Pre-Thesis Project

NYU IDM MS

Spring 2017

Why I am here 

 

After working in the business world for a couple of years, I found myself in the position of desiring more and better. I began searching for my next steps by reflecting the roles I've taken in school, at work, and my personal life. Before I knew it, I found myself immersing in the world of design - not just for aesthetic purpose but for the purpose of 1) making work more efficient and effective and 2) making our lives more fun and meaningful.

 

Life is too short to do the things you don't love. If you somehow have to end up doing things you don't love so you can pursue the things you love, then at least, let's make the process as efficient as possible, so that you won't miss out much.

Through this pre-thesis project, I hope to achieve what I came to this program for. And I can't wait to see what I can produce at the end of the semester! 

 

My 

Process

 
Exploration

STEP 1 & 2 // CARD SORTING // INSPIRATION & INTEREST CARDS

 

In this exercise, I set aside about 15 minutes to simply free write. Whatever came to my mind was simply captured on my Post-its. Normally I have a lot of ideas or perhaps things I wanted to do in life, but interestingly the ideas did not come as freely as I thought they would be. I eventually decided to look through my calendar, my todo list, my emails, and my book shelf to see what I normally do/read. 

These are my INSPIRATION CARDS!

 

As you can see, things I'm inspired and think about can be as big as a global issue or as small as a piece of jewelry. It's difficult to think of one thing I want to work on from these cards.

 

These are my INTEREST CARDS! 

 

From these cards, I know what matter to me on a day-to-day basis. These are things I constantly think about. And these are going to be what I want to focus on. 

Takeaways from this exercise  

 

At the end of this exercise, I see a couple things that I am interested in exploring such as utilizing technology to increase productivity, work and life balance, and topics related to financial wellbeing. There are a lot of world's problems I wanted to solve but I came to realize that I have to take care of myself first before I can take care of others. By joining the Integrated Digital Media program here at NYU, I really want to find ways to make the most out of technology. I don't want to just create something cool. I want to create something that works. I hope through this thesis project, I will be able to find the most immediate and feasible steps for me to carry on next.  

STEP 3 // CRAFT OF RESEARCH CHAPTER 3

As I read through The Craft of Research , I learned that a question does not always mean it's a problem. It's important to find a question that is not only a problem to me but to others. At the end of the day, I'm not here to create a personal project, I'm here to create a project with impact. Another major takeaway from the reading is how to formulate questions. For instance, when thinking about the why, it's also important to think about the why not! 

STEP 4 // INVESTIGATION // ARCHIVE

The process of narrowing it down isn't easy, but the 3 topics I decided to explore from my Interests Cards are somewhat along the line of productivity (at work), productivity (at home) and personal well-being (personal financial management). One main reason I selected these topics is because I want to ultimately find ways to solve the problem of work-and-life balance issue that I personally face and perhaps most people do. They say Time is Money. Let's see what I can do here.

 

My research archives can be found here .  

STEP 5 // NARROWING IT DOWN // ACTIONS WORDS

With the broad topics in mind, I am narrowing down the scope of research by coming up with different claims. 

  1. Productivity at home

    • Utilization of smart home technologies can reduce the time we spend on housekeeping tasks. 

  2. Productivity at work

    • Multitasking is hindering our productivity at work. 

  3. Financial Management 

    • Financial well-being contributes greatly to our personal well-being. 

STEP 6 // FORMULATING QUESTIONS

Here I developed 3 questions for each topic I chose. 

  1. Productivity at home

    • What is taking up our time at home? 

    • What are the housekeeping tasks we outsource today? 

    • How has smart home devices been used at our time?

  2. Productivity at work

    • Why do we multitask at home?

    • How has multitasking helped/harmed our work?

    • How does multitasking save our time at work?  

  3. Financial Management 

    • Why is personal financial management important? 

    • What are the tools out there today?

    • What roles does financial well-being play in our mental well-being? 

STEP 7 // GRID OF NINE

Here are the 9 questions I developed. 

STEP 8 // PECHA KUCHA PRESENTATION

To share with my classmates on my progress, here's the link  to my presentation. 

QSPFR #1
 

Takeaways from last week's Pecha Kucha presentation  

 

After showing my professor and classmates my ideas last week, I realized all three of my topics are related to helping people (and myself) achieving dreams and ultimately happiness in life. Whether it is saving time at home, at work, or managing personal finance, all these tasks lead to the question of how to self-manage and self-improve. Although I will continue to look at all these three topics separately this week, the core of my research will relate to the topic of how might I, as a designer, help people define and discover what will make them happy and to live the life they imagined! 

STEP 1 // REVIEW CRAFT OF RESEARCH CHAPTER 3

After reading The Craft of Research  again this week, I added a few more takeaways in my tool box. For instance, the question of why and why not can also be accompanied by what if. The difference between a claim vs. a topic. Also, when thinking about what I'm trying to learn about, I could think of what I want to write about, what I don't know about, and why I want my audiences to care. Last but not least, a question does not equal to a problem. 

STEP 2 // THREE-STEP FORMULA

TOPIC # 1 PRODUCTIVITY AT HOME

  • Topic: I'm studying the relationship between productivity at home and happiness.

  • Question: Because I want to find out what influences our emotional well-being, how important is saving time plays in our day-to-day life, and if outsourcing houseworks would benefit our emotional health.

  • Significance: In order to help my reader/audience understand how to achieve a healthy and fulfilled life

 

TOPIC # 2 PRODUCTIVITY AT WORK

  • Topic: I'm studying the relationship between productivity at work and happiness.

  • Question: Because I want to find out what makes a person feel accomplished at work, what people wish to achieve in their professional field, and if the extra time they saved from productivity would make them happier.

  • Significance: In order to help my reader/audience understand what they can do to achieve more in life.

 

TOPIC # 3 FINANCIAL WELL-BEING

  • Topic: I'm studying the relationship between financial well-being and happiness.

  • Question: Because I want to find out how much weight financial stability plays in individual's lives, what tools do people currently use, and why our emotional health is related to our financial well-being

  • Significance: In order to help my reader/audience understand what contribute to their happiness so they can manage their lives better.

STEP 3 // CRITICAL READING & WRITING

TOPIC # 1 PRODUCTIVITY AT HOME

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Topic #1 Reflection

Before I started looking into scholarly journals, I did not know the idea of outsourcing household stuff is a topic that has been researched and discussed across different continents. In the United States, it is not as common to hire full-time help but it is seemingly common in countries like Hong Kong and Singapore. I had the assumption of having outsourced help could increase the available time spent with families; thus, the relationship and bonding will be strengthened. Some researches however, suggest that the act of doing housework is a form to show care and love. As a result, in families where household chores are outsourced, the relationship might be weaker than the ones do not outsource. Gender equality also plays an important factor in these researches. After all, household chores are traditionally seen as women's duty rather than men's. After absorbing these information, I feel the need to define a more specific audience in order to understand whether utilizing technology (i.e. smart home devices) or outsourcing external help would actually enhance one's emotional well-being.  

 

 

TOPIC # 2 PRODUCTIVITY AT WORK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

​​Topic #2 Reflection

Time is money. We can all agree on that. But the correlation in between money and time is still unclear. Does higher productivity lead to happier individuals or the other way around? It is interesting to see that there is an increasingly high demand in the exploration of productivity methodologies but so far these articles have yet to suggest what the ultimate methodology is. I think the question here is what does work-and-life balance mean to people and what goals we each individually have in life? Because at the end of the day, productivity is also related to self-esteem. So again, I think I need to focus on a specific persona before I can answer the question of whether productivity leads to happiness.   

 

 

TOPIC # 3 FINANCIAL WELL-BEING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topic #3 Reflection

Financial success does not always equal to happiness, at least some researches suggest it. It is however, without it, we will experience emotional stress. When the economic situation is bad, we are depressed. When we do not have the ability to consume, we are stressed. How much do we need to save? And how much should we spend? How do we manage our expectation? And what tools are out there to help us? I think this is a very interesting question I would like to explore further.   

STEP 4 // REWORK THREE-STEP FORMULA

TOPIC # 1 PRODUCTIVITY AT HOME

  • Topic: I'm studying if outsourcing household chores would enhance emotional well-being.

  • Question: Because I want to find out why people choose to outsource, and how does outsourcing domestic chores influence one's family relationship.

  • Significance: In order to help my reader/audience understand whether they should outsource and what amount of outsourcing would actually be beneficial to them

 

TOPIC # 2 PRODUCTIVITY AT WORK

  • Topic: I'm studying the correlation in between productivity and happiness.

  • Question: Because I want to find out how does increasing productivity make them feel.

  • Significance: In order to help my reader/audience understand what they can do to feel happier through their professional life.

 

TOPIC # 3 FINANCIAL WELL-BEING

  • Topic: I'm studying the relationship between financial well-being and happiness.

  • Question: Because I want to find out how much weight financial stability plays in individual's lives, what tools do people currently use, and why our emotional health is related to our financial well-being

  • Significance: In order to help my reader/audience understand what contribute to their happiness so they can manage their lives better.

STEP 5 // PECHA KUCHA PRESENTATION

To share with my classmates on my progress, here's the link  to my presentation. 

STEP 6 // QSPFR SPREADSHEET

Here's the link

QSPFR #2
 

Takeaways from last week's Pecha Kucha presentation  

 

As I addressed from my previous week's reflection, I explored all three topics in my research but the core topic I am interested in is to see how might I, as a designer, help people define and discover what will make them happy and to live the life they imagined! As a result, this week, I will work on only ONE topic - Live the Life You Imagined! The goal is to find what makes people happy, where and how they spend their times on, and what tools they are using currently to achieve that emotional well-being. My target group is the young working professionals. 

STEP 1 // GRID OF NINE FROM TOPICS TO CONCEPTS

The parts highlighted in pink are the concepts I will develop further into visual synthesis & prototypes.

STEP 2 // VISUAL SYNTHESIS

Mood Board #1: What makes you happy?

Mood Board #2: What is a typical weekday like for you? 

Mood Board #3: What types of tools have you used to manage your life?

STEP 3 // GRIND OF NINE FROM CONCEPT TO PROTOTYPE

The parts highlighted in pink are the concepts & the parts highlighted in blue are the prototypes I will be making. 

STEP 4 // PROTOTYPES

1.1.2 Card Sorting with different subjects

1.2.1 Diary Study

  • What: I ask participants to record their daily activities and emotions associated with them 

  • Why: I wanted to learn how people feel about their daily tasks so I could find ways to improve them

1.3.1 Mind Map

  • What: I ask participants to draw their mind maps when asked "what tools they used to manage their life?" 

  • Why: I wanted to learn how people plan and what thoughts are associated with these tools and plans

STEP 5 // ABSTRACT

Draft Abstract for 1.2.1 Prototype - Diary Study

 

Happiness is a result of long-term collective emotions. What we experience on a daily basis will eventually result in our emotional well-being. Diary study is used here to understand the types of feelings people go through on a typical day. The objective is to see what emotions are associated with their activities before brainstorming for solutions to tackle these negative feelings people experience, thus helping them to achieve their happiness and dreams in life. The result from this diary study showed that frustrations are associated with work-related activity but without further details is hard to understand why work is causing frustrations. A further study such as user interview would be necessary to move forward with this subject.  

 

STEP 6 // UPDATED QSPFR SPREADSHEET

Here's the link

QSPFR #3
 

This week's focus is to narrow down the scope  

 

After some trials and errors from last week's prototypes, this week I reached out to Dana because I got a bit stuck with prototype ideations. The ideas Dana gave me were super interesting: 1) find ways to measure happiness and 2) try to be a happiness detective! So here it goes... 

STEP 1 + 2 // KEEP THE IDEA THAT INTERESTS ME + CONTINUE RESEARCHING 

Last week, I problem statement was how might I, as a designer, help people define and discover what will make them happy and to live the life they imagined! This week I continued researching on what happiness means to people, looking into researches on how to measure happiness, watching documentaries and TED talks on Happiness, and reading up on designs related to happiness.

 

A few quick video references are seen below: 

 

STEP 3 // TWO PROTOTYPES

#1 Happiness Measurement

Happiness is rather an abstract concept. Happiness could be found in a laughter from a joke, the sense of accomplishment from a well-done job, or simply the feeling of contentment. How happy are you? How content are you? How satisfied are you? In this prototype, I am looking for ways to get quantitative data. A couple of resources I looked up include Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Scales (PANAS) , OECD Better Life Index, Growth National Happiness (GNH).  

 

Here's the link to my HMS Survey and below shows the questions. It is a simple 7-question survey. Every question runs on the scale from 0 to 10. If a participant scores 90% or higher, he/she is extremely satisfied with his/her life. 80% indicates satisfied, 70% indicates neutral, 60% indicates unsatisfied, and 50% or below indicates extremely unsatisfied.   

#2 Happiness Detective

In this prototype, I explored the city from my own point of view to uncover the elements contribute to one's emotional well-being (in this case, my emotional well-being). I tried to incorporate different senses into the video with images and sounds of the environment. What are your elements of happiness? 

STEP 4 // COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS SPREADSHEET

Here's the link for more reference.  

STEP 5 // UPDATED QSPFR SPREADSHEET

Here's the link

QSPFR #4
 

The past 2 weeks, my focus was on expanding the research & iterating  prototypes

 

After my one-on-one with Dana, I continued to explore ways to measure happiness and intent to find the definition of happiness because it is such an abstract terminology. What does happiness mean to us? We all see it differently. How do we measure such abstract concept? A sense of satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment? I made a few prototypes here based on Dana's guidance.

 

In the meantime, I also had my one-on-one with Liz. While I enjoyed exploring the happiness topic, in the back of my mind, I always set the goal of my happiness exploration as a "pre-engagement" for whatever tools that I intend to make for my thesis project. So when Liz advised that I began thinking about what I want to make eventually...I realized I have spent too much attention on exploring the human emotions which aren't my ultimate passion. I am somewhat "lost" in the process of my original intent which is to find a solution for work-life balance. And yes, it is true that we all value work-life balance differently, that's why I had the intention to define what makes people happy; however, I realized I need to design for the people who share the value that I see work-life balance so that I can dig deeper into my research.      

 

With that being said, below are what I did prior to this self-realization. I still had prototypes for the happiness project. I watched documentaries on Happiness, read up on how to measure abstract subject matters, and I interviewed people on how they defined their happiness and purpose of life! 

STEP 1 // PROTOTYPE EXPLORATION & ITERATION

PROTOTYPE #1 Happiness Detective: unfiltered thoughts

In this prototype, I created an Instagram account and simply captured moments that made me smile without trying hard to look for the cues. These are my unfiltered thoughts. One example would be even taking NYU bus from Washington campus to Tandon for the first time. The trip wasn't planned. I just happened to see an NYU bus after finished running errands in the main campus. Then I decided to hop on. It was fun. It made me smile. It probably wasn't the most efficient way to get around but I enjoyed the little peace and quite, people-watching, and simply absorbing the sceneries of my surroundings. Overall, I noticed that I get this euphoric feeling whenever I have a novel experience. 

 

PROTOTYPE #2 Happiness Data Gathering

In this prototype, I did some search on Instagram to see how/when people hashtag happiness. The result came back with more than 66 million posts with #happiness. As I examined them and tried to find a common theme...I couldn't find it but I'm also not surprised because I knew the definition of happiness varies from people, culture, race, background, you name it.  

PROTOTYPE #3 Happiness Definition

In this prototype, I asked people what words are associated with happiness, specifically what word can substitute happiness... and here are some snapshats of the vocabularies hashtagged in Instagram. Again, I couldn't find a common theme here. 

PROTOTYPE #3 Happiness Definition

In this prototype, I asked people what words are associated with happiness, specifically what word can substitute happiness... and here are some snapshats of the vocabularies hashtagged in Instagram. Again, I couldn't find a common theme here. 

STEP 2 // SUPPORTING RESEARCH: TIMELINE OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Here's the timeline I made based on my research in terms of how people define/measure their needs and purpose in life. 

STEP 3 // UPDATED QSPFR SPREADSHEET

As I mentioned in the beginning of my QSFPR#4, I am going to pass the idea of exploring happiness because defining people's values in life really isn't what I'm interested in. What I really wanna do is to provide the people (including me) who already know our values in life and design tools for them. With that being said, I have looked into existing tools such as Budget Calendar, Dollar Bird, and companies like SoFi. They all provide different means to help people who have professional and lifelong goals with the proper financial tools. 

 

I'm thinking I want to focus on helping students on how to manage their finance, time, so that they can achieve their professional growth and contribute back to the society.  

Here's the link to my updated QSPFR. 

QSPFR #5 & #6
 

Here comes my new adventure 

For the next few weeks, I will focus on finding young adults' pain points when it comes to financial management. In my initial research, I have found that Financial Literacy is definitely something that has been widely discussed either in academic papers or day-to-day news articles. So I wonder what I can do as a designer to help young adults gaining more financial knowledge here, so that they can plan their lives better!​

STEP 1 // PROTOTYPE EXPLORATION AND ITERATIONS

Since I wanna find out if financial literacy is an issue, I decided to make another short survey. This survey is intended to see how people feel about their current financial situation, so I didn't go into details such as how often do they check their bank statements, how do they budget, and etc. I wanted to first understand the big pictures. I think the more detailed questions should be conducted in interviews. I also didn't want to jump into conclusion by building any digital prototypes just yet because I'm unsure of what and where I can get the most attention from my audience. Anyways, here's the link  to the survey.    

STEP 2 // LITERATURE REVIEW

Before I started the search online, I stopped by Barnes & Noble to see what books are out there for Financial Management. SURPRISINGLY, there were NOT that many. And even the ones that are available, they all seem quite dry and boring. I guess I now know why most people are not interested in learning about finance.... In fact, I noticed whenever people asked me what I'm working on for my thesis, the moment I said finance, their responses were usually like this - oh, that's cool. And no further conversation on this topic. So it got me thinking, why is it that people lack interests in this topic? Especially it is almost like the essence in our modern society. Aren't the majority of us in the workforce to make money? So how come people are not interested in learning about it!? Anyways, let me explore more...

Here's the link to my literature review. You can also see them below.  

STEP 3 // QUANTITATIVE DATA

Here's the link

STEP 4 // UPDATED QSPFR SPREADSHEET

Here's the link

QSPFR #7 & #8
 

STEP 1 // THESIS ADVISOR WISHLIST

Here's the link

STEP 2 // FINAL QSPFR SPREADSHEET (& another prototype)

Here's the link to my QSPFR.  

Interview Exercise
 

IN-CLASS INTERVIEW EXERCISE

This week, we interviewed each other in class, practicing to talk about our project. It's a fun exercise where we got to share our stories and motivations behind the work we've been doing this semester. To read more the interview on my project, click this  link

R&D #2
Mid-Term 
Final
More coming soon...
 

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