Making Adjustments

Last week team Supra went in with a trash compacting idea and have completely changed the whole idea. As we were approaching the prototyping stage of our product we had a lot to consider. Does our product solve the problem? Does it appeal to the consumer? Is it still low cost?

My team and I faced a few problems. We did not feel like our product had much of a need since we had redesigned it. So we needed to start over with our design of the trash compactor. We thought from the perspective to get maximum compaction. We modeled it after the Big Belly trash can you can see around campus. The design would have the look of the Big Belly so that you could throw trash in the top side to the trash can. Then the top would have a board with a weight attached that could be released to compact the trash in the can. Then the weight/board would be connected to a leaver arm that could crank it back to the top of the trash can. After thinking of this complex design we asked the question “Why would people actually need this in their household?” There is really no need for “maximum compaction” in a household trash can. We found ourselves overcompensating to fix some problems in our design and under compensating in some parts of our design. This created a massive problem for us. We thought it was best to revisit different product ideas.

We went back to our original idea list. One idea intrigued us. We wanted to create an improved version of a door stop. We find the conventional door stops that have already been designed faulty. They never really hold the door open and are hard to maneuver. So we plan on developing a door stop that you can attach to the door a few inches above the door handle. It will have a sliding function that will allow you to have it hold the door open when it is slid out and then slid in to allow the door to close. We are still in the beginning stage of figuring out how we are going to attach it to the door and what material we will use. I was originally thinking thinking plastic so it would be cheap, but I am afraid a hard slam might break it. So then I thought about using metal so it is more sturdy, but I think a thick rubber material might actually be the best. We still have a lot to figure out, but we are making a lot of progress!

Final Projects in the Making

For this week, we delved into the last stretch of the course: our Final Project. Each group some sort of solution to a problem of their choosing; big or small. The issue or solution does not necessarily have to be 3D printing-related, but simply portray the aspects of design and making that we have learned over the course of the semester. Although, most of the final projects do include 3D printed models to some degree. This week, we began the first stage(s) of our projects.

My team and I, the MakerLAX, decided aimed to resolve an issue that was felt by many college students and other young adults: tying ties. As one gets older, they will have to attend more and more formal events and gatherings, and as such will require more formal dress. The tie is an integral part of formal attire, but is notoriously difficult to prepare for the first time, as well as long after. It may seem like relatively simple task, but getting accustomed to tying a tie as well as all the different knots that once can choose from takes time. This combined with the fact that most young adults only really have to wear ties from time-to-time and not on a daily basis, makes learning the ins and outs of tying one somewhat difficult. I personally require assistance from someone who already has gone through the whole process of learning how to tie a tie, or watching an online tutorial whenever I find myself needing a tie. While this may not be an inherently big problem, it can certainly be helped.

The premise behind our solution is to create a sort of “tie-helper”, as in, an object about the size of a small paperweight that can act as a guide for a person to use to tie their tie. We have found remnants of what appear to be previous attempts at creating such a product, but they were either flawed or never really reached production. Our group is aiming to create a design that can be mass-produced or even printed at home. The idea as it stands so far is to print a model that is inscribed with numbers and/or pictures of instructions on how to tie a specific knot that has yet to be chosen. After finishing the knot, the object can be easily separated from the tie and the tie will already be tied around the neck. In class, we presented our idea to the rest of the groups and were given feedback. We also created some crude models of possible designs, which could be considered our initial prototypes. From here, we will be creating and testing new models to perfect for our final iteration. We’ve all learned a lot these past few months in Digital Making; I am really looking forward to putting it to good use, as well as seeing what everyone else comes up with.

Paper Prototypes

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.

Design Thinking in Today’s World

Digital Making at the Makerlab last week was an eye opener. Representatives from the Design for America team held a workshop about design thinking and creating solutions to solve real world problems. The Design for America team at the University of Illinois creates products and solutions which help impact the society we live in and it was fantastic to see them hold a workshop as part of the digital making class to help us integrate 3-D Printing to solve real world problems. For example, DFA has come up with  an innovative product called TherepAlz which aims to help patients of dementia and and related disorders by using robotic therapeutic animals. At the workshop 6 teams of about 4 members each worked on creating a solution/product to help alleviate the challenges faced by Senior citizens in our societies. The DFA team walked us through the design process which started from thinking about a big problem and then narrowing it down to creating a feasible,attractive and a marketable product. My team focused on helping the elderly socialize and express their thoughts using technology. We created a type of glasses which old people could wear and record/stream videos about them either cooking a meal or sharing some interesting experiences. Also as a team we came up with a design logo for our team name. Here are some pictures from last week:

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Design thinking is a process of creating products which are not only desirable by consumers but also feasible technically and business wise. Dr. David Weightman, who is a professor of Industrial Design in the School of Art and Design at the UIUC, explains in his interview that a good design is created at the intersection of desirability,feasibility and viability. It is interesting to understand how a product is created to impact the society. One must first reach out to that very society which needs help and understand what the people really want both technically and economically. Tim Brown, CEO of the international design consulting firm IDEO, gives interesting examples in his article “Design Thinking” where he talks about creating products which meet peoples need;s and desires. IDEO worked with Shimano, a Japanese bicycle manufacturing company, which was trying to understand why 90% of American adults did not ride bikes. The team then did in depth analysis to find the various causes of this problem and then implemented strategic ways to solve this day to day problem.Recently, BMW’s venture capital arm has invested money into a Boston based 3-D Metal Printing Startup company. Car manufacturing in the next 15 years could be revolutionized by this technology if made feasible and viable. Innovation today is drastically changing and with the advent of 3-D Manufacturing, the design thinking process is going to take a whole new turn and maybe help solve many of the worlds problems.

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.