HCID 521: Final Reflection

Michelle (Xin) Gao
5 min readMar 19, 2021


Words Cloud for my HCID 521 Prototyping Studio

My Rose

I have been looking forward to taking this prototyping class since I was an undergrad at HCDE. When I was in Wendy’s research group and experienced KidsTeam from a researcher’s perspective, I was always surprised by kids’ creative thoughts. Since then, I had this wish that I want to work on a project that has kids as the primary stakeholder. Because of all these experiences with kids and prototyping skills learned from Andy’s class (HCDE 451 :)), I thought I was fully prepared for this class at the beginning of the quarter. But the class’s cadence was faster than I expected and the online format added more uncertainties and frustrations to the learning process. But ultimately, we dealt with uncertainties and addressed these frustrations (It’s all about the team effort!) and built out Flora, which we all are so proud of it. I really enjoyed this class because it gave me a rich experience including the informative class demo with Andy and Jon, the funny Friday theme, some harsh but on-point critiques from the KidsTeam kids and guests from the Industry, and most importantly, all the excitements and frustrations team ProtoHug experienced. If you ask me one most important thing I learn from this class, I would say the attitude that doesn’t be afraid to make a pivot. It will be scary but pay off!

My favorite team, ProtoHug! (It was a late meeting but we were trying to have some fun.)

My Thorn

I would like to have more time playing around with the electronic gadgets but I ended up giving up on this part because our team was running out of time. We ran out of time because we made a pivot in the end after the last critique session from the guests. We found some critiques, for example, one suggests that letting the kids pick up the light so the kids are actively and physically involved with the reflection process (which we thought this idea would definitely make the lamp more playful) were inspired and useful so we decided to make the pivot. However, these critiques took us some time to digest and we didn’t really consolidate our core interactions and didn’t make a decision on our MVP until the very last week. These ambiguities and uncertainties made us spent too much time on experimentation. While other teammates experimented with what kind of interaction and at which level we can achieve by using the sensors and electronic gadgets we had, I designed different looks of the product using multiple materials. We tried building out our Flora lamp using paper, lego blocks, and vellum but the results were not satisfying.

Different tryouts for the physical look of the lamp

The last two weeks were definitely very stressful but still fun. Basically, we were working on consolidating the core interactions (the whole team), making the physical enclosure (Michelle), coding the light pattern (Ryan), and writing up the script for the video (Laura & Duanhao) one week before the final presentation. Although I felt very stressed, I won’t say the previous effort spent on those experimentations was a waste of time because all these steps were necessary and that led us to this final design. The only thing I would change is that I won’t spend my time also trying to take care of the lighting part (because I want to learn more about coding) while I was so stressed on designing the physical box, especially when there are members on the team who master the skill better than you. For the sake of the team, I should focus on finishing my part first.

My Bud

Luckily, a surprising encounter with another team at the MILL introduced us to the acrylic material that solved most of the limitations we were experiencing. I had more experience with the laser cutter, so I ran to the Mill multiple times individually because each one of us needed to efficiently allocate our time to different tasks. Since I was responsible for the physical enclosure, I made a bold decision on the final look of our Flora lamp, which is an interactive laser-cut translucent cube with rose, bud, thorn, and full flower cutouts with a charging base. And I also designed the logo based on its physical appearance.

Original ai file (left) & Flora lamp (right)
This is our Flora lamp!
Flora Logo

Final Thought

I am proud of Flora because the design of Flora is informed by research including academic papers and articles specifically about family connection and remote parenting. We also selectly incorporated kids' and guests' feedback into the design to make it more playful and engaged.

And finally, I can proudly say that I am comfortable with pivoting and be very open-minded when taking feedback, especially when working with kids because they can be very direct and sometimes harsh on your design when it doesn’t get their attention or interest (which is a really good sign that indicates you might need to reconsider the entire concept and get ready to pivot!).



Michelle (Xin) Gao

UX Research and Design | UW HCDE Alumna | Class of 2021 @ UW MHCI + D