In-situ triggers for civic engagement

There are many organizations and online communities that offer services to revitalize San Francisco neighborhoods. The information about them is usually spread via word of mouth or learned after a series of search queries from a motivated civilian try to do something for the community. The problem is that it is challenging for individuals to learn about these organizations and navigate their various protocols. Even further, it is difficult to take action exactly when the pain or inspiration arises.

This project explored mobile and tactile solutions for connecting individuals with existing organizations and online communities, enabling individuals to take action while on-the-go, the moment the need and motivation arise.

Project concept developed for the Leading by Design Fellowship Program at the California College of the Arts.

Something to chew on

I wanted to share some quotes with a friend in a casual manner. This became the beginning of a personal project, a pack of 12 chewable quotes to take a break and ponder on (e.g. "One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things", Henry Miller).

I still have a few packs, so if you want to share with a friend, drop me a line (@aolmos).  It is on me, feel free to share and enjoy!

Splitting the bill

Eating out with friends is fun. But splitting the bill can be a bit of a headache. With a mobile OCR app, splitting the bill could be as easy as taking a picture. The Füd app automatically shares the bill with your friends, lets you select your items, and calculates your total including tip.

This was a quick weekend prototype put together during the 2013 Launch Hackathon, while teaming up with Ken Koster, Ed Koster and Ken Ko.


Back in October I had the joy to meet and team up with Peter @bromka and Jose @tumis at the ReRoute/SF hackathon. This was organized by the Hattery Labs.

Our concept: Neighbor-line! - At glance, on a daily basis, you would use Neighbour-line to get information about the bus transportation in San Francisco (e.g. schedule, location, routing, etc). However, while waiting at the corner for the bus, you would get the opportunity to read stories happening on your own commute line, stories from your neighbor riders. Neighbour-line would allow you to contribute your own short stories as well, and report something that was not (e.g. a broken window on the bus). Because, it is not only about filling reports, but also about follow up and getting it done. Neighbour-line would send the reports directly to the MUNI officers and from Neighbour-line you could follow up the status of your request. Having the window fixed would for sure improve your daily commute. On top of that, if your story or fix-request became popular by receiving a lot of stars from your fellow community riders, you would end up earning points towards adding more rides to your clipper card.

 I am sure you can tell that this concept was inspired by Neighborland ;-)

Do you like chocolate cake?

Inspired by Alex Gilliam’s talk, (held at McGill University’s School of Urban Planning in Montreal), Jason Prince and Molly Johnson invited Alex to lead in the building of a neighbourhood master plan -- in chocolate cake! -- while inviting passing residents to explore the future of the area.

The fun and hard working students from the School of Urban Planning baked two dozen chocolate cakes for this event (and I baked some too!). During the three-hour event, people streaming into the Vendome Metro Station were asked to help build and decorate the chocolate cake model, but, before getting their hands dirty, to offer up some advice in writing on what would make Vendome a great place.

Some of the recurrent wishes of the people were: more green space, a cafe, better accessibility for those with mobility needs and better access to the metro. One of my favorite ones: Music!

But the number one issue for this part of Montreal is a 200 foot connector piece that will link two bike paths and allow cyclists to get downtown safely, as illustrated in this video. The Government is investing over 4.5B$ on a state of the art hospital and a new highway interchange nearby, and residents hope they can afford a million or two to safely connect the bike path and support active transport too!


Chocolate cake neighbourhood, courtesy of: Public Workshop and CURA: Making Mega-Projects Work for Communities (a project of McGill University’s School of Urban Planning).


Iterati is a lecture series at the intersection of ethnography, empathy and iterative design. Meena Kadri, our first speaker and community manager at OpenIDEO convinced me to write the following post:

On 12 May 2006 the city of Montreal was appointed as an UNESCO City of Design. Every year, many design firms swing their doors open, allowing Montrealers to get a chance to visit the studios of award-winning designers in the fields of architecture, graphic design, interior design, urban planning, landscaping, and fashion.

Montreal exudes economic and social development potential, with many initiatives supported by public, private and civil entities. On the technology front, there are numerous groups and gatherings of like-minded people, with many events for sharing ideas and initiating collaborations to build applications, start coops or share skills to empower others to express themselves. To name just a few of these groups we have UXMTL (User Experience Design Montreal), ARMTL (Augmented Reality Montreal), Notman house (a startup hub in Montreal) and Studio XX (women, art, technology and society).

Given the existing design scene, we wanted to create a place where local and international people could come and share their experiences in researching, observing and understanding a given community as a source of inspiration for design in a more empathic manner. This gave birth to the first Iterati (Italian for “iterations”), which recently started as a monthly lecture series focusing on the intersection of ethnography, empathy and design.

Where to begin, and who to invite? OpenIDEO provided the answer. IDEO advocates and uses observation and empathy as sources of inspiration for finding design solutions by working within a community. Recently, this approach has been extended in a global participatory manner through OpenIDEO. If you have been participating at OpenIDEO, you have probably met Meena Kadri, either through a comment that she posted to your contributions, or while reading about previous challenges. This is how I met Meena, where she later became a Community Manager, and decided to contact her through Twitter and ask her if she wanted to be our first Iterati speaker. After a few messages she kindly accepted the invitation, a perfect fit for this first lecture given her background in both Anthropology and Design.

This first Iterati was an interesting and fun experience for us. We hosted Meena remotely at the School of Urban Planning at McGill University, and students and professionals from the Montreal community joined the conversation from Montreal to Wellington, New Zealand via Skype. If you are interested to listen to our first talk, feel free to do so from over at

Meena's opening speech "… Today it is about my first true love Anthropology and its sub-branch ethnography; which it is about listening to others’ stories or connecting the dots from smaller stories to form grand narratives. I like to stick it in a cocktail shaker with design where it has the power to inform social innovation and create social impact…"

If you would be interested in sharing your observations, field work and insights as a part of a design process please contact me on twitter @aolmos. Would love to hear from you!