User Experience + Product Design
Critical Practices* Provocation: Hyper-personal Prototyping
Group project with Carlos Lazo, Phyllis Thai, and Sally Tran
Interview, ideation, prototyping
Human Centered Design, perhaps the most well-known contemporary design methodology (brought to us by IDEO) encourages us to begin with humans and end with products, and to design with humans present at every step of the process.
Often we end up with designs that appeal to everyone equally but no one deeply. We come to discover that “Human Centered Design” is really “Humans”-centered. But what would it mean to really do “Human”- Centered Design?
To design an object or experience that only made sense for a single person? What new forms, interactions, and considerations might emerge if there were only a single user for whom we were designing?
After conducting a series of extensive, deep-dive interviews, we've chosen to design for Christina Ong, a UC Berkeley senior studying Geophysics major.
She is fond of eggs, cute things, and especially Pokémon. Most importantly, Christina displays a passion for teaching and working with children, which will be the focus of our prototype. We went through the process of analysis, synthesis, ideation, and prototyping, and came up with a design uniquely for her.
Pokébox is an interactive collection box. The teacher (Christina) can use egg-shaped tokens to symbolize student achievements, and as students earn their tokens in class, they can deposit the eggs into the Pokébox. As the tokens add up to reach a certain amount, the Pokémon on top of the box evolves. In our prototype, we've chosen to use Bulbasaur, because it's a starter grass-type pokémon (Christina's favorite type). When it reaches its final evolution, Christina can then choose to reward the students.
For example, Christina may choose to use the tokens to symbolize class participation:
- When a student answers a question, he/she receives a token.
- Students deposit the token into the Pokébox at the end of the class
- Tokens start to add up and fill the first tick-mark on the front of the box - Christina can then evolve the Bulbasaur into Ivysaur.
- Tokens start to add up and fill the second tick-mark on the front of the box - Christina can then evolve the Ivysaur into Venusaur.
- When the box is all filled up, the Pokémon has reached its final evolution, Christina can reward the students with a pizza party.
Here are some insights from our interviews with Christina:
She is a part of ANOVA, an on-campus organization that mentors students on computer science.
She's passionate about helping and teaching kids, but she sometimes struggle with engaging students in class. She encourages group works, and having class/group competitions.
A teaching tool that she found worked well is a simply point/reward system where the kids get to hold onto a poker card whenever they answer a question to symbolize a point earned. Students like holding onto something physical.
She enjoys anime (especially Pokémon), cosplaying, and “cute things” like eggs.
As we got to know her better through more interviews, we started to hone in on a few aspects that came up during our conversations:
- Her passion for teaching
- Life as a student pet-owner
- Love for cosplay and obsession with Pokémon
We came up with different ideas after brainstorming, like making a personalized mannequin for her to make cosplay costumes, designing a custom stamp for her to grade assignments, and even little gadgets to help her dog get on the chairs in her house.
Eventually, we settled on the idea of designing a personalized teaching tool for Christina to engage her students in class, incorporating elements of her personal preferences like Pokemon and eggs to design a reward system to encourage students to participate in class.
We’ve learned from our interview with Christina that students really enjoy having a physical object to hold onto, so we decided to make a box that can be filled up by tokens shaped like Pokemon eggs, which can be earned in class through activities like answering questions, handing in exit tickets, or acing a quiz/project, etc. After they receive an egg token in class, students can deposit them into the box, and once the amount of token reaches a certain level, they get to evolve a Pokemon.
The idea behind our concept is that there would be an immediate reward (egg, sound and lighting effects), and a long-term reward (evolving the pokemon) for the students, which is taken from the book 1-2-3 Magic Effective Discipline for Children 2–12.
We made some sketches for the box first, then built a medium-fidelity prototype using cardboard. After adjusting the dimension of the box, we made our first high-fidelity prototyping using laser cut plywood, clear acrylic, and an Arduino board for the electronics component.
We laser cut the pieces of Pokémon evolutions, 60 egg tokens, the acrylic front piece, and the wooden box. Then we constructed the electronics and put together our prototypes.
Our prototype can be described as a wooden 6'' x 6'' x 6'' box with the following features:
- a clear acrylic front piece that slides up
- allows the students to see their progress
- allows Christina to easily get eggs out of the box
- two panels on the inside of the box to hold the front acrylic piece in place
- a slot on the top of the box to drop in the token
- a pocket in the back of the box to hold up a laser-cut piece of a Pokemon
- electronic components like an LED light and a speaker
- when the students drop the token into the box, it would go past a limit switch, triggering lighting and sound effects, which make the process more interactive and enticing
I really enjoyed the process of getting to know Christina, understanding her struggles and passion in life, and I'm so glad that we got to a point where we grabbed hold of something that's core to her life.
Initially we chose to interview her because we were intrigued by her pet dog Jojo (who is absolutely adorable by the way, you can find him on instagram @jojothepembrokecorgi), but we found out later from interviews that her true passion lies in teaching and helping children to learn. So we shifted gear and made Pokébox for her, which turned out to be really great!
The best part was watching her reaction when we gave her our final prototype. She was so excited that she took it around to show her friends, and she was able to explain exactly how it hows right after she received it. It was satisfying knowing that we were able to design something that truly made sense to her, and that she would use it to teach in the future.
I wish we had finished prototyping earlier on, so that we could present it to her before we had our provocation critique, and iterate further based on her feedback.
While we have finished the project for the class, we have told her that we will continue to improve the prototype for her, and we are excited to hear her feedbacks!
Watch a video of our prototype and Christina's reactions!
Read about our in-depth design process here with a step-by-step instructable on how to make a Pokébox of your own.
Critical Practices: People, Places, Participation*: A studio design course where students work at the intersection of technological innovation and socially engaged art, focusing on cultural critique, using “new making strategies to reframe our notions of people, places, and participation.