Ebola Pandemic Response

Helping health organizations, in world-wide eradication efforts, by studying historically proven methods and applying them to modern day social media platforms. 



A pandemic has just hit the United States in a rural community. 40%-50% of people infected will die. Identify the biggest problems currently facing response efforts and develop a novel technology-based design solution. 

The goal of this project is to create a process for ideation, and to develop a concept to the point that it is ready to be prototyped. 


Lead Visual Designer. 
Lead Product Designer for the primary concept.

4 weeks


Opportunity - The Epidemic Curve

All disease outbreaks naturally have a bell curve shape. Even more intriguing is the concept that the top of this curve can be shaved off, saving many lives in the process.

It can be divided into four major phrases

  1. Preparedness
  2. Detection
  3. Response
  4. Eradication

We developed concepts for every stage, but ultimately focused on eradication, because proven methods of eradication have not been significantly updated since the 1970's and is ripe territoy for a design intervention using social media platforms. 

Source: TEDMED: Larry Brilliant: Is the End of Pandemics in Sight? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS3jY4IY7N8&feature=youtu.be&t=3m33s  

Source: TEDMED: Larry Brilliant: Is the End of Pandemics in Sight?


What has worked before?

The image  to the left is of Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist was part of the Smallpox Eradication Program. Just as organizations were Polio under control there was a outbreak in India in the 1974. An unprecidented erradication effort was put into motion, here is how it worked:

  • Mobilized 150,000 volunteers, who knocked on 1 billions doors. This is what is called door-to door eradication, and was the most effective prt of the program.
  • They did this in areas where it was thought that there were no cases of polio.
  • But every time they knocked on doors there was a spike in reporting and a spike confirmed cases of polio.
  • This effort worked, and by 1980 Smallpox cases dropped to zero.

Door to Door Eradication
Smallpox Eradication Program (SEP)
Larry Brilliant
1966 - 1980

Report Smallpox poster
ca. 1975

Poster encouraging the reporting of smallpox to authorities. 
ca. 1973-1977

How can we build on this idea using modern social media platforms?

Going door to door made sense in the 1970’s, and to some extend it still makes sense today, but how can technology and social media change they way we approach the eradication problem. Below are some examples of self reporting platforms that influenced our concept. 


The goals are simple

1.  Raise awareness
2.  Increase reporting

How it works

  • Log into Facebook like normal.
  • An alert will be pinned to the top of your newsfeed. “you are in the affected area.”
  • The message will be displayed in the same language as your Facebook profile.
  • Complete a survey, and can share your support through a post.
  •  If your answers indicate you might be infected. 
  • Can be seen by a Nurse
  • Tested for Ebola
  • Data collected for eradication effort.
  • Shared API with CDC, WHO, Health department.
Screenshot 2017-05-02 22.28.17.png

Why Facebook?

Our concept is not dependent on using a single social media platform. However, our original inspiration comes from the work of Larry Brilliant and his door-to-door eradication effort, where the goal was to talk to one person in every single home in affected areas of India. Just about everyone in the United States has at least one family member on Facebook that signs in regularly, therefore we felt this was the strongest platform to use for concept development.


Our goal was to show the alert in as many situations, on as many devices, with as few images as possible. It was important to show how the alert would appear both on a mobile platform and a computer, and to users who speak different languages.

As it would appear on a smartphone, in English.

As it would appear on a smartphone, in English.

As it would appear on a laptop in Chinese.

As it would appear on a laptop in Chinese.



Although we did not have direct access to the world best experts, their talks are readily available. We watched hours of talks about bird flu,Polio Eradication, and self reporting platforms.


Larry Brilliant

Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who has been a major part of the eradication effort of two diseases. Smallpox and Polio.

Laurie Garrett

Pulitzer prize-winning science journalist, she is a leading expert on the topic of the avian flu. 

Screenshot 2017-05-02 23.12.36.png

Dr. Philip Green

An ER doctor in Walla Walla, Washington who developed a hospital procedure for ebola preparedness. Dr. Green was our primary subject matter expert


511 - Pandemic- Stage 1.png

I started by creating a problem space, where I tried to identify the issues being discussed by experts in the field. Then ranked them from 1-5 based on the severity of the problem. 

Using severe problems as inspiration, I developed broad solutions, and categorized them by type.


The most severe problems spaces in the modern world, ranked by severity.

Screenshot 2017-05-02 23.16.34.png

Top solution spaces from this exploration. When we met as a group we decided to combine two ideas: 1. Creating a platform for self reporting. 2. A plan for door to door eradication, similar to the one used for smallpox in India (more on that later).



This most interesting and helpful insights came from our peers and Faculty.  I created a simple color-coded system for organizing the feedback. Next, we consolidated the feedback into easy to understand lists.

Screenshot 2017-05-02 23.22.53.png
Screenshot 2017-05-02 23.23.16.png



Here you can see the three ideas that received the most feedback. Although concept three was controversial, it received much more attention than any other concept. 

Screenshot 2017-05-02 23.30.40.png


  1. Address the questions without compromising the positive aspects of the concept. Use these questions to further develop the product.
  2. Address the negative feedback without compromising the positive feedback or the new features created from questions.
  3. Understand trade-offs and begin making decisions. It's impossible to. address all feedback. Make the concept as strong as possible, then gather more feedback and start the process over again.


Rarely in the working world are you afforded the chance to see the work you are pitching against. However, given this opportunity I felt the need to create a competitive analysis of what was working in the presentations of our peers, as well as competing ideas. This allowed our group to quickly settle on a look we were all happy with, and move forward with the ideas that we felt were the most competitive. 

Screenshot 2017-05-02 23.33.46.png


The work from our cohort was strong and we wanted every element of our next presentation to get an upgrade. Our personas are one of the most stark examples of this. Big beautiful photos, easy to read quotes, and quality and concise content.


We continued to refine our experience map, using feedback gathered from students and faculty.

  • More clear experience stages.
  • Changed our y axis to a metric that was easier to understand - “stress.” 
  • Adding quotes. 
  • Making the live / die scenario more clear by citing a 50% death rate from the CDC. 
  • http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

Final thoughts

Once our final presentation was over, we took questions. Our concept was still topic of intense inquiry and discussion. Some of the questions I had answers for, and others I was filing away for a potential stage five. If there was a stage five, here are the topics I would like to explore:
Expanding the idea beyond the US
For example, China does not allow access to Facebook. How would this alert on RenRen?

Lit review
Studying history was the biggest benefit to our idea.  Continued research would be crucial to any future ideation.

Expert interviews
Ideally an expert with first-hand experience with eradication 

User testing and prototyping
Defining what questions will be included in the questionnaire.

Storyboarding and UX design
Mapping out the user experience on every device. 

Expanded features
Begin exploring addition features which can leverage the particular aspects of the facebook (or other) platform

Designing a logo, and design language for the platform.