One Day with Design for America Team: Summary Post


On the February 3rd.we had two guest speakers from Design for America team. They showed us an interesting way of solving problems through the human-centered design process. The specific topic of our discussion was destructive driving. Below is the framework that we used in class that helped us understand the problem first and then create a suitable solution for that problem.




In this stage we tried to identify the problem by brainstorming different ideas why people get destructed while driving. The several reasons for destructive driving were texting to friends, talking on the phone, switching the radio and etc.



Here we surveyed each member of our group to better understand why each of us gets destructed while driving. This helped each student to put himself in the position of the destructive driver and think about the reasons why he or she does that. This was also useful for the interviewers to collect some data and feedback from others before framing the problem.



This was a very important stage of the whole process, because here we had to reframe all our thoughts and ideas to one single problem. We used “How can we” statement to help us phrase the problem so it would be specific and clear.




Before building a prototype we ideated different thoughts of how the reframed problem could be solved. Shared our thoughts with team members and combined our ideas to come up with one single solution.



This was the most exciting stage. Here we actually got to use given resources to build a prototype. Every team had different prototype depending on the problem they identified and corresponding solution that they created.



Due to time and other constraints we had the testing stage was not executed. But someone tried…..



Overall the process was very interesting and fun, especially because it involved several icebreaker games that helped us think more creatively and outside of our comfort zone.


Huge thanks to DFA team that made this class so exciting!!!




Week 3: Core Value Behind Design: Human Centered


On the class on February 3rd, guest speakers from Design for America came facilitate a workshop for us. Throughout different activities in the workshop, I learned a structured methodology system of design, which serves to help generate and make innovative ideas of design to come true.

The most insightful part of the workshop for me, is that it pointed out to students that design are motivated by making life easier and more convenient. Design is human centered. I realized that although people are usually amazed by the different creative ideas that others come up with, actually, a lot of these “fancy” or “unbelievable” ideas derive from a very simple and practical problem in life. The guest speakers well explained this in class by introducing us the famous “Shopping Cart” case. A group of people, making up of a variety of professionals, are asked to redesign the shopping carts in the mall. Although shopping carts sound like a very common and simple thing in life that seems to be already well -developed enough, when you really delve into it and start to question it, you can always find problems associate with it to improve. In order to find out what were the problems associated with the traditional shopping carts, these people started to gather evidence by surveying different people, consulting people who work with shopping carts everyday, like shoppers, or people work in the mall. They summarized their data gathered and concluded with some major problems existing with shopping carts. Then they started to redesign the cart. The amazing part is that in the process of redesigning, you can really see the advantages of a team with diversity. Different people who are professionals in different fields of study help bring in more resources and ideas. For example, the psychologist in the team proposed ideas about improving the safety level of the baby seats of the shopping cart and the engineers in team proposed ideas of how to construct the cart in a better way. Finally, they came up with a totally new shopping cart, that helps make people’s shopping experience more smooth and satisfied.

From this case, we learned that to come up with the original ideas of designing somethings, we need to identify what problems we are trying to solve first. And to identify these problems, there are several scientific ways to do so, including observation, interviews and surveys. After getting data from these activities, we will synthesize them in visualized ways, like making diagrams to find out relationship, sorting data in clusters, and so on. Throughout this process, we need to brainstorming with ourselves and with the group in order to identify the main problem at last. And finally, we will discuss about potential solutions to the problem and try to make that happen.

To practice this design process, we were asked to work on a case to solve people’s “distracted driving” problem. We first cross-interviewed with each other with 5 questions, where we were focus on trying to find out the potential reasons that make people drive distractedly. After that, we sorted the data collected into clusters and try to make a flow chart to show the “cause and effect” relationship for people’s actions. Then we were able to conclude with some potential major problems. In our group, we concluded that the main problems are communication with phones and the car’s inner design. Because people tend to be distracted while driving because they want to message/call their friends. Also, the car’s inner design leads to problems like water bottles moving around. Therefore, we brainstormed as a group and came up with potential solutions. We suggested that the cars can be redesign and allow drivers to put their phones out of sight, but still able to control the phone on their steering wheel. Also, we suggested that some safe holders should be used in the car to hold items more steadily and safely so they won’t move around.

Throughout this workshop, we learned some basic ideas and methodologies of design in a fun environment, in which we were also given hands-on opportunities to practice them. And for me, the most important thing I learned out of the workshop is that smart and creative ideas actually stemmed from some very simple, practical and basic problems in life, and that innovative and successful designs are designs that help make their users’ life easier.


Week 3: Design for America Workshop

Learning About Human-Centered Design

The Design for America workshop kicked off by discussing the nature of design and the significant role design plays in developing new and innovative products. The workshop took our class through a series of stages in the design process that enabled us to come up with a creative solution to the problem of distracted driving. The unique structure of the process enabled us to really think through the multiple steps of solving a problem with a tangible solution. The experience was also coupled with various exercises that challenged us to think in abstract ways. However, the activities uniquely required us to produce something or create something, which is a specific method of thought that was necessary in order to effectively go through the entire workshop and devise a solution to the distracted driving problem.

Design Workshop

Explaining our web of ideas and concepts


Using Design Thinking in Making

This workshop taught us a wealth of skills that will translate directly in our work making and producing objects. The techniques we learned to lay out our ideas and processes that enable a cluster of thought to tangibly become an object will be incredibly useful for us in the coming weeks as we begin to make things in a variety of platforms. The workshop also stressed the need for rapid and iterative prototyping when coming up with a design. This will be crucial to understand in our making endeavors because we will likely be creating and printing many different kinds of prototypes before actually being able to have a finalized product or object.

Design Thinking and The Future

In the coming weeks, I will specifically be applying these principles to making practical, but creative objects that can leverage the customization aspect of digital making. I’m also very interested in learning more about the scope of Design for America and the different environments they conduct these workshops in. I think that learning these principles is immensely beneficial and I believe that they could easily be integrated within a variety of curriculums. Knowing how to take a cluster of ideas and transform them into a tangible solution is a skill that is only becoming increasingly more necessary in today’s dynamic and technology-filled economy. The need for innovative thinkers who can quickly and effectively come up with solutions that fix a problem we see around us is growing. Hopefully more workshops like these and courses like this will continue to arise to meet this widening demand.

Week 3: Human-Centered Design

In this week’s class we had two guest speakers from Design for America who led a workshop on design thinking. They started out with a fun icebreaker activity to get us in the sort of unconfined mindset that is needed for the designing process. We were given the problem of distracted driving. After the brainstorming session, we as a group came up with very similar ideas. One of which was a virtual windshield.

I found that this sort of thinking process allows for the mind to have creative freedom and flow easily from one thought to another, however absurd or out there that thought may be. It’s like what Sahil was saying that even the most outlandish ideas can be narrowed down to something more realistic. I am so grateful for having experienced this workshop and getting to see what a small group of people can come up with in just a couple hours to solve a problem that is so prominent in today’s society. Three hours earlier I did not think that I would be making a prototype for a virtual windshield out of cardboard boxes, pipe-cleaners, but DFA’s creative process brought us to think outside the box.


For the future, I plan to continue using this method in my own design process. This workshop excited me for what is to come in the future and what kinds of changes in technology will come about 5-20 years from now. Maybe by then we will have solved the problem of distracted driving by this crazy thing called self-driving cars.

Week 3: Olzhas

This week we had visitors from Design for America team. The class was nothing like my other boring accounting classes (don’t say this to my accy professors lol). The guys from DFA did a really good job presenting us a new way of looking at a problem and finding a solution for that problem. The class was very entertaining, but the same time it was very reach in new information. Especially, for a business student like me, it was very interesting to see how people from other disciplines approach a particular problem, the way they think and even the way they see the world.

So, what we did in class could be called a process of finding a solution for a specific problem, in our case the big picture problem was “destructive driving”. I liked how we first worked individually and then had to share our thoughts with group and this was timed most of the times. It was interesting how many thoughts and ideas we could generate within a certain time frame.


10360608_10152958424506084_2076016294675823301_n - Copy

The most important take away though for me was the fact that first it all depends on how you define a problem. Although, we were given one big picture idea of “destructive driving”, every group had to come up with its own specific problem. This was not an easy task, but very important because the quality of our solution would depend on how well we define the problem.


Finally, the atmosphere that was created by DFA representatives was simply fabulous. One can say that we played silly games, but I think they helped us create open, relaxed and creative atmosphere which in turn was very crucial to our productivity.

HCD with DFA

This week’s class was all about HCD. Human-centered design focusses on the “needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product” [1] The Design for America Team was invited to make a workshop about HCD, to improve our skills to see problems, find out humans needs and find solutions to solve these problems.

We tried to design solutions to stop distracted driving. One week before class, I saw this video about an Android application that was introduced in Australia. It was quite not to keep their ideas in mind, while we tried to think about our own ideas. 🙂

I’ve learned about learning at individual as well as on organizational learning within the last year. I really like the approach to focus on human needs to define problems. In our workshop we tried to go similar ways. We tried not to find solutions at the beginning but after two hours of different brainstorming phases. Then we started prototyping our idea.

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “User-centered design,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 8, 2015).

And what’s about 3d printing?

In class we did not print anything this week, nevertheless, I came to the lab this week to print an updated version of my SENOL cube. I made some corrections (see problems here) and “upgraded” the size.

In addition I started printing the OnePlus One dock. However, MakerBot hasn’t finished printing on friday, so I haven’t seen the outcome yet.

Week Three – Reflections

This week our class was visited by two representatives of Design for America. This organization showed us how to take a step back from the building of three dimensional objects and to really look at how the design for that object came into existence. After some ice breaking exercises, the team took us through a brief version of the design process and how to think about solving a problem.

I haven’t played with crafts in most likely over a decade. However, with the DFA team, these crafts became rudimentary prototyping tools, making building the design as fun as thinking of it.

The most astonishing part of this process was how important it was to remain in a judgement free zone through the whole experience. Because we had all been playing silly games moments earlier, our team was better able to tackle what seemed like difficult problems before we were all able to loosen up.

This appears to be the most important part of the design process. Most problems that are trying to be solved have been around for a long time. In order to solve a long standing problem, it is important to think in a way that no one has before. It is impossible to do that with the fear of being judged by your peers, so a necessary part of the process should be to take that fear away.

Going forward, I believe that it is necessary to keep that judgement free zone in all aspects of digital making. Design is the foundation of the making process. If this foundation requires no judgement, it only follows that the making be judgment free as well. With this mentality, it would become easier for the fabrication of the design to able to be improved as well as the design itself.

– Noah Baird

Week 3!

This course has gotten cooler and cooler every time we’ve met. This past week, we all worked together in a workshop led by Design for America to experience the design process. There’s nothing quite like the design process, because nothing else embraces the chaos of creation like it.

Our groups were presented with a problem: how can we stop distracted driving? Post it notes were all over the place, walls were covered with scribblings as everyone threw their thoughts around, and ideas were flowing constantly. We played games, which I think was absolutely crucial to the process because people began to have fun. When your mind is in that zone, it’s so easy to let ideas run wild and find one that actually works and build upon it.

I enjoyed the collaboration of it all. My group came from all walks of life and yet we still came together, put all of our experiences and knowledge in a pile, and brought ideas to life in the form of a pudgy little clay steering wheel. I love design because you know when you have an idea that you’re passionate about. We went through that process and I’d absolutely love if our product became a real thing. I’d use it. I think it’s an awesome solution.

The idea of the workshop was human centered design. It was studying an audience, taking all of our knowledge about that audience, and analyzing all of the factors to create something practical with the user in mind. I’m excited to see what comes next. I’m eager to see what problems my classmates encounter that they decide to apply this process to, and the solutions they come up with.

Digital Making Log: Week 3

Design for America (DFA) visited our class this week for an extensive workshop on how designers get from a problem, to an idea, and to a solution. We implemented the same processes the professionals use, and started out by watching this video:

It’s pretty fascinating. They sniffed out all the problems consumers had with the traditional shopping cart, came up with solutions for each individual problem, and synthesized a good final product that addressed everyone’s concerns. The most interesting thing to me about this video is the actual processes they used: post-it notes and a constant, unabashed flow of ideas.

Our workshop took on pretty much the same format.

– We were given a problem (distracted driving)

– We were given research testimonials (people talking about how distracted driving affected them)

– We went on to do our own research with questioning our classmates

– We came together as a group to share the problems we found, from boredom to the necessity of using a smart phone GPS

– We came up with a slew of solutions, ranking the feasibility and consumer desirability of each solution

– And then we (my group) came up with a product that incorporated the solutions, prototyping and demoing it for the rest of the class (see the picture below for one group’s prototype)

Photo by Zong Ze Chua

Photo by Zong Ze Chua

My group had a less photogenic prototype: A sheet of paper representing a windshield that was gamified and interfaced with the driver’s smartphone.

So what?

I never knew the actual processes of design, as I said in my last post, I’m a journalism major and haven’t really done anything with design. Now that I know how the pros do it, I think I have what it takes to come-up with a problem consumers have, and print a solution to that problem.

Looking toward the future, I’ll keep an eye out for problems I run into that could be solved with some ingenuity and layered plastic. I’m still pretty ignorant on the technical skills necessary to model, so I guess my next step is to focus on that while I ideate.

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!