USER EXPERIENCE | 2014

TEACHING | 2015

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Introducing human-centered design to government employees

COOL CULTURE

LAB @ OPM (OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT)

ABOUT

Cool Culture's mission is to to amplify the voices of families and strengthen the power of historically marginalized communities through engagement with art and culture, both within cultural institutions and beyond. 

Each year, Cool Culture partners with over 450 schools and early education programs to provide more than 50,000 families with free, unlimited admission to a network of 90 premiere museums, historical societies, zoos and botanical gardens throughout the New York City metro area.

Since 1999, over a million families have been positively impacted by Cool Culture's work.

The Lab at the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is both a practice and a space that fosters innovation through human-centered design. Because OPM serves an HR function within government, the Lab has always emphasized the importance of teaching and training.

CHALLENGE

At the beginning of every school year, Cool Culture distributes 50,000 paper passes to allow families to visit local museums for free. As staff, we knew there was a demand for a mobile pass from parents. We also knew that a digital prototype could help museums better understand the patterns of Cool Culture family visits.

Cool Culture was able to tackle this challenge through the Digital Prototype Opportunity. This award, an initiative led by the Blue Ridge Foundation, now Blue Ridge Labs @ Robinhood, provided four weeks of time from ThoughtWorks developers and designers. Out of 120 applicants, Cool Culture was one of two organizations selected for the award, which was valued at over $300,000.

To create a minimum viable product in just four weeks, we kept to a tight schedule and a focus on a minimum viable solution.

The Lab at the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is both a practice and a space that fosters innovation through human-centered design. Because OPM serves an HR function within government, the Lab has always emphasized the importance of teaching and training.

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RESEARCH METHODS

Cool Culture is an organization that has always focused on families. When starting the project, we started the project with existing information and knowledge about how to best reach parents.

  • 47% of Cool Culture families reported earning a household income of less than $35,000
  • Aside from English, Cool Culture families most commonly speak Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Yiddish and Hebrew
  • Cool Culture parents were split almost equally between their use of Apple or Android phones

To gather more information for the app build, we used a variety of research methods, including:

  • Individual interviews, including extreme users
  • Participatory design
  • Design charrettes 

We ultimately created a curriculum that emphasized:

  • Breaking down complex problems to understand their root causes
  • How root causes impact the people we serve
  • Why human behavior might inform potential solutions
  • The use of rapid prototyping to learn about and develop potential solutions to complex challenges

Over the three-day course, I helped students understand the importance of mindsets and design methodologies. Since the course was experential, I prepared students for qualitative research and led them through the design synthesis and prototyping.

 

ROLE 

As the Communications Manager at Cool Culture, I was responsible for project management within our organization as well as all UX activities. 

Other team members included:

  • Aly Blenkin, UI
  • Greg Dutcher, Lead Dev
  • Anupam Kundu, PM

As a Design Strategist at the Lab, I was part of both the curriculum and teaching teams. 

RESEARCH INSIGHTS

Parents' feedback through participatory design workshops shaped our early strategy and initial wireframes. Our biggest takeaways were:

  • Parents didn't want to use an app that would drain their data plan. We designed the UI to be simple and avoid the need to download any large files. We also added information to the app on whether a museum offered free Wi-Fi.

  • Parents asked a lot of questions about museum accessiblity. When probed, they mentioned that if they know a museum has accomodations like ramps, large bathroom stalls and space for wheelchair storage, it will likely be easier to include all family members with different needs, including grandparents.

We ultimately created a curriculum that emphasized:

  • Breaking down complex problems to understand their root causes
  • How root causes impact the people we serve
  • Why human behavior might inform potential solutions
  • The use of rapid prototyping to learn about and develop potential solutions to complex challenges

Over the three-day course, I helped students understand the importance of mindsets and design methodologies. Since the course was experential, I prepared students for qualitative research and led them through the design synthesis and prototyping.

 

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prototype-low
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PRODUCT FEATURES

The initial version of the app took into account parents' needs as well as operational and logistical considerations:

Museum Finder
Find a Cool Culture parner musuem to visit by searching by interest and location. 

Museum Profiles
Cool Culture’s 90 partner museums are included in the app. Every profile includes practical information for visiting families, like hours of operation, transit directions, accessibility information, and Wi-Fi availability. 

Digital Check-In
This feature is most critical for Cool Culture as an organization. The app allows families to check into a museum using a digital pass, as an alternative to a paper pass. Cool Culture families log-into the app which shows their individual ID which can be showing to museum admissions for free entrance.

After a soft launch of the app, Cool Culture decided to invest its own resources to build additional features. I was responsible for design and project management of the following features:

Programming Calendar
Many parents were unsure how to entertain their children at a museum that wasn't specifically for children. The program calendar helps parents wiew what types of activities, like workshops and gallery tours are offered for young children and their families at all 90 partner museums.

Backend Dashboard for Museums
One of the reservations museums had about switching from a paper pass to a digital pass was how they would collect information on Cool Culture family visits. Previously, musuem admissions staff would have a paper checklist to tally family visits. Instead of putting a burden on the Cool Culture team to report out to museums, we created a dashboard that allowed each partner musuem to access how many families checked into their museum using the digital pass.


We ultimately created a curriculum that emphasized:

  • Breaking down complex problems to understand their root causes
  • How root causes impact the people we serve
  • Why human behavior might inform potential solutions
  • The use of rapid prototyping to learn about and develop potential solutions to complex challenges

Over the three-day course, I helped students understand the importance of mindsets and design methodologies. Since the course was experential, I prepared students for qualitative research and led them through the design synthesis and prototyping.

 

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IMPACT

After the build was finished, I was responsible for communicating the roll out of the app to Cool Culture’s museum partners and families. Aside form managing the project, I helped secure partnerships with Datakind and New York Tech Meetup.

Why Don't More Poor Kids Get to See Art, NationSwell

Now That Everyone's Got Smart Phones, We Need Apps That Serve Low-Income Groups, Fast Company

 

After the success of the course revamp, a Director of Education role was created at the Lab to focus on building and creating more content and courses about design in the public sector.

Because of the team's commitment to creating a hands-on and contextual course, we were invited to tailor our course content for VA Hospital staff through the VA Innovation Lab. I co-taught our course to nurses, doctors and administrators in Biloxi, Jackson, Milwaukee and San Francisco.

To date, more than 2,000 federal employees have taken design courses offered at the Lab.  

"The folks at Cool Culture are out to make Manhattan's treasures more accessible to everyone."
– NationSwell

"I wanted to tell you how incredible the fundamentals class was. I enrolled hoping to gather some more tools/skills to when I facilitate projects & workshops, but I got SO MUCH MORE than that. I love the process we learned & the way it was taught."

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WORK

WORK

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

Applying ethnography to scale social change

Applying ethnography to scale social change

Applying ethnography to scale social change

Bridge International Academies

Bridge International Academies

Bridge International Academies

Bridge International Academies

UX

UX

UX

UX

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Cool Culture

Cool Culture

Cool Culture

UX

UX

UX

UX

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

USAJOBS.gov

USAJOBS.gov

USAJOBS.gov

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

Using play to address health & safety issues for adolescent girls

Using play to address health & safety issues for adolescent girls

Using play to address health & safety issues for adolescent girls

ECPAT-USA

ECPAT-USA

ECPAT-USA

SERVICE

SERVICE

SERVICE

SERVICE

Championing empathy as a strategy to reduce costs

Championing empathy as a strategy to reduce costs

Championing empathy as a strategy to reduce costs

CFPB

CFPB

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

UI

UI

UI

UI

Operationalizing design for a new product team

Operationalizing design for a new product team

Operationalizing design for a new product team

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve

TEACHING

TEACHING

TEACHING

TEACHING

Helping students solve problems using creative mindsets & methodologies

Helping students solve problems using creative mindsets & methodologies

Helping students solve problems using creative mindsets & methodologies

IDEO U

IDEO U

Medic Mobile