Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Patient Focused Care


blue screen with dataHealth systems are spending more and more time reviewing the "user experience" and the full patient experience to place themselves above and beyond other competitors.
Kaiser Permanente was cited in an Opinion piece in the New York times by Allison Arieff. She discusses Kaiser's focus on the patient, and their research which illuminated issues of wayfinding, patient control and even the need to remove dying plants to make the entire atmosphere reflect the "Thrive" motto.
Paul Bennett of IDEO presented on their findings at TED discussing the simple insight that patients spend an extraordinary amount of time staring at the ceiling in the hospital and shared some ways which the hospital team attempted to waylay that boredom.
In addition, if you haven't seen it, Bridget Duffy, former Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic gives a brilliant talk at GEL Health. She discusses how important the patient experience is in health care including a great conversation about their re-design of a patient gown.
That said, we would love to help your team with needs finding, qualitative hospital and patient research or product research to continue to be the best you can be.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Data Management

The Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology atblue screen with dataOregon Health and Sciences University hosted a talk this month entitled "Advancing Clinical and Translational Research through Biomedical Informatics."
After hearing these speakers, issues of data management and the usability of data management software, arose as a central theme. Each of the research teams represented (three in all), talked about the difficulty of data retrieval.
Robert Schuff of OCTRI discussed issues when tracking potential study subjects. His teams need to sort information on demographics as well as disease and are working on building a system to do just that.
Katrina Goddoard of the NW Biobank has an extensive bank of biological matter from surgeries available to researchers for testing, but locating the samples in the piles of specimens has proven daunting.
Dr. Shannon McWeeney also of OCTRI discussed the importance of translating the results of scientific discoveries into actual changes in patient practice.
Overall, it was apparent that medical research is moving at a rapid pace. Technology can help to track and sort data, but the systems we build to track and sort that data are critical to the analysis, understanding and eventual translation into practice. As researchers and designers, we need to get in at the forefront, initiating excellent data management and user friendly systems so that the research is always accessible.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Participatory Design


My area of deepest interest in design research combines hands on techniques with the interview process. This was the topic of the guest lecture at the University of Oregon last week.

Participatory design elicits deep insights, beyond the question/answer scenario of an interview. During an interview, a participant largely engages the left side of the brain - the thinking, reasoning, verbal, logical portion. When external stimuli are added - clay, collage materials, items to sort or items you can use to "build," the right brain engages. The creative side that works from fantasy and art and intuition begins to emerge and maybe even take over. Things that may have been difficult to articulate come out in form and participants relax into a different space.

As an exercise to understand how it feels to be a research participant (people watching you, answering numerous personal questions, feeling self-conscious) as well as a way to really walk through this process, I posed this question: "How can mobile technology support your health care?" They could respond with a particular solution or how they would like to feel when supported. They were given a worksheet and a can of Play-Doh.

After about 20 minutes, each student or group presented their thoughts. Some common topics rose quickly to the surface. For this group, generally healthy without known chronic conditions, the concept of an app or device that encourages them to live a healthy lifestyle was popular. In the photo above are 3 designs by one student, all created to be very low profile and add ons to things you already carry or use. A mile meter for your bike built into your bike light, a smart card that fits into your wallet and a thumb drive that captures your heart rate on a bike commute. Whether or not these are feasible, the inspiration or paint point for this participant was not having to carry around another thing. He wanted to add features to an existing device.

A female student created a scale out of the Play-Doh (blue) and talked a lot about the need for balance in her life. She wanted a visual - maybe an iPhone app - that showed a scale to see how she was balancing her spiritual, physical and emotional health on any given day.

Another student was interested in just seeing his food intake for any given day, hoping that would motivate him to eat healthier. (red Play-Doh)

Given more time and a more intimate setting, the exercise could have been pushed to a more personal, emotional conversation. Participants might be asked to model something that represents how they feel about their health or something that represents their biggest health worry.

However, even on this higher level topic, the information may not have played itself out as explicitly in an interview as it did here with the help of a few lumps of Play-Doh. The female may have talked about feeling overwhelmed and needing less stress, but the visual of the scales, her driving need becomes obvious. Balance. The Play-doh not only helps to trigger the right brain, but also allows the participant some time for introspection, time to think about what is really important. The "make" part of the exercise took only 20 minutes, but there was no requirement to talk, just to think and create.

Participatory Design or Engaged Design is a process I strongly believe in. It was great to be able to share its benefits with the next generation of designers.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remote Education - part II


This morning, I had the opportunity to talk about design research, particularly Participatory Design, with a class at the University of Oregon. The class is being taught by Dawn Nafus.

What a great lesson in all that technology can do right to bring disparate groups together. It was also a great lesson in how difficult it is to really engage people who are not in the room with you. (classroom image posted here with TV screen and camera in the back corner)

The technology:
  • A desktop device on the lectern allowing you to share your projected laptop both in the room and at a remote site.
  • A document viewer which allowed me to share papers and pictures that were not part of the official presentation, but which were great examples of written diaries, collages, photo diaries and subject feedback.
  • Two wide screen TV sets which allow me to see the remote class room, and them to see both me and each other (one in the back and one in the front).
  • Two video cameras - again one faced front on the speaker and one facing towards the back to catch all the students.
A tech is assigned to each class and does the behind the scenes work: turning mics on and off, zooming in, etc. Technically, it was great. Everything I needed to do was fully supported. The students mentioned that the class is taught live on each site once a week. Monday, Dawn is in Portland and Weds. in Eugene. This model is preferred over always dialing in to a remote professor. The students said this way they are more engaged.

Our local room had a lively conversation and we got some great design ideas from the group in Eugene. The reality is, however, that no matter what the technology, there is no substitute for being in the same room with another person.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remote Education

This week has been full of interesting food for thought around remote collaboration. Wednesday evening started with Sara Bly's talk at CHIFOO about her early work at Xerox Parc and their Media Space. This space attempted to bring two remote worksites together by allowing desktop video and open space video where co-workers could have non-scheduled interactions. Fascinating stuff, especially for 1985! ( a few references here and here)

Since then, I have been planning a guest lecture for a design research class at the University of Oregon. So far, I'm impressed with their forethought in this distributed teaching model. A few students attend class here in Portland and the majority sit in Eugene. There will be a tech on hand here in Portland, and I can share Powerpoint, paper samples and video through their network.

However, being a hands-on researcher, I wanted to engage the students in a hands-on activity so they might experience participatory design first hand. Now, the issue is getting clay and other "make" tools down to Eugene where 3/4 of the class will sit for the lecture.

Computers have made data transfer so simple and easy, that we forget, well I do anyway, how much more work it is to get 3-d elements from one place to another. When will that transporter be ready??

Monday, October 26, 2009

Columbia's Gotta Brand New Bag



Today, guest speaker Chris Araujo came to speak at my Advanced Studio focused on soft-goods design at the Portland Art Institute. Chris is a Senior Designer of Bags and Accessories at Columbia here in Portland.

Chris shared the very cool bag you see above. The target market is adventure cyclists. Apparently they go on marathon treks (up to 36 hours). The bag has been seen at trade shows and set for market in 2010.

This pack is unique since it is incredibly lightweight, uses triple rip stop nylon and relies on the tension of an infinity-like loop to help the pack keep its shape. It is strong enough to hold fast, but soft enough to absorb the shocks it will likely meet on the trail.

The entire bag is thoughtfully designed with the athlete in mind, allowing easy access during the race to key equipment including their bike repair kit. A "cargo hold" type of net sits inside the flap to keep the items from falling out when the pack is unzipped, but it allow you to reach in and grab items or simply get a quick visual inventory.

The pack has room for a hydration bag and tons of nooks and crannies for assorted items. Personally, I can't wait for the laptop version of this bag. My laptop bag seems to weigh as much as my laptop itself!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Curry-ing Favor of Local Artists

Michael Curry - noted for his work on costumes for the Lion King, several Olympic ceremonies, theaters and operas - was invited to speak tonight by the staff at the Portland Art Institute in a talk open to the public. Curry is an engaging and inspiring speaker for both students and professionals.

Curry started out with a 5 minute video of his work which definitely sucks you in. He shared larger than life "puppets", sculptures, and art that moves physically as well as art that moves you emotionally. He then proceeded to talk for about an hour without the aid of slides or other hocus pocus. He just talked - about art, creativity, craft, and a bit about business.

"Theater," Curry stated, "won't die, due to our desire to be with other people." Despite the popularity of computer graphics, his 3D business continues to thrive and his belief is that it is a backlash against CG. People still want to touch and feel and look at "real" things.

Curry talked about expertise, inspiration, business and innovation. Below are a few salient points from this talk.

On becoming an expert:
Curry quoted world renowned cellist YoYo Ma on expertise. Ma stated that 10,000 hours of practice outside of an academic setting pushes you from practitioner to expert. That breaks down to about 5 years at 40 hours a week. Sounds about right. Where I disagreed was when he talked about not needing talent or special skills, but that practice will always get you there. Being one who spent years drawing and making things and being artsy, I have still fallen back to the verbal world where I just have a keener knack and am more comfortable. Maybe I never got the 10,000 hours of drawing time in, but I became convinced at around 2,000 that though I can get a point across as needed, and sketch out concepts for clients, my sketch art alone would not keep me in kibble no matter how long I practiced. [Since writing this, I've started reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. He has a whole chapter on the 10,000 hour theory if you are interested in reading more on the phenomenon.]

On inspiration:
The new economy continues to inspire Curry's work in new ways. The need to continually reduce shipping costs has created a new challenge and the studio is doing a lot of work around inflatables and origami to meet these needs.

Curry reported a story about a choreographer for Momix who does his best thinking while riding his bike, listening to the music for the next show.

Curry himself uses 10.30 at night in his barn with a cup of tea to sit down with a new script and grab the "golden minute" that time you enter into something new and trust your intuition to see where it will take you.

On business and success:
Be the coach. Be sure your team feels like they get to the end together.

Say yes to the right projects.

Have a post-mortem, discuss why things worked and why they didn't.

On innovators:
Curry favors scientists. Tesla, Galileo, Nostradamus. These men inspire his work.

I encourage you to explore his site from the link above. His work is beautiful, fanciful, mystical and most of all it sure looks like they are all having fun. The audiences enjoy it too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

User Testing Software - no good news

In preparing for a new round of user research testing, I decided to take another look at what the offerings are to capture the testing, since the technologies change so quickly. Unfortunately, the changes are not quick enough and the solutions are still woefully unsatisfying.

For round 1, we used Camtasia which was fairly easy and captured the information as expected. The downfalls are that it captures data on only one computer (no remote view) and exporting the video for use in Final Cut Pro was a bit of a nightmare - though we are smarter about how to do that now (several hair pulling days later.)

My testing goal is to do synchronous, moderated, in person testing. There will be a test computer and a remote computer where one or more people may view from another room. It would be great if the set up allows notes to coordinate with the video. We need to see the screen and the user and capture audio. This all needs to be done real time, not remotely.

Morae - The Hercules of the bunch. Allows viewing from a second computer, note taking real time in conjunction with tasks, video recording of the users face as well as recording the screen. The downsides are cost (particularly for small businesses) and the fact that their proprietary movie software makes it incredibly difficult to export and manipulate in Final Cut Pro.

Wondering about using User Vue and Morae Manager to accomplish what Morae Recorder and Observer accomplish. I may look into that further, but am guessing there is a good reason not to.

Silverback - Fun, easy software, but it lacks robustness. You can capture images from one computer screen and video of your user during testing. There is no way to view your testing from another room or take notes in line with your testing. It also only works on a Mac. However, for less than the cost of a Morae bundle, you can buy a Mac and a copy of Silverback.

My favorite, though convoluted solution of the moment is courtesy of Todd Zaki Warfel on the IxDA site. For all of the information, visit this thread. The basic solution consists of:
  • Two (2) Intel based Macs allowing testing on both Windows and Mac
  • OS X's built in screen sharing to view the test participant's machine and opening an iChat session to get the picture-in-picture and have audio
  • Recording with SnapZPro
Do you have a favorite User Testing set up? If so, please share! The jury is still out.

As this seems to be a constant topic of conversation in the interaction design community, I plan to continue sharing my findings for research round 2!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

CHIfoo - Gretchen Anderson on Collaborative Spaces


On Wednesday, September 2, Gretchen Anderson from Lunar Design in San Francisco, CA came up to Portland to talk about collaborative spaces and how design teams work. She talked about the need to generate ideas and how important it is for "idea people" to have a space to post, comment on and contemplate their work.

She gave a few great examples of how a space or experience is defined how you arrive in it (citing Ziba's new HQ here in Portland as a great example). Other important reminders included getting out of your computer/2D space in your cube and adding some ritual to your worklife to help bound work time/brainstorm time and even break time.

To hear her full talk and see the notes I took (by clicking on a word, you can start the recording from any place in the talk.) Please see: The LiveScribe Website for this recording.

More on the Live Scribe soon!

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Researcher's Nightmare

When I was in theater, there was the concept and indeed a play, called the Actor's Nightmare. In short, it is a concept that an actor in a role gets ill or injured and you, the understudy, are completely unprepared, yet you are asked to go on stage in his/her place. For years, I have had that dream on and off in stressful times and at other random times. I would be working backstage for a show, and suddenly, it was my job to fill in for a missing actor. I didn't know my lines, I didn't fit in the costume and was generally unprepared.

Last night, I had my first reasearcher's nightmare! Getting ready for a big study over the next few weeks, lots of pieces to keep track of and homes to visit. Three types of scripts, a new assistant researcher and working with a new firm. All of those pieces added up to stress which resulted in the ultimate researchers nightmare! I got lost on the way to the home visit, wasn't prepared. I woke up very stressed and glad it was all just a dream!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Hiring Theater People

I was recently alerted to this great interview where Peter Menholz of Adaptive Path interviewed Jared Spool - user experience guru.

This excerpt thrilled me since I am a born and bred theater person turned business gal. Curtain up!

Hiring Theater People

PM: You mentioned that when you see a resume with a theater background, you find that encouraging. What is the perspective of theater people that you find illuminating in doing this kind of work?

JS: Theater people have an interesting viewpoint of the world and it changes our viewpoint towards them.

Theater, particularly live theater, as opposed to film for example, is a process where you iterate, you see what works, you try it in rehearsal, and then you make changes, and then you try it again. So theater people inherently understand vast iterations, and moving toward an objective. Theater is also very much about an experience, so quality theater people understand the experience design in that regard, and they understand elements of the user design, such as the illusion, and subtlety, and the back-channel communication sort of stuff. Theater people all know how to work on a deadline because the curtain goes up at eight, and so you either have everything in place when the curtain goes up or you just make stuff up, but the curtain is going to go up. Theater people also understand the difference between on stage and backstage, which in a consulting practice or a research business is actually very important.

See the full article at: http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/archives/000516.php

Monday, July 20, 2009

Social Media and Health Insurance

At the gym this morning, I was working to maintain my health. I began to contemplate insurance as I hoped that my insurance application would go through - Cobra runs out July 31. I'm not a person who should be without health insurance!
Here is my concern. Even in writing the previous sentence, only half-jokingly, I wonder if/how health insurers can/will infiltrate social media. It's only a matter of time. High school seniors are well aware that colleges now may Google them only to find photos of their junior prom drunkenness or a crazy escapade one night. The information is out there and its free. Be careful what you share.
What, then, about health insurance? If you fill out an application stating you have no prior conditions, but the insurance company looks at your Twitter feed and sees that you had 2 migraines in the last month, what then? What if they look at your Facebook page and see you have a penchant for skydiving and bungee jumping? Will they still insure you? It's not on your application, but the information is out there.
If you have any stories about this, pro or con, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Concept and Usability Testing

This post comes from a conversation I had with a colleague today about outcomes of usability and concept testing. As consultants or employees, we are hired/asked to test a particular product or service and report on the outcomes.

Many times, we can certainly report on the outcomes, but the real issues lie well beyond usability testing. Case in point, medication compliance. For the last 4 years, I have been looking at medication compliance. Many companies want to create better packaging, reminders or systems that will remind patients to take their medication. So often, there are extenuating circumstances at play. No reminder, no matter how large, loud or persistent can make a patient take his/her medication.

What pharmaceutical companies don't usually want to hear is that there are larger issues at play. Side effects: What about all those medications that make you dizzy, nauseous, cause anal leakage, loss of libido and perhaps a rash. Great! At least your depression will go away and you won't care about these side effects!

Finances: It's no surprise, more and more people are without health insurance. Yes, you can juggle your finances to a point, but the cost of medication is often not seen as a critical expense (though it very well may be.) However, without food for sustenance and a roof over your head, the medication can be rendered useless anyway.

Medical literacy: A patient decides s/he can handle the side-effects and has money for the medication. The patient nods and smiles as the doctor and then the pharmacist explain the best way to take the medication. At home, later that day, those memories are gone and the patient is faced with a pill bottle or jar with limited instructions. The patient then begins taking the medication to the best of his/her memory, but forgets or doesn't understand the small print labels on the bottle. Patients often take their medications out of the pharmacy bottle so the directions are nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, the patient has decided on a routine that is not optimal for medication delivery.

These are just a few of the larger issues which significantly effect medication compliance. But medication compliance is just a sample problem to illustrate a point. We need to talk with our co-workers and clients, people who design and sell products and services and be sure we are all spending our time and money asking the right questions, not just the questions in the budget line. Usability testing can be "lipstick on a pig" providing changes to an already broken product or service, or it can provide significant insights to adaptation and acceptance of the right product or service.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Networking Tip #2

This week I've spent umpteen (too many to count) hours volunteering, learning and shmoozing at the Usability Professionals Association conference. Conferences are always great places to hone your networking skills. On Wednesday, I accidentally discovered a new one.

I was looking for a woman who did a great presentation. While at one of the breaks, I thought I spotted her (dark square glasses, cute haircut) and called her name out and went up to her. Well, nope, it turns out that person was Carissa and I was looking for Christina. However, Carissa, as eager to meet a new friendly face as I was. She and her partner Manos stopped, and we talked for about 10 minutes. They own Circle D Design in Ann Arbor, she does usability work...etc. Voila! One more stranger is now a frient/colleague/someone I can smile and nod at during the conference and perhaps have a business relationship beyond that with them one day. It's almost too easy.

After this encounter I was joking with friends about how funny and easy it was. We compared it to a guy trying to pick up a gal in a bar, "Haven't I met you somewhere before?" Apparently, it works at conferences too. Try it!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Networking Tips - Listen First

Although the focus of this blog is largely research based, as a small business owner, I reserve the right to share business tips as well! This post falls into both categories. 

Several people have asked me in the last few weeks, "How do you network?" It's not an easy question to answer. It's someting learned over time and almost 20 years of on and off consulting *gulp*. 

However, the one suggestion that gets the biggest AHA moment for my fellow researchers is this: Be the first one to ask questions. Put on your researcher hat and just listen. Do you hear the collective sigh of relief? Ah, I get to listen! I'm good at that, you say, that's what I'm paid to do! Ask the questions that you want answers to, whether personal or professional, but it's much easier for most researchers to be in drivers seat to start with. 

Within a few minutes, you'll have a good sense of the person you are talking to. Then, either they will turn the conversation towards you, or you can gently interject a similarity, something you have in common, or some work you have done that they may find interesting. Voila. You  have networked and also connected as two human beings. (More on this at another time.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

iPod to eyePod


Last week, I was walking around with my iPod firmly placed in my ears. Downtown Portland is not exactly a screechy, noisy place, but I noticed how nice it was to have my music in my ears. And then, I noticed how odd it was to have music in my ears and not hear the diesel of the bus, the honking of the cars, the whir of the streetcar. 

Like many, I find it comforting to tune out the world sometimes, or tune in to my tunes. However, I couldn't help but wonder, what would it be like to have an eyePod? With the iPod, we create our own environment for our ears, what if we were able to create a custom environment for our eyes? Some days, I'd like to feel like I'm walking on a beach, some days it would be fun to be in downtown Tokyo and sometimes an orchard would be a lovely place to be. Given the unlimited options of video, we could also have the moon, Mars, outerspace or any fantasy land as our virtual wallpaper. Lord of the Rings fan? The eyePod can make all of the buildings look like huts for short, furry creatures. 

What would it look like? Would we wear super special spectacles? Put in specially coded contact lenses? Walk around with a special hat and a pull out screen? 

Obviously, this would be difficult, we need to see the ground, the cars, the trees and the dogs we might walk or drive in to. But, since we are dreaming, let's dream that the existing structures are magically turned into the environment of our choice, while still getting the basic objects in space we need to walk around, to or over. 

A few quick ideas above. Likely not Apple-worthy. Wow, I definitely miss concepting! 

Oh, and apparently, not surprisingly, I'm not the first one to think about other versions of an "Eye-Pod". 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The One Button Lie

As a gesture of kindness, apparently I've been very nice lately, my boyfriend gave me a new iPod shuffle last week. I was so excited! Being one to actively buck trends, when MP3s originally gained popularity, I turned away from Apple and towards the Creative Zen. It was reasonably priced and I couldn't imagine what could make such a large difference on essentially the same device. 

Yes, Grasshopper, I learned my lesson. From day one, it was difficult to upload songs and the Yahoo! interface it required was really lousy. I'm no great audiophile, I have maybe 40-50 CD's among which (much to my boyfriend's dismay) are showtunes and Billy Joel. As I said, no great audiophile. But like anyone, I enjoy having my music with me. 

Since acquiring that MP3, I have begun to work out at the gym more and I also bought a computer with Windows Vista last summer. It is now April. I've been trying for months to figure out how to get more music onto my MP3 with Vista and through many a google search have found that it's not an easy task. I've also become a big fan of Podcasts. The NPR science shows, This American Life and others that I assumed would make commuting and working out much more pleasurable. But the Creative Zen doesn't play well with the normal podcast files and I never did figure out how to get them on my player.

Enter the Shuffle. It's sweet. Tiny. My first fear is "oh my gosh, I'm going to lose this." I haven't yet. Without much difficulty, I sign up to receive many wonderful Podcasts and start loading Billy Joel and the soundtrack from Chess onto my Shuffle. 

The trouble arises at playback. The instruction book that comes with the Shuffle is incredibly limited and I admit I'd rather talk to a human than read a manual. I fussed around with it a bit then hit the Apple store this weekend. I explained my desire to create playlists, as it promised, and was trying with all my might to understand the mental model behind the organization. The problem with one button/no interface devices, I find, is that the entire workings of the device need to be in a map in your head - or you need to print something out on paper. The paper option is annoying and the map in my head is not always reliable. 

After talking to two equally surly 20 somethings I did get confirmation that yes, you can indeed create playlists, like file folders and group your music accordingly (workout, meditation, etc.). Wonderful! That's what I hoped for and I went away happy, not exchanging it for a Nano with an actual screen. I found I've become quite attached to it, even in my frustration. It is both a lovely gesture of kindness as well as something so compact and portable that I take it with me everywhere. The emotion evoked by the design is not lost on this designer. 

And yet, the usability issues prevailed. I tried to switch between playlists with little success. Click, hold, release, click. One click forward, two clicks pause, three clicks does something, too, but I can't remember that much. I searched for a printed list, I watched the video and "followed along at home" as the nice young lady took me through the clicking process. Once or twice I was able to switch lists, but never reliably. 

Today, success, me thinks. A very nice young man at the downtown Portland Apple store was patient and worked with me. He got it to work, handed it to me and, again, I failed. He watched, we talked, "what is your hand position?" "click here, not there" (millimeters apart). Finally, 15 minutes later, we discovered that I was so frustrated, I was actually just clicking too hard. The one button is actually 3 buttons, apparently all in a line. If you click too hard, you confuse it. It thinks you are pressing +/- and playback and it just goes back to playing music. 

So, is the Shuffle successful with it's "one button"? It's a great idea in theory, there is a trade-off to having this wonderful, lightweight device full of music and no big buttons to push. The trade-off for me was two trips to the store to understand how to really use the device. The computer interface is leaps and bounds above Yahoo!, but I'm still not sold on the mono-button. Don't throw away those scroll wheels. They may come in handy when dementia sets in - which feels like it could be any day now. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Noticed: De-motivating workouts

This April, my gym membership was up for renewal. It's a great gym, close to home and down to earth. I set up my renewal and with it got on something called ActivTrax which helps create a customized workout for you each time you visit. Prior to being set up with this service, I was required to meet with a trainer who would have me do some basic exercises to see where I am at and suggest further exercises accordingly. I've been working out steadily for at least 4 months now and feel pretty good about where I am physically. I'm even 10 lbs. lighter. 

The trainer took me through the exercises and then fed the results into the computer. Several days later, I went to the gym for my first workout. After this workout, I entered my weights for the day, commenting whether they were "too light," "too heavy" or "just right". For the record, I am a bit over 5' tall and average weight. As I input "just right" to the suggested weight workout for the first exercise, a note popped up that said, "this is particularly light, are you sure it's right?" Am I sure? YES, I'm sure. I'm female, I'm not an athlete, and yes, right now, I cannot lift 100 lbs. even assisted by a machine. This happened with each exercise in succession and has left me with a large bruise on my ego. 

And yet...it's bad enough the machines at the gym are barely alterable to my size. Now, I have the added insult of a machine telling me I'm not strong enought. On one hand, there is the negative motivation: "Well," I think, "yes, I can only lift 1 plate now, but wait a few weeks, I'll be lifting plenty by then!" On the other hand I think, "I'm a petite female and this ridiculous machine (apparently programmed by men, strong men) gives me no credit for what I can do in relation to my age and size. Why should I even bother" It's a bit maddening if not humiliating. 

I continue to use the machine, which gives me weights that are at times too light and not enough reps on exercises. So, hah, I think, I am stronger than you think I am after all. I'll show you. I'm pretty sure the computer cares not at all, but it's quite interesting how motivating it is to want to get back at that inanimate object for thinking you are a weakling. Talk to me a in a month or two when I'm flexing my muscles for the keyboard. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Logo Hell


















The long and short of it, don't use online logo companies to save money. In fact, don't use them at all.

As a small business start up, I was working to keep expenses down and thought an online service would be a suitable replacement. Despite what Wired said about thelogocompany.net, they are not a suitable replacement for a real, live, talented individual or group of designers. I apologize to all of my graphic design friends for attempting to commoditize their skill!

I do know enough to not design a logo myself. I have now learned enough to say only trust a trained professional to create your logo. Don't try this at home! After showing a logo I can honestly say I was excited about to my design friends, they were quiet or nodded. One friend piped up and said she would rather design me a logo for free than let "bad design" be out in the world. Ouch!

The sad thing is, turns out she is right. When I contacted the Logo Company and told them of my dissatisfaction (admittedly, after I had signed off on the logo), they asked what I wanted changed. My answer? YOU are the experts. You need to fix it. There were apparently kerning and quality problems I wouldn't know to look at. After a final round of emails, I got a few tweaks to my design from them but nothing lovely resembling the work from Geez Louise.

It doesn't look like I will get my money back, but I can keep you from losing yours with a seriously sub-par online provider.

Hopefully, you can tell, but on the top is the Logo Company's design and on the bottom Geez Louise. Your vote?


Seen: Yes We Can

Yes we cans! These very cool sculptures, largely of cans and a few boxed, dried foods, were spotted in a local mall. It is a great way of making the food pantry and a food drive visible. So many people stopped and enjoyed them!





Wall-e and Eve


 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Garage Extraordinaire


One of my favorite examples of user friendly parking is right here in Portland. The garage at the airport has excellent signage.  They tell you: how many spaces are left in the garage, which direction to drive to find those spaces and then there are small lights over every parking space that are red or green (see above), alerting you from afar to an empty space. Finally, some intelligence comes to parking. 
However, I do recommend staying away from the parking lot in the Lloyd Center in Portland, the complete antithesis of anything user friendly or easy to figure out. It's a parking nightmare with vague and missing signage. You can check in, but you may never leave. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The New Creative Economy

I attended a lecture tonight about the new, creative economy here in Portland. How to get creatives working again and what companies who are still in business are doing to stay in business. Three things stood out:

1) My favorite piece of advice was to become indispensable. This can work if you are self-employed, a full-time or a part-time employee. Be the person they want/need and turn to for your expertise. 

2) The question was also asked of the panel: "Tell us a good story of a time when you were unemployed." I won't rehash them here, but they were funny and sad and yet, enough pounding the pavement got each of them a job and got them where they are today, at companies like Nau, Weiden and Kennedy, 52 Limited and VizWerks. Are you employed now? Were you unemployed previously? Would love to hear more tales of joy or woe on the topic. 

3) There were a number of individuals in attendance who are on the political side of the creative economy agenda. One of my biggest concerns of late are the amount of design and creative schools popping up in Portland (which is great), and the lack of places to work post graduation. 

Freelancing and consulting and running a small business works for some of us, but many still need/want full-time employment. There was much talk of getting funding for arts education, but little talk about where exactly all those creative students would work if they wanted to stay in Portland after graduation.  My talented circle of friends and colleagues - MANY of whom are un or underemployed, are a testament to this ever increasing problem. I'm in search of a committee to join to be part of the solution. 

Some interesting numbers on the Portland Metro area arts and culture and employment:  Creative Capacity. 



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Insurance

An actual conversation with the insurance company:

J: "I see that you didn't cover a visit to a doctor that was covered by BCBS but a different plan from last year. Can you tell me why?"

BCBS: "Your provider is using an outdated code."

J: "Oh, well can you give me an updated code?"

J: "No."

J: "Well how do you know the code is outdated if you can't tell me the new one?"

BCBS: "Check with your provider."

J: "So you know that my codes are unacceptable, but you don't have a list someplace that gives you the acceptable codes?"

BCBS: "No."
I called another provider I saw for a similar issue, got alternate codes. Called back later that morning....

J: (I get the same rep) "So I have two alternate codes, can you tell me if they are acceptable?"

BCBS: "Yes."

J: give codes...

BCBS: "Yes, those are acceptable."

WHY oh why could he not give me that information in the first place??
I have spent hours on the phone this week following up with unpaid and misunderstood issues around insurance. I would LOVE to work on a project where we get to talk with consumers and understand what they want from their health insurance and not have it driven by corporate greed rather than real patient needs. It's really broken. We need to fix it. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tweet

Let's connect! Follow me on twitter. Name: Dezinr.
www.twitter.com

I tweet on healthcare, usability, design and yes, I confess, sometimes the inanities of my daily life.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Interactive Meeting Design



I'm attending a National Education Association conference with my partner and had the opportunity to see the keynote speaker on Friday. During the keynote, a woman stood off to the side with a large poster and a wonderful array of colored markers, and took "notes" based on an idea presented in "How to Make Meetings Work" by Michael Doyle and David Strauss. 

A great tool for the designerly and non-designerly alike. She captured the children singing in the opening event, key phrases and gave life to the memory of the meeting. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Color Play at the Auto Show

Walking through the auto show today, I noticed the only interactive piece of the entire experience (other than getting in and out of cars) were the areas where customers pick car colors. Car companies had an amazing array of ways to entice customers to engage in choosing their car color. Apologies for the mediocre photo quality of my cell phone camera. 

Above is a traditional color sheet - seen in 2009. 


Mazda's wall of color balls.

  Mazda's color ball up close. 


VW Color Memory Game 


Memory game lit for a series (play it a bit like the old Simon game)


Mini Cooper color sliders

Sunday, February 1, 2009

You are Being Followed

Twitter. Tweet. You are following people and being followed. I've never been very comfortable with this terminology. What user testing decided that telling someone they are "being followed" is a desirable or comfortable way of being? Last time I checked, being followed had some pretty negative connotations. 
Today I "tweeted" about biomimicry and material culture as I was preparing to teach a class. Within a minute, I was being "followed" by someone I've never met, simply, it seems, due to the use of the word "biomimicry". 
Out of curiousity, I tweeted "socrates, somnabulate, zygomorphic, jeroboam". So far no follows. Damn, now those are some interesting topics! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Disaster Relief


I ran across information today pointing me to the site Displaced Designer. AIGA is the main host of Displaced Designer, but what if all of the design communities came together for large or small relief when our colleagues need a hand?

The site is a great idea, but seemingly on the back burner. The posts are largely from the Katrina era 2005-06, with a new call for 2008 and anyone in Texas in need of assistance. Unfortunately, the pages to offer or request help are currently non-functional and contact information is invisible.

That said...one wonders if the current economy will bring about similar sites where we can offer housing to a designer who needs to work out of town temporarily just to be able to work at all, offer meals to one another and general support or advice.

AIGA did it, but can the design community as a whole pull together for a comprehensive support network? It would be wonderful to try.