The summer is flying by and already my time at Mad*Pow is more than half over. The experience continues to exceed my expectations, providing a wide variety of opportunities to learn and contribute. One of the particularly satisfying aspects of my internship at Mad*Pow, and with the field of experience design in general, is that my skills and experiences in other fields are relevant and often transferable to my work as ux-er. One of my goals while working at Mad*Pow has been to integrate the disparate knowledge and skills I have acquired in other fields into a meaningful set of UX tools. Both of the projects I have been working on this summer have given me an opportunity to work towards this goal.
Before I heard of User Experience Design, or Interaction Design (or whatever you kids are calling it these days), I was deeply involved in exploring new models for sustainable international development. Looking back, many of the experiences that were key stepping-stones in my path to discovering interaction design were in this field. For this reason it has been particularly interesting to me to work on the second phase of the SimIndia project for GE Healthcare. The first phase of this project were presented at Mad*Pow’s annual Healthcare Experience Design conference last spring. Mitch Higashi, Chief Economist at GE Healthcare, shared a prototype of an interactive modeling tool that GE Healthcare is developing in partnership with Mad*Pow to use the vast amounts of Indian health and population data for India that GE has collected allowing policy makers to explore the public health ramification of creating hospitals equipped to provide specialized screening and treatment for various health conditions. (A video of this presentation is available and is highly worth watching for anyone interested in healthcare, big data, data visualization or international development.) At the heart of the development issues in which I have been most interested are the questions of how to allocate scarce resources to their maximum effect and how to share know-how with the people who could most benefit from it. SimIndia addresses both of these questions, as well as offering the fascinating challenge of creating insightful visualizations from a huge quantity of complex data and intuitive interactions for a heterogeneous, cross-cultural group of users. It is a treat to work on the further development of this potentially life saving tool.
The other project on which I am working, kicked off at the beginning of my internship and has given me the opportunity to see a concept take shape from a Scope of Work document, through sketches, journey maps and strategy outlines. It has been a fascinating process and has filled in some of the gaps in my understanding of the UX process. In particular, I have had the opportunity to listen to and participate in creating actionable-insights from, interviews with stakeholders and users. This is my first experience with this type of interview. However, as an undergrad, I did socio-economic research in Ecuador to investigate the production process and financial tools used by local artisans, which consisted mainly of interviews. Many of the challenges I faced in Ecuador are the same as those I observed this summer. In both cases the ability to surface the interviewee’s knowledge and understanding of the situation, particularly the things he or she takes for granted, is what makes the difference between a good and great interview. It was a pleasure to see a great interviewer at work.
On each of these projects I have benefited greatly from feedback from members of the Mad*Pow team, whether it be a better way to create flow-arrows in Illustrator, or a more succinct way to articulate a complex user interaction. I have also had the opportunity to learn about the diverse set of outside experiences and skills that inform the work of other Mad*Pow-ers. My co-workers bring experiences from the world of music, new media and academia, they create world class French onion soup (from what I hear) and interactive sculpture and have worked in law firms, government research facilities and everything in between.