Archived entries for Projects

Wealth Insight

I’m excited to share that the Wealth Insight project I worked on with PNC has launched. As the blurb on the IDEO website says, it helps to provide “greater transparency for investors in their dealings with financial institutions, a desire that increased during the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession.”

One of the interesting parts of the process was the high-fidelity web-based prototype we made to iterate and evaluate the design. It had information visualizations driven by real data, which helped us test our assumptions and refine the details during our feedback sessions with investors. It was the first time I used Protovis instead of Flash for dynamic graphics, which had a bit of a learning curve but worked out well.

You can learn more about the project on the IDEO website or the PNC Wealth Insight microsite. I’m particularly happy to see that PNC has also created some “making of” videos, which talk about the human-centered design process. They even include a cameo by Hal Monson, the IDEO project lead. The videos won’t let me embed them here, so check out the links below.

Research Travel

In the last two weeks I’ve been to 8 cities in 7 different Indian states: Panaji (Goa), Bangalore (Karnataka), Madura and Sivakasi (Tamil Nadu), Amritsar (Punjab), New Delhi (Delhi), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and Mumbai (Maharashtra). The trip spanned the north-south axis of the country, from the southern tip near Sri Lanka to the northwestern edge only 25 miles from Pakistan. It was fascinating to see how each area was different, with one of the major differences being language. In Mumbai most things are written in Hindi and English, with just a few signs in Marathi. This contrasted with the smaller cities where signs were much more likely to also include the local language.

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I tried to make the most of the trip, kicking it off with a 3 day vacation to Goa and staying an extra day in Madauri to see the temples there. I’m glad I did, because all the other cities were nothing more than a blur. Moving around in India can be difficult and frustrating, spending 3 hours in a car to fight your way across town for a 45 minute interview. Outside the car my time was spent in homes, hotels, and hospitals. The medical facilities we did research in ranged wildly, from fancy corporate centers that looked passably sterile to extremely dirty and sad government hospitals providing free care to the poor. It’s been a whirlwind fortnight that exposed me to so much, but was also just brutal at times with 15 hour days being the norm and always spending them with an entourage of 7 or 8, including 3 clients.

One of the crazier things I was exposed to during research was watching a live surgery, a bi-lateral (both knees) total knee replacement . I stood on the side of the operating theatre in my scrubs, taking photos and notes and trying not to get in the way. Before going in I was worried about passing out or getting nauseous, but it turned out to be less gross than I expected. It is amazing what surgeons do, and at the same time scary how straight-forward it is, almost like carpentry on the human body. It’s not uncommon for the patients in India to be only partially anesthetized, usually with an epidural. That means they can hear the cut of their bones, the smell of their flesh cauterizing, the sound of a hammer pounding an implant into their femur, and the doctors saying “Oh fuck!” when something goes wrong. I can’t imagine what that must be like.

The intensity of the last two weeks has wiped me out, to the point that I’m laying low and staying mostly inside my apartment this weekend. I needed a couple of a days without the jostling of travel and the stress of constantly new encounters. I love doing and seeing so many new things, but I’m physically and mentally spent.

Sick and Working

I’ve been a bit sick this week, though I’m nearly back to 100% after the worst of it yesterday when I hardly ate anything. Overall I feel lucky that it hasn’t been worse, given some stories I’ve heard, but I wish I knew what caused it. I’m very careful about water and I haven’t been eating from roadside stands. I do eat out at restaurants from time to time, but they seem clean. Maybe it’s just unavoidable to a certain degree.

I’ve been doing various things at work since I arrived in India, but this week I started my first real project. My environment may be different, but the design process and familiar feel of a project starting remains the same. I know this means I’ll be very busy soon, but it’s good to start digging into a design challenge. The project requires solutions that are specific to the Indian context, which should be really interesting and eye-opening.

This project also means that I’ll be travelling outside of Mumbai for work. I’ll be in Delhi most of next week, spending Friday in Jaipur before heading back to Mumbai for the weekend. In September I’ll go to a variety of places in the north and south, rural and urban. It should be fun to see new parts of the country, even if I’m only passing through during research.

Small Flock: Everyday micro-stories

I recently experimented with a personal challenge to write a very, very short story every day and used Twitter as a way of constraining myself to 140 characters. The stories don’t connect with each other or build off a singular theme — I just wanted write every day and see what kind of imagery or emotion I could create in such a short space.

Sometimes the stories came from events during my day, sometimes from my childhood, and often from my imagination. Because they’re so short, I see each one as just a pointer to a more complex moment or feeling. Anyway, after 100 days of writing micro-stories on Twitter the experiment has run its course.

The project was called Small Flock and is archived on a website I made ( to display each story, one at a time.