Generative Research for the Front End of Design: A Talk by Liz Sanders
Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 12:00-1:00pm
University of the Arts, Terra Hall, 5th Floor, Room 511/513
The MID program at UArts is pleased to present a talk by Liz Sanders on Generative Research for the Front End of Design. Sanders is a pioneer in the use of participatory research methods for the design of products, systems, services, and spaces. She currently teaches at Ohio State University, and is the founder of MakeTools (http://www.maketools.com/), a company that explores generative tools for collective creativity.
You can check out her new book Convivial Toolbox here: http://amzn.com/9063692846
MID Students to Compete in Fox Design Challenge
Cross-posted from UArts News. We’ll follow up shortly with a reflection on our experience:
Graduate students in the Master of Industrial Design (MID) program at the University of the Arts will compete in the Fox Design Challenge, set to take place February 15 – 19. The annual student competition is organized by the Center for Design+Innovation (cD+i) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in collaboration with UArts and Philadelphia University (PhilaU).
Assistant Professor and MID program head Jeremy Beaudry serves as a facilitator for the Challenge with faculty members from Fox and PhilaU. An innovative idea competition that combines the best of the quantitative world of business with the qualitative world of design, 120 students from the three universities and Philadelphia high schools will compete – the largest number since starting the Challenge.
Based on the theme “Broad Access,” the 2013 Fox Design Challenge is focused on Philadelphia’s urban fabric and the Broad Street corridor. Student teams interview local civic, business and community leaders, research areas of interest, identify problems and opportunities, and work with cD+i to design meaningful solutions that are environmentally responsible, economically sustainable and humanly satisfying. The ideas developed by the teams will be implemented and commercialized through Temple’s Urban Apps & Maps Studio.
February 15, 4 – 6:30 p.m.
Challenge Kick-Off and Information Roundtables
February 16 – 18
Guided group tours and individual fieldwork and research
February 19, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Awards Ceremony immediately following the competition
Building Community: a workshop with Peter Block
Alex Visconti, a second year student in the MiD program, reflects on her recent attendance at a community-building workshop led by Peter Block. This post was originally posted on Alex’s blog on February 11, 2013.
Last week my MiD classmates and I had the opportunity to experience a workshop led by Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting and Community: The Structure of Belonging. His workshop is focused around the aspects that make a successful community and the power it holds in creating conversations and fostering a new world based on communal values rather than business perspectives.
The structure of the workshop is aimed at gaining an optimal sense of community within it. The audience is often instructed to find the person or people in the room who he or she knows the least and form a small group of three, sitting with everyone’s knees only 9 inches apart.
The six types of conversations that he lists as most important for communities to ask and answer are as follows:
The most engaging part of the workshop for me was Block’s calling out the fact that we by default describe the world in which we live as a world of scarcity, consistently focusing on what we do not have, or what problems need fixing, rather than fostering what we do have and seeing opportunity. This consumer society attitude permeates our entire lives and we start to define ourselves by what we are not. Rather than saying what we are, we default to what we are not. Peter Block so eloquently says that we should be gift minded, not deficiency minded. By using questions rather than answers we can show we care for the other person, using curiosity in place of help. Helping someone can imply that you know whats best for them, causing a colonization of that person, rather than being curious and asking them questions to help the other person define what is best for themselves and trust his/her instinct. When people are treated as thought they can effect change in their own lives, they will. Treating people as choice-ful rather than deficient allows that person to fulfill their personal agency.
The last bit of information I will take from this workshop is asking the questions, “why is this important to you?” and “what’s at stake for you?” These seem especially useful in the context of an argument or disagreement because they do not ask the opposition to restate or make me convert to their point of view, but rather get at an understanding of why that person is acting the way they are, therefore creating empathy.
I’ll end with a Buddhist quote that one of the women in my small group said which stuck with me: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It reminds me that life goes on. Even with greater knowledge and sophistication, we are all subject to doing daily tasks and carrying out the parts of our lives that keep us human.
Editor’s note: Special thanks to the wonderful staff at the Cranaleith Spiritual Center who so warmly hosted the workshop!
The Value of Real-World Projects
Kelly Babcock, a second year student in the MiD program, writes on the importance and value of real-world projects in her graduate education experience. This post was originally posted on Kelly’s blog on October 27, 2012.
It just recently occurred to me that the majority of my higher educational training in the MiD program has involved a real-world project curriculum — and how beneficial this has been to my “employability.”
My undergraduate graphic design coursework involved an interdisciplinary studio class where we formed student teams and worked with real clients on branding-focused projects. The students were from marketing, mass communication, and graphic design, and the course lasted for one semester. We learned project management skills, had regular client meetings and presentations, and had to provide professional design deliverables by strict deadlines.
My MiD graduate coursework at the University of the Arts has a strong focus on collaborating with real clients. We take on the responsibility of identifying client partners, building the relationship, and fostering it throughout all aspects of the project — schedules, meetings, presentations, deliverables, and of course the design work involved.
This curriculum has been invaluable to me, and I can’t imagine school any other way. The thought of a “made up” client or project just seems meaningless, and I feel that higher education (and even earlier) will need to adjust to this type of real-world project curriculum if they want to best prepare their graduates for employment. There are key skills that you acquire by working in this professional manner, and the more comfortable you are with them prior to entering the workforce, the more you will stand out above others.
I have been researching this further and I am interested in understanding the ways in which others describe the outcomes and effectiveness of engaging students with real clients. One study I came across was: “Future Fit: Preparing Graduates for the World of Work,” published by the Confederation of British Industry. The study nicely outlines what employability means, and the skills that can be acquired while still in school to better prepare you for the work world.
First, they define “employability skills”:
A set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all labour market participants should possess to ensure they have the capability of being effective in the workplace — to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy.
Then, they outline what the skills include:
- Self-management: readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, resilience, self-starting, appropriate assertiveness, time management, readiness to improve own performance based on feedback/reflective learning.
- Teamworking: respecting others, co-operating, negotiating/persuading, contributing to discussions, and awareness of interdependence with others.
- Business and customer awareness: basic understanding of the key drivers for business success – including the importance of innovation and taking calculated risks – and the need to provide customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty.
- Problem solving: analysing facts and situations and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions.
- Communication and literacy: application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work and oral literacy – including listening and questioning.
- Application of numeracy: manipulation of numbers, general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts (e.g. measuring, weighing, estimating and applying formulae).
- Application of information technology: basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and use of internet search engines.
- Underpinning all these attributes, the key foundation, must be a positive attitude: a ‘can-do’ approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make these happen.
- Frequently mentioned by both employers and universities is entrepreneurship/enterprise: broadly, an ability to demonstrate an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk-taking. An individual with these attributes can make a huge difference to any business.
I can relate to these skills, and can attest to the benefits of learning these through the real-world project curriculum I have experienced through the MiD program.
As I continue to look into university-based venture incubators and innovation centers for an independent study project this semester, I hope to incorporate these ideas about engaging students with real clients. There is just such great satisfaction when you know that the project has a greater purpose and value beyond just merely a learning exercise.
Making Sense of Transformation Design
Vrouyr Joubanian, a first year MiD graduate student, summarizes the main principles of transformation design and reflects on his evolving understanding of the role of design and designer.
Two readings from our design seminar this past week, the UK Design Council’s RED Paper 02 and “Transformative Services and Transformation Design” by Daniela Sangiorgi, are a call to action for the creation of yet another new design discipline that applies design skills to social and economic issues through user-centered, interdisciplinary, collaborative and participatory processes. This new discipline, which starts from the perspective of the end user and creates changes and social transformations, is called transformation design.
The RED Paper discusses a shift from the ‘master designer’ to a state where the end user’s needs and experience are essential to the design process. So the user becomes an expert and participates in the design of services, experiences, products and interactions, rather than just being an object of the design process. Since we are in the middle of a user-revolution, where non-trained designers, considered ‘expert users’, are taking the design of products and services into their own hands, questions like ‘what we design’, ‘how we design’, and ‘who designs’ are raised.
The authors go on giving examples of how user-centered design (co-design) is applied to social issues, and provide three basic core skills to this approach:
1. Looking from the point of view of the user of the products and services, designers “immerse themselves in context,” which can help to gain empathy and generate insights on how things could change for the better;
2. Making things visible through the use of visual frameworks (sketches, diagrams, storyboards, etc.), which creates a common platform for discussion, avoids misinterpretation and helps build a shared vision
3. Prototyping by trying solutions and getting in-situ feedback from the users to test out possibilities before committing to building the real thing.
Furthermore, after presenting several case studies, the authors of the RED Paper introduce six characteristics of transformation design:
- defining and redefining the brief
- collaborating between disciplines
- employing participatory design techniques
- building capacity, not dependency
- designing beyond traditional solutions
- creating fundamental change
Daniela Sangiorgi’s article focuses on the application of transformation design to building services that trigger the establishment of collaborative, sustainable, and creative societies. She argues that services are no longer an end, but rather an “engine for wider societal transformations” and enablers of “society-driven innovation.”
She continues discussing the redesign of public services by building collaborative service models and models of co-creation and co-production, which mean “the use of distributed resources, collaborative modes of delivery, and the participation of users in ‘the design and delivery of services, working with professionals and frontline staff to devise effective solutions.’”
She then proposes that designers adopt principles from community action research and make use of them in service design, and follows with seven key principles “that seem to unify transformative practices in design, organizational development and community action research.” These principles are:
- active citizens
- intervention at community scale
- building capacities and project partnerships
- redistributing power
- designing infrastructures and enabling platforms
- enhancing imagination and hope
- evaluating success and impact
As much as I agree with these general principles and characteristics presented by both RED and Sangiorgi, coming from a product design background, I can’t help but strongly relate to the philosophical and practical challenges that designers face when it comes to transformation design. I have come to a realization that my understanding of design — which I have built through my previous design studies in Lebanon and the Middle East (which is a whole other, juicy, topic of discussion) and work experience — is the traditional view/practice of design, and that makes me uncomfortable when trying to embrace this new discipline of transformation design. Today, we shape behaviors rather than forms.
We don’t focus on products or technology; we focus on society’s needs.
We are not the sole authors of ideas; we are facilitators of others’ ideas.
We don’t work alone and we are not ‘master designers.’
We collaborate with untrained designers; we co-design.
We don’t have finished results anymore, but are creating systems that will change and reconfigure after we have left the scene.
We don’t define good design; we work on developing what’s good enough.
Looks like I’m going through a paradigm shift.