Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design, by IDEO.org and +Acumen

Late last year I felt I could use a little recap on some of the things learned on the very first courses of the Service Design Masters degree. At the same time I was longing for some fresh thoughts and a push to jump start my thesis – a way to get creative and actually do some design stuff instead of just planning it. The free Human-Centered Design course by IDEO.org and +Acumen, mixing online and in-person teamwork, seemed like a good way to do that.

Described as an “intensive, hands-on learning experience“, the course description promised the participants would “leave this experience equipped and energized to apply the human-centered design process to challenges across industries, sectors, and geographies to generate breakthrough ideas.” Well, that sounds great, but would someone with quite some earlier knowledge and experience in Service Design and in general human-centered design projects get something out of it too, besides a repetition of things already known? I was also wondering how the theme and topics would feel, as the focus seemed largely to be in humanitarian and social welfare – a hugely important topic, however sadly not my forte previously.

Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation

IDEO mini challenge 1The course started in January and, thanks to all sorts of online groups and forums, it was fairly easy to find a team to do the meet-ups with. We ended up being 5 in our group, all previously unknown to each other. The course platform provided us with instructions on the different phases, “classes”, we were to go through to complete the course. The first meet-up went in a bit of a haze, getting to know each other while trying to follow the guidelines from the somewhat confusing set of material piles (for each “class” there being 2 separate packs of materials). Lucky we had a group leader of sorts in our group, making sure we had agreed on specific days for our future meetings so we could keep up with the course deadlines.

The course followed a set structure and timeline, with the design process following the steps Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. The second group meeting was missed by a couple of us, but the ones attending divided the research between us all and we all managed to do our parts before the following meeting. And on the third meeting we finally got to a classic – you guessed it – post-it party!

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Latest at this stage it was fairly clear the methods and principles of the course were very familiar to a Service Design student, but doing research and ideating was in any case tons of fun and not at all that easy. It was great to work together with a group of people not previously familiar with each other, building on each other’s ideas and hearing about new ways to look at the same things.

 

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In the following meeting we moved on to How Might We questions – this brought us another interesting conversation, as some in the group had somewhat unknowingly used a similar approach to problem-solving. After that it was time for creating a story board and moving on to prototyping.

The course finished with an energising afternoon over brunch, making a pitch for our solution, followed by reflection and discussion on our learning.

 

To summarise the experience, here’s a little list based purely on my personal thoughts:

+ Nice and easy way to recap a human-centric design process

+ Practical and structured guidelines and tasks

+ Basic background info and examples on methods and process

+ Great to work in a new team and learn from others!

– 2 separate material packs for each class didn’t feel like the best way to go

– No new methods or insights for someone already familiar with Service Design

– End result and experience would depend a lot on the team: in my case it was wonderful but it could have been totally different if e.g. there was someone really bossy or other characters that can make ideation etc. difficult.

All in all, I was very happy with my experience. And the team proved to be so good that some of us have already met at a couple of other Service Design events, and we plan to meet with the whole group again soon!

 

The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.

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