Mobile Research

Philosolist is an app designed to connect students with contemporary critical thinkers and philosphers. We want students to be engageing with high-quality contemporary sources.

The need

Ravensbourne students produce a varied set of quite fantastic dissertations each year. This is great, but how could they be even better? What tools could we provide to help them improve?

It was identified that students could be engaging with Philosophy and Critical Thinking to a greater extent, and that they could also be doing so with a greater emphasis on contemporary sources.

Students want and need to be able to find out about and engage with contemporary Philosophers and Critical Thinkers, but don’t know how.

The pain point/breakdown

Students tend to search for sources on the web. But the most difficult thing to find on the web is the thing that you do not know the name of.

When searching the web you generally search based on text. This is a very efficient way of searching if you know what you are looking for, but very inefficient if you do not.

What I proposed was a closed library of content about critical thinkers and philosophers that uses pre-defined terms in order to search for material. This happens primarily in two ways, using Logic Search and Tag Search.

The user is then shown a list of philosophers and critical thinkers (or their work) and can create custom reading and viewing lists of material to aid they research.

Making the closed open

The closed library of content is opened up in two ways:

1. Through bringing in live feeds of content from Twitter and YouTube and encouraging students to engage with the philosophers and critical thinkers featured in the app.

2. Through inviting open-source contributions to the program source code, design and content in three GitHub projects.

Visual design

Philosolist is designed to provide a clear and readable layout that is also easy on the eye and suitable for a variety of users. Our student population is quite varied, and although it is likely that animation students would be all for a ‘cute’ design, our fashion students have been shown to tend to reject such an approach. Hence this is kept clean and simple, with lightweight fonts reflecting current design trends.

The colour scheme in the app is a nod to Ravensbourne’s sometimes disparaging former nickname of Bauhaus in Bromley, with a colour pallet lifted from German design of the 1920s.

The asymmetrical logo is intended to stay looking good no matter the dimensions of the device in which it is displayed. This clever design trick was created by Pariya Thamnusarn. The logo allows for multiple colours, allowing an app identity to be created throughout the application and helping to inform the user of their location within the app at all times.

Why design iOS first?

Analytics data and user surveys both show that just over half of our students use an iOS mobile device. That’s great from a design perspective, it means consistency in available system fonts and near-identical screen shapes and sizes for half of our users.

This is why Philosolist is lead by design on iOS, with design on other devices being accommodated to as best we can via coding the layout in responsive CSS and JavaScript.

When designing for all of our other users life is not so simple. Our next largest OS is Android. It also has a very big share – which is great – but android phones come from a diverse set of manufacturers and come in a huge range of screen sizes, shapes and resolutions. Android browsers also render items differently and have different available fonts. Designing responsively is not perfect but it’s still pretty good when done right.

Technical requirements

The app must work as a web-app on all popular smartphone devices released since June 2010 and be converted to a native application for iOS and Android.

It should perform as a Single Page Application using web technologies and respond well to use on a variety of screen sizes.

It is acceptable for Philosolist to require an internet connection in order to function fully, but we aim to provide some functionality offline.

Release date?

Philoslist has been approved by management and is awaiting a development schedule. Stay tuned for more updates.