Cumulo

A card game design with digital devices that brings kids together through global weather for The Weather Channel. Due to NDA, I will mainly talks about design process.

CONTEXT  
IBM Intern Incubation Project

SPONSORED BY    

IBM
The Weather Channel

ROLE
UX Designer
Researcher

TIMELINE
8 Weeks (Sep.2016-Nov.2016)

 TEAM
Chloe Poulter (team lead)
Sean Carty (Visual Designer)
D.A. Anguiano (Developer)

CONTRIBUTION
Interview,
Market Research
Storytelling, 
Rapid Prototyping, Video Making

What I learned?

1) Warm-up activities and weekly playbacks with stakeholders help gauge participants’ attitudes and clarify design expectations.

2) Assumptions aren’t always bad. They can be used as inspirations later and guided research until proven to be wrong.

3)Include user testing, such as speed dating method, in every design phase to gather quick feedback and re-aim design focus.

4) Being vulnerable. Work hard and play hard!

Problem

“The number of kids aged 9-12 interested in STEM Continues to decline.”

This project was an 8-week incubation team project for IBM Design Studio in Austin, Texas. As a kick-off project for my IBM internship. Our client was the Weather Channel, and the challenge we faced was creating a meaningful experience to intrigue 9-12 kids’ interests in science, especially weather. Due to the NDA, I'm unable to share design and research details. Therefore, I'll focus on talking about the design process and what I've learned through the project.

Research 

KICK OFF

We followed the practice of co-creation with IBM Design thinking process.

We started this project by a workshop during which we did a lot warm-up activities with our stakeholders, like Stakeholder Map, Empathy Map. These co-created activities helped gauge participants’ attitudes and clarified design prompt about this project. “Hopes and Fears” is a special design method that I learned the first time from this project. Stakeholders wrote down their expectations and doubts about this project and then we discussed and synthesized to figure out how themes emerged. This artifact helped us to refer back frequently later to track progress. We nailed these insights by placing stars on “hopes” notes that become realized and remove “fears” notes that melt away. A challenge we noticed from this workshop was that our stakeholder wanted a big global idea and we don't have any specific goals or design scope, which gave a huge pressure to our research.

hopes and fears with stakeholders
Our team with stakeholders

USER RESEARCH

Kids are most active learners when they are learning by doing, trying and experimenting, like games.

We interviewed  14 kids, 9 teachers, 10 parents from 4 countries.

My teammates came from four different countries which added more diverse perspectives into our research. Our team had a week’s interview and field research with perspective users from 9-year old kids in America to 45-year old science teacher in China. We used research methods such as directed storytelling, diary studies, and science museum observations and came back tons of insights about their current feeling of education and science as well as personal interests. All of this provided the foundation for later ideation and synthesis. We then transcribed the interview recordings into the notes. Based on these first-handed findings we created five personas, and what’s more, even assumptions. What I learn from IBM design thinking is that assumptions aren’t always bad. They can be used as inspirations later and guided our research until proven wrong .

Interviews with kids
Personas and assumptions

Ideation

IDEA VIGNETTES

We chose collective and printable card game as a solution to make this design available to poor kids without technology.

We did 5 journey maps, 3 design plans, 4 weekly playbacks with stakeholders.

After gathering our research findings, we put our notes on individual post-it notes and created 5 giant "As-is scenario" maps according to our 5 personas. This map allowed us to document a collective understanding of user experience flows and most importantly, helped us find six interesting interactions among children, teachers, and parents. Then we broke down these interactions into detailed touch points and voted as a group to pick up 3 design opportunities. The sparks that IBM design appealed to me most is its “Playbacks oriented design”.  Through weekly playbacks, we were able to reflect our ideas with stakeholders together to get feedbacks and consensus and avoid the project from drifting off-course. Combining the research findings and feedback from our stakeholders, we finally chose one design opportunity as our future path: card game and generated "To-be Scenario Maps" that told the story o far better experience for our users.

user journey maps
weekly playback
to-be scenario

MARKET AND THEORETICAL RESEARCH

Battling and Building are two common popular aspects of a successful card game and they help kids learn better.

Talks with 3 game designer, 2 children educators and research on 20+ games.

To gain a better understanding of the connection between children education and game design, we conducted field research in game shop and talked with educators, as well as doing paper readings about educational theory and cognitive learning.  This helped us to have an overview of the game culture.

Market Research
Talks with educator and game designer

Iteration 

PROTOTYPING

The game began with a weather wizard and his journey...

Concept generation involves quickly brainstorming ideas. We initially generated concepts with the help of game designers. We also made sure that the game had both a digital part appealing to kids and a non-digital part that is a reassurance to parents.

story board
low-fi prototype
illustration
illustration
protopying
screen prototyping

USER TEST

80% Parents we tested said they would spend $20 for CUMULO.

In order to validate the interest and need of concepts, the speed dating method is used to gather quick feedback. We eventually did 2 rounds of speed dating with a total of 9 game mechanics tested on 7 kids and 4 adults.

PRESENTATION

"Although IBM is a technology company, I do appreciate a lot the card game and the way you make it available to global kids. "

--Devin O'Bryan, IBM Design Lead

We were quiet aware that the incubation project’s time was short and also we were not professional game designers. So, instead of spending all of the time on designing a game mechanics with tons of untested rules, we chose to create a game experience and provided our stakeholder with a design package and business proposal that can be handed over to the the next team. So that CUMULO can be brought to the market and users one day after my internship.

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