCh statement

ciples, but is not necessarily made by women.

FOR aspiring + professional interaction designers WHO want alternative models of interaction design

WHO is this for? Femme IxD celebrates the work that IS a collection of projects

is focused around communication and relationships

THAT defines + showcases examples of femme interaction design

WHO want alternative models of interaction design

UNLIKE Women and Tech and the Reconstructionists,

alternative to what? dribbble, fast co

THE PRODUCT showcases work that fits femme prin-

the survey


audienCe lifeCyCle

Audience Lifecycle for

Principle Audience: Interaction Designers Key moments






Online and Offline • blogs • word of mouth • articles website website share buttons


View projects

Share projects + articles

Read about FemmeIxD

Connect with makers

• Not enough projects • Projects not compelling

• Why share? • Is there a compelling story? • Is sharing easy?


Pain Points

• Low visibility • Difficult search terms

Visitor’s tumblr/fb/twitter/etc

• Articles not accessible • Tone of site • Bad UX

Tash Wong 2/6/2013

An exploration of user needs for my curated collection


review page sketches

changelog date: 2/18/2013 •

• • • •

FINISHED my webform + database + push to tumblr. Now I can set up a review for a project, post it to tumblr, and post a copy to a database. updated the site name to Met with Jerri, discussed The Feast, and some multimodal networks. Registered + Wrote a draft about page for genderedinteractions. com in 750.

DATE: 2/17/2013 • Continued building the review form. Decided to


• •

throw out google spreadsheets and just use a database. The overhead of getting the extra piece of script working is too high. I can just use a csv file to generate charts later. Trying to determine the best way of displaying my results - question answer? table? statements? updated the site name from femmebutchixd to femme, butch, both?

DATE: 2/15/2013 • Got all of the pieces of my webform wired up. Now I can enter a review from my website, have it post to tumblr, and be stored in a google spreadsheet along with the tumblr ID for reference later. • Completed the webform. Having trouble with outputting to google spreadsheets.

gendered interaCtions: about page


gendered interaCtions: revieW entry form

The submission form saves the input as markdown, pushes it to tumblr, then saves the post & id to a database.


gendered interaCtions


Gendered innovations Announcing Gendered Interactions and discovering a Stanford project It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, don’t

processes that form the basis of most scientific prac-

worry though, I’ve been working! For some reason


putting aside time to write a blog post seems to elude


to create gender equality;

me. Lots has happened over the last couple of weeks


to enhance creativity;

but here’s a couple of highlights:


to stimulate economic and technological develop-

I started genderedinteractions.tumblr. com


ment (or business innovation);

Over the next month, I’ll be collecting a range of interaction design projects and categorizing them based on how they fall into gendered views of technology. Currently, I’m using this list as the beginning of my framework, which comes from the work of the EDC which I wrote about a month ago. My hope is that by framing projects in this way I’ll be able to tease out various gendered approaches to interaction design and highlight areas where certain approaches work better than others.  Please check it out and leave comments where I’m being vague, as I’m actively working on ways to better communicate these differing views. Also, if you have any projects you’d like to see added, please send them my way @tashwong.

Stanford’s Gender Innovation project Beginning in 2009, Stanford’s Gender Innovations project focuses on applications of gender analysis in science, health & medicine, engineering, and environment. They state that these disciplines are not valueneutral, due to the gendered and ethnic exclusions that occurred while they were being established. The purpose of the project is to revise the methods and


to make research more responsive to society.

from Interdisciplinary Approaches to Achieving Gendered Innovations. This is exactly the same line of thought I’m pursuing with my thesis work, and its really exciting to find an established organization working with gender as a base for innovation. If you have a moment, check out their intro page or read through some of their case studies. 2/28/2013

Gendered Innovations at Stanford University


Class presentation Articulating the macro and micro scale of my topic



Gendered interactions, a review An experiment comes to an end In a post a couple of weeks ago I introduced Gendered

experiences. My hope is that by identifying gendered

Interactions, a small thesis experiment. My aim was

modes of engaging with technology, I can expand the

to establish whether I could easily find gendered ap-

current vocabulary we use to discuss interaction de-

proaches to interaction design projects. After a week

sign and find generative applications of gender based

or so of analysing a variety of work and adding to the


site, I realized this is not so easy. Projects such as 21 Balancoires certainly sit

My big takeaway is this: Interaction design, like most

to the femme side of the traits list, but other projects

human interactions, is a complex layering of ideas, pro-

can’t be so clearly categorized. Though I only reviewed

cess, input and output. I’ve found that you can’t simply

a dozen projects, it did become clear that most of the

have a framework and expect to fit a whole product

more interesting (for me) work exhibited many more

into it, or hope to find one that conforms to it.

femme than butch traits. Noting this made me aware of how subjective the process was, and that the proj-

ects I found problematic to review exhibited a mix of

like most human interactions, is a complex layering

My big takeaway is this: Interaction design,


of ideas, process, input and output. I’ve found that For example, Snapchat has 2 core interac-

you can’t simply have a framework and expect to fit

tions: one is to create media to share, and the other

a whole product into it, or hope to find one that con-

is to consume that media individually. These could be

forms to it.

considered as opposites in terms of how they fit with the scale, but they fit within the app. Therefore, like many things, Snapchat is neither a ‘femme’ nor ‘butch’ product, it exhibits a variety of traits from both perspectives.

While this experiment didn’t go quite the way

I expected, I still hold to the same theory as was stated on theabout page.

“Through this site I’m testing out my theory

that gender plays a big role in the way that we understand, interact, and ultimately create interactive



March 2013

thinking big


thesis update Date: 2/21/2013 To: Jerri Chou Here's a quick thesis update: I put together a presentation yesterday for thesis class. The class format has changed based on the fact that we're not all making products, which is great. Each week 4 of us are presenting our thesis progress and I was in the first batch. It was a really useful exercise to hammer out a linear story about where the work is now and where I see it going. If you're curious, a pdf of my slides + notes are here (see page 82). Tamara Giltsoff is hanging out in the studio this week. She gave a talk on Tuesday and I had a chat with her for an hour or so. Her presentation helped me realize that the 2 tracks that have brought me to this topic are one in the same. The first (and the primary driver from nov-jan) is that i'm aware i'm personally affected by socially biased systems + feel there aren't enough women entrepreneurs/tech, and the second (which i've been thinking about since undergrad) - that we're undergoing a disruptive shift in organizational structures/world view right now. I'm not 100% with articulating it but yesterday I used a micro/macro metaphor: both of these are caused by an overly masculine/butch world view (the builders of almost all of our social/organizational structures were men), and there's both business + social opportunity in articulating a feminine/femme view to help correct the balance. That thoughts been hanging out for a while, but I think yesterday was the first time I said it out loud. Tamara brought up a few interesting points:  1. Language is really important (she's allergic to the word feminist, biz leaders are too). She's started using the term Impact Opportunity instead of Social Innovation.  2. Gender needs to play a big role in whatever way I explain the work that I'm doing, but she's right, I'll need to do some testing around the type + tone of the language I use. 3. My project review site should look at the intention AND the use of products/services 4. The personal journey of my thesis is really important.  82

She thought the struggle with defining my project within the structure of the course + mindset of the people I had been speaking to in contrast with the conversations I have with you + my friend Rachel were really interesting. More or less, she reiterated the comment that my process of becoming more aware of femme design processes, and undoing the 'butch' processes I've already learned is imperative to whatever I end up creating. 5. This would make for a great consulting career. She could see a the end result being a design for a 1 day workshop, or a series of experimental acts that help people understand the differences in perspective. This was nice to hear, because I think doing high level consulting mixed with startup work would be a nice post-grad life to lead :) We’re undergoing a disruptive shift in organizational structures/world view right now. I’m not 100% with articulating it but yesterday I used a micro/macro metaphor. Side note: I learned about minecraft last night, which is fascinating - it has a creative and a battle mode. And the participatory teen magazine Rookie. Evidently 12 year old girls have all this stuff figured out already.  This segues nicely into some of the feedback I got from my class: 1. Final output for my project could be: a workshop, a series of brainstorming cards (like IDEO's method cards), and a personality/blindspot test.  2. Tony pointed out that the conversations we've been having is helping him understand his 'blind spots'. He understands himself as being of a super duper 'butch' thinker, and the femme column has given him a language to be aware of traits he needs to work on. I think Tony is going to be my user tester for whatever I make - cause if it can make sense to him, it can make sense to anyone who's super linear/logic brain. Also, Tony suggested looking into language shifts that have happened in design - he pointed out the shift to 'agile' that happened in engineering, and the shift to 'lean' in the startup community.

Beginning to flesh out the macro narrative

Gender research as a generative base

A to do list from the same day, March 13 83

macro narrative outlining session

Initial talk sequence

My workspace at home

Iteration 3


Interation 2

Post its on post its

Discarded ideas

Final sequence of the talk outline

change log Date: 3/14/2013 - 3/15/2013 Spent the day working through my narrative, really want to get my argument down on paper so I can start discussing it with others. Went through 3 iterations and feel like I may have the macro view down. It goes like this: Paradigm shift is happening in the Western World • Industrial economies/methods/traditions are falling • Participatory structures rising • ex: Connected Company, Tamara Giltsoff • Why? • Technology • Social networks • DIVERSITY. • I believe rising cultural diversity at all levels of our economy is the core reason for this shift. People of different age, sex, class, and race bring varying perspectives to the table when they buy, work, lead, live etc. • In the grand scheme of things, this is really new • existing systems rise from the Industrial Revolution (1820s) • Women get the vote in 1920 • Civil Rights passed in 1964 • Steady rise in women + minority leaders 70s-today (~50 years out of ~200) • Traditional systems (business, educational, economic, etc) created in a monoculture, from singular perspective (in terms of the sex, class, race breakdown) • Have worked well for 150+ years in terms of material wealth, but • Don't have requisite variety to manage current social reality • What do we do? • Could ignore it, or try to constrain minority + women growth. • Ongoing • Doesn't work: see Election 2012 ("white men now a minority") • or we can look for new models.

New Models • Where do we look for new models, if the institutions + broad culture we've been trained in have a heritage in a dominant singular perspective? Outside of that perspective: • The academy of feminism for new perspectives Academy of Fem • Interdisciplinary academic field, • that critiques and explores societal norms. • Methodology: • hands-on • participatory • reflexive • compare to Gray, Rifkin, Wagner • History • unlike cutting edge business ideas (last 15 years) • Fem studies became academic field in the 60s • roots back to 1792, “Ain’t I a Woman” - Sojourner Truth • in 2007 576 institutions have gender focused programs Current Applications • Gendered Innovations • Science focused • pregnant crashtest dummy • osteoporoses • User research • participatory research • Interaction Design (my work) • Linguistics • Approaches to Technology Next Steps • I’m creating a toolkit for IxD • All projects are different but: • read connected company • read a women’s studies primer • research feminist disciplines applicable to your project/business


macro post And then I realized, this is too big for now

change log Date: 3/21/2013 Woke up wanting to channel the negative energy from the article last night into something productive. Started a blog post about my macro narrative, got through about 25% of it: Our world is changing. We're rapidly shifting from a mechanized understanding of the world to a more participatory one. Top down systems of control are being toppled by bottom up forms of communication. Examples of this range from #attfail to Arab Spring, take your pick.

Why is this happening? The primary reason

given for this change is the rise in networked technology. It's the Internet and it's breaking everything. But technology isn't the whole story, it's the thing the technology is speeding along, something that was happening before Zuckerberg was born. It's the growing inclusion of people of varied age, sex, race, and class into all aspects of our economic conversation: women who run big companies, homeless people with smartphones, latinas that play video games, Barack Obama.

This increase of cultural diversity is introduc-

ing a complexity many of our social systems weren’t designed for. This is why they're being disrupted.


I got stuck when I reached the part about our systems coming from the Industrial Revolution. Thinking about time scale, I made a quick timeline to understand how long certain social systems have been in place. Turns out business schools were started at the some time as the Industrial Revolution (~1820), so thats our current mode of production. I figure that's where some of our models come from, but it didn't speak to the diversity argument I was making, so I added in white domination over other races and male domination over females to bring in the social component. This changes the game a bit - white domination stems from European colonialism from 500 years ago, and men have been dominating women for about 6000 years. Yikes. So all of a sudden I'm dealing with 500 years at a minimum, not 200.

research A few texts that were helpful while writing the macro narrative.

The Connected Company Dave Gray and Thomas Vander Wal 2012

Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, James Macanufo 2010

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box Arbinger Institute 2010


March - April 2013

bringing it back


erin moore Twitter

tony chu SVA IxD


allison shaw

derek chan

Jennings hanna

Alex todaro






the quiz

the thesis Ways of talking about the project

Another Pitch statement For Makers of all kinds, who need new generative starting points, X facilitates an internal conversation, that helps Makers understand their own perspective towards technology, unlike Ideo Method cards, Mental Notes, etc (see Mar 22: comp analysis), X exposes the Maker to their worldview and introduces them to a different one. 3/27/2013

summarized by Paul Pangaro The project is about an awareness of these dichtomous points of view and the value of exercising the conversation, wether in an individual or in a team, and to be aware of teh benefits or disadvantages of each.

Better design emerges as a consequence of

tool to making the exercise of that dichotomy explicit.


4 layered final A systems diagram for my final deliverable

Changelog Date: 3/28/2013 Clarified 4 layers of final prototype: 1.

Internal conversation: between a website + viewer. Help the viewer to understand their pov; expose them to the other 2. External conversation: a worksheet/workshop/card set that can aid the viewer in facilitating a similar conversation within a project team. Probably what the card set evolves into. 3. Source information: expose the source of the words/ framing as Brunner's gender + technology work 4. Macro narrative: fem academy is a good place to look for disruptive ideas/new ways of seeing.

Notebook sketch from 3/28/2013


Writing questions Jerri and I spent a day writing a set of questions to determine which way someone might lean - femme or butch.

Initial question ideas

Thinking through career paths

Picking up a new hobby

Brainstorming ways to find a cafe


Notes transcribed Date: 3/30/2013 Think about what you do, your career. How did you get here? Butch: I decided what I want/I need to accomplish/achieve I created goals and worked towards them I found and pursued opportunity/ did what worked and eliminated what didn't I commited to an outcome

Femme: Effective: I don't want a lot of options, just want one that fits what I want/like Integrate: I want to find these through things I'm already doing, people I'm already talking to and is my style Sharing: want somethin based on shared experience and or through sharing with others. Trust: help me find a trusted option

Femme: I created an idea of what I'd lke to be doing/my life to be like I worked with people/people came into my life who afected my trajectory + the kinds of projects I worked on. People hleped and encouraged me to pursue initiatives and work that aligned with my life and goal I went with what came You’re getting into photography. How do you go about that? Butch: Power: Buy an awesome camera. 10x zoom and large memory card, because I want to take a log of pictures Autonomy: I want full control over my images efficient: having a lot of file formats to work with Femme: Creation: I take and share photos to get feedback from friends Share: let people know what I'm making Effective: edit fast and get it out You're in a new city and looking for a cafe to work in. Butch: Efficient: a lot of potential cafes quickly Consume: I want options that fit my criteria for a good cafe Autonomous: I can make this decision on my own I can get an answer on my own without havning to ask anyone Need: get me something i need to fix my problem


the quiz online excited about making, I dove into producing a webiste that would host the 4 layered final

Onboarding & quiz user flow


draft copy date: 4/1/2013 What kind of maker are you? Research has shown there are at least 2 ways of approaching technology. The approach influences what we expect from our devices, as well a what we make with them. My belief is that by being aware of our approach, we can account for it and make better products and services. And as a community of makers, who doesn't want to do that? Want to know which way you lean? Take this short test. Q1-Q3 demographics - for me, is there a better way to slip this in? modal before the result? This is a rather soft science - points of view are nuanced and influenced by more factors that we can count, but you lean x rather than y.

What does that mean? By and large x makers see technology as an instrument for speed and efficiency. It helps us get our jobs done faster and with less hassle. - case study By and large y makers to think of technology more as a medium for expression. It helps us connect with others and be more flexible with sharing information and experience. - Zappos case study Both points of view are important as we move into a new age which is governed less by strict hierarchies and more by networks and conversations. What can I do with this? Now that you know which way you lean, you can start to see how it influences the things you make and learn to become aware of the other perspective. Generally speaking, the more hats you can wear when you design, the more well-rounded your outcome will be. 97

survey prototype After a frustrating day, I realized there were still too many questions to build the

website. Were the questions any good? Were they too restrictive? Were they biased in some way? To answer these questions, I sent out together a google form.

changelog date: 4/4/2013 •

Color coded spreadsheet of responses.

Ankle sprain + results tallying. Had a bike accident a couple of days before.


76 respondents. • Female: 45 • Male: 28 • Other: 3 • Only 15% (32 of 228) of responses used 'Other' and fi lled in their own answers • While not falling strictly along gender lines, the respondents leaned femme + butch with their answers in the same proportions as the genders represented. • Femme lean: 43 (27 F, 15 M, 1 O) • Butch lean: 26 (15 F, 9 M, 2 O) • Other: 7 (3 F, 4 M) • Most write ins leaned butch (15 of 32)

The questions, via Google Form


the cards

Thinking through examples

The first version of the cards

changelog Date: 3/17/2013 Started a paper prototype. It's set of cards with each of the words from Brunner's list, each card includes: • the word • a question to frame it • the word's definition (within the context of the framing question) • examples of the concept/trait in use


DATE: 3/18/2013 Almost finished the cards. Tony helped with a lot of the butch examples. I find butch examples difficult though, for some reason they’re hard to pin down without using cynical or negative examples.

Cards v1 Set of 22

The first set of cards were made as quickly as possible. Pencil was used for all areas where I wasn’t quite sure.


meghana Unsure of how the cards could be used, I tried out some user testing

To begin, I asked her to think through group projects she was working on.

We then used them to talk through a few of her past professional projects.

After divinding the cards into 2 groups, she pointed out her last job placed too much emphasis on the butch traits. She found that this meant user priorities were neglected.

She also suggested new examples for the cards that weren’t clear enough.

changelog Date: 3/23/2013

• after splitting them into the 2 categories, she pointed out that at previous places she’d worked too much emphasis was put onto the butch traits, not enough on the femme. I didn’t preface the difference between the 2 types of cards, she inferred one was more dev focused, the other more user focused.

Tested the index cards with Meghana, which was great! I tried to be as light with the framing as possible, as I’m not sure how I’m going to pitch these yet. Big takeaways: • she finds them useful for thinking through pov


competitive analysis A look at other card sets out there for designers and innovators.

Surviving Design Projects

method cards

The Game, by Dan Brown 2012.

by IDEO, 2003.

oblique strategies

mental notes

Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas, by Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt, 1975.

by Stephen P. Anderson, 2010.


cards v2 Making the cards a little more legible

This is a caption for the photo and it is two lines for some reason and then it becomes 3 lines past a certain point.


This is a caption for the photo and it is two lines for some reason and then it becomes 3 lines past a certain point.

card anatomy V2 of the cards consist of 5 different parts


group testing Hot off the cutting mat, the second version of the cards were used in a brainstorm

In the these video stills, there are 3 people sitting together to use the cards. First year SVA IxD students Meghana, Rae, and Pam used the cards to facilitate a 15min concept conversation.


changelog Date: 3/24/2013 • Finished typesetting the cards • Printed and produced the first set • Just as I finished making the new cards, Meghana asked to use the index cards for a brainstorm. I gave her the new set and set up a camera to record the first few minutes of their use. Very exciting to have the cards in use within 5min of making them.

minnie changelog Date: 4/4/2013 Had a card session with Minnie, which was fun and interesting. Takeaways: • The cards can be used in a variety of scenarios, we used them to talk through:

• her thesis audiences (makers + helpers) • a new project at work vs an old one • how she sees herself as a designer/manager • Reviewing one of the videos: I talk entirely too much.

Talking through audience.

“It’s helpful for me to see it this way, Breaks down how different they are and how they can complement each other.”

Discussing 2 projects at work.

When comparing a pair of cards, “Being conscious of that is important, being conscious of the opposite side, the tension is interesting.”

Using the cards to describe herself as a designer and manager.

“These are my traits as a manager. Hmm, I see why people with the other traits frustrate me. *Laughs* But, if it weren’t for the people with these characteristics, it wouldn’t be a good team, it’d be a lopsided team. Seeing the benefit of that visibly is actually really revealing.“


scenarios Working through use cases for the cards

cards! Date: 4/3/2013 To: derek Chan

Brainstorm of scenarios. Referenced in changelog below.

changelog Date: 4/4/2013 Started further teasing out the scenarios, making them a little more generic Personal Process Team Process Interdepartmental Process Group Discussion Project kickoff meetings Product function/concept End user POV (M/F) Internal POV Product feature End user POV (M/F) Internal POV Competitive analysis (fm end user perspective) "Making do" vs "making new" looking for opportunity within existing frameworks


Framing External - Users Which traits are important to your audience? Is this what you think, or what you know? Can you test your assumptions. If your audience is predominantly masculine, try thinking through features + function with the yellow cards. If feminine, try the red. Now switch, what happens if you reverse them? Are you favoring one color card over the other? Is this intentional? Is there a way to balance? Internal - Makers Which traits are important to you, the maker/designer/ developer/creative team? Think about your organizations creative process, which traits are important? What if you incorporated others? Are you favoring one color card over the other? Is this intentional? Is there a way to balance? Meta Is there a way that your internal process is affecting the experiential outcome for your users? Other On the front of the cards down in the bottom right there's a teeny number. These numbers match up across the color to create pairs. See if the pairings spark any ideas or whether one card is more of a priority than the other in terms of any of the above questions.

presentation 4 subheading


team work A user journey illustrating how the cards can be used in a multi-disciplinary team




April 2013

think bigger make better


Design persona An exercise to tease out the personality of Think Bigger, Make Better

Brand Traits friendly informative high-level powerful guided + constructive accessible

but firm (750words) but not prescriptive (Moves, Fuelband) but not abstract (Feltron Report) but not complicated (Twitter) but not authoritative (Liz Danzico, SVAIxD) but not easy (blogging)

2 voices One isn't better than the other, they're different, equal, and both need to be considered.

Design persona exercise results

Brand traits derived from the design person exercise

Design persona action shot

Results of a naming exercise with Tom


branding boards 4 of the 6 sheets used to explore the look and feel for Think Bigger, Make Better.


Adjacent Feel

Other card sets village type foundry

Color Study



visual design David Bellona expertly crafted the look and feel for Think Bigger, Make Better using the branding boards as a base

logotype explorations Make Think



Think Make








Bigger THINK







Better MAKE



r Better Bigge










Make Think










MAKE Think












































Web and card layouts

Process book templates


Wireframes v1 First round of Think Bigger, Make Better wireframes

Group exercise.





I’m on a mission. Purpose statement exercise, left. Home, right.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Cras consectetur tempor ligula, ut sagittis ipsum mattis non. Duis semper cursus posuere. Maecenas in mollis enim. Aliquam erat volutpat. Vivamus volutpat convallis urna, a semper mauris.

Write and reflect in 3 steps. 1. YOU



START Why 3 steps?

About mission statements

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Purpose statement exercise, Illustrator.






A tool for answering the why. INTRO





As designers, makers, and innovators, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we make. Within project teams we talk about what to make and how to make it.


Often the why gets left out of the picture. This can lead to project teams who dont’ see eye to eye, a loss of vision midway through, or a big pivot when you realize you over looked one of your primary motivations.

THINK BIGGER MAKE BETTER is a tool to help you articulate your mission, priorities, and perspective. Whether you work alone or in a team, Think Bigger Make Better can push you to be clearer about your intensions, opening up new paths to your goals.

Think Bigger Make Better is a set of 8 term pairs that have been derived from research done over the last thirty years into approaches to technology. Read more

The 16 terms are presented in card form, in both the digital and physical versions of the tool. As a collection, the cards can be used: Generate new starting points Open conversation Get everyone on the same page.

GET STARTED Get the cards. They are available to be made at home, or for purchase.


Mission Statement They are available to be made at home, or for purchase.


Group Exercise They are available to be made at home, or for purchase.




Throughout the development of Think Bigger Make Better, my cofounder Tom Harman and I used the tool to help us be clear and discuss openly both our personal motivations for being part of Coastermatic and our goals for the company.

Here are our mission statements



Why do you do what you do?

What do you hope it does for others?

autonomy, control, instrumental, creation

integrate, expressive, creation, efficient

Coastermatic gives me the autonomy to control my work situation, which gives me the freedom to exex periment creatively. Coastermatic becomes instruinstru mental to my creativity.

CM provides an efficient service that allows cuscus tomers to create objects that are expressive of their lives, ambitions, and adventures through a medium that easily integrates with their living or work spaces.

explore, control, autonomy, creation

consume, expressive, creation, power

Coastermatic provides me a vehicle to explore and create products autonomously (independently), it provides me more control (freedom) than i would have working for anyone else.

Coastermatic provides customers with an expresexpres sive way to consume physical products. It empowempow ers them to create & share their images in useful ways.

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Home page, Illustrator.


exercise prototype Sketches and screenshots of the exercise component of Think Bigger, Make Better

Early protoype of group exercise, selection page


Early protoype of group exercise, results page

Second iteration of group exercise

wireframes v2 A more concise homepage



Think Bigger, Make Better  

Process Book, Exhibition Edition. MFA Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts

Think Bigger, Make Better  

Process Book, Exhibition Edition. MFA Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts