Year III: Auckland Transport Project Week Five

7 days remain until written submissions are due, 8 till presentation

Deadlines are looming! Run! That’s what my brain tells me. Its twin though, tells me that I must keep ploughing through. Me? What do I say? I’m in the middle, stuck – both ends playing tug of war with me as the rope.

I have worked steadily through the development of my concept and though no design is ever done I am nearing a stage that I am happy to present on Thursday. Today I spoke to Rob about the final refinements of my concept and the outline of how I will deliver my presentation. We spoke about how the presentation will really just be to sell the idea, and not sell the app, as my concept is still really in its infancy. Should time and circumstances allow it, there is so much more development to occur. Though with deadlines knocking at my door, the only thing I can do now is take a 360 degree turn and polish all of the steps that I have taken to get to where I am now.

I have sectioned the remaining tasks (which is a heap!) and allotted the remaining time we have left to each. It seems like a manageable week at a glance, before I factor in the humanly things I need to do to survive like eat and sleep. Both of which are crucial should I want help from a brain that functions.

It is times like this, that I wish I was a machine. In with a task and out the other end in repetition.

Year III: Auckland Transport Project Week Four

Mission: AT Rail

13 days remaining, paperwork is due on the 9th of April; and the verbal presentations are moved to the following day (YAY!)

Warning: You are about to read an essay. If you are interested you’re welcome to stay but I wrote this entirely for myself as seeing my thoughts in a written format helps to validate my thinking.

It’s crazy to think that there is effectively two weeks left in this project! I suppose it shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp, after all time does what it does best- fly ridiculously fast leaving all of us in panic in its wake.

On Monday I spoke to our ever helpful lecturer Rob Mayo in order to verify my thoughts around my concept proposal. My proposal had two central themes; the promotion of fitness and enabling a community to connect and grow. I gravitate towards the first theme especially as I feel that it is a better way to address Auckland Transport’s aim to increase patronage of rail travel. It addresses a factor that discourages people from travelling to their daily destinations by rail (or any other public transport means). After all, it is undoubtedly easier to walk only a few metres to take the car than spend up to half an hour or so to the nearest train station under unpredictable weather circumstances. This is done by implementing a point-reward system, in which users gain points if they walk to the station and as their points accumulate to a certain level they are able to choose their own rewards provided by Auckland Transport.

The theme of enabling a community to connect and grow seemed to resonate with the Auckland Transport panel as my proposal aims to give the users a sense of ownership and belonging with this responsibility to care for their own station. They were interested in this notion of involving the users in the process of maintaining ‘their’ station to eliminate the process of blind-guessing what they might want.

Though I gravitate towards one aspect of my proposal, I am rather reluctant in choosing one and parting with the other. I find merit in the idea of enabling a community to grow and within it start a rail culture that can be unique to New Zealand. I was just unsure that getting Auckland Transport to launch ‘missions’ like ‘’Dress your Station for Christmas” was the best way to implement the concept. It needed to be more tangible, and preferably something that both Auckland Transport and rail travel users would be interested in.

Rob Mayo gave light to a system that already existed which reminded him of what I was trying to implement. Fix my Street it is called.  It is a system that allows New Zealand residents to report vandalism or property wreckage within any streets of New Zealand and most importantly to them-their own.  It carried the same theme of giving the users (or in this case NZ residents) a sense of ownership and belonging. It gave them the responsibility over what they should have the right to call their ‘own’ as a community.

It is the essence that I want for my own concept.

Discussed within our lengthy chat was a sound way to incorporate the community aspect within the dominant aspect (as I have decided) of promoting fitness. The potentiality of combining the two main themes of my proposal lies in incorporating both through the point-reward system. Of course the concept only works if the incentives provided are very strong. The type of rewards users can choose from must be something they would like to have as this will encourage their best efforts to walk to the station. Preferably it should also support the activity of walking to the station. The items that I had in mind were a keychain with an incorporated torch, things that will improve their visibility to vehicle users as they walk to station such as neon shoelaces, neon wristbands, neon phone cases and matching neon earphone sets. The reward items should also be things that Auckland Transport will not feel as ‘too much’ to give such as discounted travel fares in the form of vouchers allow a user to have two free consecutive trips per every nine trips for a month, or converting their accumulated points into HOP money which they can then use for an integrated travel (as HOP cards are valid on different modes of transport).

Where the community aspect comes in is here- users also have the choice in donating a sum or all of their points to gain improvements for their stations or earn points by reporting vandalism and wreckage of property by submitting a photo depicting their concern(s) to Auckland Transport for verification.

Initially my focus lies on developing the app only for the first contact parts of the user with the public transport system, but I cannot help but explore its potentiality to become an app that becomes a person’s ‘buddy’ in all their public transport travels.

At this point in time, I am ready to propose the final skeletal framework on which the app will run on, but I still have to make sure that the app is user-friendly and is most intuitive to use. The information should come to the user and not the other way around. The interface should be easy to use with reassurance that it works via sensory feedbacks. The user should feel comfortable making that daily journey to the station as the app provides a direct connection to assistance should they ever need help.

This relies heavily upon the simplicity of the app. The icons should be easily recognisable. The app should flow from one screen to the other. It should deploy information in a way that is not overwhelming.

I plan to release prototypes on Monday to test on my Industrial Design peers, collate their feedback and retest on the Wednesday after which should validate the final refinements of the app.

On top of this, a task bigger than an elephant still stares me in the face. My portfolio must reflect the work that I have achieved from day one to today and until the end. In previous projects this is where I have failed myself. It is rather depressing if I let it become a habit so as per usual at this stage of a project the stress levels are neck-high.

Year III: Auckland Transport Project Week Three

Mission: AT Rail

20 days remaining, post Interim Presentation

Wednesday marked the end of the Ideate Phase. We presented our concept(s) thus far, and gained valuable insights and feedback from a panel of seven individuals.

On the presentation:

My interim proposal consisted of only one concept. Out of the three that I spoke about on Monday, this is the concept that really spoke to me (please click on the link below).

Auckland Transport Interim Presentation Meliza Deocales

The AT Panel received the idea well, praising the potential of the fitness aspect and especially the community aspect of the concept.

On moving forward:

I plan to really strip the concept back to its most raw form to build more ideas around making it better. My aim now is to solidify the concept.

As the community aspect of the concept seems to ring a common interest across the AT panel, I plan to explore it further. Giving users a sense of ownership and belonging to their station is an idea that can stand separately from the rest of the idea.

Constructive feedback also included, if stage one was to do with beating their own high score, this may encourage people to eventually run to beat their high score which may not be ideal in the case of those who are less abled or an elderly.  Perhaps to appeal to the less abled, and the elderly, points can be rewarded by how often you walk to the station in a week. Or a user can gain a set amount of points for walking there. AT would only reward the user a free trip if a point mark is hit eg., every 25th mark.

On the preparation behind the presentation:

My preparation for the presentation started much earlier than what has been the norm for me.

From the previous weekend I immersed myself in the details of my presentation, in both visual and verbal aspects. I made a promise to myself that this year will be better, and I intend to keep it.

The dry run of the presentations, conducted on Monday, helped me greatly. Implementing a two minute time limit really pushed me to critically identify the main points that convey my three concepts. This taught me to be mindful of my word choice in order to keep it short and succinct. Lecturer, Rob Mayo also gave us tips to really strip our speech back to convey only the essence of our concepts in a manner that will catch the attention of the panel. Keeping it nice and short also means there is more time for them to offer feedback and profound insights that will benefit us.

Due to this, I was encouraged to really map out my speech in order to be conscious of exactly what I wish to convey. I practiced the delivery countless times and though I did not end up using what I wrote word for word, I was able to retain the order in which I wanted to convey it.

A lot of thought also went behind how the visual and the verbal content relate and this dictated the flow of my speech.

I am both happy and proud of the outcome of my presentation. The only way to go is up. In future I will implement the same rigorous preparation for all presentations.

On the ideate phase:

While the Design Thinking toolbox suggests exercises under each phase, it does not necessarily mean that it will fit all types of briefs. Sketching gives an idea a form in which others are able to perceive your vision.

Though sketching is usually a very helpful exercise- it is quite opposite in this case due to the nature of the concepts, as they are mostly digital.  I presume sketching will be more helpful in the later phases where it is crucial to perfect every minute detail of the chosen concept.


Year III: Auckland Transport Project Week Two

Mission: AT Rail

26 days left; 5 days remain until interim presentation

Now that the raw initial research phase of this project is over, our team decided it was time to break apart and start chugging through our individual work. For me it was nice to have established key guiding principles within our group that we must make sure to nurture a creative and supportive environment; that it is okay to take breaks when we have hit a slump; and most importantly that we will give our best to give each other honest and constructive feedback to create the best outcomes we are capable of.  Though this came naturally for us anyway, we all agreed that it was nice to have it written on paper.

I was ecstatic post discussion with Rob and some of my peers about this one concept that I had already attached myself to, until I learnt from conversing with some more of my peers that it is rather a common idea after all. This reaffirmed my musings that the inherent problems of the Auckland rail are concrete and are solvable by only so many well-done out comes.

Fortunately, I came up with other ideas that I am enthusiastic about from the past few days of brainstorming. At this point in time, I think I have three very raw concepts I am eager to present on the coming Wednesday. These concepts came into existence as results of a methodically undertaken brainstorm. I plotted the different points of a journey on a visual map, recognising every situation and circumstance that may happen for the three personas that cover the existing patronage number. I then used these different situations/circumstances for all personas as subheadings to trigger ideas of both left and right of field areas of thinking. I made sure to come up with at least twelve ideas for all of the subheadings. This allowed me a good number of ideas for all areas of opportunity. Under some subheadings I had more ideas for than others.

During this exercise I kept in mind that my main aim was to increase patronage. It helped me to compare the pros and cons that commuters might find between taking the train versus their own car to their daily destinations (as earlier I settled to focus on commuters as they are the main patrons to rail travel and will be even after an increase in patronage).   I also kept in mind that our concept does not have to solve everything but it may be that it is integral to the whole system, be a part of progressive plan or even a temporary intervention.

Empathy mapping, which is under ‘Investigate’ in the Design Thinking toolbox, is a tool that I did not really find helpful in previous projects. It appears after the personas to illustrate their thoughts, feelings and actions during the whole experience. I always thought that this was pointless as it is just another way of mapping assumptions so I thought to reposition it; perhaps if the map was to illustrate their thoughts, feelings and actions toward a certain situation and circumstance(s) or a defined opportunity area, it could be a more helpful exercise.

Time has passed so quickly, I cannot believe that I am already starting to prepare for the mid presentation. I am personally working with a disruptive week to week schedule that absorbs a lot of my self-directed time. It’s added a lot of pressure but I aim to cope and learn better time management skills.

Year III: Auckland Transport Project Week One

Back at it! 

Round Three: Industrial Design vs Meliza Deocales

First Mission: Enhance rail travel user experience in the Auckland region to achieve an increase in patronage

Allies: Rob Mayo an international service design and service marketing specialist, Anthony Cross of Auckland Transport, Helen Cunningham, Charlotte Dickson and Year Three Co.

Time Limit: 37 days, 33 days left

With the gears and grinds of my good ol’ brain working, getting stuck in the early stages of the design process had been no problem. We arranged ourselves in groups of three and visited the network twice in two days and have gained plenty of insights along with the survey and interview that we conducted.

The problems and their immediate possible solutions all stood out like a sore thumb. There are many things that could be done better and most if not all have to do with their delivery to patrons. Signage is unclear, inconsistent and counter intuitive; for example the yellow tactile buttons are inconsistently used as a warning or an aid to those visually impaired. Helpful information is not delivered well; for example a train’s arrival can go unnoticed as there are no immediate sensory cues unless looking at the direction of where the train should be coming from.

To summarise, there are absolutely good intentions behind each aspect found in the network but most if not all can be done better; delivered simpler and clearer.

Other users who may encounter different situations when travelling by Auckland rail to their destinations were not very well catered for. Users such as mobility, visually and audio impaired individuals, foreigners who lack a good command of the English language, the elderly who may be greatly unfamiliar with technology. The information about what to do in emergency cases is text based, which is not ideal as no one would have the time to read through a barrier of words as they panic for their lives.

I acknowledge that because these problems are concrete, it will be harder to approach the problem and offer a solution that is truly original or at least dissimilar to the rest of the class. I also realise that solving these immediate problems only better the rail travel experience for existing patrons which is all well and good but to really encourage an increase in patronage is a far different story.

The biggest rail patrons now are commuters and still should be even after an increase in patronage. Where do we get these patrons? Where else, but from the cause of our congested main arterial roads (especially during peak hours) that prefer their comfort and privacy of their own car? What is a good incentive for the rest of Auckland to join this up and coming band wagon that is rail travel?

I think there is merit in a solution that can be born out of this.

Sorting through the massive collection data we had as a group in a methodical manner helped me define the opportunity areas that interest me. In-depth discussions with my team members quickly triggered ideas that I can be excited about.

I will not only aim to think globally and act locally but hope to create a solution that is transferrable to overseas systems. Since the immediate problems are solvable with practical solutions, I will encourage myself to pursue left-of-field ideas as that may trigger more unique solutions that I can then harness to create a simple and beautiful solution. ­­

Reflection (I hate mirrors)

A reflection upon the last brief is long overdue for I have left it with desperation for a much deserved break. With a few more days till the last six weeks or so of second year at hand I reckon a little self evaluation is fitting.

The last brief was a monster. Figuratively speaking, of course. As always, at the start I faced the brief with a fresh outlook with new found determination and renewed goals. The first two weeks were a piece of cake if you will. Then it started going downhill.

I am not sure what it was- all I know is that I spent a good amount of time deciding on which brief to do until it occurred to me that I was starting to run out of time.

Admittedly, the last half of the project was done in a semi-rush. I personally think, I was making good progress in terms of ideating, but constant negative feedback about the direction of which I am going kept holding me back with a large fat serving of discouragement on the side.

On another note, I breathe with a mixture of relief and slight contentment that my concept in physical form functions. It works. Though the type of fabric I used is still in question. The concept will undoubtedly work better had I used a fabric with greater elasticity. However I am not sure I can get any fabric that is both stretchy, breathable and waterproof.

In all honesty, I am dreading receiving the grade for this assignment. I do not reckon I have done myself justice having looked over my portfolio recently. I was able to include all of my work, but it lacks annotations to explain why I have done the work and I think that that is a crucial aspect in any portfolio.  It was my only chance too, to show Lyle that I have done a lot of work and that the final concept is (to a point) refined though there are still a few more issues I would have liked to explore (such as the materials used, and maybe I lacked a great deal of refinement with the pocket configuration of the belt).

In terms of achieving the goals that I had set for myself, I was doing well for the first few weeks of the project duration, until it got a little bit too much. A couple of things that I had picked up on were:

1. I do all my work on paper, handwritten- then I painstakingly transfer all of these onto the computer. I need to train myself to type everything onto the computer as I go, to save the copious amount of time that I must always loose otherwise.

2. I need to start regarding the gantt chart as the law I must abide to. I tend to make excuses and say that it is alright that I have not moved on as the previous part needs more attention and the information may very well affect the coming parts, hence I should better finish it to a high quality standard.

3. I should pay no mind to others. The way we should go about our portfolios is always a major discussion amongst our group and I shouldn’t let it affect me any longer. I always seem to put off starting the portfolio because of it.

4. In terms of actual design development, I find that I have trouble making decisions. I use matrices and I weigh up my options using pros and cons. It is not that I am not aware of what the right decision is, I just almost always have a disagreeing bias and I care too much for what others have to say. I guess for the most part, I should try to maybe care a little less, and pull my cocoon a little tighter around me so I am not tempted to seek people’s approval.

It is not bad to seek people’s approval at all, but different people have differing opinions, and I tend to want to please everyone. However it really should be enough that the constraints and specifications are met in the first place, regardless of the pool of opinions I tend to gather.

5. I felt like I was not given the best opportunity to actually speak for my concepts and myself. I felt like there was always a massive gap in my communication with Lyle. I would mean something totally different from his interpretation. It made me feel a little stupid. It made me question my ability to speak and understand English at all. I do not know exactly what I can do to improve, for I am sure I can speak and relay what is on my mind clearly enough to others.  But perhaps choosing not to prepare a visual presentation or slides for the mid presentation was where I fell. I clearly should have prepared a little better.

I guess I still have a second chance to prove his first impressions wrong. We have an opportunity to present our concepts to Lyle in the coming week and for the sake of my sanity I am preparing for it. I reckon I have disappointed myself enough, and I see this opportunity as a way to redeem myself.

As for the coming brief, I am honestly less excited for it. Sort of shaking in my boots really, for it is going to be another six weeks injected with stress and sleepless nights. However it is my goal to avoid both the former and the latter like it is some sort of plague.