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Adversarial Design and Social Impact


A new course offered this year, INFO 4240: Designing Technologies for Social Impact has quickly won a spot in my top five favorite classes at Cornell University. Among the long list of reasons to love this course, I am most swayed by the ability to work in and lead project teams on a weekly basis, utilize creative and visual thinking, and that the course is created and taught by Phoebe Sengers.

Professor Pheobe Sengers is amazing both due to her accessible nature and her prolific career in the field of computer science – specifically human computer interaction and the way in which technology and culture influence each other. Full disclosure, I loved learning from Professor Sengers so much that I requested she act as my advisor – a request to which she fortunately agreed.

The structure of the class is one heavily based on projects with ample readings, which, in turn, inform the projects. Individual and group work are presented with level importance, allowing students to really find how to best apply their skills as well as discovering personal strengths and weaknesses.

Based on the evolution of my written thought processes and designs, it is evident that I transformed immensely throughout the semester – particularly in terms of adversarial design and creative thinking on a larger scale. Additionally, I  leave the class now with an appreciation for design with culture impact and sustainability in mind – considerations that, without the aid of INFO 4240, may have taken years for me to develop within my work.

Below are some samples of my sketches and projects created over the semester.

Initial ideas for creating a way for those connected to a university or company internet network to monitor their level of time misused vs. time spent productively while online. 

Initial_sketch3_MiniProject2         Initial_sketches_MiniProject2

Below, a mock-up screen showing a potential browser extension that would offer insight into better uses of one’s time, analytics on the amount of content viewed that can be considered unproductive, and overall “life wasted.” As seen by the gauge (#3) and the bandwidth allotment (#4), the tool would throttle internet speeds for sites deemed unproductive while allowing for full bandwidth of productive pages such as news, academic, research, etc.

Mini Project 2 UI

The end goal is to inform the user of their internet habits and allow a university or office to control bandwidth used in a way that is less abrasive than a firewall and also better at allowing for alterations in the user’s behavior.

Concept UI - Coffee Hour "Home"

Welcome to the Coffee Hour


[Note: Post updated on August 2013 to reflect the club’s close.]

Cornell University’s INFO 2300: Intermediate Web Design course offers as much to students in its class as it does to those outside of the course thanks to the unique nature of the course’s final project. For the final project, students are split into groups of four and then are tasked with helping one of Cornell’s many clubs create a website.

Teamed up with a student interested in databases and one interested in front-end implementation – be began to search for a group to help. In not much time, we stumbled upon a truly important campus group called “Coffee Hour.” This unique club offers students a chance to meet and make new friends over coffee. No pretense. No membership fees. Just coffee!

We fell in love with the idea instantly and were happy to work with this group to create a prototype website for the (now defunct) club.

Once again filling the role of designer and front-end developer, I began work on a more experimental interface. Forgoing the usual navigation bars for a more quirky experience that fit the warmth and non-mainstream traits of the club, I decided on creating a coffee house setting (original, right?) which would “house” the content in a pleasing and simplistic manner.

Using HTML, CSS, PHP, and jQuery we were able to realize my designs rapidly and produce a remarkable prototype. The final site prototype not only fit well the needs of the club, but also impressed our professors – especially given the small time frame within which we worked.

Although the site is now offline due to the club’s closure at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, I have hosted a stripped-down version of the site here:

Cornell Coffee Hour [Limited Version]

Additionally, be sure to check out the following gallery of screenshots from my concept mock-ups that demonstrate the design choices and features of our website:


Bill of Plum Creek Designs

Bringing the Farmer’s Market Online


One of Ithaca’s most loved traditions is the weekly farmer’s market which offers everything one could need from humble, handcrafted goods to delicious, farm fresh vegetables. Embracing this tradition yet helping to bring it into the digital age, Cornell University’s INFO 1300: Introduction to Web Design and Programming course has students work with one of the many market vendors to create a new or refreshed website for their company.

Working with three other students, we worked for William Baker, a Finger Lakes native who specializes in beautiful, handcrafted cutting boards.

In order to help build an online presence for Mr. Baker, we met and worked closely with him to realize his goals for his company, Plum Creek Designs. My role in the group was primary front-end implementation in addition to overall design and visual content generation. For this, I started by creating a design in line with the goals of Mr. Baker and by using the concepts we learned in this course and from course material, such as Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.

Plum To further help strengthen his online presence, I then began to work on a revamped logo design for his company which, until this point, did not have either a logo or a website. Meanwhile, my diligent team worked tirelessly on the backend of the site, including the cutting board design customizer service which allows customers to customize the shape, design, and woods/colors of their board before ordering.


Once I finalized the design of the logo in Adobe Illustrator, I tackled the next stage in visual content generation: photography. Capturing the charm of Mr. Baker, his booth, and his creations, I began to touch up photos to further enhance the overall look of the site, even going so far as to insert his products into royalty-free stock photos with the help of Adobe Photoshop.


[The remainder of this post has been revised as of November 4, 2013 to reflect the site no longer being in use online.]

Upon completion of the site, we helped Mr. Baker set up his website so that he could quickly and easily communicate with his targeted customer base of locals and those who have been referred to his company by friends.

While the site is no longer live due to the expense of hosting, my team and I greatly enjoyed working with Mr. Baker and love visiting him at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market every chance we get!

Live from Redmond!

My Experiences at Microsoft’s Firenze|BXT Competition

The Cornell Finalist Team

If there is one experience that is undoubtedly the most rewarding and distinctive of being a university student, it is the pure excitement that comes from instantly being plugged into a network of brilliant minds and infinite opportunities. From case studies to hackathons, there seems no end to the amazing team-based competitions on campuses across the nation.

I had the great pleasure during my Spring semester of freshman year at Cornell University to experience a competition that blends design, business, and technology to allow for equal footing among a wide range of talents and majors: Microsoft Firenze|BXT.

Microsoft’s unique team competition has been nothing but a whirlwind of fun, nerves, sleepless nights, and incredible new friends.

From the Bottom…

As a freshman, I was concerned I would only be getting in the way of those who have had more experience in their fields. However, as one of the few design oriented majors there, I grew an appreciation for what I could offer: animation, conceptual rendering skills, and visual communication. However, at the time, I did not realize that I would be contributing an important skill that I had never explored before: User Interface design.

Tasked with reimagining Microsoft’s Bing search engine as being a search engine that heavily incorporated social media, my team and I set out to create an idea that would help us stand out from the six other talented Cornell teams. As the sleepless hours piled up, so did the ideas and drawings. We soon came upon a concept and design that my team and I unanimously loved: A clean redesign of Bing that placed equal emphasis on standard search results and reviews/tips/photos/etc. from “experts.” These so-called experts fell into two categories: those in your social network (such as friends who had posted material related to your search including reviews or photos) and those who are established experts in the related field (such as a well-known travel book author or a highly-regarded tech reviewer).

By compiling all the results into a cohesive search results page, we created a concept of a search engine that did not just serve users but connected them within their circles to provide better and more human results.


Delivering the Goods…

To aid our presentation to a panel of Microsoft employees ranging from Creative Directors to actual developers on Bing’s team, I was tasked with creating a conceptual user interface and a product demonstration video. With the help of Adobe Photoshop, Audition, Illustrator, and After Effects, I set out to create within just a day’s time the full video and necessary conceptual UI screens.

I am proud of the results – especially with 18 consecutive hours logged on the animation alone – and am extremely proud that my team and I were able to win a spot in the final round of the competition at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, campus.

Let’s Fly Away…

The entire final round of the competition will always seem completely surreal. Microsoft generously flew out the winning teams from the competing schools to Seattle, WA, for a weekend-long final competition. Once there, the finalist teams were created by mixing up the individual students and giving a new competition case: creating a new design for the Microsoft retail stores.

Alongside the best and brightest from schools such as Carnegie Mellon University and Ohio State University, the weekend passed quickly with meet and greets, constructive individual reviews/critiques from Microsoft HR and executive employees, field research at local Microsoft Stores, and a lot of caffeine-aided hard work throughout the night. The following day, each team presented their findings and proposals to a board of select Microsoft employees.

The result was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Finalists were rewarded not only with the opportunity to participate in such a memorable  competition, but also with an incredible number of awards including Microsoft Firenze|BXT jackets, sleek glass trophies, Xbox 360 consoles, and, for the winning team, Nokia phones and tablets.

To the Top…

Humbled and flattered by the entire experience, I cannot believe that weeks of hard work, nights of little to no sleep, and countless hours logged discussing concepts and ideas with my teams are finally over. I am left with a newfound appreciation of the field of User Interface Design, the important roles of Project and Product Managers – a few of which I had the honor of meeting while on Microsoft’s gorgeous Redmond campus, and the push Microsoft has started to make in recent years to place greater emphasis on design.

A major thanks to everyone at Microsoft who donated their time and resources to host the Firenze|BXT competition and to all the great new friends I made while competing this year.

Here’s to hoping the competition is offered next year!

Note: All Conceptual UI Design and Photos are property of Colin Budd. Duplication and use only allowed with permission.

Update: Be sure to check out my follow-up on the competition here: In the News: Microsoft Firenze|BXT 2012

An Artist's Inspiration

Stop-Motion Animation: An Artist’s Inspiration

Turns out the easiest way to garner attention from just about everyone from students to professors is as simple as playing with Barbie and Ken dolls around campus.

Tasked with a stop-motion animation for my Intro to Digital Media course at Cornell University, I created a narrative not far from my own experiences at college. Overall the project was staged and created over eight days during which I recorded audio on a digital handheld audio recorder, staged the dolls with ample duct tape, floss, and luck, and captured each section with a Canon 5D MkI camera.

The final animated sequence was composed, edited, and animated using Adobe Photoshop CS5.

I had a great time creating this lighthearted film and enjoyed my first forray into the world of stop-motion animation.

2030: VIVIFI

2036: VIVIFI

Pronounced “vivify,” this video was created in a weekend for my Introduction to Digital Media course at Cornell University in Fall 2011.

The project required students to create a new reality within which they exist. I wanted to turn the camera on myself and explore what it might be like to go through my morning routine with a little assistance from technology.

Although rough around the edges, this is my first time using Adobe After Effects – a program I cannot wait to learn in depth, particularly after creating this video.

This video was shot entirely on a Canon 5D MarkII with MagicLantern and a Rhode Pro mic.
Editing – Adobe Premiere CS5
Graphics – Adobe Photoshop Pro CS5
Effects – Adobe After Effects CS5

Feel free to leave any feedback and I hope you enjoy one of my earliest digital video works from college!

Map Art

Drawing Project: Urbanization

Map Art

For my second Intro to Drawing project at Cornell University, I was assigned to create a map based on an imaginary location and advance that concept to the greatest extent possible. The result is the following animation:


I wanted to capture the transformation and development of an unestablished location from land formation and colonization thru modern civilization. The drawing process closely mimicked the way in which such a location may actually be developed.


Using a tripod-mounted camera and light setup, I photographed the multi-staged drawing process and created a stop-motion animation with a linear, chronological progression.In post production, numerous sound effects were added in order to further reinforce  urbanization’s far-reaching effects on natural surroundings.

The next step for this piece is to take the concept even further with an interactive element. My intention is to create an interactive piece in which the level of urbanization represented in the video is directly proportional to the volume level of ambient sound in the piece’s surroundings. Furthermore, a language will be established that translates human sounds into generated sounds within the work. For instance, clapping will translate into the sound of drilling and hammering – not unlike that common on a construction site. Another instance is that footsteps and general murmurs will produce the sound of traffic.

A mixture of Jitter MaxMSP 5 and Adobe Flash should provide the tools needed to create such an interactive piece.

As always, comments and criticisms are more than welcome and I appreciate your interest in my work.