Applied Philosophy: The Work Begins

When I began examining design thinking, everything I read and heard resounded within me like an affirmation of my personal philosophy. However, my understanding of design is primarily intellectual, so the real work of design is a new experience for me. While orientation week was a bootcamp that introduced us to the design process, there was always a sense that the timeframe was so crazy, nothing truly meaningful would be created.

This past week we began a deeper search for the roots of design thinking, and the real work began. In our methodology course, Interaction Design Research and Synthesis, we were challenged to find a local business with humanitarian goals to approach, pitch a service design project, and convince to pay our group at least $1000 for our ideas. Shelly Stallings, Sara Miller, and myself approached about eight businesses, some in person, and some per email. We only had three days to secure a “yes,” write a research plan, and create a short presentation of our plan. After getting a green-ish-yellow light from PelotonU, a startup working to make college degrees accessible for non-traditional students (isn’t that most people these days?), we committed to crafting our research plan and presentation around them. On a call last Friday, it became clear that they are undergoing some internal reassessments, and could not begin work with us right away. Our group received low marks for not clearly setting client expectations up front, which helped me to see that we’d need to craft a clearer message next time. We needed to regroup and find a new business!

Thankfully, Sara had reached out to Buzzmill, an initiative that strives to cultivate community, and happens to take the form of a 24-hour cafe. We need to rewrite the research plan and begin research and interviews immediately. I know the timeframe for gathering data is extremely constrained – and we are already behind. We will need to be cognizant and efficient with time.

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I made a calendar for our group to keep track of progress goals and deadlines.

Our next class, Design, Society, and the Public Sector, focuses on the theoretical underpinnings of design as applied to wicked problems. This weeks readings discussed the role of the designer in society, with some authors arguing that designers should work for a higher cause than just the aesthetic , while one, Edward Bernays, argues that swaying public opinion is a good act because it provides a perspective to be compared to all others; it is the responsibility of the individual to decide what is right and moral. This heady examination of theory is a comfortable realm for me, but the synthesis of ideas is challenging, and we are tasked with explaining our results in one black and white slide, ranking each idea according to importance on a single axis graph by Thursday.

Our third class for the quarter is a studio foundations course focused on sketching techniques that both “communicate and recruit others to your vision of the future.” This is a powerful way to explain the purpose of sketching, which is to clearly exhibit an idea in narrative form, that makes people excited about it. We practiced simple lines and shapes, as well as very simplistic figures doing various activities and conveying emotion and individualism with minimal details.

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A snapshot of my sketches of stick-figures

 I think I spent the most time on assignments for this class over the weekend, which means that I am almost finished with this week’s homework, and that I have not spent enough time on my other, more pressing coursework. When drawing, I reach a sort of meditative state, and I can focus for hours. I used to say that drawing to me is like taking Adderall, where I go deep into the process and it is difficult for me to switch over to anything else. I’m glad to be drawing again, but I see I will need all of my time management skills to keep the other work in focus.