Designing Innovation: Concept Maps, Design Requirements and Proposed Solution

Concept Map: Connect the Dots

Design Concept Map
Our concept map showing how our different ideas are directly connected or at least related in some way; some have more than just one connection.

Based on our interviews with our stakeholders, our initial idea of a social media campaign came to a screeching halt once we realized the depth and breadth of the complexities even established non-profits and experienced public health professionals face in creating solutions for food security. 

Once I realized the scope of the complexity, I realized we couldn’t simply design an app. While that may be the cool and current approach, not every solution requires a tech solution. This brings to mind the Center for Social Design at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) where designing with the community is emphasized and where designers are taught to focus on thinking and using whatever tools are available to create meaningful, positive solutions.

In fact, my interview with David, a public health professional based in Haiti, revealed his own attempt to release an app to address food deserts, while a graduate student in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the app did not gain traction as there was little buy-in. 

There is a joke in Portland, Oregon and if you want a product to sell, just put a bird on it. I wonder if the majority of designers think we can just throw an app on X problem and it’ll work magic. Hmm … The competition for attention is fierce. Thinking …

Proposed Solution: Education Kitchen Kit

Design solution
The Education Kitchen concept poster which came out of the Rose Thorn Bud exercise and our Statement Starters, a Luma Design method for Human-Centered Design practice.

Our scenarios in Part 7 were built around how our Education Kitchen kit would be used in each of our stakeholders’ daily lives and how it might help them realize their professional and perhaps personal goals.

Some of the items in the base kit would include:

An activity book (coloring most likely): This would include fun facts about various regional produce as well as recipes and information that would help students understand how food choices impact their (and their family’s) health and well-being. The book would be printed with AR scanning technology as an enhanced learning experience IF a school, teacher or student had access to devices and wifi. The app itself would be free and native (versus a web app).

Seeds: There would be enough packets for a class and teachers could use them to design an experiment whether it would be to teach them how to start a plant and take care of it over the semester or a comparison of different growing conditions. This would be a great lesson option for science classes.

Posters (or other supplemental pieces): The idea behind the poster is to present a vegetable or fruit that is uncommon to a region or may not be popular or traveled across the world to get to grocery store shelves. It would also have an AR feature and could, in the case of well-traveled fruits and vegetables, show distance and other data that shows the impact of shipping and driving our food across the country and the world (e.g. how long does it take for a tomato to get from California to New York out of season?).

In my ideal world, our kit would be used around the U.S. and personalized so-to-speak depending on various growing zones and seasons to reflect a region’s produce availability as well as the diversity of tastes and traditions. 

In the early stages of design, pretend the interface is magic.

About Face: The Essentials of Interface Design by Cooper

In our case, imagine the impossible. Did we limit ourselves?  

Design Requirements

Below are requirements and rationale for our proposed solution. This list is more realistic than designing something without limitations and both are good steps to move through. 

  • The solution shall address  in a sustained manner the problem of poor eating habits and food choice decisions.
  • The solution will be a carefully curated collection of relevant and updated information about health and food literacy based on trusted sources.
  • The solution shall be easily implemented into teachers’ curriculum and students from middle school. (11 to 13 years old)
  • The solution shall be easily implemented into students’ home life.
  • The solution shall work around complex policy level red tape by working directly with community stakeholders.
  • The solution shall be inclusive to address cultural and financial barriers to food security and “personalized” per region (U.S.) to address the diversity and differences in food availability, growing seasons, etc.
  • The solution shall include technology and non-technology features that engage teachers, students, families, farmers, and ideally the community as a whole.
  • The solution shall include non-technology features as activity books for students to take home, recipes, seed with a guide and fun facts about food.
  • The non-technology aspect speaks to the fact that internet access and devices may not be available.
  • The non-technology feature (activity book) shall support lifelong learning and skills to promote good health.
  • The solution shall include a technology feature as an optional complementary item for the activity book; an enhanced learning “bonus”.
  • The technology feature shall be a native app that runs on both mobile and tablet devices. (iOS and Android)
  • The technology feature shall include AR functionality to scan images of fruit and vegetable images and illustrations which will unlock additional content such as: 
    • Enlarged images of the fruit/vegetable
    • Fun facts about the fruit/vegetable
    • Nutritional information of the fruit/vegetable
    • Fruit/vegetable anatomy
    • Short Q&A with a farmer / grower
  • The solution shall include different subscription price options for schools, parents, students and farmers.
  • The solution will be affordable to encourage stakeholders to invest and itemize as part of their overall budgets.
  • The solution’s overall brand and marketing shall be appealing to resonate with stakeholders and communities.

Feedback: More Explicit Scenarios

Toward the latter part of class last week, Professor Tran provided us with some feedback regarding our presentation and scenarios. It was a good exercise to present them and be able to “think out loud” when faced with questions about specifics such as:

  • What age are the students?
  • What if people don’t have wifi?
  • Is the AR app native or does it require internet connectivity?
  • How does your solution being people/communities together in real time?

While our three scenarios gave a good overall picture of how a person or people would use our solution, our takeaway was that we needed to be more specific about details. Looking back perhaps they were too similar and perhaps too generalized?

Understand Technology

In Don Norman’s book, The Design of Everyday Things he states that good design encompasses the following three guidelines (Ch 1, pg. 8):

  • Understand psychology (people and behavior)
  • Understand technology (tools and materials)
  • Good communication (meaningful information)

In this case, not many of us are versed in Augmented Reality (AR) so this was something we had to research albeit with no time to fully digest or understand the possibilities. Understanding AR is clearly a technology I personally would like to learn more about in order to design experiences for other people. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Sure, I’ve had some experience as a user of AR apps paired with printed materials but understanding how AR experiences are created and what factors to consider is out of my wheelhouse — for now.

Screengrab from Quiver’s homepage.

A couple of apps and services did help to shed some light on what might be possible for our solution: Quiver and Layar. Professor Tran also recommended looking into BlippAR which has the BlippBuilder. I’m hopeful we’ll have time to dive into it to explore and create at least a rough concept that would communicate more accurately the experience we are planning than a prototype using Sketch. For now though, Sketch will have to do as I got the sense our combined experience in AR and coding is quite limited. (I’m beginning to feel the pain and frustration of not being able to make my designs and ideas come to life but that’s another post and really, one of the big reasons I’m back in grad school.)

All in all, I’m proud of our group, how we processed information, tossed around ideas, and how we came to our current Education Kitchen kit solution. 

This is Part 8 in a series documenting my learning experiences developing a solution to address food deserts, food security, health literacy, and health for populations. This project is part of our Designing Innovation course with Professor Lien Tran at the University of Miami, School of Communication. I am an IMFA (Interactive Media Master of Fine Arts) candidate.

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