Week 3: Design For America Workshop

As the second class in the MakerLab was wrapping up, Professor Sachdev quickly announced that next week’s class will feature a Design For America workshop. Intrigued, I looked at the syllabus for clues as to what this workshop would entail. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an explicit statement in Week 3’s section regarding the upcoming workshop. However, after reading the article entitled Design Thinking by Tim Brown, I had a better idea of what to expect. In the article, Brown discusses what design is and how it’s functionality has expanded significantly. Through design thinking, Brown was able to “reengineer nursing-staff shift changes at four Kaiser hospitals,” which resulted in “more time for nursing, better-informed patient care, and a happier nursing staff.” All in all, I became heavily interested in the design process and couldn’t wait for the third week of class!

Design For America (DFA), the University of Illinois chapter, hosted a fun and innovative workshop this past Monday. The four representatives of DFA came from various colleges, ranging from the College of Engineering to the College of Media. According to them, DFA thrives off of its diversity because it allows for different ways of thinking, skill sets, and opinions. Once introductions finished, DFA asked the class to break up into pairs to complete an entertaining, introductory activity. The warm-up involved creating letters with our physical body and it couldn’t have been a better way to prepare us for the workshop’s main activity. Once our creative juices were flowing, DFA presented the class with four cases. Each of which involved individuals suffering from a visual impairment. After these cases were presented, the class broke up into teams of four in order to come up with a solution for one of the visually impaired individuals. In different stages, our group had to make assumptions about our case individual, think of the core issues at hand, and lastly, create an innovative product.

After completing the workshop, my outlook on design has completely changed. Going in, I thought of design as purely aesthetic. Now, I realize it’s much more than that. The workshop required me to forgo of past notions I’ve had of the design process. For example, I was completely taken aback by when they said it’s imperative to make assumptions of each case. I had to let go of the idea that making assumptions is faulty. DFA’s workshop is pertinent to the way industries create new products because it requires a deep level of thinking and creativity. This experience has taught me to not think outside of the box, but to break it. In essence, the DFA workshop has instilled a sense of defiance against the conventional thought and design processes.

I can apply this newfound knowledge to many facets of my own life, especially the work field. I will be able to integrate this concept of design thinking into my role as a Product Management Intern for the upcoming summer. Aside from its relevance in my life, the DFA workshop opened my eyes to the plethora of products that haven’t been made that can potentially alleviate the human condition.


One thought on “Week 3: Design For America Workshop

  1. Hey, Joshua! I definitely agree your opinion about design. Product design is not only about aesthetic to attract customers, but also involves lots of creativity and insightful ideas to back up the functions of the design. I believe this class will be a good learning opportunity for you to know product design, development and even marketing process.

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