Freelancer Q&A: NASA Smartwatch App Winners Share Strategy

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The latest NASA challenge on just concluded. The contest, which called for smartwatch app interface design for astronauts, was won by two colleagues from Canada -- Ignacio Calvo and Jocelyn Richard. With a US$1,500 prize up for grabs, 156 freelancers participated and submitted 237 entries.

Ignacio, a UX designer, found the contest through a tech news site, and he asked Jocelyn, a fellow UX designer, to design the app with him. The two are passionate about space exploration and were looking for a side project to practice new tools and ideas to add to their portfolio. Motivated by the challenge, the two jumped in.

What were your ideas/inspirations for the project?

Ignacio: We are both pretty passionate about NASA's work and we wanted to create something that would be up to the task at hand. We got a lot of inspiration from official graphic work (mission badges, Danne & Blackburns' worm logo) and from classic Sci-fi.

We tried to avoid basing our work on something too strict at the beginning and to focus on the requirements and how to structure the information. This led us to try out a few variations on a couple of concepts, such as a central hub for all content or integrating functions around a central axis. 

Freelancer Q&A: NASA Smartwatch App Winners Share Strategy - Image 1


Jocelyn: We worked from high-level design principles and applied that throughout the concept. First, we really tried to think wearables-first. We can't just shrink a smartphone concept into a smaller screen; instead, we have to design for a very small screen. We set up a minimum tap target size and never went below during the whole project.

Another key point was that in our heads, the ISS crew member's main activities would still be carried through computers and on-board systems, and the smartwatch is a convenient secondary tool. Thus, we decided to have flat information architecture and to avoid complex data depictions. We also had fun exploring a limited visual design language for the app, such as an elegant and highly legible typeface, colors and dividers to convey hierarchy, the shape for controls, status design, and even branding.

Freelancer Q&A: NASA Smartwatch App Winners Share Strategy - Image 2


Collaborating with each other was…?

Jocelyn: Easy!  Ignacio is a great designer and we’ve been working together for about a year now. We have a high bandwidth of communication and a great deal of respect for each other's opinions and ideas (right Ig, right?).

Ignacio: Since Jocelyn and I work together, we already knew well how the other worked. Overall, we tried to collaborate to deal with design decisions and issues and worked separately on the manual aspects of work. For this project, we used different tools than the ones we normally use at work. Jocelyn knew these tools better, so after we went over them and set our standards, we were pretty much up and running.

Freelancer Q&A: NASA Smartwatch App Winners Share Strategy - Image 3


What does it feel like to contribute to NASA's goals?

Ignacio: I know that NASA's crowdsourcing effort is still new, but I'm hoping it continues. It's a great way to open up the ongoing efforts to a larger public.  I'm personally very proud of what we accomplished and would be really happy to be able to follow the project's next steps.

Freelancer Q&A: NASA Smartwatch App Winners Share Strategy - Image 4


Jocelyn: Winning seems both incredible and rewarding; I’m really, really happy if our concept helps NASA in its great endeavors. To be honest, I’d like to keep working on the app -- go past the concept stage and fully flesh it out, prototype it to research and iterate with users, driving it from a nice idea to a real, efficient tool!

How has helped you with your goals?

Jocelyn: The primary functionality of the site works pretty well -- from joining projects and communicating with the client. The big countdown on the contest page was certainly helpful and motivating!

Ignacio: I enjoyed the overall communication on Freelancer, both contest-wide and with the client. The site is well structured and provides clear contexts when engaging in discussions. The countdown was also really useful and important. It removed a lot of questions/worries and how long we had. In general, the onboarding process is good and the handover process was clear.

Dipaparkan 16 Oktober, 2015

Nikki Hernandez

Wired and Inspired | Content Coordinator,

I'm the coordinator of Freelancer's Case Study Program. I write inspirational success stories of employers and freelancers. When not busy writing, I play video games.

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