Design Ideation 1.1

Challenge: How might we minimize distractions and enhance personal relationships? How can we promote focusing on experiencing the surrounding world?

My first inclination was to focus on enhancing personal relationships. I wanted to know how technology and notifications influence interpersonal interaction, both IRL and remote. I was also interested in what factors determined prioritization of tasks and distractions. As such, most of my questions were along those veins.


Selected Questions:  

Do you typically multitask, or do you prefer to take things one task at a time?

When you’re with friends, do you often check your phone?

What is your primary mode of social interaction? Text? In person? Facetime?

On what kind of tasks do you find it easiest to focus?

Selected Answers:  

Work is a priority, occasionally at the cost of interpersonal relationships.

I try not to visibly separate myself by checking my phone, but I normally do because it’s so quick. Especially email.

I feel guilty when I don’t check my email.

I keep up with news, and check my notifications, even if it’s just several outlets reporting on the same thing. If I don’t, I worry that my friend will mention something and I won’t know what they’re talking about.

Remote interactions using technology are convenient, I’d rather see someone but I don’t have time.

Key Themes:

Work as a priority, a need to stay updated, guilt associated with ignoring notifications, distraction as a choice (priority-driven)


It seemed like our users carry a heavy cognitive load, and tend to prioritize work or academics over other areas. The most obvious solution would be to prompt users to give themselves ‘off time’ during which they don’t check notifications.

Unfortunately, in a hyper-competitive environment like our current society, this could be detrimental to their career or academic performance. As our environment’s pace increases, the act of not responding to emails after hours limits the user’s ability to compete with others who are checking their emails. Short of a societal overhaul, there are few ways of directly targeting this issue.

As such, my approach is to aid the user in compartmentalizing and prioritizing, without increasing cognitive load. By simplifying the process of prioritization, I decrease wasted mental energy.

My first iteration was a mixed reality wearable that filtered the user’s notifications in a sort of ‘focus mode’. The user would be able to customize settings and create distinct focus profiles. Each profile would allow a predetermined ‘type’ of notification through, allowing the user to focus only on what they had earlier decided to prioritize.

I also had developed the concept for a mobile app that serves to remove the planning from interpersonal interaction. Supporting Google Calendar integration, the app would function like a mix of Find My Friends, When2Meet, and Tinder. The app would compare the user’s scheduled free time slots with the time slots of people on their contact list who also use the app.  It would then cross-reference shared availabilities with each user’s location, and return a list of most compatible pairings of proximity and availability. This would enable users to skip the process of figuring out when and where to meet, thus promoting interpersonal interaction without burdening the user with logistical stress.

After hearing feedback, I briefly attempted to integrate the two concepts, but ultimately decided on the mobile app, as the functionality became bloated when combined. The mobile app was more immediately useful and could potentially be implemented, while the wearable device seemed unlikely to be of use for the time being.

Figure 1 Mobile App Sketches 1.1

I continued to develop the mobile app idea, adding messaging functionality for meetup planning, and began to think about customizing privacy settings. In the interest of allowing users to control what information is distributed to whom, customizable settings would be available. The user could limit the information that other users would be able to access, setting periods of time where only their close friends would be able to see their location and availabilities. The user could also create groups with different privacy settings.

Figure 2 Mobile App Sketches 1.2

         Users would also be able to swap between several statuses. Potential status types include ‘focused free’, where the user is actively engaged in something but could do it with another person present (e.g. studying), ‘unscheduled busy’, which would be used when the user is already engaged with another user or if they have an appointment that was not listed in their calendar. These could be communicated with colored rings surrounding their profile icon.

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