‘Transforming ageing’ at the Design Council’s Design Academy 2018

In January 2018, thirty graduate students from the Design School (MA Illustration and Visual Media, Interaction Design Communication, Design Management and Cultures, Graphic Branding and Identity and Service Experience Design and Innovation) participated in the Design Academy at the Design Council

Clara Llamas, MASEDI student, reports on behalf of her colleagues Amber Ruske, Rui Lu, Runqiong Wang, Poorume Yoo, Dasom Kim and herself:

Design Academy provided an excellent opportunity to further understand the uses of service design methodologies, while tackling the complex social issue of Transforming Ageing. We worked under the leadership of Design Council Associate Daniel Letts, who expertly steered our multi-disciplinary teams to good port by means of the Design Council’s ‘Framework for Innovation’. Working in short weekly sprints over four very intense Wednesdays made us flex our co-creative and collaborative muscles and turned skills at rapid prototyping, communication and project management into lifelines.

Amber Ruske reflects on how Design Academy has helped her manage time better, “with only four weeks to work on our briefs, it was important to plan and keep track”. The experience also helped her communication skills: “Groups were made of people from different courses who had never met. It became apparent how valuable it is to discuss what skills each member has and manage open communication channels”. Other learnings include relief: “Working with an acclaimed organisation isn’t as scary as it seems” or that “sharing sometimes weird ideas with others can be embarrassing, yet it really helped move the project forward”. Finally, Amber reflects on how not all design solutions have to be big or groundbreaking. “The solution we created utilised tea bags and their packaging to achieve purpose”. Her teams’ service solution also won the jury’s special mention.

For Rui Lu, working on the topic of Changing attitudes towards ageing and tackling prejudice provided a “good chance to start to think about the social problem deeply, all while conducting user research with both young and old”. In the period, “a lot of unexpected and interesting conversations took place”. When we listened to opinions and life stories, we noticed that some of the older people lived colourful lives, keeping fit, making contact with old friends, participating recreational activities or working in NGOs. Their positive attitudes towards ageing made me feel inspired and changed my own prejudices”. In Rui’s case, “empathy gained from user research made me more motivated to conduct desk research and apply service design to innovate solutions that solve problems around prejudice for our users”.

Collaborative team of Design School graduate students.

Our classmate Poorume Yoo “was expecting to learn new service design tools”. During the project, among others, we used new tools such as the Opportunity Tool or Impact and Difficulty Matrix, mainly tools developed by the Design Council as part of its ‘Framework for Innovation’. Poorume reflects on how “tools helped us to make the decision-making process smooth and logical”. Also, by using them, “multi-disciplinary teams found it easier to think in a human-centered way and use a common language”.

She reflects on how tools and frameworks “are not strict rules to follow, but rather support designers and non-designers in finding insights” and guide their design. Poorume thinks that, being able to work with six team members from different disciplines, “led me to be collaborative, creative and open-minded”. At the beginning, the team used different languages based on each discipline. However, during the process, “we helped each other find a common language that was fundamentally human-centered”. Poorume finds the process helped “imagine a future when I will work with with non-designers to solve complex issues. Beyond tools, I will develop myself to translate different languages, synthesise and facilitate collaboration”.

Collaborative team of Design School graduate students.

Runqiong Wang worked on the challenge of Remaining physically active. Key learnings for her include “the impact of asking good questions, which can lead to rich and useful insights”. She illustrates this with an example: “One of our interviewees said he cannot walk and never walks, when asked a question about mobility. However, when we changed the question to ‘how did you get here?’, he answered, ‘I walked’. “I understand it is a long-term journey to learn how to ask a good question. Now, I will start considering the world from the user’s view when asking research questions”, reflects Runqiong.

Mock-up cover story of our solution: The Framework for Inclusive Design

Dasom Kim felt there was high value in collaborating with colleagues from different disciplines on a very tight time-frame. “Sometimes it seemed like a challenge, but I have developed a much more in-depth appreciation and awareness of the design process thanks to these different perspectives”. She’s especially happy with the influence the Design Academy has had on her “thinking, reasoning and research skills”. “I have discovered a deep passion for innovation and strategic thinking, and acquired a great deal of knowledge that I can apply to my practice”. On top of these, she feels her communication skills have improved as a result of the experience.

Finally, for me, the rapid four week challenge was an excellent way to hone project management and prioritisation skills. Working closely with Design Council experts and being evaluated by their network was an excellent learning experience and helped me gain confidence and get closer to the language, frameworks and approaches of service design. This happened in a way which was highly complementary, but not redundant, to our work at the MA. Working with colleagues from other disciplines also made the experience richer and more complex, challenging our collaboration and communication skills even further. I definitely feel it has helped consolidate my emerging knowledge of the discipline.

Post by Clara Llamas on behalf of MASEDI students Amber Ruske, Rui Lu, Runqiong Wang, Poorume Yoo, Dasom Kim and herself.