Turning Design Research Into Creative Concepts

This summer, I had the privilege of working with some amazing, local nonprofits on a variety of branding projects. I designed logos for three new fundraising events and rebranded two established organizations. I really enjoy the process of creating a unique visual identity, from learning about their cause to implementing designs at various touchpoints.

Early in the process, I focus on ‘problem finding’ and discovery research. This can take many forms: talking to board members about their current situation, mission, vision and core values, conducting a competitive analysis, and doing visual research. After sketching ideas and exploring typefaces, digital comps are created. I try to present clients with a range of options during the first round of proofing, as seen in these examples. Translating research into creative concepts is my absolute favorite part of the process!

I love discussing options with clients and helping them select the ones that best meet their needs. Once initial feedback has been gathered, then the logos are narrowed down and a few of the designs are refined. This may include cleaning up artwork, exploring color options, and adjusting the composition. After the chosen logo is approved, then it’s finalized and brand guidelines are developed.

The comps in this post were for the Conquistador Festival, One Heart One America, the Flagler Playhouse, and the Florida National Guard Foundation.

From Problem-Finding to Prototyping

I recently presented at the 2020 UCDA Design Education Summit. The conference theme was Human Centered.

Below is an excerpt from that presentation, which focuses on how human-centered design and activity-centered design have been utilized to develop concepts for interactive products. The examples for each step of the design process are by Flagler College students who were enrolled in ART 326 Interactive Design. The human-centered project involves conducting user research, developing a concept based on the research findings, low-fidelity paper prototyping, branding, user interface (UI) design, building a high-fidelity prototype, app promotion, and culminates with a UX/UI case study. During the activity-centered project, students pitch ideas, analyze an activity, and develop personas, scenarios and mood boards. They create a brand and prototype interrelated products for both the digital and physical environment.

Benefits and risks for each approach are discussed in my paper. In summary, it is important that interaction designers know different approaches, how to move between them, and when to apply the best approach to the situation.

You can listen to the full presentation here:

Proton U is available in the App Store


I’m excited to announce that Proton U is available in the App Store. Proton U is a mobile application to help pediatric cancer patients and their families learn about their upcoming treatment at the the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute (UFHPTI). Patients and healthcare professionals from around the world can now download and use the cross-platform, multilingual, free mobile app to prepare for proton therapy.

Flagler College students partnered with a child life specialist, a physician and a mobile developer to create the storybook app. After reframing the problem at the systems level, a suite of interrelated products was created to support interaction at multiple touchpoints.  This included a printed children’s book to read at home, a life-sized cardboard cutout of Jefferson (the app’s main character) to welcome patients when they arrive at the institute, and a plush version of Jefferson to comfort children during treatment.

Proton U was designed for pediatric cancer patients, ranging in age from 18 months old to 18 years old, who will be coming to Jacksonville, Florida from other states and a variety of countries, including Great Britain, Norway, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Nicaragua and Australia. Through ‘playful learning’ and storytelling, Proton U aims to equip young patients with information and coping skills that may reduce anxiety and fear during a stressful time in their lives. The medical team at UFHPTI, the only proton therapy center in the Southeast, has incorporated this app into their active pediatric program, which is one of the largest in the world. The program has dramatically improved the rates of children requiring daily anesthesia for treatment – dropping from 94% to 50% in children age five to seven.

The project, which started during the fall semester of 2014, presented Flagler College students with a complex problem that required knowledge, skills and talents from multiple disciplines—graphic design, communication, theater and Spanish. The approach taken was organic and pragmatic. It allowed design students to apply what they were learning about interaction design in the classroom to meet a real need in the community. During a field trip, the class visited the institute to learn about proton therapy, tour facilities and conduct user research, which involved conversations and activities with pediatric patients and their families. After research, the group worked together to establish the creative direction for the app—one that was engaging but also educational and realistic. Students applied for various roles, including branding, interface design, illustration, content development and user experience design.

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The collaborative project gained support across campus as expertise from other disciplines was needed. Students from theater arts auditioned to be the characters’ voices and communication students volunteered to record the audio at the on-campus radio station. After learning that many patients are non-English speaking, Spanish and Norwegian students translated content to make it more accessible for international patients. During the spring semester of 2015, a small team of design students continued working on the project to finalize the UI/UX design of the mobile app, create the other products, and develop a promotional campaign for the app (banner ads, app store description and a microsite). The app was developed and tested in 2016 and launched in early 2017.

Links about Proton U:

Proton U app officially unveiled in Apple’s App Store

Customized app, Proton U, will aid children with cancer treatment

How UF Health, Microsoft and a local college teamed up to make an app for pediatric cancer patients

Proton U app wins second place for statewide award, makes shortlist for another

Flagler College’s Proton U app a finalist for community partnership award

App concepts for speech and language therapy

ART435class_dawnDuring the fall semester of 2013 and the spring semester of 2015, students in Interactive Design developed concepts for iPad apps to be used in speech and language therapy sessions with autistic children. The students’ concepts targeted six specific children, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, with different abilities and a wide range of interests.

“Many existing apps were found to be too expensive or poorly designed for their intended users,” said Professor Stephenson. “In response, our students took a human-centered approach to design the new apps. The hope is to eventually provide well-designed and affordable apps that both speech language pathologists and parents can download, thus extending learning beyond the classroom and into the home environment.”

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The app concepts are both educational and entertaining. For example, one student’s design involves a beagle named Scout who leads users on scavenger hunts to identify objects commonly found in the grocery store, on a playground, in a toy store and at home. Children learn the name of objects (receptive vocabulary) and see them in context while playing an entertaining game. Other concepts focus on developing social skills, expressive vocabulary and fine motor skills while interacting with playful characters like a robot mouse, hamster, dinosaurs and a goofy DJ.

After designing interactive prototypes of their apps, the students pitched their ideas to a speech-language pathologist and iPad mentor from the Duval County School District. “I was blown away by the work they did on this project,” said Dawn Lechwar MS, CCC-SLP. “They were genuinely interested in our kids, which came through in their presentations. Their ideas were phenomenal. I would love to have all of their apps on our iPads.”

Students who wish to see their ideas through are currently in the process of applying for grants to secure funding for development.

To see demos and overviews of all the apps, visit:

App Demos – Fall 2014

During the fall semester of 2014, students in ART 435: Interactive Design took a human-centered approach to design mobile app concepts.

Lostnaut - App Concept
Lostnaut – App Concept

Their ideas, which were based on the results of user research, included:

  • Lostnaut — an app to help you keep up with items,
  • Nimble — an app for people with Rheumatoid arthritis,
  • Gyst — a planner app,
  • Ferris Wheel — a social networking hub,
  • Liven Up — an app to help you achieve goals,
  • PreServe — an app to store and share family recipes,
  • Find A Latte — an app to help users find coffee shops,
  • TrailMix — an app to buy, sell and trade outdoor equipment,
  • 2gather — a social networking app for members of Mensa,
  • Cat-O-Log — an app to track stray cats,
  • Bavel — a savings app for travel,
  • Worm Nerd — a library app for book worms,
  • StableUp — an app for barn management,
  • Military Moms — an app for military moms,
  • ScreenIt — an app for screenwriters, and
  • TXT2ME — an app to organize your busy life.

After designing high-fidelity, interactive prototypes, students created 60-second animations in Adobe Flash to highlight key features of the app and/or demonstrate how it would fit into a user’s life.

Check out their animations:

Case Study: Rarity Ridge

The developers of Rarity Ridge, a master-planned community in Tennessee, wanted to attract young families and active adults to a pre-construction property launch.

To promote the event, I designed newspaper and magazine ads, a trade show booth, and a series of direct mail brochures. I worked with a mail house and the Rarity sales staff to construct the multi-state database.

I also designed the following material for the day of the event:
– Graphics for the sales tent
– Directional signage
– A ‘welcome package’ for attendees, complete with restaurant recommendations and directions to local attractions.

The launch was a complete success, with all 49 available homesites sold in one day.

Case Study: River Oaks

While at Maximum Design, one of the accounts I managed was River Oaks—a community of luxury villas near Savannah, Georgia. They came to us before starting construction, in need of an identity and a marketing campaign.

I first worked with River Oaks to build a strategic marketing plan for the community. After investigating their competition, location, target market and real estate offering, I developed a creative concept to appeal to their prospective buyers.I then designed material for their marketing campaign, which included a lifestyle brochure, website, stationery suite, print ads (newspaper and magazine, color and B&W), billboards, sitemap and a series of direct mail cards.

In addition to the community realizing significant pre-construction sales, two pieces from the campaign were honored with Gold and Silver ADDY awards in 2006.