The Unexotic Underclass

Project for Fall 2014 course at Indiana University


Duration of project: 3 weeks



  • Helping former prisoners reintegrate into society using self-motivating technologies


  •  Use action triggers to inspire positive habits
  • Use SMS based text system to reach a larger group


  • Systemic design that requires participation of organizations that have the same goal


A working prototype of the SMS design can be found here.



Tools and METHODS

  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Axure RP Pro
  • Invision
  • Paper Prototype
  • Personas
  • Sketching
  • Storyboarding

Design Process


Design Brief

This project was based on CHI’s 2015 Student Challenge theme: "Appropriating Technologies for New Cultures”.

Along with that, we were given another constraint: design for the unexotic underclass.

As described by C.Z. Nnaemeka in “The Unexotic Underclass”, this is a group of people that receives “scant attention and scanter investment”.



Our chosen target group was newly released prisoners and our goal was to help reintegrate this group into society.

One of the most effective tools we used during our brainstorming meeting was to sketch our ideas on the whiteboard separately and then complement and collaborate in each other’s sketches.


We envisioned a system that includes, directly, the newly released prisoner, an organization that helps them and other former prisoners that fit as mentors. The interaction occurs through SMS texts, which is more widely available for our target group than smartphone apps.


Some concepts we explored in this project were:

  • Action triggers: the former prisoner receives a text that works as an action trigger and prompts him to be productive
  • Slow change: by creating positive habits over time, the former prisoner would be reintegrated into society and, eventually, could become one of the mentors for other newly released prisoners




 Usability test

Usability test


2015’s CHI Student Design Competition.

C.Z. Nnaemeka. The Unexotic Underclass. Available in:

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway, 2010. Print

Medlock, M. C., Wixon D., Terrano, M., Romero R., Fulton B. (2002). "Using the RITE Method to improve products: a definition and a case study." Usability Professionals Association, Orlando FL July 2002

Siegel, Marty, and Jordan Beck. “Slow Change Interaction Design.” Interactions. N.p., 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.


Photos: Danny Rudzinski

Prototype: Raphael Feinstein