25 Aug AIGA Mentorship
The AIGA Orlando Mentorship pairs the most passionate design students with leading industry professionals to help refine their skills and prepare them for a career in a creative field. During the program, the students work on a self-promotional project that is displayed in a showcase (SPOT) at the end of the program. The SPOT showcase is attended by everyone: design professionals, students and family members. During the showcase, people use “spot” stickers to vote for their favorite project. At the end of the showcase, a winner is chosen.
Being interested in the digital side of graphic design, especially User Experience and User Interface, I was very fortunate to be paired with the CCO of PUSH, Mark Unger. Mark leads the digital strategy team at Push. He was a great match since his strategies focus on the user experience, and I needed a mentor that would help nurture that skill in me.
What made my AIGA Mentorship experience unique was that Andres Aranguibel who is a good friend of mine and classmate –at the time– also got paired with Mark. Usually, when two people get paired with one mentor they each work on a separate self-promotional project. Andres and I wanted to take advantage of all the time Mark can provide us, so we decided we’ll both collaborate and work on one great project instead of two okay projects.
In our initial meeting with Mark, Andres and I expressed our interest in digital design and how we wanted to enter the User Experience field. We immediately came across a problem.
Mark encouraged us to think outside the box. He asked us to open up our mind and not to allow our initial concepts be limited by time, money or resources. Mark is great at pushing boundaries and he wanted us to start with challenging concepts, then to hone those concepts down to a single unique idea that would only be limited by the four months we had to execute it.
The research: Mark shared some creative projects that helped inspire us. They weren’t User Experience specific but they were definitely unique.
What I needed from a self-promotional project was to produce a design that would be: unique, impactful and memorable. I started my research by reading a few books by Malcolm Gladwell. My favorite of his books are The Tipping Point and Outliers. Malcolm’s books dive into the minds of different types of people, he categorized them into three archetypes: Connectors, Mavins, and Salesmen. These books were a great resource for me to understand my own mind first, then the minds of the people I will be designing an experience for. Another great read was Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.
At our next meeting with Mark, Andres and I filled up a wall with many concepts. Each concept was unique and stood strong on its own. One of the many ideas I still think about today, and hope to one day implement is:
Example: The user would tweet a short phrase and use the hashtag we provide. The programmable t-shirt would pick up the content of the hashtag and light up the pixels to write the phrase the user tweeted.
Many of the ideas required a lot of time and we were limited to four months. We needed to step back, look at the big picture, then focus our thoughts on the main goal.
The goal: promote the skills we have to perspective employers with a takeaway item that would be received through a unique experience.
This goal addresses the three outcomes I needed from the self-promotional project: unique, impactful and memorable. After multiple brainstorming sessions with Andres, and many more meetings with Mark, the bottle concept was born.
Initial product development: we needed an item that perspective employees would want to display on their desks or in their office. The item would play a role in reminding the owner of us, the designers. The challenge was picking an item with enough canvas space for us to design on. A bottle was perfect. The initial idea was to use the outside of the bottle to display our designs and use the inside of the bottle to store our resume in.
Initial product challenges: we wanted to design a sophisticated bottle that’s attractive. The only bottles we could find were clear. The problem with clear bottles is that you could see through them, so a 360-degree design could cause some challenges with image layering. We also couldn’t place our resume’s in the bottles in a way that didn’t take away from the designs on the outside.
Initial product solutions: we decided to spray paint the bottles with chalk spray paint. It worked better than matte spray paint because it laid on the sleek surface of the bottle smoothly and dried matte.
Initial design concept: we wanted to attract the right perspective employer so the designs needed to communicate our interest in the digital field.
I chose to address my bottle designs by answering four questions:
- Why hire Hebah?
- Where is Hebah?
- What is Hebah?
- Who is Hebah?
I wanted to create “product desirability” by designing a unique bottle that would play the role of a golden ticket. In total, I had 4 designs.
Initial design challenges: the designs were complex and required too much time to die cut and place on the bottles. We needed to create at least 200 bottles –since that’s the average of people attending the SPOT showcase. Each bottle took approximately an hour to assemble, which was not ideal.
The experience: we knew if we displayed the bottles on shelves people would do the following: maybe look at them for a moment, probably pick them up and possibly take one with them. There was a lot of uncertainty. The best way to guarantee that people would really look at our designs and feel the need to take a bottle with them was, if they received the bottles through a great experience.
That’s where the vending machine comes in.
The User Experience: the use of a vending machine to display and distribute our designed bottles enveloped many concepts in the User Experience field: interaction, usability, and familiarity.
Refined product: we came across a new problem with the bottles. The vending machine couldn’t detect them because it uses weight to determine the presence of a product in a particular section. Our bottles needed to weigh more. We decided to fill them up with sand and seal the cap to prevent people from opening them.
Refined designs: we used a sticker approach to compose our designs on the bottle surface. This made each bottle look unique and it allowed us to compose each one within a fraction of the time.
Bottle designs: the design content on my bottles provided prospective employees with information that promoted me as a digital designer. My designs shared my professional skills, a personal fact, my social availability, and my unique identity.
My bottle designs answered the four questions in the following way:
Vending machine designs: the vending machine has a call to action to advertise clearly what it’s meant to do and who it represents.
After all the hard work, sleepless nights, and almost 200 designed bottles it was time to see our Self-Promotional User Experience in action.
The vending machines placement in the gallery space was strategic. It was the first station people visited and over 95% of them left the experience with their very own designed bottle. The experience’s results had our users bright eyed with amazement. They all left our station with a huge smile on their faces.
The most common questions we got were:
- How did we come up with this?
- How did we get our hands on a vending machine?
Well, I can’t give away all our secrets!