Visionary agency designs social justice apps to protect millions
By Oliver Lindberg
Posted on 10-23-2020
In 2020, as our world has been rocked by a global pandemic and issues of racial injustice, police misconduct, and structural inequalities, technology for social justice is needed more than ever. One design agency at the forefront of this movement is Quadrant 2, which specializes in the development and deployment of innovative mobile apps, chatbots, and video technologies for social good. Now Quadrant 2 is getting ready to reboot the apps that made the company famous, so the team can continue their mission of creating a better, fairer world.
Founder and chief technologist Jason Van Anden invented the first mobile panic button app, called I’m Getting Arrested, specifically for situations where police misconduct was possible. It enabled Occupy Wall Street demonstrators to alert friends and family if they were arrested. When they held a finger down on the app’s hard-to-miss bullseye button, it would send an SMS message to their contacts.
“I really wanted to participate in Occupy,” Van Anden remembers. “But we had an infant at home and my wife was teaching on weekends. Then a friend of mine was almost arrested, so I wrote this app, and we made it available to the protesters.”
I’m Getting Arrested is a frontrunner when it comes to disruptive tech. In this case, handheld devices are tuned to help the people using them in unprecedented ways — by collecting evidence that can contribute to social change in the world. This is tech that promotes proactive, activist efforts on the ground.
I’m Getting Arrested quickly took off, generating a lot of publicity and leading to a collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as they looked for ways to document police misconduct and racial profiling in New York City.
“I felt it was a bad idea to stick your hand in your pocket to trigger an app while being approached by police,” Van Anden points out. “So we created an app, called Stop and Frisk Watch, that enabled bystanders to record incidents, automatically send them to the ACLU, and connect with other users. Since then filming interactions with law enforcement became a thing, and we developed a number of these video apps alongside this movement.”
Today, more than 30 ACLU affiliates all over the U.S. have signed on to Quadrant 2’s Mobile Justice app, consolidating all the affiliate apps into one app. Footage captured by the app is saved on the organization’s server to ensure it remains available even if a phone is seized or destroyed. This invaluable app has been downloaded more than 1 million times.
I’m Getting Arrested app has been installed a 100,000 times around the world and translated into 14 languages.
Rapid interactive prototyping with XD
Back in 2011, Jason simply drew I’m Getting Arrested on a whiteboard and then coded it online. These days, as the team has grown, Quadrant 2 has moved to a more formal prototyping process using Adobe XD.
“We’ve always been a lean product development company,” Van Anden explains. “But in the past we needed to create a ton of mockups that people had to sign off on before we even started. I found this very frustrating because everything changes in the last two weeks before launch, right? Why spend so much time on static wireframes?”
Now the team develops the entire prototype in XD, which speeds up the process, increases productivity, and saves costs.
“I’m amazed at how quickly our UX/UI designer takes the equivalent of my whiteboard, sketches it out, makes it look really polished, refines the user experience, and then creates a video to send to the client to get feedback,” Van Anden points out. “It’s mind-blowing to me.”
Instead of presenting multiple pictures of the app’s design and functionality, the team can now show high-fidelity interactive prototypes to the client. The new, faster process also eliminates a lot of what often gets lost in translation between whiteboard sketches, client requirements, and development. The designer has picked up a lot of responsibilities from the engineering side.
“If I notice something that’s not quite right, I can catch it in the prototype, and the designer can adjust it very quickly,” Van Anden reveals. “No engineer has to spend any of their very expensive time doing it the wrong way. When we hand off the prototypes to the engineers now, we don’t have to explain as much, and they don’t have to make as many choices.”
New version available now at Apple and Google Play store
As technology has moved on since 2011, the new version of I’m Getting Arrested Reboot uses push notifications rather than SMS, which makes it both more secure and free. An individual user can set it up to send a quick burst to key friends or family in case they are arrested at a protest. More info available at Apple App and Google Play stores.
Topics: Design, Customer Stories, Insights & Inspiration, Non-profits, Creative Cloud,