This semester I developed a brand name, logo, word mark, visual system and branding system for my thesis project: OctoEd-Middle School Virtual Learning Platform. I created user flows and task flows for my UX design and developed wire frames and working prototypes for my platform, which were also user tested by individuals in my focus group. From there I began to apply my visual system to my wire frames and started developing a user friendly and intuitive learning platform. I also designed and applied my visual system to the student materials kit packaging, planner, laptop cover, pens, and mouse. It was a challenging semester. I got a slower start than anticipated but I think I got a lot accomplished in designing my visual system and brand as well as getting user feedback. Applying the visual system is slow moving, but each iteration shows improvement in the visual system and the usability of the deliverables.
Overall I am extremely happy with my progress so far this semester, however I can see how very far I still have to go. I am only at the beginning still and have a lot of iterating, rethinking, and user testing to go. I plan to re-think my direction with the learning platform and make sure that I am really addressing the most important challenges for middle school learners while providing an engaging and age appropriate solution. I also still need to narrow down the focus of the platform to something a little more manageable. I have simplified some of my goals with the learning platform this semester. My number one focus is to provide students with an inclusive space where they can feel connected to teachers and peers as well as easily navigate and have minimal distractions so that their primary focus can be on learning and being part of a classroom environment. I originally planned on designing the teacher side of the platform, but I removed that from my goals.
This summer I plan on taking a Strategies for branding course so that I can increase my user experience and design a platform that appeals to my audience of middle school learners. I want to continue refine and developing the learning platform to reduce extraneous pages and elements and really focus on my main goal for middle school students. In the fall I will be taking a packaging course so that I can improve my presentation and packaging skills. I will be working on the UX for my thesis throughout the summer.
As I begin the process of wrapping everything up for the semester, I am finally starting to see my visual system come together. Throughout the semester, my visual system has taken many twists and turns. It was slow to start but once it all started to come together, things began to move a lot faster. The most time consuming part of it all is the constant updating of so many elements of the thesis. As I refine and re-iterate the various elements of my visual system and deliverables, I then have to go through all the thesis blogs, websites and social media accounts to update the visuals. However, this also gives me the opportunity to give the visuals a test run before applying them to wire frames and products.
The last piece to come together has been the agenda. I have been working out sketches and ideas for a few weeks but because I hadn't finalized the visual system, I didn't apply it to the ideas. I wish I had begun this process sooner. I feel like they have a good start but also have a long way to go before they are complete. As I dig in to each element of the thesis though, I get a clearer picture of what I want the final product to be. I am excited how far it has come and am excited to continue to see where it goes!
This week I really dug into to my website and applied my visual system. It was fun to see the visuals on an actual website and how I could use them in different ways. I then updated my Blog as well as my OctoEd Facebook and Instagram pages. After I completed the website, I began to look at my learning platform and how I could apply the visual system to my wire frame. I decided to begin by redesigning the icons that I had begun designing last semester in Visual Communications Lab. I tried to get them as uniform as possible and I used only black and white. I don't want too many colors causing visual clutter on the learning platform. Applying the visual system to the login screen and student Student Dashboard was a little easier than the Virtual Classroom. I found that the more elements a page has, the less visuals I can use. I relied on colors and consistency in shapes and font colors and size to develop the visuals on the more complex pages.
After I completed some platform pages I focused on designing some of the Student Materials Kit. I designed and mocked up the pull-string bag, the computer cover, the touchscreen pen, and the Agenda cover. I still need to complete the inside spreads. I am having a difficult time finding a mock-up of a wireless mouse to use. I will continue to work on these items this coming week.
This week I spent a lot of time building my clickable prototype. I discovered that as I was building it, I was finding flaws in my own design and it really got me thinking about what to keep and what to leave behind. I think that the most important goals of my learning platform are to help middle school students feel connected to teachers and peers and to create a system where they get the benefits of a classroom (everything they need is in one place and they are contained to that space for the entire class period). Ease of access and functionality will allow students to focus on their studies instead of stressing over what app to be in and where they can find their assignments or how to submit them for what class. These are common everyday stressors for the average middle school student. While I want the platform to contain things like email, app library, and announcements, these pages are not important to the overall concept.
I went ahead and tested my platform with the tasks that I had initially planned out, even though I may be leaving behind the design of one or two of the tasks. I found that many of the students who used the clickable prototype had a hard time visualizing the platform in its wireframe state. I think that before I do another user test I will apply more elements from my visual system to help them feel more comfortable using it. Some of my testers were also quite timid, being 6th graders. They didn't give much feedback without prompting and direct questions. I decided to also have a parent test the platform to get some adult feedback. In the process, I also got some inside into how this website would be helpful for learning support and learning disabled students who join the class for inclusion.
I created a chart for user feedback, but here is a rundown of the user comments. I will be applying changes this coming week.
MFA Graphic Design Student at Academy of Art University of San Francisco (on-line)