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Portfolio of Allison V. Leach, a San Francisco User Experience Researcher and Strategist

Graduate Blog

Graduate Design Portfolio

Cognitive Design Thesis: Book

Allison V. Leach

My year-long investigation in cognitive design culminated in a thesis book that documents my research. This work was submitted to (and approved by) the California College of the Arts Graduate Design faculty in May 2013.

Abstract

In a world of infinite distractions and temptations, how might designers leverage recent findings in cognitive science to create artifacts that preserve willpower and facilitate productivity for improved well-being?

Informed by the work of willpower experts such as Kelly McGonigal and Roy F. Baumeister, as well as the latest insights from psychology, economics, and neuroscience, my thesis intends to demonstrate the value of cognitive design to designers and non-designers alike. Cognitive design translates findings from cognitive science into design opportunities, and has the potential to create significant personal transformation for its users.

Rather than a traditional study of design’s visual and physical form, my thesis concerns design’s conceptual structure and intangible influence, with an emphasis on the user’s internal experience.

Each of my design probes exploits scientific knowledge on willpower and productivity to test cognitive science’s possible applications in products for personal productivity. For example, how might outsourcing trivial decisions to a network preserve willpower, saving it for more important tasks? Can electronic pulses on a bracelet instill mindfulness of one’s long-term goals and ward off impulsive behaviors? Ultimately, the findings of my design experiments are presented in a series of recommendations and a Cognitive Design Code to encourage future cognitive designers.


spark! Culture Cave

Allison V. Leach

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(please view on SlideShare's website for higher quality)

spark! Culture Cave Business Plan

Throughout my Business of Design class, I worked with three classmates to develop an in-depth proposal for a start-up. Our business, called spark!, is a manufacturer of a children’s cultural education product called Culture Cave. On this team, I supported graphic design, research, and writing tasks.

After three months of hard work and dedication, we summarized our project in a detailed business plan.

The spark! Culture Cave is a cultural immersion experience for kids between the ages of 6 and 10.

At the core of this idea is:

• an iPad app that features a new traditional story each month. the culturally-rich story provides context for a wealth of ancillary information, games, and activities included in each app.

• a sound-equipped tent with velcro walls that kids can decorate with a world map, architectural cut-outs, and other country kit materials. this is a place a child can claim as a kids-only cool hangout.

• monthly country-specific activity kits filled with open-ended, and hands-on activities that a child will look forward to

We at spark! believe that the best way to teach kids about culture is through traditional stories enhanced by interactive, open-ended, and hands-on activities that spring from that narrative.

Garmin: Research Insights

Allison V. Leach

As part of our Design Research class, Janette Song, Bill Rihn, Lisa Woods and I were presented with the task of investigating how people navigate using cues from the natural world.

Acting as the research firm Calicocho with Garmin as our prospective client, we spent the semester conducting in-depth studies on navigation - including behavioral research, conversations with industry experts, field intercept interviews, and qualitative interviews with users of varying GPS technology familiarity.

Here is the slideshow of our final insights, presented to the CCA community.

Garmin: Proposal, Screener, Discussion Guide, Poster

Allison V. Leach

As part of our Design Research class, Janette Song, Bill Rihn, Lisa Woods and I were presented with the task of investigating how people navigate using cues from the natural world.

Acting as the research firm Calicocho with Garmin as our prospective client, we spent the semester conducting in-depth studies on navigation - including behavioral research, conversations with industry experts, field intercept interviews, and qualitative interviews with users of varying GPS technology familiarity.

Here are the written documents we drafted in preparation to execute our research.

Please click on the following document to view

Below is the final poster our team presented to summarize our research journey and key findings.

Cognitive Design Thesis: Interviews Video

Allison V. Leach

A synthesis of my in-depth interviews for my cognitive design thesis experiment, ImPulse.

In this video, I highlight participants’ key attitudes and pain points, and identify specific insights and recommendations for designing the ideal tool for productivity.


Clarendon: A Type Specimen

Allison V. Leach

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When prompted to study a particular typeface in Typography class, I immediately knew my choice: Clarendon. This funky, vintage font has been around the block, but certainly has an unreplicable charm. Here is the type specimen that I crafted to showcase Clarendon's playful character.

Express Yourself Education

Allison V. Leach

Working with Interaction Theory classmates Kelly Green and Shayna Proctor, I helped to develop a concept for a start-up business that promotes social education for high school students called Express Yourself. On this project, I served as the lead writer and strategist.

Express Yourself is a curriculum designed for twelve to sixteen-year-old girls who would benefit from guidance to feel more confident as they grow up. Express Yourself is a participatory experience that empowers girls to be proud of themselves and to feel like they can assume a meaningful role in a larger social culture.

Our product is a boxed game-like lesson introduced in Health classes in public schools throughout the country. It is a 2-4 week program that is taught by a team of strong and successful local women volunteers. Lessons take place in the form of team building exercises, card games, and discussions on relevant student-chosen topics. The curriculum is supplemented by a safe online space featuring a public forum and a private journal.

Our preventative-measures program ultimately aims to reduce populations of at-risk youth - making for an overall happier and healthier society.

FlowSpace: Persuasive Technology for the Airport

Allison V. Leach

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Conceived this interaction design concept with CCA Design student Lisa Woods. Our challenge was to create persuasive technology for an airport environment.

Introducing FlowSpace: an interactive video art booth that makes moving fun while you’re waiting at your gate. It offers a private space for loosening up while creating beautiful art for fellow travelers. Your unique movement designs can also be saved and shared with others via a smartphone application.

Sunday Review for NYTTV

Allison V. Leach

nyttv still

How might the New York Times introduce another touchpoint for its readers?

Working with CCA Design peers Kathleen Moynahan and Jason Harrow, we came up with a concept called the Sunday Review - a program to be aired on a new television station called New York Times Television (NYTTV).

This platform would add a new dimension to the paper’s most prominent writers by airing their live discussions of pressing topics. Furthermore, NYTTV would allow readers to join the conversation with real-time social media commenting.

Garmin: Navigation Interviews Video

Allison V. Leach

As part of our Design Research class, Janette Song, Bill Rihn, Lisa Woods and I were presented with the task of investigating how people navigate using cues from the natural world.

Acting as the research firm Calicocho with Garmin as our prospective client, we spent the semester conducting in-depth studies on navigation - including behavioral research, conversations with industry experts, field intercept interviews, and qualitative interviews with users of varying GPS technology familiarity.

Here are the video highlights from our interviews.

Urban Farmer App

Allison V. Leach

Co-created this video mockup of an iPhone app called Urban Farmer with fellow CCA Design student Andrew Haskin. It is an application designed to encourage city residents to purchase food without packaging to reduce unnecessary waste. 

Urban Farmer notifies the user of nearby bulk food grocery stores and upcoming farmers' markets. If the user wishes to go a step further, the application provides them with a customized to do list to grow their own urban garden based on their location and available space. Reminders are sent, progress is tracked, and a virtual version of their garden is created to share with others online.

Build to Think: Johannes Itten

Allison V. Leach

For my History of Design course, I was challenged to select a contemporary product and reinterpret it through the lens of a designer from another era.  I chose to research the famous Swiss Bauhaus designer (and rebel), Joannes Itten, with modern eyeglasses as my product.

Because he is famous for developing the modern color wheel, perhaps Itten could have been a designer of mood-altering prism glasses.  Spiritual or relaxation experiences would be encouraged via filters that correspond with the individual’s subjective timbre.  I envision these glasses as a particularly useful product for artists and designers in the lives of whom color theory plays a critical role, as well as the everyday consumer who desires controlled color mood experiences.