A look at microinteractions by Carlie Guilfoile

For my first studio project, I was tasked with designing a control for a laundromat that has a distinct input and associated outcome. After observing users at LaundryTime in my neighborhood and asking students about their experiences doing laundry outside of their home, I became interested in how customers selected detergent from the onsite vending machine.

Microinteractions are the functional, interactive details of a product, and details, as Charles Eames famously said, aren’t just the details; they are the design. Details can make engaging with the product easier, more pleasurable—even if we don’t consciously remember them. Some microinteractions are practically or literally invisible, and few are the reason that you buy a product; instead, they are usually pieces of features, or the supporting or so-called “hygiene” functionality.
— Dan Saffer


To develop my solution, I observed users at a local laundromat and conducted user interviews. I also made an inventory of interactions that take place at the laundromat. In this inventory of interactions, I focused on: user goals, conceptual models, affordances, constraints, mapping, signifiers, and feedback. 


After deciding on a control for the detergent machine, I took to doing more sketches of possible designs before prototyping the physical form. I came up with a handful of ideas that were guided by the following design principles:

  1. Discoverability: Using affordances to discover what actions are possible
  2. Use the overlooked: Convey the most with the least.
  3. Delight: Give the user pleasure while discovering your control.


My final solution encompasses a new control that enables users to smell the laundry detergent options before they select one for purchase. This control was laser cut and designed to be integrated into the existing vending machine and accessed through a simple push & drag motion of the finger.

A Focus on Detail

I used acrylic because it gives a very clean feel, exactly what these users are looking for at the laundromat. When thinking about the act of smelling, I brainstormed ways I could add subtle details to my design that would delight the user and also use the overlooked. I decided that the holes should make a pattern that reflected the smell of detergent inside. I thought this would not only bring some pleasure to the user but also help them make connections between smells and detergent types. I used the laser cutter in the 3D Lab to cut my materials before beginning the construction process.  

Control Materials: Acrylic Sheets, Acrylic rod, Double-sided tape, Acrylic Adhesive, Foam Core, Cardboard, Construction paper, Foam balls



Creating a conversational user interface via DialogFlow by Carlie Guilfoile

The first assignment in my IxD prototyping class was to build a conversational user interface using Dialogflow. We started by developing digital task flows and getting familiar with the software. Next, we built out the entities and intents for one specific task flow. I really liked playing with the "small talk" feature, which makes that bot feel more human. It was also interesting to see machine learning at work. The more I interacted with my bot, the more it understood what I wanted...even if I made a verbal mistake. 

Conversational interactions have emerged to allow us to keep our hands free so we can do more than one thing at once. We can initiate a call while we’re driving without touching our phone, order items for a party next week while we’re cooking dinner, or add an event to our calendar while we’re getting ready in the morning.


Hungry? Order with your friendly pizza chatbot. 

Ordering Pizza from Pizza Hut.png

Analyzing music as a service by Carlie Guilfoile

In Molly's Service Design class, I've been working with Zahin and Lily on a music service research project. We were assigned SOUNDMACHINE, a cloud based music service for businesses, and were given a week to research and present our findings. Together, we dug into the company's business model, stakeholders and licensing agreements with artists. We also developed value flows and a service blueprint to illustrate the oft-unseen complexity of music licensing.

What is interesting about SOUNDMACHINE is that they are helping bridge that value gap between artists' compensation and music usage by businesses. The company faces a lot of competition, especially with companies like Spotify Business who have a much larger loyalty base and more sophisticated design + ux. That said, they have an opportunity to generate broad awareness of music licensing policies to small to medium-size businesses and offer a lower price point than competitors. 

Next project, we will be designing our own unique music services. As subscription models and custom playlists (like Spotify offers) takeover the music market, it will be interesting to analyze just how the music experience has changed since the height of CDs and even, iTunes. How might we design a music service that captures a unique audience and is also structured to benefit the artists?  

Thinking Young: A Design Thinking Manual by Carlie Guilfoile

Hi friends, I want to share the design thinking manual I created last semester called: Thinking Young. This was a project I toiled with for weeks, wondering if (in the time that I had) it would come together in the way I imagined. In the end, I was really proud of the final product. By writing this manual, I learned and internalized new methods to get "unstuck" and spur creativity. I also integrated theory from the greats who've come before me, including: Buchanan, Dorst, Brown, Lawson & Cross and Thackara. I was inspired by kids, who are some of the most creative beings among us. At their best, they are endless questioners who are unafraid and unabashed when trying something new. As design thinkers, those are all characteristics we should strive to adopt when problem solving. 

You can download the full PDF of Thinking Young here.  

Different people think about creativity in different ways. The same holds true for design thinking. Over the last few decades, dozens of designers, managers, entrepreneurs, scientists, architects and engineers have weighed in with their definition of design thinking. Some believe it is a designated process for problem solving while others think it’s a physical process of making things. It’s said to be a tool-kit, a never ending loop and a step-by-step intervention. Through my education on this subject, I have learned there is no sweeping definition or cure-all for creativity. Everyone has their own approach and each one of them hold value. 

I believe design thinking is a practice that helps you break assumptions, reframe your approach and create new meaning in the process. Only by stepping away from what you know to be true, can you begin to explore new possibilities and unmarked boundaries. There is no one that does this better than the un-knowing hooligans themselves: kids. 

This visually-infused guide explores ways for readers to see the world differently by thinking young. Through stories, creative insights, interactive activities and a bit of design theory, readers can discover the inner workings of the creative practice. The eight articles within this guide are organized by category, but can be read in whatever order you prefer. Upon completion of the manual, readers will better understand design thinking and how to apply it in everyday life.

This guide is not a call to forget who you are today or trade in your maturity. The real magic happens when you can combine your current experience with a fresh, curious way of thinking about the world. 

Enjoy and embrace thinking young. 
— Thinking Young Author's Note

10 reasons why design is like yoga by Carlie Guilfoile

Last semester, in Bruce Hanington's Design Principles & Practices class, we were asked to reflect on our own experiences over the first semester and present a summary of what it means to engage in design. At the time, I was working on at least three different final projects and often stopped to tell myself "Breathe, Carlie. You got this." When it came time to develop my summary, I started thinking about all of the challenging and clarifying moments I experienced throughout the semester. I thought about the balance needed to be a good designer – and the importance of doing, thinking and reflecting on repeat. I also thought about the always-evolving state of design and the people doing it. As I was writing down these thoughts, I realized that the practice of design was not that different from my practice of yoga. Among many things, I always had to remember to breathe.

Here are 10 reasons why design is like yoga. 

Using design to spark conversation about homelessness by Carlie Guilfoile


How do we forge meaningful conversations with the people around us? That is the question we asked ourselves this past semester in Designing Civic Conversations, an elective taught by Design PHD Michael Arnold Mages. Intimate and discussion-centered, the class of seven was made up of public policy and design grads eager to learn how community outreach and engagement can impact local policy.

Our class was given a specific focus: homelessness in the Pittsburgh region. We were tasked with designing a public event that would engage community members and stakeholders around the issue. Early on in class discussions, we asked: As non-experts, how can we change the public’s perception of people experiencing homelessness? Can we spark conversations outside our event and catalyze citizens to take action? Through research, planning and the creative process, we brought our ideas to life.


Homelessness is any city is a complex issue. You have people with powerful stories living on the street, nonprofits and government organizations offering services with limited budgets, city officials making housing policies and dozens of other influencing factors shaping the wicked web. In order to engage our community around homelessness, we found it essential to generate empathy for people living without shelter, through both visual and physical storytelling. Designed as the first event in a series, we sought to share stories from the homeless and encourage people to reframe their biases. To do this, we organized a “Humans of New York” style micro-exhibit and journeying card game called Carrying Homelessness.


We started the semester by creating stakeholder maps that helped us understand the actors, effects and needs of people experiencing homelessness. Through weekly readings, we also learned the value of placemaking, the challenge of addressing wicked problems and communicating effectively. Design theorists, Rittel and Webber explain that the real wicked problem in society is defining the problem itself. For example, most of us identify problems and muster solutions that aligns with our worldview and mental models. It’s not that this is wrong, it’s that there are many possible problems and solutions in a complex society. With this in mind, we made it a point to connect with experienced stakeholders, including Pittsburgh city officials, housing service providers, grassroots organizers and individuals experiencing homelessness in the Pittsburgh community.

Design & Testing


After conducting research and developing event proposals, we integrated the best ideas to create an interactive event: Carrying Homelessness. The event entailed a journeying card game and micro-exhibit that targeted college students. The goal was to break the stigma around people experiencing homelessness and generate more empathy by sharing stories. We spent several class periods testing the journeying card game with students and teachers.


I led the design of the card game. It was developed to be an interactive activity simulating the homelessness experience in Pittsburgh. Through user-testing and input from my class, I determined that attendees would be given playing cards that guide them through the exhibit and unhinge a set of life choices determining their level of housing insecurity. The activity would demonstrate how health, money, and personal relationships combine with social inequality to shape the journey of homelessness.

In addition to the card game, we spoke with people in the homelessness community to learn about the things they carry with them when living on the streets or in a shelter. With these powerful vignettes, we developed posters to share their stories to the Pittsburgh community.

Carrying Homelessness: The Event

We held the event in Schenley Plaza, a public space often used by people in the homeless community. It was a cold day, but we had hot coffee for passerbyers and large posters visible to the sidewalk. The posters brought in students walking to and from class, interested in a quick look at the images and narratives told by people experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh. Families, professors and leisurely students were also eager to test the journeying game and provided feedback about their experience. As designers, we are taught that a project is never finished, so the event was a valuable way to collect feedback on the experience. Here are a few things we heard:


-Empathy was the clear theme. People said it was a good idea and a fun game that made them think about their own relationships and health challenges.

-Excellent way to practice empathy in a really short period of time

-People wanted more conversation about their cards, more reflection points

Carrying Homelessness was a success. The event attracted more than two dozen University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon students and staff, as well as community members. As a class, we learned how to plan and facilitate a public event that used visual and experiential storytelling to generate conversations among community members. By carrying out a series of events with local stakeholders, these types of one-on-one conversations can generate buzz, catching the attention of city and county officials. Although we had a limited amount of time to dedicate to the project, we hope people continue discussing their experience to friends and use empathy to bridge communities across Pittsburgh.

Book Review: Designing for People by Carlie Guilfoile

Rightfully Celebrated, Dreyfuss’s Classic Memoir is a Designer’s North Star


Henry Dreyfuss designed some of the most iconic products of twentieth century America, from the Hoover 150 vacuum to the Honeywell circular thermostat. His first book, Designing for People, gives readers a chance to peer into the looking glass of early industrial design and in doing so, trace the origins of consumer products today.

Designing for People was originally published in 1955 by New York-based Allworth Press, a boutique publishing house dedicated to providing accessible information to creative communities. This work-memoir delicately explores Dreyfuss’s philosophy as an industrial designer and offers a practical look at the multifaceted value he can provide business.

This is the first of three books written by Dreyfuss, which together established him as a pioneer of the user-centered approach to design, and a predecessor to ergonomics, anthropometrics and human factors. It’s not surprising that the celebrated memoir was re-published in 1967 and 2003, and continues to be widely-read and referenced across design practices today.

Dreyfuss begins the book by sharing his early professional background as a Broadway set designer, where he was first trained to understand “what people like.” He goes on to summarize the rise of industrial design in practice, focusing in greatest detail on the twentieth century, which was largely influenced by the rise of mass production and consumerism. He refers to industrial design as the “unseen hand” that has been reshaping everything from the home and workplace, to the factory.

He spends the next chapter introducing Joe and Josephine, the average American male and female, as the cornerstones of his work. He continues to mention Joe and Josephine throughout the book (he also illustrates them inside the front cover), consistently bringing his purpose back to serving people’s physical and cognitive needs.

The products we design are going to be ridden in, sat upon, looked at, talked into, activated, operated, or in some way used by people individually or en masse. If the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed. If, on the other hand, people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient-or just plain happier-the industrial designer has succeeded.
— Henry Dreyfuss

Ever the guide, Dreyfuss goes on to discuss his modus operandi (work habits), who he usually works with during the design process, how he tests his work and even evaluates appropriate payment methods. In one notable section, Dreyfuss directly corrects the misconception that an industrial designer is competing for an engineer’s job. He reveals that designers are most deeply involved with engineers during the design process and that they are “the industrial designer’s best friend and severest critic.” With this, he expounds on another challenge for designers today: how to carve out unique and valuable roles within the corporate world. Throughout the book, Dreyfuss weaves in case studies with clients like Bell, Hoover, Honeywell and Lockheed. To my amazement, these projects are still widely recognized as standards in design.

Designing for people.JPG

The physical design of Dreyfuss’s book has the same descriptive, conversational and educational tone as the content within. He includes red-inked sketches in the outer page margins that help illustrate concepts and bring stories to life. They are playful visual elements that I noticed myself examining fairly often. A few of the chapters include black and white photos that more literally showcase examples of Dreyfuss’s work across industries. The 2003 hardcover version that I read includes a foreword from author, Tom Peters and a preface from Design Management Institute President, Earl Powell. They both honor Dreyfuss as a pioneer, giving him credit for founding the industrial design profession and educating managers and businesses around the globe.

As a novice designer who has tried, and often failed, to explain my field of study, I readily concede that Dreyfuss tackles this challenge with ease. Instead of proving his comprehension of the field through exhaustive definitions, he provides relatable and timeless examples of his work. His conversational tone and sporadic wit masterfully aids in this feat. Noticeably, there is just one instance in the book in which Dreyfuss offers an explicit definition to industrial design, quoting writer Gilbert Seldes: “Industrial design is the application of taste and logic to the products of machinery.” Dreyfuss also makes a few predictions that are harbingers of the innovation taking place across industries today. My favorite examples are when he talks about “selling a service” and predicts that “cars may one day be equipped with a radar device.” If that’s not foresight, I don’t know what is!  

However, certain aspects of Dreyfuss’s legacy stand out for their blindness in hindsight.  Dreyfuss lacked appropriate appreciation for environmental concerns around mass production, which has perhaps only recently become en vogue. In the 1967 version of his book, he added a reappraisal that addressed his 1955 predictions around consumer trends. To me, this was a blatant missed opportunity to include sustainability concerns. Rather, Dreyfuss’s goal to design products “that reach as many people as possible” is a practice which has contributed to the throw-away culture of today. Another cringe-worthy aspect of Dreyfuss’s work is his outdated depiction of women. Throughout the book, he portrays women as the simple homemakers and men as business-minded. Again, while this may have been a widely accepted belief in the 1950s and 1960s, it’s a narrow-minded view of society today.

Despite these shortcomings, Henry Dreyfuss’s book is the north star for all who seek to better understand what makes good design. The jargon-free read is not only a classic in the industrial design community, but also an accessible gateway book for beginners. As a design student, I couldn’t have picked a better time to read Designing for People and I can’t help but wonder what iconic products Dreyfuss would be designing today.

A first attempt at explaining design by Carlie Guilfoile

What Is Design?

This is the burning question that even seasoned designers have a tough time answering.

I know this because I spoke to dozens of them while researching graduate schools. When I asked designers how they explained their profession to their mom or brother, they usually laughed and admitted it was tough. "Design is a lot of different things", they'd assert, before concluding, “it has to do with the process."

Ever since I started telling people about my plan to attend graduate school, I've taken a stab at answering the question myself. Over the past six months, I have found that regardless of whether I am speaking with friends, family or colleagues, the initial dialogue around design usually goes something like this:

Me: Yeah, so I'm going back to school for design.
Other Person: Oh cool! What kind of design?
Me: Interaction design.
Other Person: Cool! So...what exactly is interaction design?
Me: Well, it's focused on designing human-centered services and products.
Other Person: Hmm…what exactly does that mean?
Me: Great question. Rather than focusing solely on graphic or visual design, we’ll be designing things that people can interact with – and we’ll also be doing a lot of systems problem solving using the design process.

I've had this conversation more than two dozen times and I get a lot of squinted eyes and slow nods. It didn’t take me long to realize that Design is not an easy field to make sense of over a casual conversation.


Design is everything! It’s the phone you use, the steering wheel in your car, the organizational structure of your workplace and the service you receive at the bank. Design is not just aesthetics. It’s a method for solving problems.

This simple, yet significant realization, has led me to constantly question what design means today and how I can best talk about it. Luckily, Carnegie Mellon’s Design School is a perfect place to get started on such a quest.

Slap a Definition On It

Carnegie Mellon’s curriculum prepares students to enter a variety of design-related disciplines. That said, the graduate school focuses on Interaction Design, giving students “reliable methods to cultivate insights into interactions among people, the built world, and the environment.”

  Source: Carnegie Mellon School of Design

Source: Carnegie Mellon School of Design

Interaction Design sits under the larger umbrella of Experience Design, which addresses the associations and behaviors people develop in response to a product or physical service. This involves studying the psychology of people and considering their broader needs, wants and emotions.

Interaction Design, according to designer and writer Ellen Lupton, “looks beyond the controls for operating a device to broader actions and relationships. It includes the design of screen-based experiences, including websites and mobile apps, interactive products, including physical objects with integrated software, and services, which might include engagements between a company and customers.”

Design in Context

When do you really comprehend something? When someone explains it to you in your own language – as it relates to your own experience. The same is true when talking about design. Concrete examples are key.  

For policy nerds, I've talked about how service designers are changing the way rural veterans experience the Veterans Affairs (VA) department and the outpatient experience. I’ve also explained how communication designers helped build recognizable brands and simplify complex policy topics on campaigns, such as Hillary for President.

With techies, I often mention the growing "experience economy" and how user-experience (UX) designers at companies like Lyft are reshaping urban transportation through brand differentition and the development of completely new user experiences via autonomous vehicles.

Most people are familiar with the ultimate experience-driven company, Airbnb. Founded by industrial designers, Airbnb has thrived by making people from all over the world feel like locals. In late 2016, the company launched a new service called Experiences, further enhancing local connections for travelers in their chosen destination.

At Face Value

The way I think and talk about Interaction Design is constantly changing. That’s okay because my experiences and environment is changing too. Let us consider this blog my first formal attempt to deconstruct design and explain it at face value.

At twenty-eight, I am lucky to have found the type of work that gets me really excited. Design is powerful – and it’s rapidly changing, adapting and spreading across disciplines. I hope this blog will help me reflect on my own journey at CMU, while also sparking a broader conversation about design with friends, family and anyone curious about the field. 

I'm doing it, ya'll by Carlie Guilfoile

This past year has been huge for me. 

I have made a number of changes in my work and personal life. As the title of this post alludes, I accomplished a few things, too! I am excited to ice the cake with the launch of this blog, a place where I can share more personal stories, life tidbits and creative updates with you.

Why start a blog at 28? Well, I am embarking on a new chapter. This August, I am ecstatic to be attending Carnegie Mellon's Graduate School of Design!  

It has been over a year since I left my job at Antenna to explore the possibility of going back to school. At the time, I was almost certain I wanted to get an MBA. I already had a foot in the door. I was working in marketing, understood the needs of B2B companies and had experience generating new business. That said, as I explored business schools and began preparing application essays, listing out my greatest strengths and biggest drivers, I realized my life-long passion was elsewhere - in design. As a high school senior, I had chosen Virginia Tech because they had the best interior design & architecture program. I didn't end up pursuing that path, but reflecting on some of the decisions I made a decade ago helped make it clear that design school was my perfect fit.

My heart is in the work.
— Andrew Carnegie

Getting here wasn't easy though. In the last year, I quit my job, spent months studying for the GRE, took the test twice, created a design portfolio from scratch (you're looking at it!), started working as a communications consultant, applied to four grad schools and trained as an Organizing for Action Digital Fellow. I turned my unpaid gigs into opportunities to learn new skills, eventually helping me land a role leading digital strategy for a San Francisco Board of Education race at the end of 2016. In lieu of a full-time job, I worked on a passion project in my home town and eventually jumped back into PR & marketing, where I became a manager of three people. After all that, I got the news that I'd been accepted into grad school.

Not easy. I felt a lot of instability, self-doubt and loneliness at times – but there were a surprising number of things that fell into place when I put myself out there. It's been a real reminder that I am my best self when I take big risks.  

I will write more about my experience, both discovering the design world and applying to design schools, for those interested in learning more. Carnegie Mellon's program focuses on interaction design and the curriculum dives into design strategy, experience design (for interfaces/products), service design and designing for social innovation. My hope is that I can leverage my knowledge of the clean tech industry and experience in digital organizing & communication to design services that matter and, ultimately, bring communities together. 

I'll be road-tripping from San Francisco to Pittsburgh next month and school starts on the 25th. I'm doing it ya'll!

 - carliekarma