the works of justin edmund

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What does productivity mean for families?

I took part in the 2011 Firenze Student Innovation Competition with Arvind Kumar, Jeanette Leagh, and Samartha Chandrashekhar. The annual competition gives interdisciplinary teams one month to craft a product around a given problem. Our team made it to the semi-finalist round.

We were asked to create a next-generation productivity tool for families from 26 to 44 years old who are comfortable with technology. Our goal was to build something that was flexible, powerful and most importantly human.

We did extensive research on the subject, looking at professional studies as well as formulating a list of user research questions and interviewing our target audience in person. This quickly developed into crafting personas and beginning to formulate solutions to problems that arose in their daily lives.

We decided upon four leading design implications, which lead to us deciding our product's goal: to enable families to plan for the long term without disregarding the impact of short-term plans on those future goals.

We decided that the best way to create something human was to make it accessible by way of platform agnosticism and data liberation.

Our system would leverage APIs across the internet to take information from existing services, use NLP (natural language processing) to make some sense of that information, and tie it together in a secure web service for families to access anywhere, on any device.

It would also grant developers the ability to add their own services to the system by way of apps. These apps would be able to fill holes in our system that weren't important to our core focus on events, health, and finance.

We decided to name the system Strand, as it tied all of the strands of your life and your family together in one place.

After the system was laid out, I began to work on the design of the interface. The look-and-feel was to be light, simple, and friendly.The Metro UI from Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 devices was a natural fit, and so we adapted it for use on larger screens. The design language for Strand used a line motif to signify the different aspects of a family's life, simple typography, and an emphasis on people and collaboration.

Lastly, we created a presentation deck and a thirty-second interaction demo to present to judges at Microsoft. We tied together our user research, business model, interaction design, and technical implementation into a thirty minute presentation that detailed the entire system from inception, through development, and into possible features for future versions.

Strand was not selected to go to Redmond for the final round, but some of its core features appeared in Bing shortly afterwards, as detailed in a New York Times article published July 2011.