Agora

Graduate Studio-ID 6211

Individual Assignment

Oct. 28th, 2019

Figma, Illustrator, Photoshop

Overview

Agora was a 4-week independent project based on a subject matter and field of design that we find interesting. The process and choices I made were of my own volition. Based upon my own design curriculum and the numerous experiences of other design students, in this case, undergraduate and graduate industrial design students. Users are currently having issues gaining relevant or useful feedback during the critiquing section of the design process. I designed Agora an application that provides design students to gain larger amounts of relevant and diverse feedback not just from each other but the community or network.

Research: Understanding The Critique

As an undergraduate design student, coming from a private high school entirely focused on making us engineers, I received little to no formal education on topics related to design other than through basic fine arts courses that were available. These experiences created an insatiable need to better my skills and receive feedback through any means necessary. As an undergraduate designer, I was introduced to a "traditional" design curriculum which consists of a project and a critique. These critiques were normally done at the end of a project and particularly focused on specifically on pre-determined skills. 

While critiques are normally done throughout all phases of the design, I will specifically focus on the endpoint. Critiques are there to provide students the opportunity to gain feedback from those that relate to their field, this gives them the opportunity to observe other options, flaws, or reasoning for design. (Critiquing Student Projects.) However, a review's information exchange does not flow in one direction. While students might provide information to the presenter, professors, like the one documented in the fast company article Want To Build a Culture Of Innovation? Master the Design Critique uses this time to correct one's insights and start to provide a foundation for their design voice.

The Survey & The Interviews

To understand and gain further evidence for what I was seeing and hearing from other students. I had decided on developing a survey and dispersing it for approximately a week to a variety of target users from Iowa State University, Georgia Tech, and The Savannah College Of Art & Design. In total, I had received responses from 87 willing participants currently in their design curriculum. Some of the results are seen below:

  • Students critiquing preferences were split down the middle, 50% preferred a group setting while the other 50 preferred an individual setting.

  • 60% of students "do nothing" to influence feedback during a critique session.

  • 54% of students prefer to defend their work during a critique.

  • 78% of students/reviewers are comfortable with providing feedback to a presenter.

Before sending my survey out, I produced an open comment section, this is due to viewing my survey as too absolute for my audience. I treated this section as the first round of interviews that completely focused on pain points that students found throughout the critiquing experiences.  When preparing my second round of interviews I focused on a variety of other aspects that might affect a student's habits (Social Media, Design-based Products, etc.) towards receiving or giving feedback. In this area I had gotten really interesting and commentary to work with.

"I wish I had peer mentors in my studio so I could also get feedback from them so I do not only get feedback from my professor, as the other students in my studio don’t ever say anything about my work."

"Critiques can be very biased & relative to the experiences and knowledge of the reviewer. Because of this, I have found to take feedback with a grain of salt and pick and choose what to implement in my next iterations.."

"I often find that when I put my project up to present for critique, I often get little to no feedback at all which can be incredibly frustrating. In those instances, the professor is the only one saying anything, but I still value the input of the rest of the class."

"To go back to previous questions, we present projects in both pin-ups and presentations, it just depends on the teacher. We don't, however, present them to all 4 sections of students, we just stay within our class to share projects mostly because each teacher differs what kind of projects they assign."

Artifact: Paper Commentary

While I sent out my survey I had the opportunity to observe and consider other forms of critique. The artifacts below are snapshots of my class critique. Students are given sheets like these to critique others in their class using the gridded number system as well as written feedback on a variety of matters. The artifact below shows the positives and negatives of this format.

Number systems or Likert scales are difficult to follow due to their subjective nature

Students choose to leave out names hindering future follow-up

Papers can be difficult to keep up with especially if students are receiving numerous versions of these papers

Students handwriting can be difficult to read and reviewers might not provide relevant information

User Journey Map

After receiving a variety of responses I decided to develop a user journey map with the aide of undergraduate and graduate students. The only restrains I established before the session was the meaning of the X-axis & Y-axis. The X-axis depicts a design student's "journey" through the design process, this was done to center the group of students and help with thought. Y-axis relates to confidence and emotion. From the commentary and the resulting journey map, there is a direct relationship between student's confidence and given direction or commentary at certain phases of the design process.  

Obviously I would have just started the project, I have no idea what I am doing, and depending on how well the syllabus is written it can make it harder to begin.

Since is the most technical part I think I normally gain the most feedback and it makes it easy to push forward and make decisions on my project

Agora journey map.png

"Well designing a presentation format is super hard and I have to rely on others to help me. Also, I have to sit through what feels like hours of other presentations ."

"Other than presenting, I feel less confident because I want to put it on Behance, and the work on there is leagues above mine."

The Problem & Opportunity

The speed and increased interest in design professions have directly affected many university-wide design curriculums, acting as a foundation for many of the design professions that we have today. However, it has acted as a portent for these same curriculums, promoting an upsurge in class sizes. Meaning an intensification of hours that professors and students have to institute to get the most of their learning experience. This consequently results in students not being able to improve and gain feedback during critiques and review sessions. 

 

I believe there is an opportunity to develop a system of products/services that updates the critiquing process. This system should aid design students in obtaining more relevant, diverse, and productive feedback. Be accessible to them whenever needed and provide a platform for them to build a design voice and network.  

Concept Development

During this part of the design/agile phase, I brainstormed and sketched various wireframes based on my design goals and the user feedback I had gained up to this point. The result was two concepts ( both mobile and Web application) that would work with one another. These wireframes were in a variety of tests and walkthroughs to gain the necessary feedback. I had gained inspiration from a variety of sources that I had used in my curriculum (shown below), then uploaded/transferred my sketches into a digital format to show it to the users and gather their feedback. 

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Concept 1a: Web application

My initial design was going to have the students work centered around the laptop. Here students would upload their work as a PNG or PDF Format, leave comments, select the phase they are on, and present their project to reviewers. 

New Project.png

1a. Start A New Project

Publish Selection.png

2a. Define A Goal

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3a. Publish/Present

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4a. Reviewer Critique

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5a. Presentation View

Concept A Feedback

  • Users didn't see the value in another "design-based" website when there is already a large variety of them such as Behance.

  • Students liked the live presentation function but thought that have reviewers pull out there phone while they are presenting would be distracting.

  • The product still seemingly relies on the class not initially solving the problem.

  • If students were not done or wanted to have feedback when still working on a project they would have to constantly export and upload.

Concept 1b: Plug-in

The later design was still based around the laptop. Here students would upload their work while in the Adobe Indesign program and relied on the phone more than Concept 1A. 

Selection.png
Opened Project (Limbo Plugin).png
Selection.png
Opened Project (Limbo Plugin)-1.png
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1b. Start New Project

2b. Define A Goal

3b. Create & Comment

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Publishing.png
Presenting.png
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4b. Present to Class or Upload

5b. Review & Comment

Concept B Feedback

  • Students liked the fact that the product will be used inside design-related programs like the adobe creative suite.

  • However, students viewed this concept as annoying due to the constant pop-ups that appear throughout the testing.

  • In this model, the icons were also hard to understand and possibly needed labels to help the user figure things out.

  • The location, as well as the color choice for the plugin, made it difficult for students to find.

Before moving on to the next concept, I reviewed both concepts' feedback. I decided to further design the plug-in concept due to the feedback I received and my design goals such as accessibility, influencing a design voice, and providing of feedback based upon phase or issue. 

Concept 2: Mobile Phone

Before I started to fully design the whole mobile application I was not sure how I should have projects displayed. The images to the right display the two options that I was considering. The left would provide more visibility but would rely on constant scrolling to find the project that they are looking for. The right would provide a better opportunity to fit more projects but at the expense of detail. What I decided on was the display on the left.

v2 phone.png

Critiquing Slide Page

Home Page | Current Presentations

Nav Page

My original mobile design was only to consist of at least two parts. the home page (bottom left) and the presentation slide deck where one would have a vertical scroll to see questions and type (bottom right). Since I wanted to create some sort of networking opportunity but didnt want to create some sort of social media platform I added an inspiration page to view other design work which could help students with layout design. 

Concept 2 Feedback

  • Students preferred having a "contact page" where one can see who made these projects or get in contact with the designer.

  • The presentation slide-deck was nice for vertical images but possibly wouldn't work for horizontal views resulting in students having to zoom in on a piece of work.

  • The inspiration page was well accepted, but locating it by selecting the logo was awkward.

  • Students asked if the nav page would have any text and eventually came to the conclusion that both displays would appear cluttered, and I was advised to change the formatting of the page overall.

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Color & Branding

During the final week of this project, students were tasked with finalizing our concepts. During the redesigning of both the Plug-in and Mobile application. I had pulled a few of my classmates to help me consider a name, logo, and color for my application. The original name that I came up with was Limbo however I had made three to four others these were:

  • Agora

  • Inkling

  • Rant

  • Praisal

 

Students preferred Agora and Praisal due to their sound and connotation. Agora is an ancient Greek word for a marketplace where people would not just trade goods but ideas. And Praisal was a rendition on appraisal making the product sound friendly. I choose Agora. Next brainstormed color, Agora had an easy color palette. At first, I focused on greek color schemes like the images below. The results were interesting but were harder to carry over to the plug-in and fit with the adobe suite brand. I turned to the aid of a visual designer I knew and after a long discussion told me that my concepts envelop bold unique interesting and energetic feelings so I tried to focus on that which is shown in the final prototype. 

Final Prototype: Agora

Receive relevant feedback at any stage.

Vector MacBook Gold [Converted] Gain Fee

With Agora students are able to attain a variety of feedback through their own network. 

Students can choose what type of feedback they want to receive no matter.

Design is all about collaboration, students can be given feedback in a live format as well. 

Build your network. Build your design voice.

Students are able to develop an extensive design network that can go beyond the classroom. 

Gain inspiration and feedback anywhere, at any time

Final Feedback

The conclusion of the project was to present the product to the class and guests. Listed below are some of the feedback I had received to better my work:

  • "I was wondering if you have thought this could be implemented in the work environment."

  • "How would this be developed scripting wise?"

  • "I believe this would help students who are shy or who don't like conflict."

What's Next?

The project was completed at the end of my first semester of graduate school, basically last year. Since this is not my first rodeo (if you're interested in the first one click here) I am very happy with the results. In a perfect world, I would put a bow on this project and develop it. However, that's not possible since I am a perfectionist and I still want to take this project further especially since it was well accepted by my class.

If I was to go further with this project, (which I most certainly will) I was thinking of developing this or taking it under a possible topic I can expand on for my thesis topic. This would let me focus on designing both concepts equally, allow me to conduct workshops to gain further feedback or explore new ideas and provide me the opportunity to learn scripting languages.