Our goal is to create a personalized device that will assist an individual in some aspect of their life. In pursuit of this goal, we (Karen and Ian) first needed to learn more about the person we’re designing for, Elinor. Since Elinor was out of town the past week, we had a quick phone call to introduce ourselves and the project briefly before our in-person meeting. We drove out to the suburbs of Wexford, PA, on Friday, March 29th to meet with Elinor at her house, learn more about her life + daily routine, and get to know what type of device might be helpful for her. When we met in person, we focused on seeing her house and environment, as well as learning more details about her lifestyle.

Meeting agenda

Since we met with Elinor first on the phone and then in-person, we planned on learning more basic information about her first, such as:

Handwritten notes before interview

After our phone call, we were able to get a sense of her personality and a quick rundown of her daily lifestyle. We were still left with some questions about her hobbies, interests, and what types of issues she might encounter on a daily basis, so we were looking forward to seeing her face-to-face. Before going to her house, we came up with some basic ideas that we wanted to ask her about:

Scanned notes before meeting

For our interview with her, we loosely planned an agenda on our way to her house and wanted to structure our meeting something like this, although we planned on adapting our questions based on any new information we learned or if anything came up that we wanted to address.

  • Introduce ourselves and our objective through this project
  • Ask about her participation in OSHER classes and some more information about classes she has taken
  • A tour of her house and ask her about how she spends her time at home
  • Ask her to tell us about her daily routine and hobbies
  • Ask about her electronic devices and how she might organise her schedule
  • How does she spend her free time
  • Ask if she has any issues in her daily life that she might want help with
  • Ask her about some ideas that we had after our phone interview, such as mindfulness
  • Wrap up, take any photos if needed, say thank you

Photo of the three of us, courtesy of Elinor’s daughter Ariella.

Summary + takeaways

Through our conversations with Elinor, we learned that Elinor maintains an active lifestyle and most of her time is spent organizing the lives of her three daughters and other miscellaneous errands that take up her day. Elinor also enjoys travelling, handling investments/stocks, and working with other families in college planning. She described her day-to-day lifestyle as pretty varied and dependent on matching up many different schedules and activities, so we thought that this could potentially be a space for us to explore. Although Elinor really enjoys planning and staying busy, including going to the gym regularly in the mornings, she admitted that she often doesn’t have time to herself to relax and focus on her mindfulness.

Something else that Elinor brought up was that it’s really tedious and time-consuming to organise her mail, since she receives so many different types of mail on a daily basis. Currently, her mail sits in a bag or on her desk before she finds time to go through each one by one. A system that could sort through her mail and keep track of dates when her mail was received seemed like it would be helpful to address this problem.

After going on a tour of her house we learned that her house stays pretty organised and that when Elinor is at home (which isn’t too often), she spends most of the time at her desk on the computer. She also uses an Amazon Echo to play music or do basic commands, and mentioned that integration with her device to serve as a communication device with her daughters would be helpful as well.


Prior to meeting our client, we were somewhat led to believe that they would require assistance with daily tasks due to their age. However, in our conversations with Elinor, this was clearly not the case. She is about the same age as our parents, raising daughters who are the same age (or younger) than we are. Having recently left her job as a CPA, Elinor has more time to devote to her daughters’ activities, including traveling, managing college applications, and attending extracurricular activities. One could say her energy level exceeded ours, and even conditions that people start to get in their forties (hyperopia or knee issues, esp. when going up and down stairs) she did not have. As a result, our conversation centered around her daily activities. At one point, we were talking about our experiences applying to and attending college. In that sense, it was less of an ‘interview’ with strict question-asker and question-answerer roles and more of a conversation with a friend.


Perhaps if we entered the conversation with that mindset, instead of trying to find an apparent mobility/functional area that could be solved, we could have started ideating on what the device would look like, what it would do, and how it would work, with live feedback from the client. Of course, this can still be accomplished later through email or over the phone/FaceTime, but it would have been nice to have more fleshed out project boundaries earlier in the process.


Overall, we both thought that our meeting was productive and it was really helpful to learn about Elinor in her home environment.