Tag Archives: Design Thinking

Reflecting on a Semester of Creations


Coming into this course, I was excited by the prospect of making a previously foreign idea (3D printing) much more tangible. I expected to learn the ins and outs of creating objects with a 3D printer as well as learning more about the capabilities of 3D printing. Inspired by the first guest lecturer, Arielle, a previous class alum, I was very excited to see what product or creation my team would come up with by the end of the semester.

My Experience

My experience in this class has been much more wholesome than I expected. I would venture to say that I gained a more creative mindset that is no longer limited by the unknown possibilities of maker-spaces. If you had asked me at the beginning of the semester to define a “maker mindset” I don’t think I would have been able to. Each of the guest lectures and workshops we experienced this semester contributed to a growing knowledge of the resources and possibilities out there. I expected to be focused on 3D printing skills and printing items each week, however I was pleasantly surprised to pick up embroidery, Arduino, digital scanning, 3D modeling/ designing, and many more skills! In this post I’ll highlight my favorite takeaways from this course.

Designing & 3D Printing

I thoroughly enjoyed the iterative design process that goes into making things. I came into this class with no knowledge on how 3D printers worked so each time I printed something I learned something else to look out for. Taking an idea into Fusion 360 Cad designing software was a new experience for me and taught me that patience is required in order to create the object you are aiming for especially when you are not an expert with the software. One of the first things I printed was a phone stand (shown below) however it was too lightweight to support the weight of a phone. Additionally, I designed and printed a cord organizer for my desk however by reducing the infill percentage (in order to print in less time), it was not as strong and therefore the dividers shortly after ended up breaking off. Read about my experience with Fusion 360 here. With each print there was a new discovery but it was always fun to pick up a freshly printed item and test it out! I am excited to expand upon my 3D printing skills now that I am aware of all of the free resources by which to do so and hopefully utilize some of the things I have learned in my career!

FabLab Laser Cutting & Embroidery

One of my favorite series of courses were the ones at the FabLab. I was constantly inspired by all of the creations on display in this neat makerspace. We had 3 lessons at the FabLab focusing on creating a laser cut wooden box, digital embroidery, and then working with conductive thread. To read more about each creation, check out the three linked blog posts. A big takeaway for me from our time at the FabLab was how much of a resource they can be for any and every idea you may have. They have experts in so many different fields as long as you have an idea, they can help make your idea come to fruition! We spent many hours at the FabLab during our final project and enjoyed bouncing ideas off of the experts and hearing their opinions our project.

Vast Resources for the Maker Community

Each guest speaker we had this semester provided a little more insight into different areas of innovation within the maker community. I had not realized before the vast amount of resources that were available for anyone to use. Some of the online resources that I’ve found most eyeopening and will potentially use in the future are the 3D printing online libraries (primarily https://www.thingiverse.com/ and https://pinshape.com/). Additionally https://www.shapeways.com/ and https://voodoomfg.com/ both provide the machines, materials, and guidance in order to print anything that you design and have it shipped to you. All of these cites help to make 3D printing even more user friendly. A neat resource to learn new skills from that I was made aware of through this course is https://www.instructables.com/ which provides tutorials on almost any DIY project you can imagine.

Final Thoughts

One of my biggest takeaways from this course is that I am so much more capable of building and creating things than I expected. I learned how to program an arduino simply through expert advice at the Fablab and by watching Youtube tutorials. I learned how to design in CAD through a class workshop and then continued online tutorials. We learned how to create a vertical hydroponic garden through hours of online research, Instructible tutorials and advice from fellow makers and gardeners. I learned the iterative process of prototyping and the pride that comes from a final working prototype. The resources are out there and just waiting to be utilized to bring ideas into creation! This class has been one of my all time favorites and I am so happy to have had the chance to learn and grow with such a great group of people!

Thanks for following along on this journey, I hope you’ve been able to learn a little from my experiences or that you’ve gained a new interest as I certainly have!

Design Thinking

This week, the required reading titled “Design Thinking”  by Tim Brown addressed how businesses are requiring innovative thought processes in order to stay at the forefront of its competitors. A firm that specializes and is often used by companies to acquire innovations is IDEO. IDEO is a global design and innovation company that hopes to create a positive impact through design.

IDEO is so innovative because they do not have a standard way of creating solutions…

Design for America 

To get a better understanding of design thinking, we had workshop from the University’s Design for America team. The team consisted of a diverse group with different majors and different ages. We were tasked to create a product for a visually impaired university student who wanted to feel more connected to her peers and attend social events held by the university. In order to to create a product, we had to go through a design process.  The first stage was to understand our consumer, then create the product.

This design thinking was foreign to me, and I found it challenging not to create a product after hearing the problem from our “client”. But, DFA’s process allowed for a much better understanding of our client and to dive deep into their world and struggles.

Create /Prototyping 

Our team brainstormed and wrote out potential solutions on sticky notes until we were ready to create.  We focused on making football stadiums more of a friendly environment for the the visually impaired and decided to add brail all around the sports arena. It doesn’t sound that innovative, yet it has not been done. One thing that the DFA’s team kept reminding us was that if helped at least a few people, then that was good enough. So, we stuck with our brailed railing at the sport arena since we figured it could be easily implemented around the facility and braille could be added to the existing railing for a tactile experience.



Fascinated by IDEO, I looked more into the firm and its current projects centered on design thinking. Recently, the challenge they faced was to expand Zalando’s human-centered design capability. The outcome was “The Studio”, a jointly run innovation lab that prototypes and builds digital products.


Thank you for reading my blog and I hoped you learned something! See you next week!



Design Thinking to Solve Problems


This week in class we had guest speakers from Design For America give a presentation on a way of thinking about design that helps create solutions to problems. I had never heard of this organization before but after listening to their presentation and seeing some of the projects that they have done I think they are a great organization. They have helped create a stuffed animal called Jerry that helps kids who have diabetes understand the lifestyle that they have to live and also worked with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to create a steering wheel that helps drivers focus and transition to autonomous cars. This group really takes design to the next level and I wish I had heard of them a few years ago because I would have loved to be in.

For the workshop that we did in class, we were given a scenario in which we chose to help out Jess, a blind University of Texas student who feels disconnected from her peers and avoids football games, tailgates, and other large gatherings because of the disorder and unreliability of these types of events. My group then went through a series of steps in which we eventually created a How Can We statement that helped us focus to just helping Jess feel safer at a football game yet still involved with the student section. After brainstorming a variety of different ideas, we came up with a system of pads that could be installed on the floor of the stadium that had patterns that described each section of the stadium. For example, the end of each row of seats would have a specific pattern that would let Jess know she was about to enter or leave a row. There would also be patterns on stairs, doorways, bathrooms, and others that would help guide Jess around the stadium without having to have a guide. We were then given a bunch of different materials and we actually created a mockup of our concept. It was cool to see how this process helped us go from wanting to help someone to a physical representation of a product in about an hour or so.




The process we went through in class reminded me of what IDEO does. They are a design firm that is very famous for using the same type of design thinking and have created countless innovations. Above is a video of IDEO redesigning the shopping cart and a link to their website that describes the shopping cart in detail.

Inspiration, Ideation & Design

This week’s class was made me feel as inspired and creative as I did when I was little and the world was my playground. Design for America came in to give a presentation on the Design Process and walked us through the process for a certain group and issue from understanding the client to crafting a solution.

I have learned and utilized the design process once before in an industrial design class, taught by David Weightman who also introduced the idea of design thinking in our pre-class video. I really enjoyed this Design storm session because it completely encompassed and quickly introduced us to each step of the design process in a condensed form. Below you will see the 6 steps in the design process that Design For America (DFA) follows when working on any of their projects.

They walked us through each of these steps with an example situation by introducing different personal stories who each struggled with a certain aspect of life due to their blindness disability. They had already completed the first step by identifying our target group and users for the design. Our group chose to focus on solving the issue of anxiety when in unknown social situations for Jess, a blind college student. The second step in this process was immersing ourselves in our user’s world by making assumptions about how she sees the world, what she feels, thinks, hears, says, does, wants, and needs. Part of the design process is coming up with a bunch of ideas each on separate post-it notes to visualize and determine the most important ideas. After making assumptions, we were able to build “How Can We… statements” to better narrow our focus for the project. Our group came up with  a few statements focusing on bettering the social environment of Football games for students who are visually impaired.


After framing and understanding the issue and potential client, we delved into the ideate portion with an individual and then longer group brainstorm sessions. In this part of class, we came up with as many solutions to the issue as we could find. One of the ideas I came up with was a railing with various textures that would differ depending on the place where you are in the stadium. We ended up adjusting this idea in our group brainstorm session to become our product and mockup in the Build portion of the process.


We ended up designing a railing that would surround the entire stadium and have brail labels for each different area (such as student section, hot dog stand, ect.) to help with navigation throughout the stadium hopefully decreasing uneasiness of the unknown. We presented this to the class and they had mainly positive feedback however during the ideation stage we wished we could ask questions to the user group to determine whether our solution would be useful.

Overall, this class opened our eyes to the design process and I look forward to transferring these skills towards our own ideation process towards our semester project.

Further Learnings from Printing Fusion Design: Nozzle Size

As a side note: Last week I printed the desk cord organizer that I had designed using Fusion 360 and have included pictures of the final product as well. With each print, I learn something new. This, like the phone stand had a balance issue however I could solve that by using a command strip to attach the organizer to my desk so that the cords would not immediately pull it towards the floor and it works quite well.

Additionally, the first few prints I didn’t understand how the nozzle size impacted the print, however I now know that using a 0.4 nozzle is typically the standard however will be much slower to print than the .8 nozzle. This makes sense, thinking about it as the .8 extrudes twice as fast due to the larger size, it is able to cut the print time in half. The down side of this is that it may not be able to capture as many small details if there are thin lines. Additionally, I learned that if using supports, it is quite difficult to remove .8 supports however .4 supports are easy to remove due to thinner lines and less strength in the material. If interested in learning more about how the nozzle size impacts the print you can refer to the 2 links below that I used.



Design thinking is more than just common sense (Week 5)

What happened this week?

This week, we learned about design thinking. Design For America presented and led a small workshop during the class period. Taken from the group’s website, “Design for America is an idea incubator, a motivated community, and a way of approaching complicated challenges. DFA shapes the next generation of social innovators.” I am in a social entrepreneurial group on campus called Enactus – previously, I thought we were the only organization devoted to social good not through volunteerism, but through sustainable solutions. I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about Design For America and how the group creates designs (of both products and processes) to help others help themselves. I’m sad I’m a senior now and do not have the time to join the organization!

So what?

Design thinking is a strategy designers use to create new solutions. The process is first to understand then to create. Under the pillar of “understand” comes identifying, immersing, and reframing. One of the most important parts of the design process is to correctly identify the need. Something the DFA team said that really stood out to me was that a designer should look at the need first then make several different, creative solutions. It seems like common sense, but more often than not, I am thinking more of the product in the beginning of my design thinking process than the need group. I will try to thoroughly assess the need first in the future.

Under the pillar of “create” comes the last three steps of the design thinking process. Ideation, building, and testing are the more tangible parts of the process. At any time, a designer can go back to any point in the process – it’s not supposed to be static.

I’ve found an interesting article on “music thinking” and how it’s connected to design thinking. When musicians create a piece of music, they also go through the design thinking process. The only difference is that their product isn’t tangible. And steps like collecting user stories are accomplished through showing compositions to friends, fellow musicians, and professionals in the industry. According to the article, music thinking “reflects the dynamics of daily business, working together with different experts, have to perform everyday on an high expectation level in different performance venues for an changing audience. Music thinking also knows ‘radical change’ in style, technical innovation and behavior of the crowd, customer, consumer, user, downloader. Music thinking is the behavioral side of design thinking.”

The article goes on to apply this thinking to a dancer’s routine creation. Find the article here. We learn a lot about things like design or music thinking in classes that might seem like common sense – but I believe we can’t fully grasp the concepts of these things unless we acknowledge them and apply a name to them. So, while it might be true that starting with a lot of ideas, narrowing them down, and making a few iterations of a final product can be done by someone who does not know what design thinking is, there is power in acknowledging the concept and being able to check each step off the list as you design.

Now What?

I have also found this TedTalk on design thinking. The speaker talks about how sometimes, designers have to be taught to relive their childhoods in order to effectively create innovative designs. The talk is very interesting and goes into a lot more than I mention – it can be found here. I previously mentioned that I have been thinking too much about the product before I correctly identify the need group. Going forward with the group project and my own designs, I am going to spend longer on the identifying and reframing aspects of design thinking. I will also try to maintain that “child-like” creativity by not limiting my ideas before I put them on paper.



Designing to Change the World

This past week we learned about the concept of design thinking. Design for America (DFA) at Illinois, is a student organization part of a  national network of creators and innovators seeking to revolutionize the way college students engage with the world around us. DFA focuses on utilizing the design process to generate ingenious solutions to various challenges in our communities.  Before this workshop, I have heard about the amazing work DFA through my involvement in Illinois Enactus. Design thinking is a powerful tool to that allows an individual to structure and channel their ideas to form a positive impact in the world.

Key Takeaways from DFA Workshop

From the DFA workshop, I learned how the design process is not a linear process. Although it can be separated into two stages, the design process over time is very iterative. It’s broken up into an understanding phase and then a create stage. I learned how imperative it is to first understand in order to design. I was surprised to learn how in-depth the understanding process is.  DFA talked about how you need to go beyond just identifying a problem, you need to immerse yourself to truly understand all of a problems nuances.

What I really enjoyed about the DFA workshop was the hands on activity. It was a neat opportunity to collaborate with my peers to engage in design thinking. The problem we examined was blindness in the urban environment. We chose to design a problem for Jess, a legally blind college student who felt disconnected from many of her peers. First, we identified and made some assumptions about our user. Assumptions like “Jess knows how to navigate her surroundings as a legally blind individual” helped us begin the process of attempting to understand our user. From there, we made additional assumptions about how Jess hears, sees, and feels. I thought the most beneficial part of this process was when we started to create “How Can We” statements. This allowed us to narrow our focus from broad to specific. Ultimately, my group and I came up with the idea of a “smart cover” for blind walking sticks. Key features we incorporated into our idea was Bluetooth and GPS functionality, and rubber material so that it could be a one size fit all attachment.

When reflecting on the workshop led by DFA, I was reminded about Tim Brown’s, IDEO’s CEO, approach to design thinking. Brown discusses how close observation combined with brainstorming and rapid prototyping can streamline information shifts and produce more efficient an effective results. I noticed that the iterative process to come up with an end product idea required much collaboration and flexibility in thought. Furthermore, it was important to set time limits for each stage and to not get caught up in one part of the process for too long.

Other Design Thinking Resources

Other resources I examined this week associated with Design thinking was a podcast published by McKinsey titled The power of design thinking and a Ted Talk given by Joe Gebbia, the founder of Airbnb. In the McKinsey podcast, Hugo Sarrazin, a McKinsey director and the digital vice president of McKinsey Digital Labs talk about the impact of design and how it can drive positive change within an organization. Joe Gebbia’s Ted Talk explores how the design process can be tailored to address specific  issues. Gebbia discusses how he founded Airbnb with the principle of trust in mind. This principle led him to tailor the design process to design for trust, resulting in the successful creation and expansion of Airbnb. The Ted Talk and McKinsey podcast are listed below. I am excited to continue using this framework as my team and I finalize our project idea.