This week I had the fantastic opportunity to think like a designer in the Stanford d.school Virtual Crash Course at Objective Digital. Our consultants, Dave Hayes and Nirish Shakya had recently finished teaching the 12-week UX Design course at General Assembly’s Sydney campus. We hosted the recent graduates of the course help them to put what they learned into practice in 90 minutes! Being the curious psychology student that I am, I decided to pop my head in to see what was happening. Coming from a psychology background and having spent my entire degree practicing scientific principles of experimentation, I was pleasantly surprised by this experience.
What was it all about?
The D-School Virtual Crash Course provided a fun, energetic and fast paced guide to thinking like a designer. The course had a simple objective – to re-design the experience of your partner giving a gift to someone else (your partner being the person sitting next to you).
You get 8 minutes to interview them and find out about their past experience of giving someone a gift, their motivations, desires, likes, dislikes and anything else you could think of that influenced why and how they bought that gift.
We conducted 2 quick interviews each, the second one to dig deeper to answer more ‘why?’ questions. Then came the chance to think out of the box and think of as many radical solutions we could for their gift giving dilemmas. We then tested our initial concepts by showing them to the user. Based on their feedback, we picked one concept to prototype.
We made real life arts and crafts versions of those prototypes. Did I mention that we only had 4 minutes to do each of these activities? Maybe I didn’t stress it enough, this was FAST!
What did I like about it?
I particularly liked how similar designing is to being a psychologist. One of the most important parts of designing for someone is to understand their needs. This means you have to empathise with your user. All of those skills I learned about probing and asking the right questions to get to the core of someone’s problem – the same goes for designing.
I also really enjoyed how the fast pace nature of the course meant that no one in the group was judgmental, knowing that someone only had 4 minutes to re-create your gift giving experience means that your user is not expecting a Picasso masterpiece.
What made it challenging?
I found the very limited time given for the activities difficult. It was really challenging to find out enough information in a 4-minute interview. Also, I am terrible at arts and crafts! Trying to make a model of a prototype within a few minutes was very challenging. However, the limited time forced us to focus on just the critical things and not on every detail.
What did I learn?
I learned how important it is to understand the customer’s needs. It seems that many companies fall into the trap of assuming what their customer wants and what they need. Designers then make solutions for the wrong problem or problems that probably don’t even need to be solved! If only all the stakeholders could do this crash course, they would have first hand experience of why it is important to understand the root cause of customer’s needs and behaviours. Excel spreadsheets and funky charts can only tell you so much. To really understand people and their problems, you need to go talk to them.
Summing it all up
Overall, this was a very rewarding experience. I feel that even though I’m not specifically a designer, learning to understand my user / client is a essential skill for any job I go into. In fact, I think this is something anyone and everyone should try to do. It’s not just about being a designer for 90 minutes; it’s about learning to emphathise with the needs of the people you’re solving problems for. I would encourage anyone from any background to try the d.school virtual crash course, even if you don’t think you’re creative or know much about designing. I’m not and I don’t, but I can promise it was heaps of fun!
Amanda is a student at UNSW studying a Masters of Organisational Psychology. She is a new intern at Objective Digital and is striving to learn as much as she can about user experience. Amanda also loves spending time outdoors and skiing around the world.