During the summers of 2018 and 2019, I was invited to work as a fellow at IDEO CoLab, IDEO's platform for collaborative impact. Alongside multi-disciplinary teams composed of business designers, engineers, and CoLab core team members, I built prototypes to explore emerging questions around developing technologies and human systems.
My time at CoLab was a challenge to cozy up to the ambiguity of the unknown and understand my role in making a team successful. A few of the projects I've worked on include a crypto no-lose lottery game, a virtual reality data visualization, and a crypto comic to introduce security-conscious crypto owners to basic concepts of personal key storage.
Below you'll find a brief overview of a few projects I worked on and a handful of lessons I collected along the way!
10 Lessons from 2 summers sprinting at IDEO CoLab
1. It's about the people.
Maybe it's corny, but it's also true. The greatest value of an experience like the IDEO CoLab fellowship is the opportunity to be surrounded by amazing, talented humans who are excited to be doing what they do.
3. Understand your team.
The best prototypes come from teams that understand each other's superpowers and help their teammates be successful. Everyone comes with a diversity of skillsets that extend beyond their titles.
5. Metaphors are magic.
At CoLab, we grappled with the complexity of building human experiences with emerging technologies unfamiliar to our users. Creating strong metaphors to ground unfamiliar concepts is incredibly powerful.
This is an obvious one and also one that's super easy to ignore until it's too late. Keep detailed notes of the decision making process. This will not only record all the small changes that can be forgotten along the way, but will also help tell a more compelling story when reflecting on your journey.
9. Understand your
The project briefs you work on didn't come out of nowhere. Think about the considerations that went into crafting your brief. Be creative with how the prototype will be presented and how you can make it a compelling story.
2. Take a stance.
When beginning a project, consider the holistic values with which you aspire to imbue the outcome. One of the coolest parts about designing for the future is exploring what you believe the future should look like!
4. Process = Prototype
The process is a prototype itself. Every project is unique and the path will invariably change along the way. It's important to not be afraid to go off book, relish failure, and improvise accordingly.
6. Bias toward building.
The greatest foe that faces a team during a design sprint is the "talking spiral." To avoid stumbling into the abyss, know the signs of when an ideation session is shifting from an explosion of divergent concepts to a discussion of each one's pros and cons. That means it's time to build!
8. Share your skills!
In a place like CoLab, you're surrounded by crazy talented people with so many cool skills⏤including yourself! Seize the chance to learn from everyone around you and to share what you know.
10. Feel the fear.
You'll probably find yourself at some point maybe lying on the floor existentially questioning everything you thought you knew. Embrace the ambiguity. Trust your team to follow an idea to its realization...and don't forget to have fun!
A fun and accessible intro to crypto
User flow collaboration
@ IDEO San Francisco
How might we invite college-aged users to build healthy savings habits within distributed financial systems?
Honeypod functions as a no-lose lottery, a type of savings account in which interest from all participating accounts is pooled and awarded to a "lottery" winner. The game is zero risk; it enables users to enter lotteries to win crypto and collectible prizes without losing the principal money they enter. No-lose lotteries have been shown in formal studies to improve savings habits in non-saver groups, but often face harsh legal restrictions because states hold a monopoly on all lotteries. Cryptocurrency does not face these restrictions.
During our research, we spoke with users about their relationship with cryptocurrency and savings. What we heard was an apprehension about exchanging and using crypto, driven by a lack of trust. It became clear that mental models for how monetary assets grow over time are broken⏤some college students did not know that they receive interest on their savings accounts or what interest was.
Additionally, the financial world is becoming increasingly interested in the potential of distributed monetary systems. Those who have not become familiar with cryptocurrency may be excluded from these emerging financial services, without an access point. Our goal was to create a fun and approachable interface with clear incentives to demystify cryptocurrencies and build savings.
Build New Mental
Models of Growth
"What's in it for me?"
..."What's in it for you?"
Easy onboarding, intuitive metaphors. We addressed flawed mental models of savings with simple and clear metaphors to represent the principal investment and growth over time. Simplifying the underlying concepts and being transparent about the game's business model establish the grounds for trust, since on the surface a no-lose lottery does seem "too good to be true."
The user becomes the seed. Inspired by video game players and social media trends like Snapchat, we designed an option for the game to be a social experience shared with friends. Players can increase their odds of winning by pooling "seeds" for the chance to win a proportional share of the group's prizes to what they contributed. By inviting others to participate, the user becomes a seed within their community to grow trust and engagement with crypto.
PoolTogether, a no-lose lottery startup incubated at IDEO CoLab Ventures that recently raised $1M in funding, recently launched pods inspired by our prototype.
1. Time to next drawing
How long until the next winners are drawn
2. Current prize pool
The amount of interest that has accrued so far
3. Seeds planted
How many seeds you have invested in this cycle and how many there are total
4. Your team(s)
Pool seeds together with teams to increase your chance of winning
5. Social feed
See what your teammates are up to, who's winning, and react
Visualizing Data in 3D
3D modeling w/ Blender
VR modeling in Blocks
UX design collaboration
@ IDEO Cambridge
How might we leverage VR to display data in new ways?
Data can be an immensely powerful tool for understanding the past and present, and making decisions for the future. However, when data is inefficiently visualized, it can be ineffective and, at worst, misleading.
Virtual reality experiences provide an opportunity to interact with data in a new way, better understand scale, and draw novel connections that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
IDEO CoLab has worked with industry-defining partners and a fleet of past fellows to build oodles of awesome prototypes. We used a collection of CoLab's past work to reimagine how we might visualize past prototypes, who was involved in their making, and the CoLab partners who could benefit from their outcomes. DataVRse is a 3D visual universe of data that allows the user to see macro trends and connections, then zoom into scaling levels of project details.
This prototype was presented at CoLab's annual event Blueprint and documented with this video.
Securely storing crypto keys
@ IDEO Cambridge