MICRO UX | IBM - Week 2

Week 2 🗓: 20 Apr - 24 Apr

Brief 🔍

Design a way to counter some of the alienating effects of remote working online.

Teammates: 🤝 Pat, Lee and Ann

After getting some valuable feedback last week, we divided our works by researching three different topics. Firstly, Ann and Pat researched on "the history of remote working/ communication". Secondly, Lee and I researched on "Home setting VS Office setting" in order to get more inspirations about the space and environment. Thirdly, we all did the "Physical Worker" storytelling part together.

The history of remote working/ communication

Ann and Pat explored the history part. They found out that communication begins with language, the distinctive ability which has made possible the evolution of human society. With language any message, no matter how complex, can be conveyed between people over a limited distance - within a room or place of assembly, or across a short open space. In modern times 'town criers' hold an annual contest to discover which of them can shout a comprehensible message over the greatest distance. The world record is less than 100 meters. Already, at that short-range, a more practical alternative is to run with the message. They found out the below key points.

The history of communication is mankind's search for ways to improve upon shouting. - Post haste: 6th century BC - Imperial communication: 522-486 BC - Speeding up the messenger: 2nd - 11th century - Pigeon post: from the 11th century Way of sending messages - Talking drums - smoke signals - Whistling - Runners - Roman messages - Flying messages

Home setting VS Office setting

When I was exploring this direction, I started by defining the differences between "Basic Communication at Office" and "Basic Communication at Home Office". I drew below flow maps to find out the encoding and decoding process of colleague communication.

Basic Communication at Office VS Home Office

Work at Office - Input & Output

  • Speaking

  • Email

  • Slack/ Whatsapp

Message & Feedback loop

Other Input & Output

  • Chat with colleague

  • Coffee break

  • Lunch

  • Toilet

Work at Home Office - Input & Output

  • Speaking

  • Email

  • Slack/ Whatsapp

Message & Feedback loop

Other Input & Output

  • Family, kids, pets

  • Coffee/ Cooking

  • Noise outside

  • Social Media / Chat with friends

  • Lighting issues

  • Desk issues

  • Clothes issues

  • Toilet

After I listed out the communication process, I found out that working at the Home Office may include more artifacts and unexpected inputs. Then, I researched on the internet and read some articles about "Artifacts at Home Office". Below is one of the online mind map about "Creating a workplace that works", which I found it very useful for us to look at the artifacts at Home office. It may help us to get some insights.

Then, Lee listed out the "User Journey" between Office and Home Office.


Wake up - make breakfast and coffee - Morning workout - switching on the computer - Start working - email or text to colleagues or boss - Cook lunch - Continue working - Take a rest with child/dog - Off work -


Wake up - dress up - breakfast on the way - transportation to the workplace - arrive the workplace/ table - Go to pantry make a coffee - switching on the computer - Start working - talk to colleagues or boss - Go out for lunch - chitchat with colleagues - Continue working - Meeting - Off work - Transportation to Home - Shower

Below are the key points of his analysis.

Home Office:


More productive (Less interruptions)

Learn to be concise in communication


Forget to clock out between home life and work-life

Lack of space and hardware

More temptation on distraction (web browsing, social media)

After we did the analysis of what we found out, I got 5 different concepts to explore. Below are the insights and directions.

Physical Workers

We did storytelling with Indoor cycling instructor, Tailor, Barber and Physical Trainer. We found out that all of them also tried to use the internet to maintain their work during coronavirus. Some of them will also do live tutorials but they all think it is hard to work remotely. It is more time consuming and difficult to adjust the physical part. They said the digital way is the only solution for them now. Below is the storytelling scripts.

Insights & Directions

After we did all the research, we brainstormed some directions to explore.

1. Visualization

When I was looking at the analysis of the artifacts, I found out that people need visualization to feel like they are working and connecting with their company. Although artifacts may look like small stuff to design, it actually creates an ambiance to let you feel like you are working with your company. You are not disconnected from your company. Then, I thought about the below points.

  • Can we increase the connection with your company by creating company branded artifacts and send to the staff's home?

  • How to experience and reflect the company culture and community when working from home? (It is out of the screen, we bring them some physical stuffs)

  • Company Artifacts? merchandise? e.g. Brand T-shirt, coffee cup, yoga mat, stationery, desk...

  • Here is the example from Google: https://shop.googlemerchandisestore.com/

  • How to decorate your working space at home?

  • Make your family also love your company, something also benefit for your family?

2. "Satellite City" Concept

When I was looking at communication problems, I thought about which career must work remotely? No doubt, Astronauts must works remotely! But how Astronauts work remotely? They use "Satellite" to communicate to earth. It inspired me to think of the new urban planning concept - "Satellite City". It is a small metropolitan area, which is located near to the large metropolitan area. Then, I imagined can we think out of the home and office scale, but on a larger scale, just like a revolution of urban planning to solve the remote working problems. Can we build a real community to let workers to connect more with each other? Below are some key points of this direction.

  • How to help workers feel more connected?

  • Design City → Increase the intimacy by building a community

  • e.g. Silicon valley → workmates = neighbors = company community

  • Each apartment with a room for working (designed with company style?)

Can Astronauts Phone Home? Learn How They Communicate in Space


3. only Apple System / Microsoft System?

Another direction is on the digital level. We knew that we can't avoid any digital design. If we can make good use of them and combine them with the physical methods, it can be beneficial for our project. As every computer only has two systems, one is Apple, one is Microsoft. You can differently define which system you are using by just look at the desktop interface design. And then, it inspired me to think of can we cooperate with Apple and Microsoft and design a branded system, in which each company can customize the system to fix their working model. It can combine the artifact ideas to bring the staff a branded ambiance no matter it is on screen or not. Below are some key points for these directions.

  • New Branded Screen System for each company, e.g. IBM system? HSBC system?...

  • Branded Interface?

  • Company setting?

4. Game Concept

This direction can be an extendable idea of the "Satellite City". As we know the switch game - Animal Crossing is very famous nowadays, just like some old games - The Sims City. Players love playing these games and connect with their friends. It made me think of how players feel like they are in the virtual game? and communicating and engaging with their friends or even with virtual characters? So, can we combine this concept with our "Satellite City" and the "Branded Artifacts" directions in the physical and digital way? For example, if the physical branded coffee cup is designed with a tracking system, which linked with the digital community system. Your workmates will notice you are having a coffee break and not available now. It may help to decrease the interruption and create an opportunity to let you connect more with your workmates. For sure, you can also decide the privacy and edit the setting according to your own preference.

  • Sims/ Animal Crossing

  • Board Games

Project feedback & Reflection 🙌

After presenting our progress, we got some valuable feedback which is very useful to help us narrow down the directions. They asked us "What then are the most useful comparisons of experience resolution to bring out?
 emotional? sensory? temporal?
". It reminded us to find out the focus point in our project. They like the direction that not limited to the actual working but also consider times in between 
communication. We thought it is a potential area to further explore. For the remote 
artifacts in the workplace, they suggested us to us
 AEIOU analysis to find out more insights. Moreover, the idea of mitigating disconnection through branded artifacts is not powerful enough to create the ambiance for work. They suggested us to rethink about the meaning behind the artifacts and try to think beyond their original meaning. For the "Satellite City" concept, they thought it is too macro and is not good to design somethings for urban planning at this project. But we could look at their principle and adapt it to our micro project. For the Game concept, they said it is too common and will better find other opportunities instead of using an online game to engage with users. For the last idea about the Apply/ Microsoft system integration, they like the new interface of the computer system. It is more appealing to them if we can create something creative. They help us to explore more on designing a plugins or interface thing. Last but not least, accidents and unexpected situations are important and potential aspects to look at. They suggested us to focus on setting the design goal, project statement and narrow down to one direction for next week. We all agree with the above comments and we had a meeting to discuss and revise our direction for next week. Please have a look at the next blog for further progress.

References 📖

Brian, S., 2019.Future Of Work Archives - Brian Solis. [online] Available at: <https://www.briansolis.com/category/articles/future-of-work-articles/> [Accessed 7 May 2020].

Ensler, E., 2020.Touch Saved Me From Loneliness. What Will We Become Without It?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/apr/21/skin-hunger-touch-saved-me-from-unbearable-loneliness-what-will-we-become-without-it> [Accessed 7 May 2020].

Iqbal, N., 2020.Show But Don’T Tell: Why Silent Zooms Are Golden For Focusing The Mind. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/26/show-but-dont-tell-why-silent-zooms-are-golden-for-focusing-the-mind> [Accessed 7 May 2020].

12 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All