Design Build Challenge Day 6: Ideate to Prototype

Now the work is really heating up. Student teams are diversifying. Some are working on storyboards, others on research, going back to their empathy maps, rewatching some of the client interviews, even looking up client businesses and correlating those with public transit routes, or getting a sense, through Google earth, of the larger context of client neighborhoods and communities.

One of the things I love most about Design Thinking is its integrative nature. As a champion of the liberal arts (see the mindmap of Prof. William Cronon’s “Only Connect: The Goals of a Liberal Education” above), I am enthralled by activities that draw on vast, and vastly different types of cognitive and physical work. Nothing I’ve ever done has approached that in the deep and meaningful/purpose-driven way that Human-Centered Design Thinking does.

I think Casey would agree. Please read her post.

Casey, Sophomore

As our class progresses through the Build Design Challenge, it is fully consuming our creative minds. Immediately immersing yourself in a person and attempting to decipher what they need, what their passions are, and what they internally struggle with is easy- on the surface. Building empathy for the four clients which we interviewed was quintessential in the design thinking process. Committing to the “Empathize” section of this challenge is without a doubt the most important action we as ethical thinkers must take to proceed towards a feasible solution. Diving deeper into body language, setting, and so much more truly tells us about our client. After each student chose one of the four people, we were put into groups who decided on the same client (I chose Sixto). Defining problems comes next. Through endless amounts of sticky-noting, our group selected issues or traits about Sixto that could lead us in the direction of innovation. As seen below, we were very generous in our Post-it collection.

After defining point of view statements, it was clear to see the priorities our group set for Sixto. Ideating took place the past two days. My group was able to use our chromebooks to sketch out our final idea and we are moving forward to research and prototype soon. I am slightly nervous about venturing into human-centered design, simply because we are humans. We have more similarities than differences and ultimately, the success and effort of our final idea is equally important as the next group. By working together and understanding varying mindsets within the group, it opens up more possibilities for inventive action. 

I am so honored to be part of a class that is as trailblazing as this one. I honestly feel anxious about this entire challenge because of that. Oftentimes, I make myself think that my ideas are worthless, and I will go nowhere in this space. This is all sprouted from my worried mind, but failure in terms of my own standards is a battle I constantly struggle with. I find myself feeling at home here, being, instead of simply existing. I stand by the fact that living an unapologetic and free life is good, but applying that concept to myself is difficult. Creativity seems like it just does not come easily to me. As I continue to grow here, I hope to shift my mindset. Going to Fluxspace makes me excited, because I have faith in the intelligence of my group. Being in that space will be so interesting. I can not wait to see what I am capable of. 

Passionately working is so different from working with the sole purpose of finishing. I commit my mind to openly creatingthroughout my life.

Casey, Sophomore

In reference to the cumulative project, the self-determined, Purpose-Driven project I want to explore in marking periods 2–4, I have had an idea for a few weeks now. Still, I find myself doubting it before I allow myself to create. I think this Build Design Challenge is such an important gateway to the final project. Passionately working is so different from working with the sole purpose of finishing. Often, we as busy humans are subjected to cram tasks into our day, instead of being truly infatuated with what we are doing. I sincerely hope I commit my mind to openly creating throughout the duration of this class, but also throughout my life. 

Design Build Challenge: Define to Ideate

We’ve been working feverishly. Empathy building and Defining our challenge…those aren’t easy things. They take time and heart, and wording a challenge for a real-life client is fraught with “what if I forget…” or “how could I ever…” type statements that instill doubt and hesitancy. And yet, how productive and important is this struggle?! Crafting these point of view statements is a complex problem to be solved, and it also frames a complex solve we will be solving. It’s thrilling, daunting, and utterly engaging. Here’s Julia’s take on it all:

Julia, Junior

These past few days my group and I have learned a lot about a man named Sixto who is a loving father and teacher. The Build Design Challenge tasked us with observing and building empathy for our client which was an eye opening experience for me. I was looking into someone else’s life who was struggling with things I have never had to deal with before such as health issues, lack of economic freedom, and compactness in a community.

During the “cluster” stage of the challenge I worked with a group of six classmates, compiling our insights about Sixto. We wrote each of our insights on post-it notes and categorized them on a large poster. The most prominent categories were community, health, gentrification, family, and teaching. We used those categories to create point of view statements representing Sixto’s needs and conflicts. 

Today in class I worked on the next step, ideating, with my small group. This required us to choose a point of view statement and start brainstorming ideas that would help Sixto. It was not very difficult for us to choose a point of view statement, because the conflict that stood out the most was Sixto’s lack of space in his community and neighborhood.  After doing so, we used our point of view statement to come up with around 15 possible solutions to provide Sixto with a more comfortable lifestyle for him and his family. Some of our ideas were very random and wouldn’t be the best solution for him, however we were able to combine a bunch of them to create a rough sketch of an ideal neighborhood and community for Sixto and his family that would give him space to live comfortably. This sketch includes a lot of greenery, a park, playground, rec center, garden, walking paths, etc. My group and I cannot wait to start the prototype for this design. 

But I also found myself questioning whether it was important for this design to be realistic and affordable for our client. After talking to Mr. Heidt, I gained clarity that for the moment it didn’t matter how realistic this design was, because it was just about brainstorming all possible ideas. I know I will likely struggle with keeping an open mind and thinking about multiple options before choosing one for sure, because this idea about a spacious community has been in my mind the entire challenge. Moving forward, I am excited to start bringing these designs to life and creating visuals and prototypes for them. There are definitely some nerves about presenting the project in front of people, but I have faith in my group that we will be able to successfully capture the needs of Sixto in a well-thought-out design. 

It’s Knot that Simple

The other day in NOVA Lab, as we were working on empathy mapping for the National Design Challenge, one of the students was tying her shoe. Others were watching, and they questioned how she was doing it, trying to teach her other ways.

Now, most people tie a simple bow knot and leave it at that, retying the knot as they need, or tying an extra square knot to keep the bow knot in place. This, of course, makes untying the knot a hassle.

So I showed the students another way. After tying a bow knot, I take the bow in my left hand and pass it over and through one extra time.

Maybe there’s another name for this knot. I don’t know. But I know no one in my class had ever seen it and it fascinated them.

Apparently it is called the Windsor shoelace knot. I suppose that’s easy enough, but still, it was foreign to most all the class.

Clayton Christensen defined 4 key discovery skills that characterize the Innovator’s DNA. One of them is Observation. To a certain extent, observation is to turn to the world and see it with fresh eyes. Such is one of the key characteristics of all creative people.

It can be done!

And on that day, last week, we saw, some of us, for the first time, a plainly rote and mundane action, tying shoes, with different eyes. And maybe some of us saw where innovation starts–with seeing, and thinking, different…as the campaign that resurrected one of the world largest, most innovative companies used to say.

Build Design Challenge: Collaborating, Defining, Affinity Mapping

Friday, October 29 found us gathering in groups around our clients and sharing all our insights into the client’s life. Culling all those observations and then organizing them into clusters through affinity mapping will help us identify pain points, opportunities, or needs that we can solve to help the client and their neighborhood develop into powerful, thriving communities. Ryan will take it from here.

Ryan, Senior

The last few weeks our class has been moving towards a goal of working on empathy mapping and continuing to build our abilities to feel empathy for others to help solve personal problems. We have begun competing in the challenge to practice our empathy skills in more realistic situations. Our assignment was to watch a few character videos and pick a character that we felt most connected to. Each character had a completely different background, living in different conditions, different ages, and had different goals for their future. Although these people were diverse they all shared a common trait of wanting to improve their community. Personally I felt most connected to Sixto, a high school english teacher, who cares deeply for his family and young son’s upbringing. 

The step of the Design Thinking process that we reached in today’s class is the define stage. In this stage our group came together to share our ideas and define different aspects of the characters’ life that are recurring themes. We need to isolate a single issue to focus on and by doing this it helps the group to get an understanding of Sixto’s priorities and a better understanding of his main problems. We completed this task by using post it notes to share our ideas as seen in the photo above and then separating the similar themes into distinct piles. The result was that we had 5 themes- Community, work, family, gentrification, economic/financial issues. I’m excited to see how my group will continue to collaborate our ideas throughout the defining of the issue stage and the next stage of the Design Thinking process (Ideate).

Build Design Challenge: Day Three

We’re on our third day of‘s Design Build Challenge. There’s plenty of time to join. Check out the website!

What’s most impressed me about’s work on this year’s challenge is just how real Build University is trying to keep the experience to the Design Thinking methodology. Today’s work on empathy is excellent and the intention behind how they’ve organized this part of the activity is outstanding.

We started looking at empathy today, trying to determine a “client” whose life we will dive deep into to honor the human-centered nature of the work. I’ll let Ava, one of my sophomores, take it from here…

inNOVAtor Insights

Ava, Sophomore

At the moment, we are at the beginning of the design process and we are working on developing our skills in being empathetic. Yesterday we continued with our design sprint challenge by focusing on observing and building empathy for people from a couple of different images. We looked at words, colors, facial expressions, and body language in each of the images and then discussed common themes to create key concepts for our designs. We found that each image displayed themes of community, peace, empowerment, and flourishing and decided that this would provide some of the foundations for our projects.

We also annotated the Design challenge and developed a better understanding for just what the question is actually asking of us. (See yesterday’s post for that work)

Today we again focused on becoming more empathetic towards those we are designing for with the intention to get to know the user of our product and to design it to best fit their needs. We met four potential clients, all from different backgrounds and age groups and all with different goals and aspirations. We watched an introductory video for each client to get a feel for them and decide who we want to work with for this challenge. 

I decided I would be able to work best with Ises because I felt that I connected with her best as we are both committed to making things better for those around us, whether that be in the form of food security, financial stability, affordable and effective healthcare and housing, etc. I’m interested in learning more about her and figuring out what exactly I can help her with. I think she seems determined truly interested in creating meaningful change in the world and I’m excited to help her do so. 

Overall I do find myself having some reservations about the best way to go about finding a solution to whatever problem we decide to focus on. While we have spent a lot of time in class working on becoming more innovative and thinking outside of the box, I still have noticed that I struggle with this at times. If anything though, I think that obstacle will make this challenge more fun because it will allow me to experiment with becoming more creative and unconventional in my ideas. I think the best way to describe my current feelings toward the events of the coming weeks is cautiously enthusiastic. While I am slightly nervous about the way this will turn out, I am also excited to see what we come up with and all of the different ways we find to solve a problem.