DILAC @ Georgia Institute of Technology

XR Design, UX Research, Mobile App Prototyping, Creative Direction, Instructional Design, Graphic Design, Video Editing


Dr. Janet Murray - Project Advisor

André Brock - Project Advisor

Yuchen Zhao - Project Lead

Austin Peete - UX Researcher & Designer

Brandy Pettijohn - Archival Researcher

Kshitij Gupta - Software Engineer

Angela Dai - Software Engineer

Amanda Wang - Software Engineer

Joy Dang - Software Engineer

Protesting Pickrick AR

UX Research + Design

The Focus

Throughout this project, research and design efforts prioritized the enhancement of an educational interactive documentary experience to help members of the greater Georgia Tech community learn about campus history. Before beginning any redesigns of the initial mobile prototype, several rounds of background research were conducted to gain more feedback about interactive storytelling, mobile usability, and multimedia learning.

Prototype Overview

Lessons Learned

“Think of your body in the space.” – Nonny de la Peña

In July 1964, Lester Maddox, owner of The Pickrick Cafeteria, shutdown the restaurant, rather than serve Black customers, along with supporting integrationists, under the desegregating provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. After a series of protests and court rulings against the Pickrick Cafeteria, Georgia Tech purchased the restaurant in September 1965 with the intention of converting it into the Ajax Student Placement Center. The restaurant structure, built in 1947, was demolished in 2008. Remnants of the site are now memorialized as part of Georgia Tech’s EcoCommons, a performance landscape joining technology, ecology, and social experiences into a built space.

Race, Representation, & Technoculture 

Throughout the iterative processes of this project, several theoretical frameworks provided a foundation to critically approach connecting subject matters, such as representation, technoculture, and interactive design narrative (IDN). According to André Brock, “technoculture can be understood as the relation between, and politics of, culture and technology.” As this discourse relates to Black identities, culture, and history through the Protesting Pickrick AR project, it remained, and still remains, significant to memorialize a shared language at the roots of the practices research, redesign, and redeployment: 

  • Affect – (as emotion) as an orientation between things (and bodies)–relations that shape the contours of social imaginaries
  • Libidinal Economy – a respective weighting, or valuation, of affective relations between cultural artifacts, bodies, and phenomena
  • Redeployment – the process by which the material and symbolic power of technology is reinterpreted but maintains its traditional use and physical form
  • Intention – goals personal to a research and design team, and what they hope to achieve through their efforts 
  • Impact – effects of the process of design is lived and experienced in actual communities within the world

*Sources: Brock, Project Inkblot

Interactive Documentary

During this initial round of background research, IDNs categorized as Interactive Documentaries were used in reference to craft historical narratives of Black experience in the United States of America through virtually immersive means. In particular, I Am A Man and Traveling While Black are two virtual reality (VR) applications that use technology to construct cohesive multimedia narratives concentrating on the Black experience during the mid-20th century. For instance, I Am A Man allows users to virtually embody a Black sanitation worker participating in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike as it converges with the Civil Rights Movement. The storytelling methods applied connect users to greater historical context that can help them further comprehend historic social climate, organized communal activities, and, hopefully, the humanity of the people depicted in these histories. 

In another example, Traveling While Black details the dangers of Black people traveling on America’s roads during the mid-20th century, as well. This story emphasizes the life changing influence of The Green Book, a famous guide listing safe spaces along these routes, as people set out for their destinations. Unfortunately, the sense of individualism coating these redeployed narratives inadvertently distances users from any communal characteristics of movements centering human rights–a problem that persists along the research and design process of the Protesting Pickrick AR prototype, as well. 

Primary Research: Focus Group

# of Participants: 21
Demographic: Current Georgia Tech Students
Location: Pickrick Memorial Site (Georgia Tech EcoCommons) 

Research Priorities 

  1. Identify a target demographic. 
  2. Assess the narrative’s accuracy and connection to greater context when recounting
    events of The Pickrick Cafeteria. 
  3. Detail pain points across the visual design language of the application. 
  4. Explore alternative design ideas to support learning and immersion within the AR experience.

General Design Priorities 

After receiving feedback from the focus group, six (6) general design priorities were categorized. User comments guided the identification of various pain points across the app relating to a lack of text visibility, excessively dense information architecture, as well as breaking points across immersive storytelling. Though users were amazed by the app’s animated AR capabilities, these foundational design priorities provided some structure toward redesigning the educational experience surrounding those functionalities. 

Design Priorities

Accessibility - Labeling, Closed Captioning, Visual Language

Immersion - Multimedia Integration (e.g. AR, Audio, Video, Photo, Text)

Information Architecture - Text Styling, Interface Design, Iconography, Shared Language

Narrative - Interactive Design Narratives, Storytelling, American History

Navigation - Mapping, AR Interactions, Timeline Orientation

Visibility - Visual Language, Interface Orientation (e.g. Mobile, AR)

Focus Group Findings

  • Prioritize visuals more within the app.
  • Pace each point of information presented.
  • Format the app as a vertical timeline with alternative navigation options.
  • The “WOW!” factor of AR leaves some people uninterested in other forms of information.

Primary Research: Survey

# of Participants: 26
Demographic: Current Georgia Tech Students Location: Remote 

After receiving feedback from the focus group demo session, it became apparent what touchpoints across the user’s journey needed more attention. Before conducting a round of interviews to more specifically assess the prototype’s usability, a survey was generated for the purpose of gaining a broad perspective of community engagement with Civil Rights history, multimedia learning technologies, and gathering spaces around Georgia Tech’s campus. 

The survey was distributed through the Georgia Tech reddit group, a number of student organizations, and the Student Survey Exchange Facebook group. Staff members at local Atlanta museums were also contacted for their expertise in historic curation, but none responded with willingness to participate in the study. 

Survey Findings

  • 9 out of 21 participants cited Georgia Tech’s EcoCommons as a location they visited, prior to the survey. 
  • When asked about their awareness of the Pickrick memorial site, 56% of participants who knew of the EcoCommons were not aware of the memorial site, nor its related historic events. 
  • 44% (7) of participants who had some awareness of the Pickrick memorial site, and 5 of them were able to detail some knowledge of historic events related to the site. 
  • When engaging AR experiences, many participants listed games, glasses, or social activities as their primary reason for use. Very few people mention any focus on education through AR tools, at this point – 62% of survey participants responded that they had not utilized AR technologies for educational purposes.

Setting Vision

Instructional design became an important framework for exploring different techniques to curate a mobile learning experience across mediums (e.g. text, narration, augmented reality). With the goal of teaching target users about American History, it was equally as significant to understand how historic information is currently communicated across different spaces, especially within digital environments. 

Design Iteration Activities

Through prior evaluation activities, a large amount of valuable feedback from users and experts regarding design pain points was received. Identifying these issues facilitated changes to improve overall aesthetic consistency, accessibility, and usability across the system’s interface. 


Clearly state the goal of the project.

When redesigning version 2 of the Protesting Pickrick AR prototype, it remained important to concentrate on improving the pain points users identified in relation to design priorities set during earlier stages of user research. The research data gathered lent itself to the implementation of design solutions shifting the mobile interface’s timeline visualization, visual design language, and connections to more contextual information. 


Understand the primary user experience.

Primary Research: Meaning Mapping & Usability Interviews

# of Participants: 5

Demographic: Current Georgia Tech Students, User Experience Designers Location: Pickrick Memorial Site (2), Remote (3) 

Before interacting with the app, users create a meaning map [1] to visually represent their knowledge of the Pickrick protests and its relationship to the greater Atlanta Civil Rights Movement. Interviewees access version 2 of the Protesting Pickrick AR prototype and provide feedback focusing on new design priorities – timeline visualization & implementation, comprehension (instructional design), writing v. narration (instructional design), AR integration, more information, mapping, sociability. After demoing the prototype, users create a second meaning map to chart any knowledge they gained about the Pickrick protests and its relationship to the greater Atlanta Civil Rights Movement. 


Generate a wide array of ideas.

Multimedia Learning Principles 

Richard Mayer’s Multimedia Learning Principles offered shifted perspectives in previously listed design priorities. By nesting design priorities within this space, succeeding design decisions would be informed by principles categorized as Personalization, Segmentation, and Modality. These principles set solid foundations for more learnable, memorable, and cohesive design implementations going forward, and go on to reinforce feedback gathered during user research. 

Learning Principles

Personalization - People learn better from multimedia presentations when words are in conversational style rather than formal style.

Segmenting - People learn better when a multimedia message is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.

Modality - People learn more deeply from pictures and spoken words

Narrative Restructuring 

A critical point of feedback during prior user testing exposed that users were feeling overwhelmed by the amount of written information within the Pickrick AR prototype. One participant stated, “After I see the AR, I have no interest in reading all of the text.” This critique emphasized the lack of appeal that written information held within the mobile experience. Critical pain points, such as this, resulted in an overhaul of narrative structure. Without shifting focus away from the Civil Rights activists, lessening historical accuracy of the narrative, or removing essential elements from the narrative, the second iteration of the Pickrick AR prototype also needed to significantly condense the storyline of protesting The Pickrick Cafeteria. 

Empathy Maps & Persona 

Analysis of data gathered through research supported the next step in the design process: empathy mapping and persona description. The personas listed below–Anahi, Jovani, and Julien–were created to exercise the critical practice of identifying intent of design iterations to engage diverse qualities across this project’s target demographic. The D4D framework provided reference for the generation of these personas by asking the leading question: “What’s the worst-case scenario, and on whom?” [7]. This question led to the consideration of alternative perspectives regarding the qualities of people who might interact with Protesting Pickrick AR. Two more leading questions that informed these personas include: 

  1. What’s the best-case scenario, and on whom?
  2. What’s a general scenario, and with whom? 

Below are detailed depictions of the personas created in exploring these scenarios. 


Prioritize what to focus on and why.

After implementing a prototype redesign based upon feedback from previous research methods, it became increasingly important to evaluate these changes with potential users, again. By conducting another round of interviews, more specific aspects of the prototype’s usability were assessed in accordance with an updated criteria for design priorities. Previously established priorities remained in place, but this round of user testing offered an opportunity to isolate critique of prototype features. In concretizing a shared language within the mobile interface, this round of testing sought to provide users with more meaningful interactions while accessing the Protesting Pickrick AR app. 

Deliverable & Design System

This redesign orients users toward an enhanced mobile experience that is rooted in the flow of a chronological timeline of historical events. This interactive timeline offers users the ability to scroll through diverse multimedia retellings and reenactments of events that occurred during demonstrations against The Pickrick Cafeteria after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Functionally, the system straddles user interactions between physical and virtual environments tethered to the space where these demonstrations actually happened. Through a series of compartmentalized multimedia features, users can engage a hybrid educational experience while walking through Georgia Tech’s campus. 

The endeavors detailed throughout this project present a great amount of promising insight into the potential to design increasingly relevant educational experiences through emerging technologies. There’s little to no precedent for engaging histories through the technologies that are gaining popularity today, such as AR. Users accessing these sorts of cultural, historical, and heritage experiences via mobile devices prefer to receive information in forms other than writing, such as imagery, video, or audio narration. These technologies carry great capacity for immersing people in enriching learning experiences that connect with them emotionally. However, the researchers, designers, and developers building these experiences have yet to bridge the gap between AR for engaging spectacle and AR for effective educational purposes. 

Hopefully, this research and design data will go on to inform techno-cultural methods of crafting Black narratives rooted in accurate, and uplifting, socio-cultural references actively informed by Black communities. As it stands, Protesting Pickrick AR attempts to improve existing design solutions in this area of American History education through mobile design. But, considering that few Black-identifying individuals were involved throughout this iterative research and design practice, I believe that these efforts meet a chasm of representation, and potentially verge on significant misrepresentations. 

Moving forward there are 4 potential actionable steps identified to enhance research and design efforts for this project: 

  1. Involve more Black-identifying members of Georgia Tech/Atlanta’s community in the research, design, and development process.
  2. Conduct an instructional design workshop that improves the communication style of educational messaging within the app. 
  3. Further test of integrated audio narration and its effectiveness in user learning. 
  4. A/B Test to compare animated 3D reenactments versus a projected timeline display for AR features.

Work executed during this project is an effort to move away from standard dominant systems of storytelling. At the same, it was also my goal to practice crafting narratives that uplift communities beyond trauma that exists through shared histories, like the Pickrick protests. With the possibility of offering people agency through design, there also persists the potential to reconcile shared experiences that come with translating these moments across communities, space, and time.