Target Audience

We took a good look at all the wonderful #BikeNYC portraits by Dmitry Gudkov. Then we tried to guess who is likely to use our product. This is plainly based on this one small paper version of a portrait photo, silly stereotyping, and us imagining what kind of person this possibly could be. We even made up stories of some in order to place them right on our sliding scale. “Would this person have a smart phone?”, “Does this person even care about tracking?”, “Is this person too hip, too old, too busy, too …?”. It’s far from scientific, but it definitely helped us thinking of who will be key users of the Paint Your City platform.

By the way, this is true for all the photos except one, as we actually met the amazing Julie (blogger and commuter on a Linus) on the Tour de Taco last year. You might notice that we secretly hope she will be painting her city from her bike :) Click on the image below to see all portraits placed on the axis of most to least likely to use our service.

Brand Landscape

Through using Gimmebar, we have collectively captured a bunch of brands that are either competitors, we want to be similar too, or that we believe influence current bikers, potential bikers and so on. We also added some pure visual inspiration. We went after keywords like fitness, tracking, environment, bikes, transportation, social, lifestyle, nostalgia. When laying the cut-outs out on a table, we tried several different axes for structuring. In the end we were happy with the lifestyle vs. fitness axis, but the other yellow stickies became more like their own little islands, than a continuum.

Either way, we agreed that we are definitely closer to the lifestyle than the fitness space, that our brand should be somewhat creative and “designy”. It should be a Vimeo rather than a YouTube. It will appeal to creatives, but not be over the top hipstery, as we do not want to alienate the masses.

Our brand should feel informational (Feltron-style), though our target audience will not be athletes with $10,000 bikes that care about all kinds of very accurate, detailed data about their rides from a fitness perspective (heart rate, cadence etc).

We believe our target audience could be riding quite a lot of different bike types (road bikes, fixies, cruisers), but think that our brand very well could adapt the clean style of the Abici or the Public bikes. We hope to attract even the people that care about the stylish, old-style Pashleys or Gazelles with fancy baskets, leather saddle and all that, but we don’t dare to go in a too romantic, nostalgic direction with the brand.

Finally, we are flirting with the idea of an open source platform, which in itself will inform how the brand is perceived and how it appeals to more “geeky” audiences. We have not reached a decision on this yet, as we’re still researching various ways to go about when building the platform.

Our Bike Manifesto

Once upon a time, far from now, bicycles were a novelty. Claimed as a gift of science to man, these human-powered machines charmed the adventurous. At the turn of the 20th century, men strapped on their suits and women pulled up their bloomers to ride. These vehicles transformed one’s puny strength into something greater—mankind finally found its’ superpowers, and women in particular found their freedom machines. The bicycle saddle became a lot of people’s primary seat for getting from the suburbs to the inner city to do work.

Today, for some people riding a bike from the suburb to the city center is plain out impossible. Today, American cities are built for the automobile. The concrete streets and interstates that link neighborhoods have, in many cases, caused unsustainable and lousy living. Today, we are so much ingrained in the car culture; it’s hard to imagine having it any other way.

Thank goodness, New York City is different. New Yorkers heavily rely on public transportation and their own two feet to get around. Thanks to the efforts of Janette Sadik-Khan, our city increasingly becomes more bike-able. As Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, she has been painting New York with beautiful green bike lanes since 2007.

We are determined to help Sadik-Khan paint our city. Well. Not literally with green paint all over our hands. However, we are head over heels dedicated to get more people riding on the streets. Instead of using paint, we are giving New Yorkers a color to track their rides on a map. Seeing your own bike rides on a map reveals your bike habits. Seeing your friends bike rides on that map, makes you want to beat them. Or join them. You decide. Either way, you’ll be surprised by how far you can go, as well as inspired by all the places you have yet to conquer.

We’ve heard all the excuses. Seriously, all of them:

“I don’t want to give up my morning bagel routine.”
“I have to wear a suit to work.”
“I don’t want to mess up my hair.”
“It’s so much effort to pack gear everyday.”
“I don’t have room in my apartment for a bike.”
“My bike is so nice, I don’t want it to get stolen in the city.”
“Manhattan terrifies me!”

Honestly, we don’t disagree with any of them. Getting in to the habit of biking is hard at first. We know, we’ve been there.

“Can I really do this?” This was the question we first asked ourselves. We were open to it, curious and felt a little challenged by it. Or a lot. It is this very curiosity that will lead you to discover your human superpowers–just like the men in suits and women in bloomers at the turn of the 20th century. Once you just try it out, we can assure you that you’ll never regret a ride.

Your rides have a color, they record your personal story, but they are also a voice in the grander scheme of biking. You and only you own your data. However, by sharing your rides anonymously, you will along with the entire bike community have the power to make New York City more bike-friendly.

Bikeable Cities

I got two books for Christmas. One was about the art of flirting, and it was from my mother. Needless to say, any other book would make me happier. The other book wasn’t just any other, though. It was Bicycle Diaries. Artist and musician David Byrne (from Talking Heads) writes about his love for biking, and how his folding bike has become his favorite way to get around in new cities all over the world.

This point of view–faster than a walk, slower than a train, often slightly higher than a person–became my panoramic window on much of the world over the last thirty years–and it still is.

His descriptions and perspectives on architecture, urban design, politics, culture and art in the cities he visits are all a true joy to read.

Our values and hopes are sometimes awfully embarrassingly easy to read. [...] “This is what we think matters, this is how we live and how we play.” Riding a bike through all this is like navigating the collective neural pathways of some vast global mind.

As a European who was new to the US a couple of years ago, and still haven’t been traveling that much around in this country, it disturbs me to read reports about all these American cities that are planned and laid out as if human beings’ only way of getting around should be by car. In most cities across America it is simply way too dangerous to get from point A to B unless you are within the four walls of a moving vehicle. You actually have to get into a car to visit a different part of town, as different neighborhoods are framed in by freeways.

In most of these cities one could say that the machines have won. [...] I try to explore some of these towns–Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, Atlanta–by bike, and it’s frustrating. The various parts of town are often “connected”–if one can call it that–mainly by freeways, massive awe-inspiring concrete ribbons that usually kill the neighborhoods they pass through, and often the ones they are supposed to connect as well.

That you are forced into a car to get around is just as true for American suburbia. I remember being in some cute little NJ town with a friend of mine. We were supposed to go to the grocery store to pick up some food for the Sunday dinner.

Me: How far is it?

Him: Only 5 minutes.

Me: So let’s walk then?

Him: Uhm, I meant 5 minutes by car.

Me: But if it’s 5 minutes by car, it surely can’t be more than like a 20 minute walk?

Him: Well, there’s no way to get there on foot. We have to cross this highway, so… I wouldn’t do that.

This is so frightening, upsetting and sad. Or as Byrne says, “it’s long-term unsustainable and short-term lousy living.” Somebody please do something! I’m unfortunately too busy getting together this Paint Your City thesis celebration of biking right now. In the meantime, I’m so grateful that NYC Department of Transportation acknowledges walkers and bikers as well as cars in their transportation plans. Thanks to DOT and Transportation Alternatives, it gets easier and easier to get around by bike. There are more bike commuters than ever, and only the recent snowfall is making my daily bike rides less likely to happen. But for a delicious Sunday brunch, I can do anything!

Is it a bike day?

Know the very moment that your friends get on their bikes. If your friends are doing it, obviously you can. Prove it. Skip the morning bagel. Try something new. Be the first one to be on your bike.

Track your rides with your phone to color your city with beautiful patterns.

Be encouraged by your own bike efforts and compare with your friends. Make them jealous for that matter. Go ahead, show off. Tweet, share, like on Facebook. Tell everyone! We’ll even help you print a poster to hang on your wall!

Share your data anonymously and help paint the whole picture of what is happening on NYC streets.

Try new places, new streets, new things on your bike!

Ridership Statistics

The Department of Transportation has gathered some interesting stats on New Yorkers’ bike habits. The Commuter Cycling Indicator shows a 8% increase between 2010 and 2011, and that commuter cycling more than doubled from 2007 to 2011, in just 4 years. Check out more interesting stats on ridership, and how it has developed at the different typical commuter locations (the bridges, the Hudson River Greenway etc) in this pdf: NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator.

The Joy of Biking

We presented our public interfaces project last week. We talked about the social tracking platform we want to make for thesis, as well as one potential game challenge that could be hosted in workplaces. The offices would be able to order small game kits, get excited about a 2 week bike challenge, and cheer each other on to try to win over other companies as well as try to beat their co-workers internally. We had fun through making felt icons, posters and game rule books, and the presentation went very well. Yes, there were some changes to be made, but no matter people understood that we love biking, that we want it to spread, and that we believe in spreading it through emphasizing the joy of biking rather than calories burnt or environment saved. Some people even said GO MAKE THE THING! Yay.

Then something broke. Not sure exactly why or how. We went back to the drawing board. We put post-its on the wall and stared at them for 12 hours. We put post-it on cafe tables, and got more frustrated than ever. I felt we were back to where we were at a few months ago – throwing potential features up on the wall.

But this time we did the brainstorm without any joy or playfulness, and we presented some slides we were not even sure we believed in for our thesis work group final presentation. And that’s where we’re at. After having had the most wonderful and eventful semester at SVA IxD so far, we’re all of a sudden confused, clueless and burnt out. It sucks being there when Winter break is upon us.

We still know we want to get people to bike more. We still believe we can do it through playfulness and fun. And we believe in the power of delightful interaction design. But will there be a talking helmet? Or a device to plug on to the helmet? Will it have speakers, mic, a button? What is the button for? Can you add voice notes while biking? Can you add text notes when done biking? Can you hear notes when biking, or is that distracting and dangerous? Can you share your notes with others, or is it a private thing? What is the social in the social tracking platform? What would you share with everyone, what would you share with friends, and what would you keep to yourself (twitter vs. diary)? Can we rely on tracking alone–as long as our communication of the gathered data is different than the fitness-focused competitors like RunKeeper and Strava? Can the added flavor to the platform be through various challenges, rather than in the everyday experience?

Maybe we just need a long break. Judging by the content in this blog, and the amounts of content that didn’t even make it in here, cause we’ve been to busy, I think we actually do deserve it! Happy Holidays to whoever made it this far down a page filled with frustration :)

Design brief

Who should be in the initial meeting?

The founders: Carrie Stiens and Kristin Breivik.
CTO, CFO, Visual Design Lead

An executive summary of the project goals

The vision for the project overall is to create a social tracking platform with game challenges to motivate people to ride their bikes for transportation. Thesis will be our phase 1. Our goal toward the end of thesis is to get funding for the project so that we can build it.

Phase 1:
Design of website, app and physical helmet
Prototyping and Testing

How will we make money off of this thing?

The basic features of Paint Your City are free to all users. These include the ability to track, bookmark places and participate in game challenges. Users are able to view their data for the previous month to the current date and can bookmark up to 15 places. Involvement in game challenges is unlimited.

Our primary source of revenue will come through premium subscriptions. The subscription gives users access to their data for the previous 3 years to the current date, allows users to bookmark an unlimited amount of places, and allows users to receive secret tips about the places bookmarked by other users of the platform.

Our secondary source of revenue is through product sales. This includes the helmet, game kits and visualization posters.

Background and key findings from user interviews, personas and scenario, demographics and psychographics

Our audience are New Yorkers with under-utilized bikes. They fall under three categories:

Leisure rider
“I ride my bike around my neighborhood and outside the city, but it’s not really a transportation mode for me”
Our goal for this group is to get people that don’t bike to bike.

Casual commuter
“I ride around my neighborhood and to work occasionally. It’s a secondary mode of transportation.”
“I used to ride my bike, but recently have become lazy about it. I’d like to get into it again.”
Our goal for this group is to get casual riders to ride more and to commute.

Committed commuter
“I ride my bike to work everyday. It’s my primary mode of transportation.”
Our goal for this group is to bikers excited about the in-ride experience and to spread the bike love.

Findings from competitive research, positioning, ways to differentiate

As data tracking will be the core of the platform, there are a lot of products out there with similar features; RunKeeper, Nike+, Jawbone’s UP and FitBit are all collecting data and creating visualizations. Paint Your City will be different as we are more focused on the joy of getting around the city on a bike, than on staying healthy and burning calories. That you burn calories is a nice side effect, but you will use Paint Your City mainly to be a part of a bike movement, to share beautiful visual bike stories through your data tracking, and to discover and share secrets about your city. Cause you don’t bike for exercise – you bike to get around.

Other sources for inspiration: Weight Watchers, tour guides, scavenger hunts, games, Tour de France, Daytum, Yelp, Google Places, sports tournaments, Tamagotchi, Cabspotting, Nokia Vine and Chromaroma. Paint Your City will not have any of these services/products as direct competition, but can definitely look to them to include certain elements (game mechanics, city bookmarking, storytelling through data, motivation, personality).

Timeline, budget, milestones

December 2011:
Synthesize research
Concepting one potential game challenge
Winter break:
Deciding on advisors
Read books on motivation, community building, gaming, html/css/javascript
Research ways to build extensive HTML/CSS prototypes
Moodboarding. Gather visual appealing material, tone of voice etc.
January 2012:
Prototyping and qualitative research on bookmarking feature
Testing game mechanics
Wireframing website (information architecture and interaction design)
Wireframing app
Processing explorations(?)
Visual design
Front-end development
Create video pitch
Kickstarter campaign – so we can build this thing
Create presentation
Practice performance
Present thesis product pitch

Single statement which clarifies product’s purpose, what it will achieve, for whom and why

Paint Your City is a social tracking platform with game challenges that motivates people to ride their bikes. It’s for city dwellers with under-utilized bikes who have a need to maintain a busy and active lifestyle and get around their city. Unlike tracking apps that are exercise-focused (Runkeeper and NikePlus), our service caters to the unique way that a biker experiences the city. In addition to tracking while riding, bikers can bookmark places and events, unlock secrets from fellow riders, be cheered on by friends, and get directions spoken to them. This narrative is visualized on a city map individually or as part of a bigger bike story.

List of personality attributes to guide the creative execution of the product

Playful, colorful, but stylish and minimal. Appeal to designers. The data visualizations and the narratives they are telling are the core of the identity.

Direction for messaging, content elements, tone

Clear, simple language. Playful and positive tone of voice. The content core is people’s routes on the map. However, in any communication with the users, be sure to encourage the users to keep riding.

Focus on the joy of biking:
- the empowering feeling
- the sense of flying
- being in charge of your own time
- being in charge of your own route
- the way biking enables you to be impulsive
- the closeness to the city – stitching the city together
- being outdoors and free
- creating a narrative through painting the city

Do not focus on how your choice impacts the environment.
Do not focus on calories, speed, heart rate, cadence.

Inventory of proposed features for the product

The proposed features include the following:

Web Platform:
Database to store rider info and data
Ability to compare rides between bikers
- sidebar widget that lets the user choose who they want to compare their rides with
Display aggregated data of neighborhoods and networks
Ability to receive data realtime and communicate who is on the road at any given time
Display bookmarked places on a map with tips about them
- roll-over states for places
Interface to view and compare data
Interface to sign up for game challenges
Interface to buy helmet and posters

GPS tracking
Bluetooth connection to the helmet
Receive commands from a helmet or earphone button
Re-programs button on from earphones to bookmark a place
Integration with Twitter and FB to notify friends when tracking starts
Interface for bookmarked places (ex: bucket list)
Interface to start and stop tracking

Game Challenges and Kits:
Three different levels of game kits available
Multiple challenge offerings (work environment, group of friends, partners)
Bike stardom poster for cheers
Text interface and system to cheer for bikers
Rotary phone installation
- ability to call to send a cheer from a rotary phone

Bluetooth connection to the phone
Button to bookmark places
Sensor to stop and start tracking
Microphone to record voice notes, or make phone calls
Speakers to receive cheers, directions, and tips about places

Visualize riders data over time
Ability for rider to choose which data to display

Rough illustrations of pages, flows, aimed at communicating concepts (not complete designs)

Cheer For A Biker

We’ve been asking ourselves how we can motivate people to bike for a loooong time now. I believe we’ve just found the solution. Just hire Dr. Wires, push him into the audio booth, and there you go! Why would we do that? To create the audio for our cheering wall in the office bike challenge we’re creating:

Below is a behind the scenes walk through of the audio for the cheering interface. Dr Wires had to run along before the photo shoot, but we’re confident that his contribution will get our contestants to hop on their two wheels!

The poster with our bike challenge contestants and their two digit phone numbers is coming along too:

A character study

We were asked to make up a character that could be in the target audience for our product. Meet Rijke De Vries Foreman:

-What is this person’s name:
Rijke De Vries Foreman – a 32 year old woman working in the Department of Finance in NYC as the Head of the Parking Violations Hearing Officers. She dealt with parking rules and violations herself before, but now she mostly deals with her employees. A passionate Amsterdam cyclist is suddenly trying to bring in cash for the city that never sleeps through adjudicating parking violations. Marrying the British diplomat, Eric Foreman, was what brought her to the city. But this particular job? Some coincidences led her into the field when she first moved to the city. Her work ethics, and her straightforward communication moved her some steps up the ladder. Her colleagues are nice, and her office is OK. She doesn’t love the job, but it allows her to jump on her bike and leave at a decent hour every day.

-What is a secret about this person that everyone knows?
When there are meetings in the office with outside guests involved, the cookie box is on the table. Rijke doesn’t ever buy candy or cookies herself. She has a hard time controlling the intake if the goods are right there in front of her, though. When excited about a subject she might talk fast and high-pitched while the chocolate chip cookie crumbs jump out of her mouth. Though her employees might find it amusing, and cute even, visitors might not, so they deliberately try to keep the box of cookies at a safe distance from her chair in the conference room.

Being cute is not a quality Rijke appreciates in herself or others. She wants to be respected by her employees and her boss because she knows how to practise law. And although she gets overly excited when the chocolate chip cookies are on the table, she is definitely respected.

-What color socks is she wearing?
Rijke has a drawer full of pantyhose, thin or thick, wool or nylon, and in various, neutral colors. No funky patterns as she feels those would give her legs a bit too much attention. Attention they don’t deserve. She’s certainly not overweight, but her thighs and calves are on the larger side. Her pantyhosed legs are typically placed in somewhat high-heeled black shoes that she keeps in her office. Comfortable shoes, though high enough so that she looks professional and gains some height. Those extra centimeters – she feels that it makes people respect her more. In reality it gives her that little confidence boost that makes her expect respect from her surroundings. Her expectations are met by most, although she’s not the kind of person that wins a room instantly. She’s grateful that her workplace appreciates hard workers. However, sometimes she wishes that there could be a little more excitement and fun in the office. She’s surrounded by serious people, and obviously, as she is most of these people’s boss, she might have something to do with that.

-What is her most prized possession?
Rijke loves her bike. When her Mom for some reason wanted to upgrade to a newer and lighter bike, she left the wonderfully heavy, black beauty for Rijke. Rijke used it, rain or shine, for 5 years while studying in Amsterdam, and she simply could not leave it behind when she moved to America.

-What’s her biggest regret?
Rijke always looks forward. She doesn’t regret her choices in life, but the hardest decision she ever had to make, was when she turned down the PhD position offered at the University of Amsterdam, to move to NYC with Eric instead. She would get to research rehabilitation and behavior change for tough criminals. There’s a big difference between that kind of behavior change, and the silly parking violations she deals with now. Most drivers get tickets because the rules are too confusing, or because there’s simply not enough parking spaces available for all those cars. But if all New Yorkers just sold their cars and started biking, the problem would be solved!