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Darpa Plan X

Posted in UX, Research, Prototyping, Creative_Direction

Darpa came to frog with a big question: “how do we enable our people to defend the internet?”

This was a great project where we were able to dive deep, understand our users, learn about the inner workings of the internet and get a feel for the true scale of the web. Spoiler alert it’s very, very big, and cyberwarfare is fought on timescales that humans do not operate at. Overall an incredibly challenging project and I’m happy to report that my team ably met and exceeded that challenge.

  • Role: Creative Director
  • Team: (5) 2 Interaction Designers, 1 Visual Designer, 1 Design Technologist, 1 Project Manager
  • Company: frog
  • Client: Darpa
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Sample of a persona from the research.

After completing our research and user interviews, we generated user personas that helped us understand the differing roles and types of users of the system. As this was designed for the armed forces there was a clear chain of command and each role had specific needs and capabilities that we kept top of mind during the design phase.

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An example of the wireframes explaining the interaction design for the multitouch table.

As we began honing in on the overall interaction model, we were doing technical spikes on prospective platforms to ensure they could handle the number of nodes we would need. These helped us understand the materiality that we were dealing with and allowed us to test our assumptions against current state of the art hardware, knowing that these would be closer to middle of the road specs when Plan X was rolled out live.

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The selected visual style for our system.

In parallel our visual designer was creating a few style approaches for the overall visual language. In collaboration with our client we choose a very scifi looking style that worked really well for drawing the nodes and connectors of the internet.

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The Samsung multitouch table that ran the interface for our simulation. Not the actual system on the display.

By the end we had everything working together on a 40” multitouch surface that could sense special physical objects we made to use as markers and tokens.

Say you’re playing World of Warcraft, and you’ve got this type of sword, +5 or whatever. You don’t necessarily know what spells were used to create that sword, right? You just know it has these attributes and it helps you in this way. It’s the same type of concept. You don’t need the technical details, Dan Roelker (client)
We didn’t approach it as a cyberwarfare program at all. We approached it as a mapping project. Nick de la Mare (Executive Creative Director, frog)

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UX Director with a heart of gold. Enjoys creation in all of it's forms. If you're looking to bribe him with something that fits in a bag, think scotch or rare hand tools. If you want to ensure success go with one of these.

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