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A product to increase awareness of and preparedness for natural disasters.


Project Overview



Choose a complex system, use systems diagrams to map and understand it, and design a product that will create a longterm change in the system.





Adobe XD, Illustrator

Sketching, interviewing, secondary research, personas, journey mapping, wireframing, UI design, visual design, logo design, product design, systems thinking, systems diagrams

IxD 2: Systems, Erin Malone

5 weeks, Spring 2020

You can view the slides from my final presentation here.

Problem Statement

Problem Statement


For this project, we needed to choose a complex system from a list of options to design a solution for. I chose the climate change option, since that is an issue that I feel strongly about and have tried to incorporate into other projects I've done at CCA.

Living in California, I've read a lot of scientific articles that attribute the increased frequency and severity of recent wildfires to climate change. For this project, I chose to focus on the increase in natural disasters in California that is, in part, attributed to climate change.

As someone who grew up in California, the issue of natural disaster preparedness and response is incredibly important to me. One of my earliest memories was taking shelter under the lunch table at my preschool during the 2003 San Simeon earthquake while my mom was at work near the epicenter of the quake. Almost every year in recent times, I've watched countless families in my community evacuate due to wildfires. Myself and thousands of other students in my hometown school district missed weeks of school during my senior year due to dangerous air quality. Most recently, I saw several communities in my home county devastated by the Montecito mud flows in 2017.

With these experiences in mind, I wanted my project to address natural disasters in California in a way that can mitigate injuries and lives lost. I planned to do this by understanding the system and implementing my solution at the correct point to create change in the way we prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

HMW . . . ?

This led me to generate a short list of HMW... questions to guide me throughout the rest of the project.

How might we motivate people to prepare for a natural disaster?

How might we keep more people informed about possible dangers?

How might we help people respond to a natural disaster?




First, I wanted to verify what I had frequently heard from news anchors and journalists regarding California's frequent wildfires: are they related to climate change? How does climate change influence natural disasters? Here's what I learned:

Graphics explaining the link between natural disasters and climate change.


I also felt that I needed to understand the overall impact of natural disasters in the state of California. My assumption was that this was an important problem to solve based on my own experiences, so I wanted to find objective data that could confirm or invalidate this. I learned that natural disasters are a big problem that's only getting worse.

Data that explains the impact of natural disasters on the state of California.


My secondary research validated my concerns, so the next step was to talk to people to inform my provisional personas for this project. Since this project was done solo and only had a five week timeline, I conducted a single one hour interview.


My interviewee had a unique perspective as both a non-native Californian, but a long-time resident of the state nonetheless. This gave her insight into what it's like to come to the state with no knowledge of what to look out for/how to prepare, but she had also experienced several natural disasters since moving to the state.


The interview primarily focused on preparedness for a natural disaster, and general knowledge of disasters in California. In my secondary research, I had found data on Americans' preparedness (or unpreparedness) for natural disasters, so I wanted to see how my interviewee compared.

I learned that, despite being extremely concerned about natural disasters, my interviewee is also extremely unprepared for one.

Data that shows nationwide attitudes toward preparedness, and quotes from my interview that corroborate these results.




From my interview, I learned a lot of valuable information that helped me develop concepts. One thing I learned is that Californians need to be ready for a huge range of natural disasters: my interviewee had personally experienced many earthquakes and wildfires, and had received alerts and warnings for flash floods, tsunamis, tornadoes, and mudslides. This meant that my solution needed to be able to accommodate all of these.

Some issues with the way that natural disasters are currently dealt with are that the alerts are easy to miss – my interviewee has slept through them on multiple occasions, not heard them when her cellphone was in another room, or was unaware of it when the notifications were silenced by her phone's settings.

Lastly, she knows she should have a kit, but just not knowing what to put in it has left her not knowing where to start. I created four concepts that address these: a mobile app that helps you prepare and stay informed, a wall-mounted device that alerts you to dangers and gives you instructions on what to do next, advertising and signage to educate the public, and pre-made emergency kits.

Concept sketches: app, product, signage, and kit.




Using the insights and data from my interview and my secondary research, I created four provisional personas representing distinct groups of people who deal with natural disasters. I wanted to be sure that I was accommodating the different needs of many people in California, not just young people in the city, like myself.

The primary persona is a working mother who is concerned with keeping track of her household in the event of a natural disaster – she has more to worry about than just herself. This closely matched the life of my interviewee.

My secondary personas were a young person who had recently moved to California and is totally unfamiliar with natural disaster preparedness. Another is an older gentleman who lives in a more rural part of the state with fewer resources that are accessible in the event of a natural disaster. The last one is a child who spends time home alone and needs to be educated on natural disasters in a way that is productive and not scary.