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.
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.
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.
During 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.”
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:
During the spring semester of 2014, students in Design Methodologies worked with St. Francis House, St. Augustine’s only emergency shelter serving the homeless and less fortunate, to create a new identity for the organization. Each student created a logo and stationery package. The logo designed by Kara Walter was chosen to form the basis of the branding campaign.
The entire class continued the service-learning project by each creating part of a suite of marketing pieces, including an informational handout, a promotional media folder, posters, a banner, t-shirts, social media profiles and much more.
“The students learned a great deal from the experience, and I did too,” said Stephenson. “Since we visited the shelter and saw first-hand the facilities, the people and the administrative offices, this became so much more than just another class project. It was real and very meaningful for us.”
“We were so excited about the opportunity to work with these talented students,” said Judy Dembowski, Executive Director of St. Francis House. “We are deeply grateful for the amazing work the students have done. The results exceeded our wildest dreams. Every student put their heart into this project. The results meet or exceed what we could have gotten, but could never have afforded, at an established agency. Every student in this class has a promising career ahead of them.”
Their work will help the organization launch a new identity as St. Francis House celebrates 30 years serving those in need.
This past semester, Flagler College students in ART 228: Design Methodologies partnered with the Greek Festival in St. Augustine to design a range of material, including an event logo and promotional poster. This service-learning project began with students attending the festival in October, to experience the event first-hand. After this, students met with our ‘client’ to learn about the history of the festival, their current situation and their plans for the future. Students then wrote a project proposal, developed logo concepts and brainstormed ideas for a promotional campaign.
The local Greek Festival, presented by the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, has been an annual event in St. Augustine for the past 17 years. It celebrates Greek culture, including traditional food, music and dancing. The festival has grown considerably since its inception and is now one of the largest local events held at Francis Field.
Last year, the festival received a grant from the Tourist Development Council (TDC) to extend the reach of their marketing efforts in order to attract people from across the state of Florida. With this in mind, the co-chairs thought the festival could benefit from having more consistent branding. They wanted a distinctive logo that visually communicated two things—Greek culture and the St. Augustine location.
Each student designed and presented a logo option. Cassie Deogracia came up with a design that fit the bill, but several other students made it hard for the committee to pick just one, including Rachel Thomas, who came in a close second. Other finalists include Maddie Zatkulak, Zoe Thomas and Rebekah Richardson.
In addition to designing a logo, each student created a poster and proposed other ideas that the committee could consider adopting. For example, Michael Swiger conceptualized a ‘Gyro Hero’ eating contest, and Anabel Anderson designed ‘Speak Greek’ cards. Nicholas Droleski branded the carnival rides as ‘Evzone’s Kid Zone,’ and Tori Ray created a hand fan that also functions as a site map. Other students pitched t-shirt designs, event signage, menus, branded cups, buttons, and more.
Mikae Gaetanos, this year’s co-chair stated that, “It was wonderful working with the Flagler College students. They were so energetic and creative. It opened our eyes to many new ideas, and for me personally, it was very fun and enjoyable.” Gary Peterson, President of the Parish Council for Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which hosts the annual event added, “We found the enthusiasm and professionalism exhibited by the students inspiring and motivating. It allowed us to see our own festival through the students’ eyes, which added a bold new perspective to our own vision of the event.”
Cassie Deogracia, whose logo was chosen, said her favorite part of the project was being able to give the festival an identity that captured everything they were trying to convey. Deogracia said, “I really wanted to display the important aspects of the festival: that it’s Greek, that it takes place in the beautiful city of St. Augustine, and one of the most exciting aspects of the festival, the food. When my design was chosen I was immediately very excited. It’s so rewarding to know that as a designer you’ve successfully created an image that a client can be proud of.”
Ms. Deogracia thought this experience was beneficial in several ways. “I learned so much about how to take ideas and the essence of an event and transform it into design. Along with that, I was able to experience working with a client and making sure that I created something that they would be happy with.”
Since the event gives festival-goers an authentic taste of Greek culture, this project wouldn’t be complete without some of that delicious food. Gary’s wife, Faye (Fotini) Peterson graciously prepared some traditional Greek pastries, including baklava, for the class. Mikae and Gary brought in trays full of fresh-baked goods for students to enjoy after their final presentations in December. We now understand the true meaning of Opa! It’s not just a word; it’s a way of life.