Posts in workshop
Screens of Good

Screens of Good University of Cincinnati DAAP 2018

If you had three days to work on a project with senior design students what would you do? That was the question asked of me by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville design program. The first thing I thought of was an episode of 99 Percent Invisible where an ingenuitive Los Angeleno designed and installed a new exit sign on an LA freeway so that he and others would no longer miss their off ramp. Out of that inspiration “Signs of Good” came to life. Signs of Good was a three-day design blitz with the goal of installing temporary signage around the university to create a more pleasing campus experiences (like the freeway sign). Below is an example of one of the resulting projects. It’s a texting lane so that students wouldn’t run into each other while walking across campus.

Texting Lane at University of Tennessee.

Texting Lane at University of Tennessee.

Fast forward to 2017. I had to come up with an assignment to conclude a user-centered design course at University of Cincinnati, DAAP. This time I was an adjunct professor. Rather than design "Signs" of Good, I decided with my TAs that the students would work toward "Screens" of Good.

The assignment was introduced with a quote from an interview with Tony Fadell, the inventor of Nest, and one of the designers of the iPhone. “I wake up in cold sweats thinking, what did we bring to the world?” Fadell shares his concern over the negative consequences of new technologies like the iPhone. He points out the fact that most new technologies are designed by men in their 20s without kids. They aren’t developing products with anyone else in mind but themselves. Fadell ends the interview with a question. How do we fix the technology? And that’s the question Screens of Good asks of the students.

Executing a user-centered process, the class was tasked with generating humble solutions to the gigantic problem articulated by Fadell. The students (split up into teams) had to demonstrate skills in user research and evaluative research. In a nutshell, they had to interview and survey users, design and build a paper prototype based on that research (use of the computer was discouraged), and evaluate the prototype for feedback that would make it better. In theory, their idea and design should get better the more it was filtered through the user-centered process.

Minimal app concept with only four options.

Minimal app concept with only four options.

The results? Here are a few examples from different stages of the assignment as reported from several different teams. Each are from the fall 2018 semester. It was my second semester giving the assignment. The final deliverable was a entry highlighting their design process from start to finish. Click here to read one of the more excellent essays.

Survey results to questions related to behavioral patterns connected to phone usage

An Affinity Diagram used to form insights from the research gathered.

Anticipated user experience sequence.

Evaluative testing of a paper prototype.

Paper prototype of a scavenger hunt app for children.

Paper prototype of a scavenger hunt app for children.

.This app reminds you when you haven’t heard or reached out to a friend in awhile.

If you'd like to learn more about Screens of Good or Signs of Good, please contact me at or

Workshop to Website for Breakthrough Cincinnati
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Summer break was always the best part of the school year.

It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out why—I didn't have to be stuck in a classroom. School wasn’t all that interesting to me back then; it mostly just stressed me out. I felt like I thrived most through the freedom the summer offered. I could do whatever I wanted: play baseball, video game marathons, adventures with my friends around the neighborhood—not to mention the much-anticipated family beach vacation. Looking back, I can see how fortunate it was to have those endless options during the summertime, because not every student has access to the same privileges that I did. For some students, having a summer off means a lack of creative possibilities—or in a word: boredom. And when kids get bored, they can get into trouble. They're meant to run wild, explore their neighborhood, and enjoy the seemingly endless energy that accompanies summer days, but sometimes it can be a struggle to properly channel that enthusiasm into constructive things.

Enter Breakthrough Cincinnati (BTC). BTC offers a meaningful fix for those dull summer blues: a four year of summer school program for middle and high schoolers who haven't had the same opportunity for a memorable summer break. This program is decidedly different— it’s not that stale summer school classroom you were exiled to because of a non-passing grade in Geometry, but it’s more like a place you'd choose to hang out because you couldn't wait to see all of your friends gathered there.

Their six week summer program includes rigorous academics—but delivered in an enjoyable way, with the lesson plans taught by older high school and college student instructors. And it's not just about cruising through an academic curriculum either; it's full of fun. There's a pep rally held at BTC every single day. There's a variety of field trips to take students all over the city throughout the summer. Meals and transportation are even included. 

Most importantly, after spending a summer at BTC, students are better equipped than their peers to return to school, ready to thrive. They're also more likely to graduate high school and pursue higher education. 

BTC’s executive director, Julie Witten, approached us for their 2017 campaign. The focus of the annual drive is to raise funds for this year's upcoming summer programming. Since BTC is primarily funded through grants and donations, this campaign is the way they collect a large portion of their funds. 

Our team facilitated a Mindful Brand Workshop (example results pictured above) to kick off the annual campaign project. With BTC's newly-installed director, and our team being newly acquainted with BTC, it was an incredibly helpful process for achieving a more complex understanding of their purpose and design. Julie, two BTC staff, a board member, and a parent of two BTC students participated in the workshop.

Numerous insights were gleaned from our workshop. The kernel that emerged and influenced the campaign's direction the most was the idea that BTC gives a boost to students who really need one. Likewise, the paradoxical nature of BTC being both strenuous and fun. Combined, those thoughts led to the campaign's language, “Push Play for...” The word “Push” noted the strenuous nature of BTC, and “Play” reminded us that BTC is fun and exciting. Additionally, "play" is the foil to "pause", which might be used to characterize a student's summer with a lack of options. The phrase “Push Play for...” is a call to action. It prompts donors to push play by generously donating funds that will activate BTC's mission and the students in its reach. 

Annual campaign collateral consisted of a modest print mailer and a website overhaul (picture above). The workshop content also inspired a content refresh for grant writing and a robust social media campaign led by BTC’s staff. 

The project succeeded beyond expectation. BTC broke their funding goal for the 2017 annual appeal campaign and raised more than any previous year.

Eli Mock, design assistance

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As a small nonprofit with deeply committed staff and volunteers, we were looking for a team who would get into the trenches with us. Trischler Design Co. was the perfect design partner. They brought a reflective and engaged approach. D.J. led us through a Mindful Brand workshop that took us to new places. What emerged was an eye-catching and compelling story – a new way to represent our organization that yielded our largest ever annual campaign results.
— Julie Witten, Executive Director BTC