Dan Singer a second year in the Digital Media program recently visited University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he led Stanford’s famous design thinking “crash course”. He shares his experiences:
“I had a great visit to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where I led Stanford’s famous design thinking “crash course” during both a lunch workshop and a 100-level English class. During the crash course, participants partner up to redesign the gift-giving process for each other by following the design thinking process, culminating in rapid prototypes made of Play-Doh and crafting materials. I participated the crash course in multiple Georgia Tech classes and during my summer internship at Cox Communications, and I think it serves as a solid introduction to the interdisciplinary, user-centered problem solving we do in the Digital Media program.
I was invited to UNC by the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative (CDHI), which hosts weekly lunch workshops intended to introduce faculty and students to emerging digital tools and research techniques. My sister, Sarah Singer, is an English Ph.D. candidate who works closely with the CDHI, and she recommended me to lead a workshop due to her colleagues’ burgeoning interest in design thinking. Indeed, the graduate students and faculty who attended the workshop seemed to receive my presentation warmly. I made the case for leveraging design thinking concepts in humanities scholarship, especially with regards to critically dissecting social constructions that are, by design, hegemonically reinforced in everyday life. I also encouraged attendees to incorporate low and medium fidelity prototyping into their courses — if students have access to Post-it notes and basic presentation software, for example, they can design a compelling, interactive digital experience for their next project.
Later in the afternoon, I presented to Sarah’s undergraduate English students and led them through the crash course. The topic of gift-giving is perfect for the crash course because it allows design thinking novices to easily dive into human-centered challenges that are both relatable and meaningful. Keeping the crash course free of academic jargon and full of colorful pipe cleaners allows the classroom atmosphere to remain laid-back and playful, and within a few minutes these students were confidently discussing their gift-giving experiences and sketching solutions to problems they identified. I was especially impressed with the ways they misused pipe cleaners and construction paper to build touchscreens, boxes, and other “containers” for their gift-giving experiences. During our debrief, we discussed the benefits of iterative design and considered how the students could utilize design thinking methods in their upcoming assignments.
All in all, I enjoyed serving as a Digital Media ambassador and bringing a taste of our work to UNC. I’m happy to pay it forward and bring new design thinkers into the fold — hopefully some of them will bring their talents to Georgia Tech in the coming years! “