Week 3: DFA Workshop!

This week we had a workshop with Design of America (DFA), University of Illinois chapter. The 4 speakers, Ryan, Michelle, Chandra, Mia, come from a very diverse background, with majors ranging from Media to Engineering. They gave us an overview into DFA, as well as the basics of design before we dived into the first activity – using out bodies to create letters in pairs! After that we were given 4 cases to pick and choose, and try to solve the problem with designs. The class split into teams of four in order to come up with a solution for one of the visually impaired individuals.They provided us with air clay and cardboard to create our prototypes, and we set to work. Each case involved individuals suffering from visual impairment.

The DFA gave us a very interesting perspective of design. Previously, I’ve always assumed that design is a very aesthetic thing. However, after this workshop i’ve learnt that design is a process for navigating challenges to uncover where you can make a difference in people’s lives. My idea of designing something is having an idea of what one wants to make and design as one is sketching. However, the DFA process is Emphatize – Define – Ideate – Prototype -Test, which is a much more streamlined process that what I expected.

This workshop has taught me to think from various perspectives, and think in creative ways to solve issues and problems. This is also a great insight into the work that DFA has done so far, and I look forward to be able to work on future designs that can solve problems.

Week 3 Reflection

This past week we had the awesome opportunity of working with UIUC Design for America and creating our very own solutions to given situations of helping people in need. Four of their members came to our class and talked about the different projects they were working on with their teams in DFA and it was all very interesting! Once again, I’m very glad I am taking this class as a freshman so I can learn more about the different opportunities our school has to offer.

My group chose to help out Brian, a blind entrepreneur who recently moved to Austin and is unfamiliar with the new environment. Brian claimed he felt nervous when meeting new clients and uncomfortable in the new city he had just moved to. While we had a few ideas in mind right away, DFA lead us on a multi step path that made our product turn out much better than we had anticipated. We started by listing the problems Brian was facing, we would later have to try to design a solution that would fulfill all of these problems so that Brian could be as successful as possible. After creating this list we began brainstorming product ideas on post it notes. After about 5 min our table was brightly colored with all of the ideas we had and we were feeling like we were reaching a consensus. Next, we created a “prototype” of our solution using pipe cleaners, wooden sticks, and clay. The design we had come up with was a pair of glasses that Brian could wear, on which there would a camera with a memory card that could access the internet. The camera would be able to let him know who he was speaking with based upon facial recognition through his Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections. We presented the product to the class afterwards and everyone seemed content with it, it was a really interesting idea that I wouldn’t think of after initially reading Brian’s situation.

DFA’s presentation to us was inspiring to me because I did not realize the impact they have upon so many college campuses. Their members are meeting every week to design and create new ideas, a concept that is becoming foreign to the average American according to Tim Brown’s article “Design Thinking.” He had claimed that people are now taking an idea that has already been made, and merely making jazzy modifications combined with flashy advertising to describe it as “new.” This class and DFA are against that mindset I believe, we are all here to create an idea that is originally our own.

Shifted Perspective: Visions of Making

It’s the end of week 3 in our #DigitalMaking journey, and this week like all of the previous was amazing. Design for America, a Registered Student Organization here on campus- as well as a national one, came into BADM 395 to help us on our journey to “Making Greatness”; their goal was a simple one: turn our ideas into great ideas so we could create some awesome change. Basically, they provided us with a basic overview of a workflow, and guided us through the process from idea, to finished marketable product. How cool is that?

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DFA WorkShop – Week 3 Reflection


This week we worked with the Design for America RSO. They gave us a crash course on the process behind designing, complete with a  “Use your body to make letters” team building exercise. We also worked in small groups to brainstorm and design some solutions to everyday problems facing some blind individuals in Austin, Texas. My group and I chose to tackle the obstacle facing a semi-fictional blind mom, Rose. Rose needed to be able to keep track of her child while they played at the playground. We came up with a number of solutions, most notably was a wearable device that allowed Rose to communicate with her child.

So What

I’m going to be honest here, the DFA workshop felt like more of an empathy workshop than a designing one. Of course, there are so many problems that affect people on a daily basis, and our friends at DFA are doing amazing things to help these people everyday. That’s what the organization is all about: Designing for America. But I feel like there is a little more to the whole design process. I don’t think there was a huge global need for iPhones, or a rocket to the moon. To me, the coolest designs are the ones that we didn’t even know we needed, or we designed just because we could, or simply to push the envelope of whats possible. However, I do think that the core of their workshop holds true not just for designing, but for anything. I’m simplifying it a little, but basically DFA’s approach to designing was: Think about the problem/obstacle, brainstorm solutions, discuss with your peers, chose the best solution.

Now What

One thing that I took away from the DFA workshop that really stood out to me is how many great ideas were presented by our classmates. From the smart-glasses to the drink protector, to the topographical tablet, there are so many inventive people in this class. I cant wait to work with all of you and make some really cool things.


Week 3 Reflection


It’s great to work with the people from Design for America (DFA) workshop. The DFA involves designers, engineers, artists and business people, collaborating together to come up with the creative solution of social problems. The community formation is very similar to our class, which allowing people who have a variety range of background to work on designing and tailoring technical skills. In the workshop, we were asked to providing a series of solutions that could assist a group of blind people to overcome their current issues as well as meet individual requirements. Kyle, Claire, and Abhiniti and I decided to help a user, a legally blind mother living in Austin, Texas, to know the safety of her children when they are in the playground. In the beginning, we started to make several assumptions about our target, such as her education level, income level, family members, and ages of her children, etc. Next, we brainstormed our individual ideas/solutions for ten minutes without communications. Then, we shared unstructured and initial thoughts within the group and tried to classify the solutions into categories so that we were able to cover other aspects did not consider in the first place. Ultimately, we utilized different materials to transfer thoughts into products. The prototyping process was exciting, flexible and interesting to keep shaping our product until we all satisfied.

So What?

I believe DFA workshop changed my design thinking process. First of all, it is essential for designers or developers to understand specifications and needs before planning. Reasonable assumptions are also indispensable to better help the customers customize their own products since situations vary among different environment. The main purpose of designing products is meeting any demands from the market, but sometimes products are narrowed down their functions in general requirements for maybe 70% t 80% users. However, it is quite important but difficult to have a very comprehensive design to allow more complex and personalized functions adding on them. Therefore, if we want to reach out as many as customers, the initial step should be understanding our targets and experiencing the similar environment. Furthermore, looking back to the making process, I felt a little bit surprised to see several innovative designs from our team and other teams in a short period. There were not restraints for us to develop our ideas so that we were confident in changing our prototypes.

Now What?

A simple design and a small correction of existing design can make a huge impact on individuals and communities. The workshop experience definitely will help my team to apply any thoughts on practical designs. After we choosing the project topic, I will start with researching customer needs, not only the fundamental areas that they expect to achieve, but also the potential demands that might require in the future. I am looking forward to having creative solutions for the surroundings and our society.

Design for America Workshop

This past class DFA (Design for America) UIUC came and did an innovative workshop with us. They explained their premise of gathering a bunch of individuals from different backgrounds and creating unique solutions for problems in the community. Together, in groups, we had focused on 1 of 4 individual problems that we had needed to create a solution for. The individual that my group had chose was Jess, a blind student at UT Austin. To begin our workshop we brainstormed different problems Jess may have in general while attending college, then looked for similar patterns in our thinking. Then filled out a mission statement of what we were going to do, ours was “To help Jess get more easily involved in social attractions” since we felt that college is such a social place, a blind person may have difficulty of not only getting around but also interacting and hanging out with her peers.

Our next task was to design a product that may help Jess in social situations, and one of the main ideas we thought of was how social media is so prevalent in our lives to be able to engage with friends and see what other social events are going on in the community. So we decided to come up with something similar to an iPad that could digitally reform its screen into a brail pattern. This would make it easier for Jess to read Facebook and see any upcoming events. It would also come with a scanner for her to scan peoples faces and understand who she is speaking with.


This concept is relative to this week’s reading, Design Thinking by Tim Brown, in the sense that design isn’t necessarily just an aesthetic idea for product innovation. Now, design is the outcome of structured ideas and solutions to problems. This is exactly what we did for Jess, we didn’t think “we’re going to build a tactical iPad” we thought “we’re going to build something that makes social engagements easier for blind people”, our product was just the outcome of our thinking. I feel that this is the whole idea that Design for America bases itself off of, not so much “what can we make today?” but “how can we fix this problem and what needs to be built to fix it?”.

This workshop with DFA really opened my eyes to the different concepts of design. Thinking it was just another term for style, I now understand that we can use design concepts to better our community and creatively fix problems we didn’t think were fixable. It gets me excited for future classes and thinking about how we can fix everyday problems we all have. Going forward, I realize now that it is 100% about the user and how we can design a product to work for them and their needs.

Design, Design, Design

This week was quite interesting. Firstly let me mention some coincidences that came to be during the course of this week. Prior to our session with the Design for America reps, we were to read the design thinking article by Tim Brown. This was interesting as I had received the Creating Confidence book, written by Tom & David Kelly from IDEO,  from one of my friends earlier in the semester! He gave it to me to help me with my designs relative to software (I was to take a web programming class in the semester). So today, in my web programming class, talking about the topic, UI Design, guess who comes up in the conversation? Tom & David Kelly! Pretty interesting series of coincidences. Anyway.

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During our session we learned about design, more specifically, how to design things with the end user in mind. We were introduced to four different users we were to design for. Each of the four users are blind and are having difficulties acclimating to changes in their environment. We got to do a series of brain storming on ourselves and then group together to group think and come up with different ideas. After the group brainstorming session we were then given time to create a product for our chosen user. We had a young college student, Jessica, who was struggling to acclimate to campus life due to her blindness. Our group came up with DrinkSafe, a drink handle and cup system that allows her to drinks closed and safe in the midst of a crowd. The handle also had a fingerprint system that personalizes her handle her use only. This way, she can be sure that the only thing is her drink is her drink, and nothing else! Our rationale for creating this product was that it would mean one less obstacle to overcome with regards to hanging out on campus. This was a very interesting experience and I was able to learn a lot about design through the exercise.


I’ve been learning so much about design this semester–this is not something I anticipated. However, this is something that I find extremely useful. I mean, design is everywhere, and as the article explains is becoming increasingly important. Design isn’t just something that happens at the end of creation, but something that takes place in the beginning, and often times, in the midst of creation. So what does this mean for me? I’ve got to pay attention to design. Everything from the design of my code to the actual UI, should be considered in order to produce the best product/work possible.

What’s in store for the future? Well I hope this to apply this to many of my class and personal projects. I think my most valuable take away from this experience is THINK ABOUT THE USER! That is what I’m going to do in my future creations and hopefully in my semester long product of trying to find a solution to my having to physically get up to turn off my lights problem.