Read my final project deliverable: a product purpose story for The Spectrum Seal. Scroll down for process details!
At 7:59 a.m., Alexa rolls out of bed. She'd come across something amazing the previous night: her favorite blog, Monkey Cage, is on the hunt for article submissions. Alexa sits at her computer and begins typing: JSTOR.com. She already has a topic in mind: surveillance laws. Now she needs some reliable sources.
Alexa has used JSTOR before, but never for something this...official. As she inspects the references of a potential source article, she notices a pattern in the surnames. Curious, Alexa googles each author. 9 of the 14 are white men.
Puzzled, Alexa tries out a couple of keywords: "surveillance diverse," "BIPOC sources surveillance," "LGBTQ+ authors surveillance." These searches turn up articles discussing diversity, not articles with diversity at their roots—in their sources.
Alexa tries Amazon Books next, hoping to find more diverse sources in full-length books. A banner at the top of the screen catches her eye. "What's that yellow thing on the books?" it reads. Sure enough, there are yellow stickers on a few of the books in the "Top Rated" lineup.
Alexa selects "Learn more." It turns out those stickers are Spectrum Seals: badges awarded to nonfiction books that balance their bibliographies across race, gender, and other identities, ensuring that no one group makes up the majority of the sources.
But what if an author follows the requirements without using the sources in a substantial way? Skeptical, Alexa reads on. She notices something called the "spectrum score," a second customer-rating system specific to the use of sources. Alexa smiles at that. Readers keeping writers honest.
One purchase later, she opens a Spectrum Seal book in Kindle: Dark Matters by Simone Brown. Alexa's article is going to be well-researched, alright—perhaps one day, it too will wear a Spectrum Seal badge.
Product story arcs, The Spectrum Seal
The Spectrum Seal is a fictitious Amazon Books initiative stamping books that make use of diverse sources, in accordance with a defined set of criteria. I chose to explore this project in the context of story because I'd already done a lot of scenario-based thinking around it.
First, I created three product story arcs: a concept arc, an origin arc, and a usage arc. I ended up choosing the origin arc for my final product story because of its ability to demonstrate character, scenario, and use without getting too far into the details. While it wasn't particularly difficult to craft these arcs, it was a bit time-consuming—especially the usage arc.
I completed this project in roughly five hours over the course of a couple days. This week, I had a massive deadline in another class, so I didn't spend as much time on it as I would have liked.
The first image is of a product molecule. This is the very first thing I created, as it allowed me to get a birds eye-view of the Spectrum Seal and the problem it solves.
The second image is of my persona. I created this in the original project, so I basically just used it as a reference point.
The third image is of my story arc. Essentially, it represents a rough outline of what I ended up writing.
What I learned
It was super fun returning to this project—my very first as an interaction major, in fact. It really made me realize how far I've come, especially with regards to my understanding of storytelling in product.
The most difficult part of this process was the writing. At first, I wasn't quite sure where to start in terms of characterizing Alexa. She's a political science major with a love for books, but that in itself is not a goal or need. Ultimately, I settled on a reader turned writer, which is often the reality for readers of nonfiction. This way, I could frame the mindset of a reader and a writer, considering both in the context of the Spectrum Seal system.