Thesis | Initial Research & Brainstorming

The gates are open and we are moving fast. In order to best separate out our work, Audrey and I are focusing our efforts in three areas: academic, business model, design research.

For academic research, we are looking into a mixture of academic and market research that can help us examine a systems level approach towards design. We aren’t looking to solve any one particular problem overall, although we will focus on specific problems to solve with our business model, but are actually trying to define a theoretical framework for using emerging technologies to decentralized existing manufacturing and production processes. Researchers we are looking at include Jeremy Rifkin, Benjamin Bratton, David Rushkoff, and articles and academic papers around digital manufacturing and decentralizing technologies.

For business research, we are doing more traditional start-up research such as market analysis, customer acquisition, marketing and brand, and competitive analysis. We would like to be able to present a business model canvas or short business plan/summary to various parties as we finish our minimum viable prototype and explore funding opportunities to move forward with the work if our prototypes and tests show interest and demand. We will also explore various investment schemes and collaborative business models that can be used to partner with maker centers in new ways.

Design research focuses on a human-centered design process of identifying the problem, seeking potential solutions, conducting interviews with potential customers, designers, and makers, creating and ideating prototype, conducting user tests, and moving forward with our actually digital platform. By the end of the semester we will at least have a high fidelity prototype of the user experience from designers, customers, and makers point of view and it possible, build out a technical prototype of how our platform could work to certify physical designs, even if with a mix of different tech that wouldn’t be used in the future – as we are going for a decentralized model.


Audrey and I started off our research by setting a weekly meeting where we will spend 3 – 5 hours working together. For our first meeting, we wanted to brainstorm out our overall model and system, pulling out design questions we wanted to try to answer through a first prototype.

As we finished out our brainstorm, we had a much clearer idea of the system from beginning to end, but also a lot of new challenges we realized we would face and many new questions we had to answer.

We determined that some of these questions could be answered with a first prototype that was an overall experience prototype of the customer ordering process. We want to understand if the process is enjoyable from entry on the platform to receiving and building the product, not to see if the site is particularly usable, but rather to understand if people enjoy using our platform, if it helps them understand new ideas around products and value, and if they would want to use it moving forward.

Next Steps

We split up tasks with Audrey focusing on the digital UI experience and all of the building assigned to me. Audrey already had the design files for an amazing hanging planter she created last year, so I was tasked with seeing if I could reproduce them with minimal instructions (given our model), take apart her original design and write instructions for how to assemble it again (for our users) as well as write a cognitive walkthrough user evaluation and qualitative interview questions for after the test was over.

Below please find our first user test write-up. In the next post, I will review the tests and feedback we received.

User Test Plan

Updated Domains Paper

I also worked this week to reconnect some of my domain and precedent research from last semester to the new idea. Check out my update domains paper to get an idea of how decentralization, digital manufacturing, and emerging economic technologies can inform our process.

Updated Domains Paper


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