More than meets the eye

Design. A word that may be daunting to some and may be invigorating to others. Every aspect of our daily lives, from the food we eat to the products we use every day, have been thoroughly thought about and crafted to fulfill the epitome of its purpose. The stages in which a product comes to fruition are very extensive and is comprised of thousands of hours, dollars and a lot of people coming together for the common goal of solving a problem. The design process that I will talk about today will be focused on problems, from identifying them all the way to testing with users. It is extremely important to address a NEED first before coming up with a solution because if there is no one that needs to use it, then no one would want it.

This is where I have seen people in BADM 395 fail quick and then have to start from scratch, it is creating a solution before thinking of the problem you are trying to solve. Human-centered design thinking is exactly as it sounds, by thinking of the humans that the product is intended for, then can you truly create something that is worth other people’s time, money and effort in utilizing the product. The design thinking process will help you be able to approach a problem you see in the community and create a product that will enable you to make it meaningful and to fully fulfill its purpose through iterations and critiques. The idea of this is to start thinking outside the box and sometimes take a few steps back in order to create the best of the best. The following steps outline how the Design for America human-centered design thinking process has been helpful for students all over the country.

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Step 1. Identify
Goal: Defining targeted problem spaces you will tackle to focus future research. This is a crucial step in creating something that will create the largest impact in the community. In order to build something, there has to be a need and identifying it is the first step. You want to be able to take large challenges and break them into smaller parts that are easier to manage and tackle. The issue of campus safety, for example, is very large, but you can examine it by looking at safety in classrooms, on the sidewalks or even in dorms. By analyzing assumptions and initial knowledge, you can see what knowledge you are lacking and where to find it. Think of the local organizations and mentors that are available to help you with this challenging area as well. For the example above, the police department and campus security may be helpful resources.

Step 2: Immerse
The next step is to be able to immerse yourself into your targeted audience. To empathize with stakeholders and uncover insights to deeply understand your problem spaces. The idea is to fully wrap your head around the problem space from every aspect and every party involved. For the example above, the idea is to talk to students, police, and people in the community that are potentially at risk from criminals or even feel unsafe in their areas. This will give you a much more well-rounded idea of identifying common themes, stories, and existing solutions. The UIUC Makerlab, for example, has the extremely expensive equipment and so talking to people in their and how they keep it safe would be helpful too.

Step 3: Reframe
The goal of reframing is to define the change you want to make in the world and determine what your solution needs to accomplish to get there. This is to define desired qualities as well as narrow down your focus. This also allows you to take a step back and gauge how you define a successful impact. As it pertains to BADM 395, the idea of reframing means that the product you create will ultimately solve your problem in an efficient manner.

Step 4: Ideate
This is another important step, brainstorming and generating a variety of ways that make  an impact and exploring alternative solutions is extremely important. Some students jump directly to this step and that is where they falter since they do not know what existing solutions may be out there. Thinking of any idea, no matter how big or small means that there is room for innovative ones as well as the possibility of ideas colliding and collaborating together.

Step 5: Build
Making a variety of tangible prototypes to communicate and test your ideas will allow you to see where your design falters and where it can be heavily improved. Without many iterations and samples, one can never perfect a product. Take the David Kelley example of the Apple mouse, for example, he tested and built hundreds of mouses in order to find what was wrong with each version and how to make it better. Getting started with low fidelity prototypes lets you envision your product and lets you fix potential problems quickly before they arise and cause more problems down the line.

Step 6: Test
Getting feeback to uncover insights and develop the nextsteps to improve a solution and product is extremely important. Being able to take this product into the homes and talk to the potential users is important since it allows your target audience to actually see a tangible product and envision if they can see themselves using it. This also allows you to obtain expert input and quotes about the solution to give you a much deeper and well-rounded way to go about the product. Testing a product in the BADM 395 course before it comes to fruition is important since we have to present it at the end of the year to our fellow classmates. This means that ensuring the product works for its intended purpose is extremely important.

To wrap up the design process, you have to keep in mind that these steps are not a one-way road, it is extremely important to constantly go back and forth to make corrections and improve designs with reiterations and consulting the users constnatly. By involving experts and professors in your process of creating the BADM 395 product, you will gain a deeper understanding and identify where and how you can fix it, so your initial idea becomes alive and ready to change the world.

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Searching For Needs

Businesses are created by an individual or multiple people because of an idea, an idea they believe in strongly because of the strengths they each hold as stated in the article, “10 Ways To Evaluate A New Business Idea”. These ideas are developed through sparks, which we learned from the second article, “Creative Sparks”, that there is a controversial thought on the nature of the creative process. The creation ideas that businesses have are through watching people’s struggles or their own personal struggles to realize what consumers will need. In the 60 minute video watched during class it was clear that being empathetic was the best way to understand what consumers truly value. These products or services are produced for consumers; therefore, we obviously need to understand these individuals in order to have them purchase these products or services.

During class we worked on an activity as a group to brainstorm needs that people have on the daily, we weren’t trying to create solutions yet because we didn’t want to narrow our brainstorming results. My group had come up with three ideas through the “How Can We” statements learned from the class that Design for America had spoken in. Our first idea was generated because we realized that many of our phones and laptops were being overcharged especially overnight as it was the best time to have them be charged but we wanted to figure out a way to time the charging so the product didn’t end up losing battery life. Thus, we came up with the statement, “How can we find a more efficient way to charge phones or laptops?” After discussing this first idea with an individual from another group we had changed the statement to, “How can we reserve battery life of an object to find a more efficient way to charge phones or laptops?” We agreed that the changed statement was still broad enough to solve the need in the future, yet had the specific details about the issue. The second idea was in regards to the need of better and cheaper public storage alternatives. Our last idea was to create a more efficient way to manage the PSI of objects. I believe our group did a good job on finding needs of individuals, but we do hope to continue thinking up of more needs in order to find a good product or service to solve for our final project.

After our class activity I wanted to find ways to come up with ideas for our final project. I had looked through various links and found two useful ones. The first one, “How to Find New Invention Ideas in Six Easy Steps” ( was helpful because it provided a list of steps to follow in order to create that spark of creativity. With this in mind, I plan on observing the niche I am and finding needs within the college sector. The second article, “5 Steps for Turning Your Invention Ideas Into a Product” ( would be more useful once my group has found a need within the niche we are in. The one aspect that the article mentioned and I found particularly important was documenting the process. I like how Vishal had created a documentation process for each group on “Instructure Canvas”, I believe that it will be incredibly beneficial for every group to look forward and think back on future creations.


Design Thinking – People Over Process

In Tim Brown’s article of Design Thinking, IDEO defines design thinking as a method to focus on people’s behavior and solving people’s needs and desires. Design thinking has three main processes. One research consumer insight and figure out what customers want but don’t have. Two test your ideas by building prototypes and running experiments. Finally, bring the product to life making sure there are enough resources and strategies in place on distribution. I found the reading to be thought provoking because it touches on the how design was thought of in the past as a tool used later in the product development phase. By encompassing processes that are human centered, companies will be able to create products that are efficient and solve real-life problems.

From the class videos, design thinking is a set of guidelines. Finding solutions to wicked problems, where problem and solution are unclear. Similar to the reading, design thinking is described as user centered or finding out what the user needs. Desirability, viability, and feasibility, and responsibility are described as the four characteristics in design thinking. The two main takeaways I found were to empathize with others by placing yourself in their shoes, brainstorming all kinds of solutions, even if they seem impossible, and be willing to fail multiple times. In the Design for America workshop, we went through the ideation phase to the prototyping phase. I found the workshop to be a great introduction into design thinking.

Putting the idea of design thinking in real practice, Rotterdam Eye Hospital used the guidelines to solve their issue of an unwelcoming environment that included long dreary hallways. They redesigned the children’s wing adding artworks to create a welcoming environment. Children were sent animal print T-shirts before their scheduled appointment at the hospital, and their doctors would wear a T-shirt with the same print to establish closer connection. As part of design thinking, not all of the hospital’s idea were successful, and they were able to learn and build on them.

Another example of design thinking was combating sanitation issues in Cambodia and Vietnam. Jeff Chapin and his team observed villagers then designed sanitation systems that fit into the villagers’ everyday life. By using prototypes, they optimized which sanitation system worked best and discovered that kitchen sinks were the most important to the villagers because it prevents illness caused by food contamination. See more from the TEDtalk:




Week 3: Inspiration=Innovation


This week, we attended a Design Thinking Workshop hosted by Design for America-UIUC. The DFA is a network of student organizations that works to train young minds in the creative process and/or hone their skills for a future in innovation. In the workshop, we  observed and made the steps necessary to provide good output(an effective product, design, etc.) with our input(creativity, experience, etc.). While many new innovations can be said to result from “out of the blue”, it never hurts to have a plan or buildup to that innovation.

The process described contains two main principles: understanding and creating. Understanding is the passive planning stage where one can observe and research more about a problem or issue to better identify a solution.The creation portion is the more active prototyping/design phase where the innovator takes what they have learned about the issue and puts it into an actual product. This is not only limited to 3D prints or physical objects, however, and can be represented by any means that will effectively resolve the issue at hand such as a service, advice, or other non-tangible goods. While everyone does indeed have their own creative process; these steps offer a suitable guideline for the innovator to utilize their skills and resources to create something. This framework has been canonized into businesses and markets as “Design Thinking”.

By utilizing this process, my team and I created a logo for ourselves. First we identified what we wanted: a logo for the three of us that would incorporate our last initials(L, A, and X) and a team name. We decided on a triangle as the base for the design as they were three of us. Next, we subtly added our initials by taking out different sized portions from each side of the triangle. Finally, we decided upon our name: “The MakerLAX”.



The demand for expertly skilled designers and problem-solvers has grown since the start of the digital age and addictive manufacturing. According to TNW, many companies are seeking to the ability to unlock the ability to think like designers and apply the same principles of the design process to the actual workplace. While having an experienced designer with a powerful creative mind is key, it’s even better to be able to have the critical thinking and prowess as well. Being able to posses and understand a skill allows one to appreciate it more from someone else, and even harness it themselves. They also mention “creating a team as diverse and international as the clients that you serve”. By having a team of crafters with different backgrounds and experiences, it is easier and more fruitful to innovate designs and solutions to the problems at hand. While the concept of design thinking is powerful and beneficial, some have used it in malpractice. As the huffingtonpost puts it “the current proliferation of a one-size-fits-all-approach is not only ineffective, it could ultimately doom [design thinking’s] future”. Design thinking is a powerful tool that allows one to transform their inspiration into innovation, but some utilize haphazardly in a way that presents it as oversimplified or short-term. Creating something out just an idea takes time, effort, and most of all: passion. One who does not truly care for a problem cannot effectively solve it. It’s also a misconception that the creative process provides a quick and easy fix on the first try, which is more than usually not true. Often times solutions need to be modified due to inefficiency, unforeseen issues, or just a desire for a better design. Design thinking is incredibly useful and has been taking off in the recent years, but everyone, not just innovators, must not fall prey to misconceptions like these. The world has gone a long way in the road of innovation to the point where it is constructing it themselves, but it must not build itself into a corner.

The Ins and Outs of Design Thinking

Looking back at my childhood days, I created my own designs and drawings during class whether it was through my past knowledge or imagination. Most children have in some way shape or form created their own design. Therefore, we all of the ability to design and make plans for the future, and having a better knowledge of the design thinking process will push individuals to create services or products that meets consumer’s desires in a technologically feasible and strategically viable method.

In order to help all the students better understand the process of design thinking, Vishal had brought in UIUC’s very own Design For America. Two students from the organization had come into give a hands-on presentation of the different aspects on designing and providing creative methods to let our creative juices flow. The first activity was done by having each group choose three cards, the first card was the consumer the group was targeting, the next one was the location and the last card defined a constraint for the first two cards. My group had to think of a product that required a girlfriend, located on a train to make something out of glass. Sure, we realized how estranged a product we could create, we let our imaginations fly, and as a group we created a glass notepad that had the boyfriends face ingrained on it, and on the train the girlfriend could draw as she wished on the glass notepad. In this activity we tried to design a product for our so-called consumer, but this is just one step of design thinking. In this case, we had not thought about what exactly this consumer was searching for in glass products, therefore we cannot be sure the product will be profitable on this certain market. Another activity we had accomplished as a group was creating a product that would help senior citizens drive safer during the night. In this activity we had accomplished another step of design thinking which was to create a prototype, we would obviously need to further test it if we were to put this on the market for these particular senior citizens.

The presentation done by Design For America had given me a better understanding of the design thinking process because I was able to go through the steps in a quick manner but with easy topics to help grasp this concept. In the article, “Design Thinking”, I really enjoyed the video that explained the main points of the process. From the article, I realized how many companies are not truly thinking about the desires that their consumer has. Rather, many companies delve into past products and make products or services through risky bets based on instinct and not through evidence. Though the article had quickly explained the three steps to design thinking, I was able to better understand the details of the process from the videos on “Design thinking and 3d Printing” where Vishal was speaking with David Weightman, a professor of Industrial Design. Professor Weightman follows the design thinking process created by IDEO, which is what the article had been based on. In order to create designs, individuals or organizations need to create them for their consumer by better understanding their consumer whether it is through observation or questionnaires. After understanding a consumer, the product or service created needs to have a business value, in the sense that it will generate profit. Furthermore, the products created for these consumers will need to be tested from prototyping then move towards final implementation to verify that is durable for manufacturing. During our class we had created prototypes, and even mentioned by Professor Weightman, that these prototypes are evident in the thinking process and using pipe cleaners, which we had done, would be a very suitable method to feel out the results of the product. From the article and the videos, I realized the most important part of design thinking is the consumer process, without these consumers, we would not be creating such designs. Therefore, we have to understand that our main goal is to cater to the consumers and not irrationally coming up with ideas that we believe they will purchase, we need to come up with ideas that we know they will purchase.

After doing the hands-on activity in class, reading the article and viewing the videos I wanted to see how actual organizations are taking on design thinking within their work environment. The first article I had found was through IDEO that shared the thoughts of Tim Brown called “Unlock your Organization’s Creative Potential” ( In the article, Brown had emphasized how critical it was for organizations to generate, embrace and execute new ideas because creativity was the essential ingredient for organizations to survive and continue competing within their industry. For organizations to succeed it cannot be done only through the leadership team, it has to grow from the individuals learning to lead creativity throughout their work. However, the leadership team does need to begin this sort of creativity and create an environment for the organization that allows the individuals in the company to replicate. I believe that creating an environment with no constraint will help creativity grow within an organization. Allowing employees to speak their mind can generate incredible ideas. Brown’s reflection of design thinking had made me wonder if there were any strategies used by current organizations that have successfully brought the organization to a creative life. The second article I had found was called “Design Thinking as a Strategy for Innovation” ( Ultimately, when individuals think of design thinking they believe they need to be a designer, but in actuality individuals only need to map out a strategy to be considered a designer. Therefore, to design an individual can achieve that through learning by doing as designing is done through a creative thinking process. Organizations need to teach their individuals the planned out creative strategy, the culture of the strategy and the skill-sets to become a good designer. For an organization to achieve design thinking, I believe the organization needs to begin with planning out the strategy then implementing it throughout the entire organization. Sooner or later, any organization can achieve when their design principles are applied to strategy and innovation to hopefully follow the successful footsteps of many design-led companies: Apple, IBM, and Coca-Cola.