DESERT MOD (process)

PSP Mod.png

This conceptual app illustrates complex principles that form the philosophical foundation of Architecture through a series of mid-century modern case studies houses in Palm Springs, California. Light on text, heavy on visuals, this app seeks to create a clear, simple, and educational experience around the more obscure aspects of architecture.




  1. Concept - value proposition and design concept
  2. Research
  3. Information architecture - IA, user flow, interaction
  4. Content strategy
  5. Visual/ UI 
  6. User testing and UI feedback from mentor
  7. Iteration and final design


Design considerations

  • How can this app add value to currently available apps?  Discover Value Proposition
  • What missed learned opportunities occur in current apps about architecture and/ or mid-century modern design? Comparative/ competitive research
  • How can the content be chosen and sequentially revealed in the most informative way without defaulting to written paragraphs? Information Architecture
  • What interactions are needed to curate a delightful experience for users? User Flow
  • How can this app visual design touch on current UI design patterns without being trendy? UI/Visual Design



The purpose of this app is to make the philosophy of architecture accessible by simply expressing the core concepts underlying some of the most famed and influential residences in architectural history. The Design Concept - An app that walks users through the foundational yet obscure aspects underlying architectural design through a series of case study houses. 


Value Proposition

Complicated architectural concepts are represented in this conceptual app through simple diagrams and other visual means. Diagrams are used in architecture to represent the core values informing a design. This aspect of the architectural design education can be the most challenging to grasp at first, but is the essence of what separates lookbook architecture apps from architectural designers and philosophy.




Architecture apps can generally be divided into three categories:

  1. Tools for architects, contractors, home renovators etc - HOUZZ, Autodesk apps, measurement tools
  2. Real Estate apps -, Sothebys, Redfin, Zillow
  3. Guidebooks - For guidebook apps, it is common to have long lists or paragraphs of information. The information closely resembles a wikipedia page paired with an image gallery. Yet the information generally isn't interpreted for the user. This is a missed learning opportunity as there is often no connection between the architectural meaning or accompanying graphics to support interpretation.



Palm Springs Modern: Mid-Century Architecture tour app. This app created by the Palm Springs Modern Committee was created specifically for Palm Springs. It would be considered a guidebook app and adds a lot of value as an onsite tour guide.


Contextual Inquiry

I recently visited Palm Springs and joined a mid-century modern architecture tour. This tour included the renowned Kaufmann House which is the house featured in the residential flow. I also downloaded and used the Palm Springs Modern: Mid-Century Architecture tour app.


Architectural Research

Flow 1 - The Kaufmann House

  • Laid out in broad pinwheel pattern
  • Sprawling seamless integration of indoors and outdoors of spacious desert lawns and gardens
  • Oriented east-west, maximizing sunrise and sunset views
  • Large sliding glass doors open onto patios that are lined with vertical, moveable metal fins.
  • Metal slats enable cooling and closure during sandstorms


FLOW 2 - Desert Modernism

Desert Modernism was a mid-twentieth century approach to modernism that capitalized on the sunny skies and warm climate of southern California and American Southwest. With expansive glass and streamlined styling, Desert Modernism was a regional approach to International Style architecture.


Desert Mod - Characteristics

  • Expansive glass walls and windows
  • Dramatic rooflines
  • Wide overhangs
  • Steel and plastic combined with wood and stone
  • Open floor plans
  • Outdoor living spaces incorporated into the overall design

Information architecture

Information arch MCM.png

Process drawings


User testing

User testing considerations

Big picture - does this app fulfill its value proposition and make sense conceptually to users?

Details - what content or UI needs to be re-evaluated to fulfill the app design concept?


Design Changes due to user feedback

Re-organized app homepage/ IA and added a side-bar menu so that only houses were on the app homepage. (originally the Desert Modernism topic had also been included on the homepage).

Information about the big picture topic of Desert Modernism was moved to this new sidebar menu

Interaction was changed so that each new card would be pinned in the same place as the user progressed through the app

Added background images to better indicate to user their location within the app. Re-evaluated existing images to choose ones that lent greater context to the content.

Added additional transparency to diagrams and altered their design language to be more in tune with core concept

Changed UI details of the vertical breadcrumbs to establish greater visual hierarchy

Added indicator of gallery for individual house landing page ie images (1 of 6)

Added writeup about geography diagram for greater clarity


App Icon Design

This app icon references the architectural feature known as breeze blocks. Concrete breeze blocks are found throughout Palm Springs. They have been well preserved and are greatly appreciated for their architectural significance. They were used to create privacy, for climate control from the hot sun and as decorative fences or screens.


The Design


The Flows

Flow 1 - Journey through a Desert Modern House (The Kaufmann House)

This flow shows the users progression from the splash screen, through the main landing page and into an experience of one house.


Flow 2 - Overview of Desert Modernism