Steps to Success

A venue change was required as we traded our cozy little workshop for a classroom with ample space for creativity to flow around the room. This creative space was exactly what we needed for this Design For America workshop led by our own very chapter at UIUC. We were introduced to their organization, their purpose and what they do. They explained to us, that they begin by looking for a problem prevalent in a particular demographic of people and then start brainstorming for ideas before they begin prototyping. Additionally, they would conduct some research to determine how a population views this problem, identify the root of the problem and see if their idea would produce a solution to the root of the cause. In fact they have a whole process guide for coming up with innovative designs which can be accessed here.

Their approach to design is extremely similar to Tim Brown’s method of Design Thinking, which is strategically designing to meet people’s needs and/or desires in a technically feasible way. This way of thinking certainly changed my long run approach for not only product designs, but also my approach for facing on problems. Thinking like this allows one to think to the root of the problem and solve the root cause rather than put a band aid on what the problem appears to be externally.

Not only does the design of an object impact how we choose to create, 3D printing has also impacted how we create things and design things. According to the article written by TJ McCue, 3D printing has forced us to think in 3D. We not only look to solve problems with 3D, we also look to do things better with 3D printing. Since 3D printing has universal applications, the possibilities are endless.

In order to give us a look at their design process and put us in a Design For America mindset, they facilitated a class activity in which we were handed 3 cards at random. One card gave the demographic which the product which we were designing for, the next gave what it will be used for, and the last card a constraint for out design. Our challenge was to design a way to make music for adventurous preschoolers and our constraint was that it grows. We interpreted the constraint, “it grows”, as that the object expands. Our team came up with an expandable “laptop”, where it has 3 folds, one has a screen, the middle has buttons in different colors and shapes, and the last fold has a piano keyboard and a xylophone. The buttons make noises when pressed and the screen can show cute characters dancing on the screen. The piano and xylophone allow the child to have a physical thing they can play with to make noise in case they do not like digital sounds. Our draft is shown below.

We later did another activity to come up with a product for senior citizens. Design For America taught us to look at a specific population and address the root cause of a problem. They told us to outline the question as “How can we *verb*  *insert population* in *location* to *verb*?” So after brainstorming what the senior citizen demographic is like and what they need or innately want, we came up with the question “How can we get senior citizens in retirement homes to feel needed/autonomous/respected?” For this, we came up with Generation Connect, a website and application which connects the older generation with the younger generation through messages and advice forums. Our poster presentation is shown below.

generation connect


After the workshop, my team and I came up with a team name and designed a logo on TinkerCad to 3D print. The name we chose is “XNihilo”. This is derived from “ex nihilo” which in Latin translates into “out of nothing”. “Ex nihilo” is often in conjunction with the idea of creation and the Latin phrase “creatio ex nihilo” which means to creation out of nothing. Anjali, Yuanzhen, and I wanted to name our group XNihilo because we are doing just that, creation out of nothing. We are bringing an idea to life with 3D Printing. Below is our screenshots in Tinkercad  and our beautiful finished 3D logo.




xnihilo 2

Just seeing this logo printed made me so excited for what the future holds for us. What can my group create from nothing? There are still so many questions we need to ask ourselves before coming up with our final idea and design. I look forward to figuring out what our final product will be through design thinking. I also plan to supplement this design thinking with a similar analysis which I have learned from another class, root cause analysis. Root Cause analysis is basically done by asking “Why?” multiple times to get to the root cause of the problem. Below is a hilarious example of how asking “why?” can lead a person to identifying the root cause of the problem, an article about what Root Cause Analysis is, and an article on how Root Cause Analysis was used with 3D Printing.

Funny 5 Whys:

Learn more about Root Cause Analysis 
3D Printing and Root Cause Analysis

4 thoughts on “Steps to Success

  1. Hey Ana,
    Great analysis of the design thinking process. I also really like how you tied that unto the weekly reading and related it to the 3D printing revolution we discussed in an earlier week. Design thinking in tandem with the rapid prototyping revolution has completely changed how industry creates products. You had creative product ideas in terms of the expandable laptop and the ‘Generation Connect’ concept as well as your team’s logo and name. Great video at the end, it really related the What/Why? format in an incredibly funny way. Looking forward to what you make next. If you’re interested, you could look into these:

  2. Hi Ana,

    Love your writing! Your reasoning of Design for America and Brown’s Design Thinking definitely make sense. Just like, I believe that 3D printing will eventually be the future of technology, allowing people to create what they want or need. Also, your team’s logo is great and really thought out! Thank you for the pictures as well as the amazing video.

  3. Hi Ana,

    Great post this week. Comparing solving the root problem to just putting a band-aid on it is an excellent way of describing Design Thinking. Instead of figuring out how to get consumers to want a product, build something that consumers actually want. I also really liked how you mentioned “thinking in 3D.” Too often we look at problems from only one perspective, but we really do need to see problems as complex and multifaceted. I love how your group came up with your name, very creative and very relevant to the course. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

  4. Hi Ana,
    Excellent post! I like how you connect the overall theme of the Design for America’s workshop with Tim Brown’s method of Design Thinking. It’s true that both approaches focus on creating something that satisfies people’s needs, which is also a buzzword we hear quite often today called “human-centric design.” I totally agree with you about the importance of searching for the root of the problem and not just merely fixing things as it appears. I also enjoyed the short but funny video you shared that portrays just that. Finally, I’d just want to let you know that your team’s logo is fantastic! I love both the meaning behind it as well as its aesthetics. Great work!

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