To choose or not to choose?

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To better understand Project Management we were asked to pick a live brief and work on it. The live brief was a brief from the D&AD New Blood Awards. For D&AD there were a variety of briefs to choose from. All the briefs were put forward by different companies like Dropbox Paper, Addidas, BBC, Beano etc.. All of them had different objectives, ranging from redesigning an old board game to reducing the wastage of food. Each one of the briefs was interesting, but there were two that caught my attention. The two briefs were of Dropbox Paper and Beano.

For Dropbox Paper the challenge was to use graphic design to educate, motivate and effect change for a social cause. Beano, on the other hand, had a challenge of updating and animate a classic female character to inspire the world to embrace rebellion. I wanted to take up both the briefs, but I had to be realistic about how much I could achieve. So the conclusion was that I had to choose: Dropbox Paper or Beano.

At first, I was fascinated by character illustration needed in the Beano brief as it was an area I had wanted to try my hand at. So I mentally chose Beano as my final choice, but still had a soft corner for the brief set by dropbox paper. But later on, I had a conversation with my course lecturer and something she said stuck with me- Choose and work on a brief that would add value to your current portfolio and your future aspirations. At that moment I felt that I was back to square 1. This affected my progress with the briefs as I just couldn’t decide. I then decided that I would just have to pick one no matter what, and that’s exactly what I did. I spent an entire day just going through the briefs and additional information given with them, reading each and every word, trying to understand everything in detail. I even made a Pros and cons list for both the briefs, which helped, but the deciding factor was the previous examples of the projects done under the Dropbox brief. There were 3 examples:

 Sign of the Times

Me & EU

Refugee Nation Flag

Just reading about each project and the effects they had ignited a dormant interest I’ve had for quite some time- Design for social cause and change. Design with Empathy, something that I’ve always liked doing. It did remind me of projects I did in my undergraduate course related to Geriatric Ergonomy Design and Design Thinking.

From there on I was set, the chosen brief was of Dropbox Paper, and it was graphic design for a social cause.

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More about the D&AD brief work in the next blog.

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And I will try, to fix you.

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When I first got to know about the Personal Development Plan I was coincidently wanting to make a few changes in my lifestyle. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been living alone, for the very first time I might add, I’ve made quite a few unhealthy decisions: Eating out because my cooking abilities aren’t that advanced; Not a lot of exercise as the new workload of the course was hard to handle; and all this led to being lethargic and at times lazy; Also not being able to finish my work on time was another issue. I realized that it was time to stop and change. The personal development plan was a tool that would help me do so.

We were to fill out a personal development plan and get it to class. Before I filled the plan in I did some research on setting goals, and came across something that I thought was important: Making your goals S.M.A.R.T.

Specific;
Measurable;
Attainable;
Realistic;
Time-sensitive. (Rohn, 2017)

Specific: Making your goals vague won’t really help you understand or achieve much. Be as specific as you can. If your goal is to start working earlier than usual then the goal would be- Start working from the day the assignment is given out; and not- Start working earlier. How you specific you are while setting your goals will also determine the outcome.

Measurable: Setting goals that are specific and measurable is key.

Attainable: Setting up goals that are hard to achieve or are so high that it’s difficult to reach would definitely demotivate you. Even though it poses as a challenge, when you fail too much at something, then you slowly start to lose interest in it.

Realistic: The goal needs to be something that can be a reality in our everyday lives. The goal can be big, but not unrealistic. Going to some lengths to achieve a goal is okay. Eg., Setting up a goal saying that you would climb a mountain would be unrealistic unless mountain climbing is a part of your everyday life.

Time: Having a timeframe attached to each goal is vital. Every goal needs to have an end- a deadline, within which you plan to finish the goal and measure your success. Long-term goals can be broken down into smaller goals spread over a period of time.

Here is my personal development plan:

I followed it till I could and it felt nice to be a bit organized regarding your life. I did slip off towards the end, but I am determined to start again and improve myself as much as possible!

Rohn, J. (2017). Rohn: 4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals. [online] SUCCESS. Available at: https://www.success.com/article/rohn-4-tips-for-setting-powerful-goals [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].

 

Round and round we go.

My mom was a senior project manager at a software company. As a child, I had always wondered what her job must be like, what project management really is. Now that I have a course about Agile Project management, I am able to answer my own questions.

To begin with, Agile is a Project Management methodology. According to the Agile Business Consortium, “DSDM is a proven framework for Agile project management and delivery, helping to deliver results quickly and effectively and, over the years, has been applied to a wide range of projects – from small software developments all the way up to full-scale business process change”. AgilePM’s philosophy is from DSDM,
“Best business value emerges when projects are aligned to clear business goals, deliver frequently and involve the collaboration of motivated and empowered people”.  It includes collaboration, self-organization and cross-functionality of teams.
Scrum is a framework used to implement Agile PM, it is a subset of Agile. Agile PM started out of the techniques utilized by companies like Toyota, Fuji and Honda in the 70’s-80’s. 

Initially, I felt that Agile PM was limited to software engineers or developers. Turns out it is used in a variety of projects from small to big. It could be used for developing a product to planning out a service, starting a campaign to working out a marketing strategy. It helps in organizing a team and get work done in lesser time.

In all the lessons of Agile PM, one idea felt really important to me: Iteration and Improvement.

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It is one of the core features and is a powerful stage both in terms of efficiency of the team and the product being developed. At the end of a sprint (A Sprint is a predetermined timeframe within which the team completes sets of tasks from the Backlog. The length of time depends on the needs of the team, but two weeks is pretty typical.) the work is delivered to the client.

That doesn’t mean that the product is complete, it means the work is complete enough to show a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). When you collect feedback from users early on, it helps in guiding the development of the product to ensure that the product is a good fit for the user. It saves a company a lot of money and time in developing the solution as they know exactly what the users want.

Agile is built on iterative deliveries of the solution. Instead of waiting till the project is completely done to deliver to the user, you deliver parts of it over time. This also helps in avoiding miscommunication of ideas.

While working on my live brief for D&AD, we had weekly critique sessions. I observed that I was able to improve the quality of my work because i showed chunks of my work every week. The concept of Iteration and improvement is definitely something that I would want to follow in my professional life.

References:

Agile Business Consortium (2018) Available at: https://www.agilebusiness.org/content/introduction-0 (Accessed: 11 April 2018)
Sutherland, J. (2015). Scrum. London: Random House Business Books.


Alex Designs. (2015). Perfect Your Website with Iterative Website Design – Alex Designs. [online] Available at: http://alexdesigns.com/perfect-website-iterative-website-design.html [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].

 

Dream-Team-Work

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As a quiet person, I often get asked – “Do you like working in a team with other people?”

The answer is YES. I enjoy working in a team, maybe even a bit more than I do individually. I believe that working in a team comes with its own share of ups and downs. A few of the ups being:

1. Being able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of each other.
2. Learning new things, and meeting new people with different backgrounds.
3. Since everyone comes from different backgrounds and has had different experiences, you get to look at the common project from a new perspective.
4. Working in a team also increases the productivity.

Being able to work in a team is essential to most of the work environments. Be it a job as a cashier in a fast-food company to a head designer at a design firm- Teamwork is everywhere. It is becoming increasingly important to be able to work in a team, especially now in the knowledge economy, as most of our jobs would involve working with people from other lines of profession. Good teamwork creates synergy and motivates unity amongst the workplace.

Now when i think of working efficiently in a team, I think of the Penguins from the Madagascar movies: Penguins of Madagascar.  As a team they work towards a common goal- Getting the Safari Jeep. The roles are allocated to each member according to their strengths and they know exactly what to do. When they face an unexpected issue- Granny at the back of the jeep, they improvise and tackle the situation as a team. They have a team leader and clear communication between each other.

From my personal experience of working in a team for our business Edamame Pod, I’ve learnt that it’s important to have roles allocated to each team member from the very beginning. Rather than all of us working on a single task, the work can be divided and would be done faster. Having a team leader is another lesson learnt. Despite it sounding nice, being democratic all the time and not making certain decisions because they hurt someone’s feelings could lead to decreased productivity.

But we are still learning, and through this experience, we will improve the next time. I’m glad though that we had an opportunity to explore working in a team at this level so that we are prepared for the industry or even to start our own business.

References:

YouTube. (2013). Madagascar Penguins Best and funniest Team work. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI4zp7yeuMU [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].

Procras… Ooo a Monkey!

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As a part of our course “Experiencing the Creative Industries” this semester, we learnt Project Management and Professional Practices. That meant planning a project from head to toe and working on it, as well as balancing out work from the other courses as well.

To help us do so, we were asked to pick a live brief and show some progress every week. This meant loads of time management and weekly deadlines. Every Tuesday afternoon was a nightmare for me in the start! (Oh, how I wanted to avoid the class and RUN AWAY..)

That was pretty much the case until one day I had a meeting with our course director Janja (A.K.A Denmother of us MACErs) and I told her how I just couldn’t get myself to manage my time, and how weekly deadlines were terrifying. I knew for a fact that I would finish and submit my work by the FINAL deadline, but anything before the last moment and I would just PROCRASTINATE.

Now I’m a hard-worker, and I definitely put my 100% into a project I’m interested in. My only issue is the fact that I procrastinate a lot before I start the project. The sensible part of my brain plans everything out in advance, but starting anything just becomes impossible. (At that point I’d even wash the dishes if i had to.. Anything, but not the project work.)

Back to the conversation with my lecturer, she said “Well a bit of procrastination is good. It’s not always bad. It gives you time to off the project, to clear your mind and look at things from a fresh perspective. But you need to know when to stop and start the work.” I thought about that a lot and I realized that it’s true. Sometimes I procrastinate until the panic mode sets on and then even though i really want to, I’m never able to make my project 100% ready. There are always things I could’ve done better IF I had some more time.

So with this in mind I did some research on procrastination and found this one TEDTalk :

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

As I watched the video I couldn’t help but shout “OMG yes” when he explained about the instant gratification monkey living inside and controlling my mind. (Youtube Spirals? Been there, done that!) Everyone is a Procrastinator, the only difference is whether there is a deadline or not. In life, we have so many things we want to do, the panic that sets in before the deadline pushes us to start working. But what about when there is no deadline? No panic?

This reminds me of when i was interning at a startup during my undergraduate years. While working I always thought to myself, I want to do this someday, start something of my own! But I always kept pushing it off saying “Maybe after college. After University. After a few months.”Did I start yet? No. The fear of starting leads to procrastinating. Overcoming the fear and just starting is the only way to go.

So when does one start?

Well, the answer is now.

As the saying goes, better late than never, but definitely START. Once you start working you’ll see how easily the next part comes to you. the first two weeks where I procrastinated and didn’t start working on my brief were scary, but once I did, I absolutely loved working on it! I thoroughly enjoyed the work and ACTUALLY started to look forward to meeting every Tuesday.

In conclusion, I’d like to say shake off the fear, start soon if not now, but definitely do start!

Refernces:

Urban, T. (2016). Transcript of “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator/transcript?language=en#t-831739 [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].

 

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].

 

 

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!