The University of Iowa

Kaisha Billings

Kaisha Billings displays the Mason City mobile app interface.

Using graphic designs from students in the School of Art & Art History, UI alumna Kaisha Billings (BA18) 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 of Outreach and Engagement to develop a free mobile app – Embrace Mason City.

The Office of Outreach and Engagement connected the community partners with Jeremy Swanston, assistant professor in the school of art and art history, whose students in the Graphic Design VI course created the easy-to-use, community-based app to connect Mason City residents and visitors to local activities and resources. Kaisha, while majoring in Informatics in the Department of Computer Science, completed the project by building the app and adding content.

"There are always adjustments when you are creating something for another person. They’ll say things like “I was really picturing it would look like this” or “I want to move that over there” and it’s all apart of the process to reaching something that is entirely what the client wants which is really important," Kaisha says.

The app that resulted from the collaboration has content organized into two categories - Things to Do and Community Info – which provide users with a variety of 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. 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. These are all a part of working in the web industry and I was lucky to experience it before graduating," Kaisha says. "Working on this project definitely 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.