UX, UI, Prototyping, User Testing
Art Center College of Design
SMPLxDSGN is an interdisciplinary, mock design studio at ArtCenter College of Design. Led by instructors Mimi Zou and Todd Masilko, SMPL's revolving class of designers simulate a design agency environment by working with mock clients over a fast-paced 14 week period.
Our Client's Brief: Surrounded by water and with a shortage of developable land for housing, Populus has a significant percentage of its residents living in water-borne dwellings. Sailboats and anchored houseboats are both common housing solutions within the country. We seek to reimagine the interior of an approximately 40' liveaboard mono-hull, such that the space could be optimized for use to live and/or work aboard for two adult residents.
Our boating solution is a transformative, smart living system that would allow for users to change the entirety of their environment with only a few button presses. The physical product system consists of transformative furniture that provides a flexible layout for group and individual activities, and responsive lighting / adaptive window treatment that facilitate people’s dynamic movement and work activities in small spaces.
Below you can see how flexible sectioning and transformative furniture make Passing Cloud adaptive.
Habitat's primary focus is providing users the tools to instantly context switch their environment through pre-defined layouts that they've used in the past. This enables more clearly defined mental models between work and leisure within the confines of a small, remote space. The user's morning layout may include an open floor plan, dim lighting, and a morning music playlist on in the background. Their focused, more work-oriented layout may require privacy via retractable walling, brighter lighting so that their teammates may see them on Zoom more clearly, and environmental monitoring for whatever the ocean may unexpectedly throw at them.
Initial research involved learning about trends in remote living, existing waterborne vessels, advancements in waterborne residences and technology, and potential challenges of living remotely. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, our physical observations were limited to online vlog content, where people who live remotely share their experience in depth.
From that research, we developed initial personas and accompanying user Journeys that we used to identify problems with current remote and waterborne living. We would go on to reiterate on all of these as we learned more while identifying where users' problems typically lie.
We would go on to explore ways in which we might address the problems identified among potential users.
While my teammates began explorations (shown below) on the physical space, it became clear to us that our solutions would require a digital hub that would allow a user to control every aspect of their home. As the lead UX designer on the team I went on to identify how the physical goals and attributes ofthe space would translate into a digital, controllable counterpart.
The following are multiple rounds of wireframe iterations as we asked ourselves:
• How do you present the vessel?
• How are adjustable items on the vessel identified?
• How are layouts changes / created?
Through feedback from user testing we would learn that while creating specific layouts in the space was easily understood, the interface lacked in two primary areas:
• The orientation of the space was confusing depending on where the user was within the space
• Selecting specific items to be changed is confusing and difficult
We also took the time to user test specific interactions that a user would encounter when making manual changes to their living arrangement. Our goal was to validate whether or not changes could be made quickly and without confusion.
The final iterations of these screens and interactions, seen at the beginning of this page, were designed specifically to address the shortcomings of our early iterations.
Will other infrastructure improvements in Populus create new design opportunities? We considered how the future of Populus may allow these water-borne residences to maintain a closer relationship with land. We also utilized methods like proxemics to ensure that Passing Cloud provides adequate room for intimate, personal, and social spaces.
Thank you for reading. More process information available upon request.