Week Three – Human Centered Design


Last week was not what I expected. Primarily because I didn’t read the page announcements to even know that we would be in a different classroom environment! Aside from that, the seminar itself was incredibly unique and surprisingly helpful. Here’s why:

First off, I loved how the Design For America defined ‘design’. After a few of my peers and I contributed our own definitions of what designing was, our student leaders from DFA stepped in. Essentially, designing is creating for the purpose of dealing with problems that real people face. The process in which DFA taught us to go about doing this was the surprisingly helpful part.

We learned the process through a series of team brainstorming activities. The general flow of the process was as follows: Identify a specific problem faced by a specific demographic, come up with every single cause of the problem, list off ways that the problem could potentially be solved (no matter how fantastical) and finally refine the ideas into a problem solving product. This was no short process. To come up with innovative designs to solve the problem at hand, each team had to be completely open to all ideas and vantage points. Once everything in terms of problems, their effects and potential solutions was on the table, that’s when a more critical approach was needed to refine and turn the pool of ideas into a product.

Although it may seem like I am just describing standard brainstorming, I can honestly say it isn’t an approach I have ever taken before. Rather than identifying a problem and immediately rattling off solutions, we were forced to systematically break the problem down. The systematic approach was anything but rigid. It forced my group to be open to absolutely anything and avoid criticism that could harm our ability to innovate. Being open to anything and everything that popped in our head made the process of narrowing down the most constructive ideas a piece of cake. My partners thought of things that I personally dismissed in my own head. In the end, our end product was something that I would have completely doubted to be possible on my own, but accepted once I saw it through the lens of my partners (portable bluetooth stickers for a steering wheel!)

This process of designing is something I know I will have to use when I begin experimenting during class if I expect to create something innovative, aesthetic and practical. Pure inspiration is great, but not always the most reliable way to create and solve problems!

Week 2 Reflection!

My experience with making has gone from zero to sixty in just a matter of days. Well, maybe not from zero but darn close to it! I have always been creatively inclined so the fact that I am getting my feet wet with software and hardware that puts the power of creation in my hands is beyond awesome. Just tinkering with TinkerCad (Hah!) and following instructions to prep my creations for printing has opened so many doors. It’s crazy to think that my ideas can be turned into physical, functional objects in a short amount of time. The whole learning experience is empowering!

Not only can I bring my own ideas to life, but it is sweet to know that I have the ability to bring the designs of others into the real world with sites like Thingiverse. Here are a few products I thought were particularly cool (potential gifts for family and friends)!

1. Bat Signal for mobile phones

First off, I’m a HUGE fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy so this object hits close to home. It’s especially cool in that it can be used with most any smart phone that has a flashlight. A lot of items I’ve come across are phone specific (not necessarily bad) so I like the flexibility this object has. I’ve only played around with CAD slightly so I am interested to learn the process of designing and prototyping an item like this. Is it just a matter of trial and error until the desired effect is achieved?

2. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:548230

Easy birthday present for my brother. This plane is not only great for flying (according to the reviews) but also looks sleek as heck. This is one of those objects that I would that has pretty specific instructions for the thickness of the print at different points. The trial and error required for this product must’ve been quite the hassle. Then again, I’m no engineer so I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the creation process. How does the creator figure out the correct density and thickness for each portion aside from guess and check? Regardless, I may be printing this one in class as a gift.

3. Shopping Bag Handle

Gift for mom? Well, to be honest, I can’t see her using it that much. Regardless, I love the utility of this object. I’m sure everyone has experienced heavy plastic bags tugging on skin and ripping because of pressure. This is a perfect example of the current state of consumer 3d printing. That is, this is a functional, extremely simple product that members browsing Thingiverse can potentially use to improve their quality of life. It isn’t reinventing the wheel or just acting as a crappier version of something you can buy at the store. Rather, its a unique item that once printed can be put into use immediately.

4. Tower of Pi

March 14th is coming up! A good gift for that special mathematician in your life… In all seriousness, this item is incredibly cool. The comments on the item indicate it is very difficult to print. Maybe not an item I should tackle just yet. I suppose it would require certain levels of support to achieve the aesthetic. I think with my current skills I would run into problems printing a solid square so I’ll walk before I can run. Nonetheless, this object is proof that if you can think it you can make it.