Thesis Description + Timeline

The Theme

While working as an Art Director, I designed experiences for brands that I thought the user needed. At ITP, I’m in the process of shifting from the brand to the user. So, for my thesis, I want to design what the user tells me they need. Accessibility is the perfect design challenge because as a sighted designer, the user will have needs that I won’t know how to solve without listening to and working with them.  I truly believe that accessibility is the heart of what we do as experience designers since it’s not usable if it’s not accessible. And there’s a ton of work to be done. According to the US Census Bureau, there are less than 5% of people with low vision in STEM and representation matters. The hard truth is that the world of electronics and microcontrollers is completely inaccessible. This is partially because we rely on visual schematics to understand how circuits work, and image descriptions can only go so far. 

The One Paragraph Description

My thesis question is: How can we make microcontrollers and electronics accessible to everyone?The idea would be to develop a set of standards and best practices in converting electronic schematics into tactile graphics, which use raised surfaces so someone can feel them. My target audiences will be makers who have low vision, as well sighted allies who want to learn how to make the graphics. I’m going to use the Human-centered design method to observe, ideate, rapid prototype, user test, iterate, and implement, until I get the tactile graphics just right. Finally, I will create an online hub where the style guide, workflow guide, research abstract, and downloadable book of all the finished tactile graphics to be used with Swell Touch Paper and Swell Form Machine. I’ll also be printing and binding a finished physical book of the tactile graphics as an artifact.

The Timeline

Using the Human-Centered Design method:

Phase 1 | Observation 1/29/19-  2/12/19 |

  1. Organize existing research for a status check and onboarding Amy Hurst.
  2. Complete a competitive analysis on other electronics/microcontroller education techniques for low vision readers.
  3. Begin IRB approval process.

Phase 2 | Ideation 2/12/19-  2/26/19 |

  1. Consider user testing methodologies.
  2. Develop personas.
  3. Refine the WIP style guide.

Phase 3 | Rapid Prototyping 2/26/19-  3/12/19 |

  1. Write user testing script.
  2. Define tasks for testing.
  3. Prepare binder of printed tactile graphics for testing.

Phase 4 | User Feedback | 3/12/19- 4/2/19 |

  1. User testing on NYU campus with IRB approval.
  2. Debrief by listing the most serious issues.
  3. Order the issues by how serious they are- fix the top ones first.

Phase 5 | Iteration | 4/2/19- 4/16/19 |

  1. Repeat Phase 3 and 4 as many times as necessary to optimize the graphics for a larger user set.

Phase 6 | Implementation | 4/23/19- 4/30/19 |

  1. Prepare presentation of designer’s journey.
  2. Print and bind a book of the completed tactile graphics. 
  3. Build an online hub that includes:
  • Style guide
  • Workflow guide
  • Research abstract
  • Downloadable book of all the finished tactile graphics.

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