Project 1 — Dog owners

Timothy Liu
6 min readFeb 4, 2021


Week 4 (2/22–2/24)

And so we’ve arrived at the end of an incredibly fruitful and engaging Project 1. I’m really proud of how our group fared today; we spent a lot of additional time rehearsing and flushing out our presentation since our dry run last week, and I think our hard work really paid off. Much of my time the past few days was spent painting the renderings of our Top 5 solutions, and I think that presenting them in a Pecha Kucha non-text format really helped our audiences focus on the illustrations themselves. I’m hopeful that my storytelling helped paint a narrative of how each of our solutions addresses our defined problem space and personas. In addition, Lexie found a way to tease out the different layers of our stakeholder map which I thought was a great touch, Nick cleaned up our persona slides so they weren’t as messy and cluttered, and Lee helped refine the visual consistency of our slide deck as a whole. Upon receiving feedback after our final presentation today, we even went back to add in one final persona to our slides (Susan, a non dog owner who fears off-leash dogs in parks). It was this attention to detail that really helped our team chug along these past few weeks, and I’m really proud of how committed and cohesive our group was.

I think that my main takeaways from this project were twofold. First, no matter how well you think you may know the problem space, observational research can always help uncover new insights and pain points. Even though I’ve been a dog owner for more than half my life, my experiences are unique compared to every other dog owner in Pittsburgh, so it’d be unfair to extrapolate my personal pain points to the problem space. If our group hadn’t conducted such extensive observational research, I’d barely have a list of 15 problems, let alone 50. Next, I also learned some best practices in regards to virtual design groupwork. I think our group started off the semester a little rocky; some team members forgot about meetings while others failed to complete deliverables in time. But as we continued working together, we found a routine that encouraged each of us to stay motivated and focused week in and week out. Having a weekly Wednesday afternoon meeting made sure our deliverables were always done on time, and we utilized our group chat to send reminders about meetings and what needed to be done by classtime. We were also very responsive and communicative whenever anything came up, which helped us adapt and respond to the ever-evolving circumstances COVID presented us with.

With that, I’ll close with a couple random video/image highlights from P1. Looking forward to working with my group again come P3!

How our top 5 thumbnail sketches evolved into our final 5 renderings!
One of the dog owners we interviewed wanted to show us how obedient his dog Emma was off-leash.

Week 3 (2/16–2/18)

What a productive week! Over the weekend, we each ironed out our portions of the presentation; I focused on Problems/Solutions, Nick worked on the personas, Lexie focused on the stakeholder map, and Lee crafted the outline of our slidedeck. On Tuesday, when we ran through our dry run, we were really pleased with how things went but we were very grateful for all the feedback we received as well. On Wednesday, we met up to discuss the feedback we received, and we decided on a few changes/action items for our final presentation: 1) minimize text everywhere (especially early on) and add more visuals, 2) revamp the stakeholder map so it’s easier to read/less jarring color-wise, 3) hone in on the way we present our solutions and problem space, 4) finalize the hi-fi renderings of our top 5 solutions, and 5) practice, practice, practice! We don’t want to run excessively long, but we determined that it’s more important to cover all of our necessary points is a compelling, engaging way. If we need to take a few extra seconds to describe a persona’s pain points, we are willing to take the time to do so, which is why it will be so important for all of us to rehearse our points of emphasis. We also plan on starting to write each of our respective portions of the paper so that when we meet next week, we’re ready to finalize our written part of the project by the Friday due date.

As for me personally, I’m going to be spending the weekend revamping my pain point/solution slides to make them a bit more visually engaging and easy to understand. I don’t want to bombard the audience with information, so I’m excited to focus in on the top 5 solutions we selected. I will be doing hand-drawn watercolor sketches for each rendering, as well as placing them in a usability/feasibility matrix. I’ve always loved art, so I’m really excited for this part of the project!

Starting my sketches of our Top 5 solutions. Stay tuned for the final renderings!

Week 2 (2/09–2/11)

Last weekend, we each took some time to go conduct individual observations of dog walkers/owners in the Pittsburgh area. Lee spent time mapping out Frick Park, Lexie took her dog to some parks in Monroeville, and Nick and I trekked to the Flagstaff Hill/CMU area to conduct 3 interviews and multiple observations. This week, we made significant progress in taking those findings and consolidating them into stakeholders, personas, problems, and solutions. During our two meetings this week, we worked together to brainstorm stakeholders and potential personas before divvying up the work; Lexie and Lee forged forward on the stakeholder map (Lexie is now taking the reigns on cleaning up/beautifying the stakeholder map), while Nick and I charted out empathy maps and wrote personas. Then, in today’s class, we had a great discussion about the different problems we identified for our user group. I think we did a solid job being open-minded in our solutions (we had some pretty fun ones, like the Porta-fence and Doggit, the dog version of Reddit), but we’re looking forward to meeting on Saturday and flushing our problem and solution lists further. Below are two photos: one of the stickies I produced in today’s workshopping section, and the other a high-level overview of our affinity diagramming and solutions brainstorming in Figma.

My brainstormed problems and sketched solutions from today’s post-it exercise.
Our progress in Figma on our affinity diagramming and brainstormed solutions.

Week 1 (2/02–2/04)

This week was a productive start for our group (Dog owners). We met twice total—once on Wednesday to get to know each other and kick off our research, and once on Thursday before class to refine our scope and discuss observational methods—and each meeting was more productive than the last. We each brought to the table some of the research and problems we identified with our target group, and we started to narrow down our persona scope; we want to focus on dog owners during COVID (i.e. anyone who has owned a dog at any point during COVID), and we want to constrain our project to the greater Pittsburgh area so that we can identify specific parks and interventions.

Regarding what’s next, we’ll be each pursuing a few observational methods this weekend: Nick plans on releasing a survey online with dog ownership questions as well as going to parks to observe, Lexie plans on taking her dog to parks and interviewing other dog owners (while engaging in participatory observation), Lee plans on mapping out some of his local parks and identifying dog movement/space in those parks, and I plan on going to parks to conduct fly-on-the-wall observations as well as a hybrid of role playing/simulated participatory observation. I’d also like to ask some dog owners a few interview questions too, should I see any dog walkers/owners out and about.

We’ll be meeting again Tuesday before class to come together and share our findings. Looking forward to it!