Olympian iOS App Concept
Olympian iOS App Concept
IDEATION / SKETCHES / STORYTELLING / UI / UX / PRODUCT
Olympian was my semester-long project for the Strategic Design course taught by Gary Zamchick at Columbia University. The course's objective is to guide students in fostering an inventive habit of mind, provide a creative toolset for idea generation, help students communicate high-level user experiences and graphical user interfaces, and enable us to mockup novel applications in a fast-paced environment. Olympian was an app concept that I designed from the ground-up in Sketch 3.
Two factors inspired my idea for Olympian:
- A reflection of the overall themes from my life experiences.
- A series of design-thinking exercises that inspired me to find the underlying meaning from those experiences.
Over the course of the class, our primary tools were pencil and paper. This creative constraint strengthened my ability to refine and effectively convey my thoughts with clarity. What's more, I experienced multiple breakthroughs in the discovery of new strategies of connecting people with Olympian in meaningful and enduring ways using various methods of storytelling. Throughout my ideation process, you will see how I ended up changing the name of my idea because of a new breakthrough and discovery. Little things like these are why I believe that the ideation process, sketches, and storytelling are so powerful and effective during the design process.
Therefore, before I speak about the design of the application, it is best that I walk you through the class to explain my thought process and decision making for my assignments in each class. There are a total of five classes with the following themes:
- Class 1 - Who Are We Anyway (are we our resumes)?
- Class 2 - Developing a Personal Visual Shorthand
- Class 3 - Envisioning the User Experience
- Class 4 - Whose Problem am I Solving?
- Class 5 - Turning the Corner to Interface Design
Each class is introduced with a quote that encapsulates both the theme for that week and the knowledge and understanding gained from the assignment for that week. Now without further ado, I take you on my journey.
Class 1 - Who Are We Anyway (are we our resumes)?
"Can we reduce ourselves down to our resumes? If so, should we have to? At the heart of every startup is passion and integrity. Investors 'buy' the commitment founders have to their ideas."
My passion map illuminates defining moments, defining focus, skills, and choices
At this point in my life, I can connect the dots looking back, to see where my path has led me to. Moreover, I can also state--unequivocally--where my path is directing me to go. The following is a list of significant events that I took part in before starting at Columbia:
- 2011 - Picking up my first camera
- 2015 - Establishing a startup with my siblings called Yacine. Our mission is to inspire world artists to create.
- 2016 - The Flatiron School's iOS Developer Program
- 2017 - Photography Intensive through Columbia University School of Arts
- 2017 - PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics Poster Submission
I first started photographing because of my interest in exploring human identity, potential, and expression. I wanted to inspire people to by sharing with them human experiences that we all share in common. Yacine helped me understand the importance of serving and providing opportunities for global artists by putting their needs first. At the Flatiron School, I worked in a team to develop an app that would help people discover music guided by their emotions. My photography exhibit at Columbia SoA documented people in NYC and cities around the world by contextualizing everyday spontaneous instances that prompted viewers to wonder how awareness of ourselves and surroundings changes both the meaning and experience of the human existence. Finally, my Olympics Poster Submission represents how peace and unity can be expressed in both the physical and digital space. The line that I drew from connecting my dots was, in fact, a commitment and trajectory towards some service. I realized that I had dedicated myself towards serving others by finding new ways to help people live a much more meaningful life. My passion and future path have never been more evident.
Class 2 - Developing a Personal Visual Shorthand
Seussian Fitness Poem
"Humans are responsible for the design of everything we see around us (save the trees, animals, ground…). In a world fueled by AI and immersed in AR/VR, the ability to visualize real and virtual solutions is paramount."
Suessian Olympian Poem
Let's go out and find some new friends this special Sunday,
only this time we will exercise and make it a fun-day.
Should we run a marathon--no no, let's do some simple fitness.
I know we just met, but your not gonna bail because I'm your witness.
We found a community, no let's have some accountability.
Keep working hard and you will meet more people because of the app's reachability.
Articulating an idea for an app or startup in a 30-second elevator pitch is one thing. However, conveying my idea using a nursery rhythm was even more challenging, because it tested my ability to be clearer about the core focus of my app and why and how it would be meaningful for others. My poem describes the challenges of a user staying motivated to work out and how the app will inspire them to stay driven to complete their workout goals.
People remember stories whether they are in the form of music, video, photo, books, etc., as we know this from our childhood. Creating a nursery rhythm inspired me to find and use new methods from metaphors to analogies to scenarios to convey and clarify my thoughts effectively. Furthermore, if communication is only effective if the other party understands, then speaking to others in ways that they can best understand is the lesson I learned from this assignment.
Free Association Drawing
Children’s illustration for Seussian Olympian Poem
My free association drawing brings my poem to life, visualizes the functionality of the app, anticipates what users will need, all while highlighting the benefits for users. Simply put, if I showed my drawing to a child, would they be able to understand? This was the challenging lesson that I learned from this assignment.
Class 3 - Envisioning the User Experience
"Automatic routines of thought often suppress innovative ideas. Thinking new thoughts involves 'bisociation,' the perceiving of a situation or idea in two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference.”
How do sunglasses or a building relate to my app?
Randomly, I chose sunglasses from a list of over a dozen objects that I had to somehow relate to my app. By decomposing the parts that make up those sunglasses, I realized that each part could, in fact, be a piece of gym equipment. What's more, the overall configuration of the parts resembled a gym space. By the time I knew it, I was drawing people working out on the sunglass parts and helping each other climb up the sunglass case.
For my second drawing, I wondered how I could create a building using people. If each person held a brick in their hand, and that person then became grout, then I would have created structure. Specifically, the exterior of a building, if I outline the edges of the structure formed by the people.
Effectively, both bisociations created a community of athletes all supporting each other and working out together. This exercise inspired one of the core features that Olympian provides.
Class 4 - Whose Problem am I Solving?
Persona Development and User Experience Mapping
"User-centered design and “design-thinking” are methods used to ensure value is delivered to end users or customers."
I interviewed two of my friends to learn about their lifestyle behaviors, attitudes, and emotions towards my app to better refine the user experience. First I walked them through the initial design of my app. Then, we discussed adding, changing, and improving some of the features based on their insights and feedback. One of the most insightful suggestions I learned involved the importance of having different options for users to find workout friends. Both, Christopher and Griffin, felt more comfortable working out with their friends more so than complete strangers--regardless whether those strangers were verified workout buddies in their city. Christopher and Griffin wanted users to have profiles, that would have current activities, videos/photos, and accolades so that they could better gauge whether or not they wanted to work out with a user.
This experience showed me the importance of learning from real user feedback by letting the needs of others guide and inform the development of core features. Furthermore, I learned the value of effective communication when brainstorming and re-iterating initial design concepts.
Class 5 - Turning the Corner to Interface Design
Low Fidelity Architecture Diagram
"A moment of truth when the focus goes from divergent to convergent thinking."
Low-Fidelity Design that focuses on the core features
Final Hi-Fidelity Design
Final hi-fidelity design using Sketch 3
My MVP (minimal-viable-product) design is a result of multiple design iterations. The design strictly follows not only the regulations and standards from the iOS design principles (addressed in the iOS HCI guidelines) but also the requirements addressed by Professor Zamchick:
- Navigation - I can find my way around.
- Functionality - I can do what I need to simply.
- Language - I understand the terminology.
- Consistency - I don't have to learn new tricks, I am building on what people know.
- Visual Clarity - I can recognize things, and the design is clear and appealing.
Reflection, Results & Takeaways
Connecting the dots looking back to the start of the course
Working on Olympian throughout the five-week course, I learned how to foster an inventive habit of mind, build a creative toolset for idea generation, communicate high-level user experiences and GUI's, and mock up an application.
I learned how to:
- know when and why to make low-fidelity sketches and produce concepts and prototypes.
- develop high-level, detailed storyboards, mockups, and prototypes to communicate interaction and design ideas effectively.
- gauge usability of new and existing features by making constructive suggestions for change based on user storyboards and user experience maps.
- express analytical, creative, and visual thinking skills while effectively communicating with visuals, spoken-word, and written word.
- define the user model and user interface for Olympian and its core features.
- implement the iOS design principles and iOS HCI guidelines to create an aesthetically pleasing design and enhance the user experience further.
- create a product from idea to MVP.
- Engage with different user types to identify gaps: Making assumptions based on two interviews is clearly not enough to have a broad understanding of the needs and opportunities. It is imperative for me to interact with various types of users to better understand the range and outliers. Everyone has their unique views towards working out with others whether they are experienced athletes or running their first mile. The challenge for me is to find a way to serve both groups and everyone in between.
- Design. Build. Test. Learn. Repeat.: It is essential to iteratively test my MVP prototype to refine the app and user experience further. Also, from the IBM Design Research Principles, I learned that this phase helps in focusing on what I know, rather than what I do not know. This way, valid user insight will not only increase my knowledge about my users by anticipating what they need but will also inspire and inform further design iterations.
As a computer science student and junior iOS developer, Olympian has officially become a project I am fully committing myself to. I am eager to continue my journey by embodying the role of an explorer and honing my design instincts and skills by learning, contributing, and collaborating with other designers, researchers, and engineers. Furthermore, the project serves as a perfect opportunity to strengthen areas where I need improvements, such as customer discovery and research for the development of the right product strategies and product-market fit.
Since this is an ongoing project, I will be applying what I learn from my future courses to Olympian. This spring semester of 2018, I am taking a User Interface Design and Science of Psychology class. It's been week two the semester so far, and I have learned about Neilsen's 10 Usability Heuristics, Information Design, Layouts, Grids, and thinking and decision making.