Design Workshop with Kolko

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop led by the author of Exposing the Magic of Design Mr. John Kolko. It was great to hear his perspective of the design process in person and I think I might have even learned some new things about post-its.  Overall it was a great way to review design methodology by applying it to a one-day workshop.

The day started with a series of lectures before we engaged in activity.  Once we were divided into teams of four, the real work began.  Each team was given a subject to focus on and ours was “eating healthfully.” We spent 15 minutes formulating questions before we were released into the wild.  Reading Terminal was our target of choice to engage with interviewees.  My teammates and I took a few moments to briefly scope out the area and then we split up into pairs.  Working in pairs allowed us to engage with more people while also reducing our numbers to something that would be more inviting for strangers.

We began by approaching both people who purchase unhealthy and healthy food.  After talking with a few people, we got back together s a group for a brief review. We took turn explaining what we heard from the different people we talked to and decided to focus on just those people who make healthy decisions. This was an attempt to try and hone in on what encourages those healthy choices. Once we focused on these healthy eaters we discovered two things; either their healthy habits were taught to them from birth and they knew no other way of living or they had an experience that encouraged this change. When these people talked about experiences that changed their habits they revealed everything from hospitalizations to moving to a new country to graduating high school to becoming a mother.

The concept we developed back in the studio was a smartphone application that would show consumers different facts about the products they were consuming.  This data would include things like how far the product traveled to get to the shelf and how many resources were used to produce it.  We also included a feature that would allow users to develop personas that would store your dietary preferences.  This feature would also allow users to apply common dietary restrictions to their preferences (pregnancy, diabetes, renal diet, etc.) to notify the shopper if the consumer the product was inline with their diet.

Working with other people outside of the Uarts MID program is always a healthy exercise.  I have discovered a few things about the way I work with people from outside of the circle.  The biggest obstacle is legitimizing the work you do and your methodology.  The most unfortunate thing about this is not so much that you have to validate your credibility but just that it cuts into the time where you could be diving into your work.  Doubt is always healthy and helps filter unnecessary work but it is just unfortunate that group scenarios come with a hesitation to embrace other’s ideas.  This defense mechanism hinders progress.

Okay now let’s talk about something that it starting to get on my nerves a little.  How many times do I have to go through a workshop, invest time & energy, put my heart into something, just to exercise the design process and not end up with a implemented result?I get it, practice makes perfect yadda yadda yadda.  Imagine, instead that all of these workshops had an end goal to implement the new design.  This would really help acclimate me to failure and may even possible just maybe yield a successful design. Crazy concept I know but it’s like boxing.  You can practice at the gym with a trainer all you want but nothing is going to prepare you for getting punched in the face without getting in the ring with someone.

There is also the frustration with not having influence over the topic of choice.  This is not something I am horribly frustrated with.  By letting someone else choose the topic I am focusing on, it takes longer for me to become invested in the project.  I think over time, I’ll start to enjoy this more.  It’s a great way to take something that isn’t mine and make it my own which ends up being a pretty neat challenge.  It’s also the reality of being a designer.  I know that a great part of my professional career will be heavily influenced by what other people’s wants and preferences are.

I have to admit that I did enjoy the brevity of the workshop.  Working with Kolko really pushed me to work through my process in a quick fashion.  It’s pretty awesome to be reminded that in one day you can go from being strangers with a few people, to coming up with a legitimate concept that is reinforced with your research.


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