Me — a designer? (and why you already are one / are on the right path)

A couple weeks ago, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend IDEO CoLab’s Makeathon, a full day of furious thinking, prototyping, and conceptualizing. Not only was it an amazing experience for someone who has had little to no design experience, but I also had the opportunity to meet some extremely talented and creative people. If you’re ever in Boston or near the Boston area, I highly recommend checking them out. They’re super cool, work on amazing projects, and are constantly at the forefront of innovation. The thing was, after their entire case brief and the steps they made us go through in the design process, I had a deja vu moment to middle school Ivan where he competed in a small competition called Future Problem Solving (fpspi.org if you want to check them out). As such, I realized that although design thinking and designing seemed like it was this lofty concept that people who spend their lives analyzing and being creative have the skillset to do, anyone can honestly do it.

You might be thinking, why should I care? I’ll tell you exactly why through an anecdotal story. During a planning meeting I had for the tech team in our entrepreneurship club, we were discussing ways in which we wanted to revamp our website. Although minimalist and sleek, it was a little bland, underused, and rarely updated. The result was, people on the team wanted to update it, add some more features, and completely redesign the look of it. However, when I thought about it a little more, it felt that we were missing the fundamental point:

What’s the point in designing a website that no one uses in the first place

The purpose of design is to be in the minds of the user, conceptualize what they’re doing, what they’re looking for, and then find the best ways to solve the habits they have. It’s less about what you want, and more about what you should be doing to help these people. If you’re really trying to find the best solution, you should constantly be doing research: user testing, user personas, talking to actual people, figuring out what people want. It doesn’t make sense to use only your own experiences and circumstances to design something.

Anyways, I took the same intuition that I brought with me to IDEO and brought our scope back into question. The group agreed, and we shifted gears slightly to figure out the best ways to provide the Brown EP site as a resource.

It means whatever you want it to be. Design is about improving experiences. It’s about improving situations. It’s about solving problems that exist. It should be user focused and it should be grounded in research. We as humans do this every day. We figure out problems in our routines. We use productivity apps to manage our lives. We use calendars to keep track of our day. If we want to fix something, we structure it in our lives. Everyone has this innate capacity, you just need something to bring it out.

engineer | designer | baker | dog-lover | http://ivanzhao.me

engineer | designer | baker | dog-lover | http://ivanzhao.me