Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Utilizing graphic designs from students in the School of Art & Art History, UI alumna Kaisha Billings built a community-based mobile app for Mason City during her senior year at Iowa. 

The process began with Visit Mason City and the City of Mason City teaming up with the Office Community Engagement to develop a free mobile app – Embrace Mason City.

The Office of Community Engagement connected the community partners with Jeremy Swanston, assistant professor in the art and art history school. 

The Graphic Design VI course students created the easy-to-use, community-based app to connect Mason City residents and visitors to local activities and resources.

While majoring in Informatics in the Department of Computer Science, Billings completed the project by building the app and adding content.

"There are always adjustments when creating something for another person," Billings said. "They'll say things like, 'I was picturing it would look like this, or I want to move that over there,' and it's all a part of the process of reaching something that is what the client wants, which is important," Billings said.

The app that resulted from the collaboration has content organized into two categories - Things to Do and Community Info – which provide users with various helpful information and resources. 

The app guides users to Mason City attractions and nearby restaurants. Cycling enthusiasts can navigate the city's bikeway system and trails, and users can scroll through upcoming events and access Visit Mason City's interactive Travel Guide. 

All listings include location details and instant directions, featuring maps and public transit. The app even directs users to a city portal for reporting maintenance issues.

"I use each aspect of that project daily in my job at Informatics, Inc., from establishing requirements for what clients want the app to achieve, the content placement and custom coding, touching base with the clients to review progress, and making adjustments," Billings said. "These are all a part of working in the web industry, and I was lucky to experience it before graduating. Working on this project reinforced the idea that working in this industry was what I wanted to do, and it pushed me to apply for jobs that I maybe would have been uncertain about before."

The Embrace Mason City app is available now for download from the iTunes AppStore and on Google Play.