Ted McDonald

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Interactive Prototypes for Public Displays

Process & Findings

Our design process involved stakeholder interviews, field observations, surveys of existing research and tools, competitor analysis, ideation, storyboards, and digital prototypes.

Early in the process, the team defined objectives, site and tech constraints, and gathered inspiration from similar projects.

Through interviews with stakeholders and surveys of existing research, we discovered that UW sustainability messaging is focused on promoting everyday actions individuals can take, such as riding a bike or walking, rather than driving.

Stakeholders also expressed a desire for interactive content to give character to the growing West Campus and engage with the community. Project scope quickly grew and our team was having difficulty knowing where to begin with ideation.

To address the multiple goals of our stakeholders, I proposed that we create a variety content packages.

Each content package is a self-contained idea, which can be cycled through depending on time, date, or context. This keeps content fresh, focused, and quick to create.

UW sustainability messaging is focused on promoting everyday actions individuals can take, such as riding a bike.

We employed a divergent and convergent ideation methodology, where team members would individually create dozens of sketches and then come together and discuss which ones had potential.

We created storyboards and animations for promising ideas, making quick changes as necessary. It was an iterative, agile workflow. The team then voted to select which concepts would be prototyped, setting the others aside for future consideration.

In order to provide a range of options for dealing with technical constraints, the concepts we prototyped covered a diverse range of input methods, from simple LIDAR to more complex devices like Xbox Kinect and even mobile web apps.

Due to the transient nature of public displays and the short attention span of passersby, interactive content was designed to be bite-sized, artistically abstract, and easy to interact with.

Each concept is self-contained and can be cycled through depending on context. This keeps content fresh, focused, and quick to create.

Rapid Prototyping

Prototypes were built for quick assembly and easy transferability.

Aesthetically, designs were fun and lively, though simple. They were line based and made use of gradients to give a sense of complexity and depth.

This made it easy to create lego-like components with our designs. Anyone on the team could explore different layouts with this method of prototyping, regardless of visual design experience.

A simple aesthetic style also made it easy to export as SVG, which is a code-based, vector image format.

The code-based nature of SVG worked especially great for our bike prototype. Rather than creating individual images for bike and wheel designs, we could simply tweak some values in the SVG code real-time and the bike color and wheel designs changed to match.

Content was designed to be bite-sized, artistically abstract, and easy to interact with.

Interactive Water Pipes

Given that our displays were located in the WCUP, our team wanted to connect the plant to the neighborhood in a memorable and fun way.

We decided to base our prototype on the colorful water pipes inside the plant. Visible to passersby, WCUP water pipes were a colorful and unique characteristic of the building and immediate neighborhood.

The prototype proved to be very popular with users in the MakerSpace. Even in a gamified and abstract form, the prototype stayed true to the purpose of the WCUP.

Click the white dots

Using a Kinect sensor to capture gestural interactions from the user, the prototype simulated water flowing through various pipes. The great thing about this concept is how versatile it is; pipes can be expanded across many displays or just one. Our prototype demo made use of a single display.

Tap the white dots

Deliverable and Outcome

We transferred our three interactive prototypes, research reports, and ideation over to our stakeholder, UW's Office of the University Architect. The prototypes were recieved positively. A senior planner in UW's Office of the University Architect, Bob Puzauskie, had this to say:

"I'm as attracted to the vibrant color scheme as I am the gestures. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing. You put together an idea that really sings. This is the kind of proficiency we needed before the project started."