A UNIQUE GIFT TO MAKE STUDENTS FEEL WELCOME IN THEIR NEW ENVIRONMENT

One week research and design of a new welcome gift for Prime Digital Academy student

The Challenge

Our challenge was to evaluate an existing welcome gift and improve on it through research and design.

The Outcome

During two days of observations and concept exploration, I created a low-fidelity prototype and then had the students evaluate and comment on the premise and prototype.  During the evaluation, I was able to solicit some areas in which to expand on the idea and focus on the context of creating the gift itself.

Lo-fi foam fob prototype

Lo-fi foam fob prototype

OVERVIEW

The project consisted of identification, prototyping, and evaluation phase which will be elaborated on below:  

IDENTIFY

I spent time on Day One observing Full Stack Development students at their academy.  While we did not have classroom access, we were able to observe them in and around the campus, while listening to presentations, at lunch, and a meet & greet function at Prime.  This data was recorded using the Activities, Environments, Interactions, Objects, and Users (AEIOU) format.

Heuristics from original gift

Heuristics from original gift

During this initial phase, we also partnered up to perform a heuristic analysis based on NNgroup’s 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design.  My partner and I concurred that the previous welcome gift (an ello glass water bottle in our case) was both well made and designed, but it was breakable, impersonable, and rather generic (and according to our brief; was no longer in production).  After spending 20 hours on campus, I began to focus on the fob that all students carry to move between the classrooms and the commons. Every student has the same fob, and it was the only item that every student carried at all times. With security concern after a previous incident of laptop theft, the fobs will likely continue to be in service for some time to come.  It is also worth noting that Prime students retain access to the space after their three months on campus, so I found it useful to think of my product potentially having a longer lifespan.

PROTOTYPE

Initial gift concepts

Initial gift concepts

Each UX student iterated on three concepts and presented them to the group.  The cohort then voted on which product should be further elaborated on in a physical prototype form.  

We then spent an afternoon prototyping at Leonardo’s Basement, and I created two basic fobs to test with Full Stack users.  I spent more time prototyping my spirit animal/secret beast prototype than the pixelated avatar version as I wanted to give students more leeway to be both reflective and abstract rather than have them similar come up with a graphical representation of themselves.  The fob would also have more of a backstory letting other Prime students know more about their personality. By the end of the 2-hour session at Leonardo’s Basement I had two versions of a fob that I would be able to place into the hands of Full Stack students the following day for evaluation.  

Foam fob prototypes

Foam fob prototypes

EVALUATION

I tested with three users and discovered some clear findings; enthusiasm for the product and value in the idea of expressing their personalities through a bespoke fob cover.  All three participants were quickly able to elaborate on a spirit animal that they identified and told me about the specific traits that they identified with. Each student picked a unique animal; an owl, a beluga whale, and a giraffe.  We also discussed if 3D printing the fob as a class activity would be valuable to the students, which all members thought would be a good experience. Not only would they then also be exploring rapid prototyping as a concept of research and design, but they also gain one more group activity prior to coming to campus daily for their remaining 14 weeks.  

“A fob that I create and customize would be an immensely meaningful welcome gift.” - Cohort Student

Spirit animals

Spirit animals

GOING FORWARD

I have proposed the next round of design and prototyping to Prime management and plan to test across 32-36 users (two separate cohorts of 16-18 students space a month apart) during a day of 3D printing.  This would occur during the prework/onboarding phase of their studies at Prime and serve as a way to work as a group and get to know a little more about each other as individuals (and their spirit animals).  As Prime students and alumni are active networking at various events throughout the area, the fob would also serve as a visible marker and allow students to have an ice-breaker with other cohorts and alumni.

3d-prints.jpg