Everything I do, I do it for You!

Design thinking was one of my favourite subjects while in my undergraduate. The freedom to design while fulfilling a need was something that always inspired me to work.

“A human-centred approach to innovation.”, this is how Tim Brown, CEO of the global innovation and design firm IDEO, defines design thinking. I am in complete agreement with him. I feel the ‘Human approach’ is what makes it interesting. How can we have a blog about design thinking without this video:

Your customer has to be at the centre of your problem-solving process. It’s ‘Human’ centred design after all!

Design thinking is a process of creative problem-solving. It’s not just designing because you can, it’s designing because there is a need. It’s literally how designers think – but it’s not ONLY limited to designers. A lot of people think “Well, this won’t work for me, I’m not a designer.” But turns out this concept can be applied to any field, for growth and productivity. With the help of design thinking businesses now can change their approach towards problem-solving, and thus reach their goal in an easy and more interesting way.

Rather than sitting at a desk, trying to come up with a product, design thinking makes you come up with a solution to any problem out there. It’s all about testing real-life data to come up with a solution. By using this, you make decisions based on what customers really want. instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.

Before we move ahead, What is the design thinking process? According to the D.School, Design Thinking is a process consisting of five interrelated activities.

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It starts with EMPATHY:

It’s time to talk to people, engage in conversations and start asking the right questions. With the answers you get, you create a frame for yourself. Empathy is crucial, we need to understand the people who we are designing for, and treat the problems we are trying to solve as our own. Now it’s easy to confuse empathy with sympathy. Here’s a video explaining empathy and its importance:

 

After finding out the problem, and mapping it out, the next step is DEFINE:

Here you define the problem and the problem area. Well-defined problems mean well-understood problems, which lead to breakthrough solutions. When developing new products, processes, or even businesses, most people don’t define the problems they’re attempting to solve and fail to articulate why those issues are important.

Only once you properly define a problem, do you move to IDEATE:

The D.School’s definition of ideation is “The mode of the design process in which you concentrate on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes. Ideation provides both the fuel and also the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.”
Here you generate ideas using different methods like brainstorming, visual brainstorming, SCAMPER etc.. I’ve always felt that ideation happens better in groups, where you can bounce ideas off of one another. All ideas are welcome and focus on QUANTITY over QUALITY. More number of ideas the better. Sometimes even the silliest idea sparks off a brilliant one.

Here is a video of how a brainstorming session should be like, fun, interesting and inspiring:

Once you have THE idea, you go ahead and PROTOTYPE it and then you TEST it:

Don’t sit with your idea trying to perfect it. Make a functioning prototype (Minimum Viable Product) and send it out for testing. Only when you do will you get feedback and understand how to move ahead. Whether to go ahead or go back to the ideation stage, it all depends on your testing feedback. Design thinking is never a linear process. Here’s how it actually goes:

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Two videos I found while browsing through youtube, about Prototyping in design thinking:

In conclusion, to summarize this post:

Important Aspects of Design Thinking:

  1. Empathy;
  2. Ideation;
  3. Prototyping and testing.

Why Is Design Thinking Important?

  1. It reduces the risk associated with launching new ideas because you test as soon as you prototype
  2. It helps not only designers design, but organizations grow and learn.
  3. It generates solutions that are innovative
  4. Captures the mindsets and needs of the people you’re creating for. So the product or service is based on the needs of these people.

References:

  1. D.School, (2010). An Introduction to Design Thinking PROCESS GUIDEEmpathize. [online] Available at: https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
  2. The Interaction Design Foundation. (2018). Design Thinking: Get Started with Prototyping. [online] Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/design-thinking-get-started-with-prototyping [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
  3. YouTube. (2013). Brené Brown on Empathy. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
  4. Vimeo. (2015). IDEO Brainstorming Video from IDEO U. [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/138588491 [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
  5. YouTube. (2016). Design Thinking 1: Empathy Based Prototyping. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_n2QEf-WiU [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
  6. YouTube. (2016). Design Thinking 2 Rapid Prototypes HD. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vpd7uov5UM0 [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].

 

 

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Time to face the Heat!

It was time for our team Hi-Phive, to present in front of the Dragons! It was Dragon’s Den at Kingston University, and boy were we nervous! We created our startup, and came out with our first product prototype – The Edamame Pod!

Here is our design:

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As a part of the Dragon’s Den, we had to pitch our idea in front of a panel of judges. No matter how many times I do it, I still get really nervous before! We prepared our presentation based on a few points:

DQjlo3qWsAARwao(Pic by Alice Comi.  Twitter: @comi_alice)

  1. The Elevator pitch: Unless you can convince people about your idea, no matter how brilliant it is, it will go to waste. This is what an elevator pitch helps you do. It’s a make or break 1-minute pitch that explains what we were selling. We used role play to show the problem and tried to make our pitch interesting! We made a small play showing the problem we were addressing and how our product could help solve that problem. We didn’t practise much, but in the end, it all went well. (PHEW!)
  2. Up next was the: WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW? Adress the problem, the target group, explain the product and its key features. Though our product was in its ‘Minimum Viable Product’ stage, I am glad we had a prototype to show and explain the working of it. It also gave the judges a better idea of what the product was to look like. We also spoke about the target market and how we would attract our first customer.

We got an overall good response from the judges, and they were happy with our presentation. We also did get some good feedback and criticism which we took in a constructive manner. Suggestions were made in terms of the material, marketing and price. We will definitely take into account whatever was said and re-work on our idea.

I feel this was a great opportunity to learn and practise delivering your ideas in a professional manner. I do feel ready and a lot less nervous to tackle the real Dragon’s Den!

Woohoo Team Hi-Phive!

Edamame 123.

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Team Hi-Phive presents to you, the Edamame Pod. It’s a three in one grocery bag, that makes your shopping experience a convenient one. Here are some more details of our design idea. It will help you understand what our product is.

Firstly let’s talk about WHY? Why the Edamame pod? What value does it deliver?
Well, while we were ideating for problems we figured out that there were a lot of problems that students as grocery shoppers faced on a regular basis. Whenever we go grocery shopping we need to take a bag or pay for one if we forget.What if you have meat, vegetables and cleaning supplies? You wouldn’t want them together, so you need more than one bag. Our product was designed keeping all these issues in mind. By having 3 foldable bags,  compartments for money and keys, as well as a key chain holder it focuses on proving you with a hassle-free shopping experience. 

Secondly, WHO is it for? Initially, we thought of aiming this product at a wider audience. But we soon realized that for the purpose of this module, we should keep our target audience small, and try to test out our product first. We then decided to aim the product at independent student shoppers.

Next, HOW do we aim to promote the product? How would we get our fits customer?
As of now, we went for the most obvious solution. As it is a ‘grocery bag’ we decided to place it at a grocery store till, as well as at the on-campus store. We also did decide to use the young enterprise online platform and sell the product there.

Finally, WHAT material is it made of? This is something we are still working on. We do know for sure that this product will be as eco-friendly as possible, so we are on the lookout for easy to obtain eco-friendly materials. We also do plan on researching various different materials that are easy to compress.

The cost structure, key resources, and partners are still some aspects we need to develop. We will soon we will be participating in our very first dragon’s den and as not everything prepared, we are confident that the potenial our product holds will make up for it.

Wish us luck!

Hi Phives all around!

A team of five: HI-PHIVE!

Starting our own business, even though it was for the design thinking module, was such an exciting task! Under the young enterprise challenge, we could come up with an idea for a startup. It could be either a product or service.

We had to work in teams, and I can proudly say my team was grand. Despite us all being from different backgrounds, we worked well and kept up a positive space while having discussions and facing challenges. Everyone had different opinions and experiences, but we still managed to blend them all together smoothly. The first decision we made together was whether the startup was service oriented or product oriented. As the majority of the team was from a service related background, we went ahead with a service. Even better was the social aspect of it: Street theatre. This service would bring the theatre and performing arts to the streets of London, to spread a social message. At the same time, this would also allow aspiring artists to showcase their talent.

It was all Sunshine and rainbows with this idea until we started to map it out. While we were able to map out the cost structure, value propositions and revenue streams, the key partners and other elements were quite hazy. It became more and more complicated to map it out and we realised that we weren’t solving any problem either. We then decided it was time to kill the baby – PIVOT.

So we were back to stage 1: Product or service?

We decided to look for a problem, something that students like us face quite regularly: Forgetting grocery bags while going grocery shopping! Or not having enough bags at hand while buying different kinds of products – for example, Toiletries with vegetables? Keeping all these issues in mind, we came up with the EDAMAME POD. A three in one shopping bag for hassle-free grocery shopping.

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Confident about the idea, we moved forward with it. After a lot of observation, thinking, and brainstorming, we decided on a design and made our Prototype!

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I’m honestly glad we decided to pivot when we did. Any more time spent on an idea, that doesn’t uphold the required standards would have been time wasted. The previous idea didn’t solve any customer needs. The customers needs are very much the core of design thinking,  no matter how good the idea is.

Up next, more about the EDAMAME POD.

 

 

 

Stop. Look. Listen.

New week, new task!

This week it was all about Empathy. That’s what design thinking is all about too! Putting yourself in the shoes of others and feeling what they feel. This what we did this week, literally.

Our task was to try and empathize with disabled students who use the business campus. It is to be noted that the Business school is considered an accessible facility. We worked in teams, with one team-mate sitting on a moving chair, giving us the perspective of a student in a wheelchair. We chose the simple task of going to the bathroom. It turned out to be not as simple as we thought.

There were a lot of challenges we faced while trying to get there:

  1. The classroom doors and the corridor doors were all fire doors and they had no stopper to hold them in place. They were heavy as well. So it had to be held open while the team-mate wheeled herself out.
  2. The bathroom door was easy to open, but when we looked inside, there was hardly enough space for easy movement. As our team-mate tried to move in the bathroom, the trashcan kept getting knocked around.
  3. There was s plastic handrail provided near the toilet, but it would wobble when we tried to hold it. It was not securely attached to the wall. This was a great concern as someone would be putting all of their body weight on that rail while trying to shift from the chair to the toilet.

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We had a long discussion on these issues, and it concerned us how inconvenient the whole experience was. We had a brainstorming session and came up with these solutions:

  1. Doors to all classes, corridors etc should be automatic and should have sensors. Some of the doors are that way, but not all, especially not the ones leading to the bathrooms. The doors should be open at least until the person in the wheelchair can go through. Sliding doors was another solution we thought of.
  2. Inside the bathroom, more space would be preferable. Wheelchairs come in different sizes and assigning space according to one size doesn’t make sense.
  3. The positioning of the handrails could be changed to both sides of the toilet, making it more convenient. Alongside this, making sure that those railings are secure is very important.
  4. An elastic rope system, from the ceiling of the bathroom, making it easier to move around when the handrails are inconvenient.
  5. Positioning the toilet diagonally, so that the user only needs to shift from one seat to the other instead of completely getting up and moving.

As we presented this in class, we also saw other problem areas in the building. This was an eye-opener, because the building, as said before was supposed to be accessible by all. Had we not done this exercise, and tried to empathize, we would never have known that such a drastic need for change in the design of the structure existed.

Empathy is, and should always a priority while designing anything!

 

Walk a mile in my shoes?

“What’s up with your shoes today?”

Seems like a simple question, doesn’t it? But it’s simple and small questions like this that help understands the needs and wants of our consumers. It’s important what questions you ask, and whom you ask those questions to. They make up a crucial part of design thinking: Discovering and framing the problem area. Asking the right question can unlock information that sometimes cant be found through direct questing. Asking the right questions is an art. Here’s a quick read on how you can improve your questioning skills, helping you move forward in your design thinking process:

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/how-amazingly-good-asking-questions.html

Back to the question at hand,

“What’s up with your shoes today?”

We spent half the class walking around campus, asking everyone this question. Our objective was to find out a problem that the students of Kingston had with their footwear, and come up with a solution for it! The simple yet silly question was an icebreaker and helped us start a conversation with our consumers, and helped them open up with ease about their footwear issues.

“If you could change something about your shoes, what would that be?” This was the final question we ended up with. The answers we got from these questions helped us come up with a new concept for the problem.

The design thinking process by the D school was:

Empathise, define, ideate and prototype.

We were at the empathise stage. Going out, talking to the students around us, helped us in understanding their issue.

We focused our problem area on the issues a group of female nursing students had. Their needs were very specific, as they spend the whole day on their feet. Comfort was key. In addition to that, the shoes they wore had to be black, water-proof, fit properly to different types of feet, made of a sturdy material, flexible and CUTE.

The last need, of wanting cute shoes was something that struck me as an important aspect. A very common issue, that has been prevalent for quite a long time. It reminded me of something I too faced while pursuing my undergraduate design degree:

FORM VS FUNCTIONALITY.

Why is it that when the footwear is comfortable, it hardly ever is aesthetically appealing? The most comfortable and basic form of footwear, sneakers, are not really something you could call cute! Finding the perfect shoe sometimes becomes a task. Our target group, the nursing students, didn’t want to have boring footwear outside their university life, on their commute, or while socializing post classes, etc.

We put all the requirements and their solutions together while trying to solve as many problems as possible. For the issue of comfort, we came up with a foam based lining on the inside of the shoe. The issue of a proper fit was solved by the idea of customized footwear, and elastic at the ankle of the shoe. Using either Nylon or plastic helps tackle the issues of protection of the feet and waterproofing. The colour would be black. For the other most important aspect: cuteness, we came up with the concept of detachable accessories for shoes, attached by velcro. These accessories would be of different shapes and sizes and could be taken off when needed.

A paper prototype in the shape of a shoe was made, and we used heart shaped candy wrappers to depict the detachable accessories. We then stuck the different solutions we came up with around the shoe. This was then presented to the class.

Shoes.

It was interesting to see how the other teams came up with different solutions and different problems to the same question.

From this exercise I learnt that while it is easy to assume a need for something, going out there and asking around gives you a lot more insight. You find out the real needs and wants of people only when you talk to them, and feedback is always a good thing. It’s always better to know for sure than to assume.

So get going, start talking!

References:

‘An Introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide’, Institute of Design At Stanford

All aboard the Crazy Train!

Imagine this:

You’re sitting in a packed train, a commuter walks in headphones on, lost in their own music land. They stand occupying a lot more space than they should, unable to hear another commuter ask for the seat next to them. As the station approaches, another commuter with a big tries to get off, and in the process knocking their bag into the other passengers. But as the train is really full, they miss the stop and are stuck on the train until the next stop.

Does any of this sound familiar?

This is how we enacted a problem for a task in class. We were to observe a problem area in our everyday lives and try to solve it. The problem area we chose was: Commuting in and around London via the trains, which are overcrowded most of the times. We’ve all had some unpleasant experiences while travelling, and immediately agreed upon this topic. It was also something we all could relate to. We focused on one of the busiest lines: the Jubilee line, and observed the problems. Here are the problems we identified:

  1. People who want to get off soon, and would prefer staying close to the door, have to move in due to the new commuters getting in. This results in them getting stuck in the middle. The same issue with those who want to get on the train. Some commuters get in and stop right next to the door, which makes it hard for the ones getting in after to move in.
  2. You don’t know how full your train is until it arrives at the platform, and when it does, everyone is in a hurry to get in and not miss the train so you don’t get a chance to properly identify which carriage to get into.

 

To these problems we came up with 2 solutions:

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  1. By adding colour-coded sections in the underground platform, people can get into the train according to the duration they would be on the train.
    7 stops or more: Green would go in first and move towards the middle of the carriage; 4-6 stops: Yellow would go in next; 1-3 stops: Red would enter in the end and would be near the door so that it’s easy for them to get off when needed.
  2. The number of stops you take would also determine which part of the carriage you would sit in. Areas in the carriage would be colour coded like above so it would be easy for the passenger to identify where to stand/sit. 7 stops or more: Green would sit in the middle of the carriage; followed by the 4-6 stops: Yellow; and then the 1-3 stops: Red near the door.
  3. On the outside, above the door, there would be a light that would indicate space in the carriage. A red light would mean a full carriage, while a blue one meant a slightly less crowded one. These indications would make it easier for the commuter, as they can spot these from the platform and move accordingly.

We presented these solutions in class, and everyone could relate to it. There was one interesting question asked by one of my classmates. The question was – Would people actually follow this? Would anyone really follow this if it was forced upon them? To this, our answer was that it wasn’t a rule. It was a guide, that would make their commuting an easier experience.

The whole process of problem-solving via brainstorming is always a fun experience for me. Bouncing ideas off of each other, without being negative and understanding each other’s perspectives was interesting. Together as a team, were able to solve a problem faced by many commuters every day. The enactment of the situation made it even more fun!

Let’s make travelling easy!