I’m happy to introduce my capstone project: iris. It has finally taken its final form of ten guidelines for mobile app design. These guidelines have been developed based on the broad themes I’ve noticed throughout the semester as I designed mockup screens for three apps: notes, music, and messaging.

I’ve attempted to make these guidelines as digestible as possible in order to a more general audience than merely other designers. You’ll notice short amount of text for each guideline, augmented by examples on the opposite side of the screen. You may also notice that many of the images on the site scroll at different speeds (parallax), for a more engaging experience.

As many of my peers would echo, this semester has been quite odd. Still, I am happy with the finalized version of my capstone project. The feedback I received throughout the semester was extremely informative and is what ultimately guided my decisions on how to present this project.

Now that the semester is almost over, I would like to take a moment to thank the folks I’ve encountered during my time in the Minor in Writing, especially T–who I had for both gateway and capstone. I will greatly miss T’s impressively consistent positive energy, encouragement, and flexibility, as I’m sure many of my peers will as well.

Speaking of my peers… thank you, too! Your feedback throughout the semester was helpful, but more importantly, seeing your projects come together during the semester was quite frankly inspiring.

Finally, in case you were looking for the link:

some advice

Chances are, the semester you take Writing 420 will go by quickly. You might be thinking that “every semester goes by quickly,” but trust me: things will feel especially accelerated. That’s probably because you’ll be taking this course as part of your final semesters.

I hope that, by the time you read this, you’ll be able to attend classes in-person. I’m sure you can recall the uncertainty about the future all of us faced in mid-April. My final semester (Winter 2020) was already a bit bumpy as I was preparing for life beyond college, and, not surprisingly, a pandemic made everything a bit more complicated. The transition to online learning was smooth, but I found that the events happening as we moved online made focusing on coursework extremely difficult.

If your class is taught online, here are some things NOT to do. This is advice I didn’t follow, at least at first… (they’re not easy when everything is online)

  • Develop routines. Having a synchronous writing class helps with this… but only for two days each week. Try to develop some healthy academic (and personal!) habits and do them at specific times of the day.
  • Try to have a consistent sleep schedule. I had a week where I would just randomly sleep at different times (sometimes during the day…). That was not fun. And it wasn’t productive.

And, here’s just some general advice. So this stuff applies whether the course is in-person OR online.

  • Ambition is great. You’ll inevitably incorporate that into your schedule. This will cause it to be overly optimistic. Recognize that relying on contingencies is necessary when working with your project.
  • On a similar note, make sure your project goals are reasonable. Be ready to rewrite them if when your project changes.
  • Motivate yourself by engaging deeply with your classmates’ projects! I found this to be really inspirational when writing up notes for workshop days. The added bonus here is that your classmate receives higher quality feedback.

Finally, for your project, make sure that you choose something that you’re truly passionate about. I am sure your instructor as well as others will echo this advice, but it’s because it’s critical. When you’re passionate about what you’re working on, it not only becomes easier to find motivation, but also encourages you to more quickly adapt to inevitable(?) changes.

Thanks for reading and best of luck!


Since the beginning of the semester, my goals for this project seemed to have changed at least a dozen times.

The good news now is that I’m fairly certain on what I want to deliver: a collection of mockups for a number of different common mobile apps accompanied with some text focusing on the process. I think this will appeal to a wider audience than my original idea of developing design system guidelines.

Recently, I’ve been working on screens for a notes app, as shown to the left. And, rest assured, I have a list of others that I’d like to get to.

Thankfully, my work for this project can proceed with minimal disruption from the COVID-19 emergency.

I will have to adjust how I gather feedback a bit, but I feel much more motivated to push through now that my direction is clear.

Initial Pitch Reflection

On Monday, I pitched four three ideas for my capstone project. The least interesting, in my opinion, was the idea of creating an interactive educational website to help those trying to learn how to code for the first time.

The other two, which I feel far more excited about after our in-class discussions, involve creating a design language (like this). The key distinction between these “other two” was really how they would be applied.

I first thought of applying a new design language to a specific brand. For example, a single brand’s color palette, logo, key marketing messages, and digital products (like their app, website, or even something like ATM screens for a bank).

However, the other approach is beginning to seem more attractive. Instead of just sticking with one brand, why not design a more universal design language and then apply it with various examples? Sure, that’s more ambitious, but I really like the idea. My peers also expressed some favorability thanks to the greater universality compared to the first pitch.

Feedback from my peers was helpful in other ways, too, but the most exciting part for me was to hear what others were thinking.

For now, though, there’s one major question on my mind…

here it is! (my eportfolio, v1)

I’m pleased to have completed the first version of my EPortfolio after completing my gateway course. You can access it here:

For my EPortfolio, I used a BootStrap template and hosted the page for free via GitHub Pages. As part of the development process, I made considerable edits to the structure of the theme and, of course, integrated the bits of work I completed throughout the semester.

I placed everything except for my “Why I Write” essay under a dedicated “Projects” section. When you hover over the custom icons I made for each experiment, you’re prompted to click to expand to see more details. You can then read the proposal and go further with links to each experiment’s full PDF.

I think presenting the Final Project center-justified, below the experiments, and as an obvious “click me!” button, draws the kind of attention I want to it. There’s also a quick link to see the bibliography for the final project in the same section.

Both my “Why I Write” essay and my about section have their own sections, which I decided was the best move as I hope to update those in the future. So, by giving them dedicated space, my goal is to signal their dynamic nature.

I’m really happy with how my EPortfolio turned out. It’s a single page, unlike some others, but I think it actually works out quite well since you can get a high-level overview of each piece of work without needing to delve too deeply into a particular part.

I’m also very grateful for the template I used, as the clean design, light animations + scrolling behavior, and single-page encapsulation would have been much, much more difficult to build from scratch. By minimizing technical overhead, I was able to better focus my time on improving the presentation of my work.

advice to new gateways

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve just started your Minor in Writing gateway course. If not.. maybe this post isn’t for you. If you want to stick around though, it’s possible this advice can be generalized for courses with similar styles.

#1 – Choose your origin material and experiments wisely

You’ll have to pick your origin material and propose experiment ideas early on, which makes it even more important that you consider your choices carefully. You can make your life much easier if you choose stuff that you’re actually interested in. Don’t try to pick a genre that you have no interest in. Always, always, always choose the “off the wall” idea that you’re interested in over “traditional” ideas that you aren’t passionate about.

#2 – Start working on your experiments early

“Start early!” is perhaps the most annoying piece of advice to hear if you tend to procrastinate, but hear me out. Even if it’s just drafting up a proposal, starting early will give you more space to explore the genre and reveal different ways you can adapt your source material. Once you get started, it’s generally much easier to keep going. And, even if you do get stuck, at least you’ll be stuck early on rather than a day or two before the experiment is due.

#3 – Take + Give peer feedback seriously

Workshops are great if you’re uncertain about what direction you want to take with your work, and also really helpful to see some examples of what your peers are working on. Don’t be afraid to voice criticism, as if you’re thinking it, chances are others are too; just make sure it’s constructive!

As for workgroups: the same themes apply, but it’s a better format for seeing your peers work evolve based on the feedback they receive from yourself and others.

#4 – Have productive conversations with your professor

This one might seem obvious, but meeting with your professor and arriving prepared will really help you solidify your ideas and ease any doubts you might have. “Arriving prepared” doesn’t necessarily mean having most of the assignment done, either; it could be just as (or more productive) to instead arrive and focus on some questions that you have in mind. Time is always a limitation, so it’s important that you think about where you’re at and where you’d like to go before discussing your work!

the 1

I’ve decided to expand my third experiment into my final project; in my third experiment, I entertained the concept of an online game + story hybrid based on the themes from my origin material. Since my original material had a strong focus on the philosophical debate between free will and determinism, my goal has been to take those themes and transpose them into this genre to create what you might consider a bit of a spin off.

The idea of my final project is to provide the user with some basic elements of the story as a minimum, and then gradually reduce the probability that they receive another question. The design is intended so that each question doesn’t have any single “correct” answer, but rather that any answer can be “incorrect” based on some pseudorandom math taking place in the background.

I decided to proceed with this vision for my final project as it’s the 1 that engages me the most. Its eccentric nature also seems to give it a nice bonus of getting other people’s attention.

As I continue to work on the actual implementation of my ideas, I will face numerous questions relating to the nuances of its design. My strategy is currently to try to avoid overthinking things while I still set myself up so I can deliver a quality final product.

*here’s hoping this 1 won’t ruin everything 🙃

Risk (vs Practicality)

For experiment 1, I was admittedly slightly too ambitious. My ideas were a bit too grand for what I could actually do, and I had to change the direction of my sample in order to realize it.

For experiment 2, though, I’ve been feeling bored. Sure, everything has been fairly straightforward, actionable, and the familiarity of the genre carries an odd comfort.

Perhaps I did them in the wrong order. While I was working on experiment 1, I felt partially blindfolded, which wasn’t too great considering the ambition I envisioned.

There’s no need to dwell on the past though. These experiences have made me excited for my third experiment, which is I consider to be a nice balance of risk and practicality.

Maybe this is just one of those “third time’s a charm” situations. It’s my opportunity to return to the center field after the first two experiments pushed me up, down, left, and right.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to it.


…my name is Bailey and I’m a junior, just getting started in the Minor in Writing. I’ve heard our cohort has a pretty diverse set of majors, but I’ve yet to encounter another Computer Science major (I’m sure I will.. eventually). You might be thinking “Hmm, why would a CS major spend time to get a minor in writing?” At least, that’s what I think you’re thinking.

Quite frankly: there’s only so many CS courses I can take simultaneously. When I was taking a notoriously difficult intermediate-level course, EECS 281, I went to a discussion section where the senior undergrad IA/TA was late, apologized, and said, “Kids, never take more than two EECS courses.”

That comment stuck with me, even though I’m taking three EECS courses now (thankfully, it’s not too overwhelming). So, the minor in writing is how I plan on padding my schedule. And, of course, the gateway course is the beginning to that.

I’ve decided to revisit Coins, an essay I wrote during my first semester at the University of Michigan for my LHSP 125 course, which focused on writing about film. I’m really happy with how I integrated the philosophical debate of free will vs. determinism into the essay, and I’d like to focus on that particularly as I work on my experiments.

Speaking of which… I plan on doing: a video essay, an op-ed, and a web app. I’d like to maintain some flexibility as I approach these genres, but I have some general ideas for each. For the video essay, I’d like to take some inspiration from some of The Nerdwritter’s YouTube videos and present some of the ideas from my essay with some nice visuals and (of course) a voice over.

The op-ed will be most similar to the essay in terms of medium, but I’d like to take the opportunity to make something with more opinion. For the original essay, I tried to take a neutral, diplomatic stance. But–for the op-ed, I’d like to shorten things up, make bolder claims, and focus on a personal argument rather than a broad view.

Finally, I’d like to use the web app as a way to tell a story, but with the added implication of interactivity for the user. Since the philosophical debate I talk about in the essay centers around whether or not we have free will, I think it’d be fitting to have something where users make choices.. but maybe end up with the same conclusion.