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Mutual

RESEARCH INSIGHTS + DESIGN INTERACTION

Redefining what “Networking” entails for Students with inspiration from Biomimicry 

generative
debrief

OVERVIEW

A third space for connecting

The objective of this project was to identify the proposal of Bio-design integration as an inspiring process for SSHRC as part of its Imagining Canada’s Future (ICF) initiative. The project outcome is an interactive professional networking site to inspire users with biological strategies and exploratory research on students.

Client

Policy Horizons 

Canada

Setting

Individual research and design 

Time

2020 – Apr 2023

Role

UI/UXD

UX Research, UX Writing

The Problem Space

Pin-pointing bio-design for consumers under innovation, education, or inspiration to provide clarity for a successful digital experience design.

My Role

As the project owner, I reported directly to the George Brown College instructors over the process. Leading the research efforts, defining the plan, facilitating 20+ interviews, synthesizing data, uncovering 5+ key insights and opportunities to create the final deliverable.

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Results

Bio-age for the consumer class presents the results of inspiration. This ongoing research followed with a UX application that inspires students to connect in a shared space.

UX Research Process

Generative

- Literature Review

- Research Proposal

- User Interview

Debrief

- Analyze

- Report Insights

Discover

- Empathy mapping

- User Interview 

- Key Insights

UX Design Process

Ideate 

- Reframing
- Secondary Research
- Concept

Prototype

- Mock up

- User Test

- Final iterations

Tools:

This literature review briefly highlights designers, scientists, and artists' ability to grasp significant technology, science, and history changes. Many designers, scientists, and artists have turned to design to give method to their productive tinkering.

01

GENERATIVE

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Bio-Design is a practice that learns from and imitates natural strategies to solve human design challenges.

Biomimicry has become a forefront term coined as opposing the industrial age and instead, a methodology to assist in inspiring, educating and partnering with to innovate new systems.

 

Findings will bring forth insight regarding the proposal of Bio-design for consumer class.

Proposal

To establish whether bio-design is intriguing to the consumer class for future implementation, a semi-structure approach was adopted to facilitate an opinionated collection of results. 

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A semi-structure approach was adopted to facilitate an opinionated collection of results

Objective 1: To understand consumers' preference for Bio-design integration.

Objective 2: To spread knowledge and awareness of the growing presence of the Bio-age.

Model

02

DEBRIEF

While implementation challenges remain, the results provide evidence that the incorporation of biology can inspire individuals through informative images and prototype.

Findings/Results

Bio-design can inform innovative approaches using inspiration for product development, research and design.

It proposes greater affiliation to sustainability objectives.

Future research should explore how regulators; business leaders and might better emulate nature to inspire.

Innovative

Educational

Inspirational

Bio-age for consumer class preference advances in form over function.

This research established the similarities between designers and user wants with inspiration being a desirable trend.

Innovative

Educational

Inspirational

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Going forward the aim is to bring forth a bio-design integrated product, with a technical and visually focused product experience to inspire users.

DESIGN CHALLENGE

03

DISCOVER

The results proved that incorporating biology can inspire individuals through informative images and prototypes. Therefore, additional secondary research was needed to explore users, technology and market trends to consider biomimicry.

Secondary research exploring users, technology, and market needs to inform the design problem:

During this process, I was distilling insights with a number of notes on the education sector. I enjoyed getting elbow-deep in student and professional networking arrangements. 

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Inspiration

Professional Network

Global Professional Networking Market by AMA Research suggests the market trends for professional networking forecasting to 2027 include "growing awareness, activism, and ease in network management. (ReleaseWire, 2022).

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The empathy map consider users working from home to uncover workplace resources, connectivity, and abilities that enhance/hinder opportunities.

By creating an empathy map, the research uncovered student and recent graduate difficulties with networking. 

The proposed research follows three initiatives over the course of six months; tasks, project objectives, and outcomes.

Approved by the Ontario Research Ethics Board coordinator

Objective 1: To review 5 student insights on the networking event, World Interaction Design Day, held on September 22nd at the School of Design, George Brown College.

Objective 2: To develop actionable steps to enhance the networking experience for students/recent graduates and explore new ways to connect using the design thinking methodology. 

Kanagendran Interview Session Guide_Page
Kanagendran Interview Session Guide_Page

Interview Guide

To conduct the research, interviewing with open-ended questions, observations, and audio-visual materials for data sources was involved.

Using sense-making framework, documented observations were in the form of participant quotes and transcribed note-taking to highlight pain-points, gains and opportunities.

Key Insights

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Method for backing the validity of a learning with more than various data points or different data sources. Collecting quote, observation and secondary research to develop a key insight:

Triangulation x3

1. Despite in-person event participation, students lack networking experience to take full advantage of opportunities to expand their reach.

2. Although in-person events initiate professional networks for students, the metrics to form strong connections are in digital spaces.

3. Participants are selective in terms of reaching out to communicate and engage due to age, expertise and experience.

04

IDEATE

The key insight introduced potential solutions that were ideated by reframing questions to a

How might we and gathering additional research to explore possibilities with biomimicry.

Discover
ideate

How might we... help students reconnect with their existing professional network to enable strong partnerships? 

This ecosystem map of objects in a students life presents some of the closest to furthest proximity and presence technology shared between each other.

Explore Biomimicry

Restating the question in biological terms for advise: How does Nature Share Resources?

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The search for biological strategies for a design strategy:

Cooperate Within an Ecosystem

The functions performed include cooperating within an ecosystem with the potential to inspire the project value proposition:

By emulating the importance of forming close partnerships to start the technical process. 

Biological Strategy

An underground network found in forests and plant communities. Trees maintain their network by sharing resources and flowing information between each other. This network has been called the “Wood Wide Web”, living in a mutualistic partnership with 60% of tree species in the world.

Sherry Ritter

2022 Biomimicry Institute

Wood Wide Web

Concept

Push the limits of what “networking” entails. Fulfill personal goals with activities. 

proto

05

PROTOTYPE

Building on the concept, the brand identity of Mutual was created to execute the technical process that follows a design system for a cohesive digital experience using Figma

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Mutual

is a web-based app designed to

inspire users by reimagining professional networking and improving connections with practice.

Establishing Mutual's personality: uniquely playful and humanly simple.

To build the identity of Mutual, I considered three things for the logo.

The design system maintains the story around Mutual's sense of connection for everyday processes and objects to be more fun and encouraging.

Direct motif to assets in the UI

Encouraging play for UX 

Promoting Unity and Connection

Screens & Components

Initial mock ups focused on UI's being playable with a widespread screen experience

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Carousel Component 

Home Screen

The home screen uses a Tile Carousel designed for an easy to follow UI to enter rooms and navigate yourself with identifiable labels.

Carousel items are fully visible on the screen, regardless of screen size. Scrolled items snap into place to maintain the same layout.

Top App Bar

Opacity separates the top app bar from the content beneath

Home screen design with containers and dynamic change

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Spaces

Keypad interactions were developed to support user orienting themselves similar to a networking event 

Once entered in a room, users are free to explore the space to connect with existing colleagues, start new conversations, or work independently in a peer space.

The product was tested to answer: Does Mutual provide a meaningful networking experience for the user?

Objective: Determine the media approach and confirm the content works as a desktop application

Developed script and structure for the user testing:

Key Recommendations

Clearly indicate using UI principals to highlight user mutuals, NPC tutorial use

Use tutorial with encounter method and reword script for a stronger/desirable read

A Keypad arrow to help navigate / non-playable character tutorial

FINAL ITERATION

A High-fidelity, working prototype 

The project outcome is an interactive site designed to inspire students to not be blocked by conventional professional networking and foster a story around sharing resources the same way nature does. 

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Inspiring every kind of mind.

Learn, connect and define your own success with

Profile

The network is very visual to build onto a fractal tree of your connections with inspiration from the wood wide web

Get familiar in the private and public rooms to maintain a network, accessed on the home screen

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Easily navigate yourself.

Reconnect with existing colleagues, start new conversations, or work independently in a peer space.

User-Tested

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Users have directional aid during tutorial mode on the right hand keypad. During the user test, the UI evaluated the overall space, identifying the confusion first-time users may have.

Forming Connections

By hovering over users, tags indicate skills to easily start ice-breaker messages.