Quantum service design

Quantum service design

The Project

On March 6, 2017, IBM announced to the world an industry-first initiative to build Quantum Computers. It was a big deal, getting circulation across a large amount of huge name news outlets. My team was asked to conceptualize and execute a service design project focused on brand identity and public outreach for IBM’s Quantum computing program and it’s impact for future generations.

Our task was to find a way to make Quantum computing accessible and engaging for young adult audiences through whatever means we deemed most effective based on in depth contextual inquiry students and educators.

The Challenge

Design an immersive experience that will excite & inform high school students about the future of quantum computing and demonstrate IBM’s commitment to educating & inspiring the public in the field. 

The Business Outcome

Through extensive contextual inquiry and design thinking workshops with teens, we crafted a journey that would introduce students to the concept of quantum computing, allow them to interact with key theoretical components in a gamified way, and enable them to envision career opportunities in various fields relating to quantum computing. We devised a multi-faceted media campaign and prototype to engage with teen and young adults audiences. The campaign included a teaser youtube video, a full length introduction to quantum computing video, an animated mobile app prototype, a game within the app, and a multimedia community forum.

Time / 

March 2017 - April 2017

My Role / 

UX & Research

MyTeam /

Laura Walks | Visual

Dima Hoffman | UX

Polly Adams | UX & Research

Zack Causey | Visual

Methods //

Contextual inquiry

Journey mapping

Empathy maps

Persona validation

Stakeholder map

Artifacts //

Refined and validated personas

As-Is with pain points highlighted

To-be experience

Recommendations on tools

The user impact

Our project made a lasting impression on external stakeholders, the student with whom we met, and key internal stakeholders. Numerous students we worked with in workshops wrote to us asking about how they could get involved further in learning about Quantum Computing, and how to apply for internships at IBM. The Vice President for Quantum Computing at IBM Research flew out to Austin to see our final playback. He expressed his gratitude and excitement over our innovative approach to engaging younger audiences with such a complex subject. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to our project, IBM research commissioned a development team to build a proof of concept for IBM Qube, which resulted in a working prototype. IBM Research has subsequently used our video and app concept as the foundation for several learning modules in the IBM Q portfolio.

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Our users

This project was unlike any other project I had undertaken at IBM in that our users would not engaging with one product over time, it required a holistic approach based in service design. We had to think of the whole picture end to end, and we had no idea what exactly the deliverables would look like at the beginning of the project. We began by approaching edcuators in various fields (teachers, museum curators, college professors) for generative research sessions to learn about how to create immserives educational experiences. We also reached out directly to the students in our lives - we made contact with friends younger siblings, the children of other IBMers, students of the teachers we met. We talked to these students in depth about how they like to learn, what were their interests now and their hoeps for the future. We collaborated with them in design thinking workshops to full understand their perspectives and develop authentic personas. Over the course of several weeks we conducted onsite visits to local high schools, colleges, museums, and brought over a dozen students to the IBM studio in Austin. I acted as the primary point of contact for all our users - I learned so much about our users just from keeping in touch regularly and working on schedule time to sync in their busy students lives. I interviewed users and facilitated design thinking activities.

User insights and developing personas

Using tools such as interviews, empathy maps, and as-is journeys, and storyboards, we learned about the pain points and needs of our users. We derived key insights and validated these findings with our student stakeholders to make were aligned to their perspective. After many conversations and empathy maps, we settled on three words to keep in mind about how students feel in school:

  1. Busy.

    We were shocked by the immense time pressure put on students today. All our stakeholders had incredibly busy schedules, and while they found many of their activities rewarding, the sheer volume of expected commitment to each facet of the life was frankly overwhelming and at times anxiety inducing.

  2. Bored.

    Students are tired of the traditional class settings. The social landscape has changed over time as multimedia technology becomes more embedded in our lives, and students wish that their schools and teachers would allow them more opportunities for innovation and creativity, more akin to how they interact with the world outside of school.

  3. Disengaged.

    Students crave digestible content that relates to their interests. They want educational materials that feel relevant to them and easy to consume in a world full of distractions.

Keeping these insights in mind as guiding principles for how to create meaningful content for our stakeholders, we developed on three personas that represented as best of possible the experience of our students and their peers.

Our Hills

Using the IBM Enterprise Design Thinking approach we set out to craft three hills, or goals that we wanted to accomplish so that we would meet the needs of our users. Each hills took the form ‘f WHO - the user, WHAT - the outcome, and WOW - the differentiating factor that makes the experience delightful for our user. We assigned one hill to each users.

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Crafting the story

We wanted to find a way to meet all of our students where they were at while also striking the balance creating universally accessible materials. We developed a story in which all our students interacted with each other and the various artifacts we created.

The journey for our users included a teaser video hosted on youtube to the peak interest of all our students on the favoritie media platform. We created Quantum 101, and introduction to Quantum computing with Rebecca in mind. It’s a short video that would appeal to all our students and explain quantum computing in an accessible way but not overwhelm them with complex details. Within the interactive webspace we created some a simple quiz that could help students like Kyle envision a future in a career that relates to the practical applications of Quantum computing, and for Alice we created a game that grapples with the concept of superposition, as gateway for the most engaged students to explore Quantum computing further and direct them to the open source quantum experience.

The Artifacts

This project was incredibly fun because we got to think so far outside the box, and create a ton of unique, high value content. I’m really proud of the work we all did to put together a great story that met the needs our different students, while also producing top quality deliverables that IBM Research could easily scale.

Scalable design

The most exciting aspect of this project was seeing the potential for encouraging students to envision a future full of possibility. If there was one takeaway we wanted to convey to our student stakeholders it was that Quantum computing holds so much potential for the future, and they do too. Our hope is that our many student stakeholders who felt so inspired by the project continue to find pathways to innovate, in whatever form it may take.