20 June 2019   |   by Britt Smulders   |    Industrial Design

Growth

Business and Entrepreneurship

The competency of Business and Entrepreneurship is one of the most important to me. A design is only valuable when it can be used to create value for people as well as the economy. Through the use of market trends and competition analysis a designer should be able to create their business case and validate this by testing. Next to this, I think that understanding organizations and their motivational drivers is very important to create value with your design in a multi-stakeholder context. Once you understand the micro economic principles of organizations then you can start to place a design in its macro-economic context.

In my electives ‘Trends and Forecasting’ and ‘Design with and for Multiple Stakeholders’ I learned about the basic tools and methods for spotting trends, analyzing customer needs, measure market potential, and mapping ecosystems. In my first project I applied this knowledge in order to create a business case for the design. This was followed by my USE learning trajectory where I gained more knowledge on entrepreneurship and strategy, which were then applied in the third course where we created our own startup. In these courses I gained a lot of knowledge regarding entrepreneurship, which I used in the TU/e contest with ‘Mivo’. We made it to the finals of the contest which taught me a lot about pitching your business and attracting professional interest. As I believe this competency to be very important in my design process I followed more in depth courses in my B3.1 semester. In the ‘Economics of Innovation’ courses I learned about micro and macroeconomics and how to analyze supply chains. Lastly, I followed an additional course about intellectual property rights to see how I could use this knowledge in my design process. In this course I learned the basics of intellectual property and also how to apply it in creating a strategy for your startup.

Throughout my Final Bachelor Project, I closely involved a lot of stakeholders in the Dutch maternity care. This helped the design team working on the interventions to gather insights about how this ecosystem works as well as the roadblocks and correlations. However, in order to create value with my project for the client I chose to create to parallel tracks in my design process. In one of the tracks I focused on gathering data from the innovation ecosystem of Dutch Maternity Care, which was of value for the client. Then, I used this as a case study to create my design, which could then be tested with the client because in order to view the contextual insights from the case study they could use the design. Therefore in my Final Bachelor Project I took a slightly different approach then what I learned in my courses. First, I made a design that has its own value proposition as a tool for designers, which is one of the things that I aspire to do as a designer. Second, through the creation of the map in my project I helped to guide a value creation process for this complex case. In this process I saw that taking the risk to do things differently may eventually lead to a more valuable solution that fits your context. Therefore, I think that being able to adapt tools and methods to fit your context is an important skill.

Design with and for Multiple Stakeholders

Learning about different methods to analyze the market of your design including: stakeholder mapping, value flow models, and business models.

Final Bachelor Project

In my Final Bachelor Project I explored what stakeholder/system mappings could look like for the transformation paradigm.

User and Society

I believe that both the user and society are central in the design practice. A designer has the responsibility to make the design fit the user through using qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry or evaluation. However, I think that the user is also surrounded by a bigger system in which the proposed design should also fit. Next to that, I believe that as designers we can also help to develop the tools and methods that support other designers in tackling design challenges.

Over the course of my bachelor I have used various techniques to make designs better fit the user such as creating personas, using storyboards and having a user centered design process. In project 1 the users played a key role in the design and evaluation of the concept in a similar process like the course ‘User Centered Design’. In this course we also learned how to have an ethical approach when gathering insights or evaluating your design with users through the use of informed consent. In my third project I learned how to collect qualitative data from users and how to turn this into quantitative data to prove your point. I think that data collection from users is a very important skill in design research, but also to better understand the users. Next to that, in my second year at the honors academy I focused on gathering user insights and evaluations. Here, I saw that through replicating methods from previous research you can get more reliable results. Also, I learned that a combination of methods can be used to give a more detailed picture of the user and their environment, especially when it comes to complex cases such as healthcare.

In my final bachelor project I did not focus on the user of a design proposition immediately. Instead I started to explore what the environment of stakeholders around the user looked like and what elements were needed to map this. This was done because the project was focused on exploring the topic within the transformation paradigm, which requires a different approach then designing in the other paradigms. However, I did do a lot of interview sessions and focus groups with stakeholders. Here, I noticed that learning about and being in the environment of your design can be very valuable to reveal certain roadblocks for the design. Next to that, I eventually also did focus groups and evaluation sessions with the users of my design. As I used my own perspective to design the tool it was very valuable to have these session and place myself in the shoes of the user to gather even more insights.

Mivo

Evaluation session with a stakeholder.

Final Bachelor Project

Focus group session with one of the stakeholders of the project.

Creativity and Aesthetics

To me design is a continuous process of dealing with too little information and knowledge. Therefore various creativity techniques can be used to come up with new ideas in an iterative process. In this process another important part is being able to change perspectives to deal with this lack of information.

In the course ‘From Idea to Design’ I learned about creativity techniques such as brainstorming, brainwriting and sketching, which I then later applied in project 1 and project 2. I project 2 the visual design was also very important in order to communicate our design to the client. The visualization made the proposition much more concrete for the client. Within my honors program I saw that getting feedback and elaborating on your ideas and concepts is much easier when you bring tangible things. This is why I after I took the course exploratory sketching this skill helped me to bring my ideas across and brainstorm further on my ideas using these sketches. Next to this, in the course ‘Aesthetics of Interaction’ I learned about different principles that can help to create a fitting aesthetic for the interactions in your product, which is something that I had not explored much yet in my projects. However, I learned how to apply principles of physical design to digital products which is something that I have very much used in later projects where I have focused on digital designs. Lastly, I have worked on improving my visual style over the past three years, so that I now have a clearly recognizable style in all my deliverables.

In my final bachelor project I worked on an exploration of how to visualize a system of stakeholders and its different elements. I explored the visualization using different mediums and methods of mapping found in other papers, while reflecting after each iteration. This process helped me to better understand the problem and requirements as each iterations provided me with other insights. Next to that, the thorough exploration led to a map that was now visualized with attention to a lot of details. Through this project I learned that visualization is not just an aspect of your deliverable, it can also be a tool in your design process to change perspectives or gather more in depth insights.

Exploratory sketching

The sketching skills learned during "Exploratory Sketching" can be applied to better communicate.

Visual explorations in FBP

In my Final Bachelor Project I used visual explorations as a way to both design and reflect in my process.

Math, Data, and Computing

Personally, I think that data can help designers make sense of the complex context that they are designing for. In order to understand this data you have to be able to see the patterns in data. Throughout the first years of my bachelors this skill is not something that I necessarily used in my projects. As I had not used any big data sets or statistical models in my design process. However, I think that the first year I developed a good basis through the courses ‘Calculus’ and ‘Modeling’. In these courses I developed a basic understanding of mathematics and data modeling that were helpful to understand the methods that I learned later on in my bachelor.

In Project 3 we spend a lot of time thinking about ways to analyze the data that we had collected. By going through this process I learned that it is better to think about the method of analysis before you start collecting the data. In this project the analysis remained limited to descriptive statistics and visualization by the use of graphs. Through the course ‘Making Sense of Sensors’ I learned how to generate data sets from sensors and then analyze this data. However, as there was just this data set I did not yet develop an in depth understanding of data analysis. In my B3.1 semester I decided to develop my skills further in order to be able to use them in the design process. In the course ‘Behavior Research Methods 2’ I learned about prepping datasets to be able to analyze them as well as the required statistical methods to analyze the data. Through the use of STATA I learned to code and annotate different statistical procedures such as regression. I then used this skill in my honors project to analyze the results of user research and test relations between different variables. This helped me to see relations that I would not have been able to see without inferential statistics. Lastly, in the course ‘Economics of Innovation: Advanced’, I studied matrix algebra and MATLAB in order to calculate the workings of supply chains. In this assignment I saw that analyzing data can also help to study systems that would otherwise not have been visible.

In my final bachelor project I worked on gathering data on the Dutch Maternity Care system in order to understand the underlying mechanisms between stakeholders and parts of the system. The challenge was to gather accurate data and make the right connections. The challenge in this project was to see how all this data would connect. It would also require more advanced data modelling skills in order to develop a model of the data that was gathered during this project. This is something that I can still develop further in the future. Also, there is still work to be done in measuring the different value flows such as social value, as this requires a very different measurement than for instance financial value. In this project I learned to see the value of data as input to a design rather than only its use in some steps of the process. However, I do believe that there is still room for improvement in this area regarding big data and data modelling in design.

Economics of Innovation: Advanced

Analyzing changes in national and global supply chains using matrix algebra in MATLAB.

Statistics (in user research)

I learned various statistical procedures that I then later used in user research (honors).

Technology and Realization

I believe that it is important to be able to visualize and demonstrate your concepts using the appropriate technologies. Also, I think that is important to be able to communicate with engineers from other disciplines and understand them in order to be able to work in a multidisciplinary team.

In the basic course ‘Physics’ I learned how to do the basic calculations that are necessary to create robust prototypes and it provided me with a basis for understanding electronics. ‘Creative Programming’ helped me to understand the basics of Arduino as well as how to create the right documentation which I used in later courses. The course ‘Creative Electronics’ I used my knowledge on electronics to create diagrams with the relevant calculations in order to make a working prototype with sensors. This resulted in the creation of an electronic safe using a matrix grid for the buttons and a password. This knowledge was helpful in my first years honors project where we created a tangible 3D-printed demonstrator with sensors and an Arduino that could measure several environmental factors. Lastly, in the basic course ‘Engineering Design’ I was responsible for reporting on the technology readiness level of the prototype as well as making the cost estimates for the prototype of the robot.

In my Final Bachelor Project this competency area was not in the main focus as I wanted to work on a project that was more in line with my vision and identity and it did not fit with the design brief of the client. I did work on creating a demonstrator for my concept, but as the design was on a digital platform I did not have to work with mechanical calculations or sensors. The demonstrator has been created with AdobeXD and provided the user with a full experience of using the tool. This helped in gathering feedback on the design and find the right methods for future development of a working tool.

Electronics, Arduino, and Processing

In my first year I learned how to work with Arduino and processing. These skills were useful during project 1, project 2, and various courses.

Digital prototyping in FBP

In my Final Bachelor I created a digital prototype using Adobe XD to demonstrate the interactivity of the design.

Design Research Processes

During my bachelor I have done several project that each had their own process defined by the challenges or goals within the project. I believe that it is important to be able to adapt your design or design research process to the context of the project instead of just using one of the process prescribed in papers. The design process should always be a dynamic process with several iterations where you can reflect and use the insights for the next iteration.

I have worked on more abstract project within ‘Design for Creatives’ where the project boundaries and requirements were very unclear at the beginning and had to be developed by going through the process. Next to that, I have worked on more concrete projects within the Honors Academy where the projects had a clear topic, health, and clear boundaries set by a client or the design brief. I learned that I like to work with a very abstract project brief which gives me the freedom to work on the project in a way that fits my vision and identity. However, I noticed that it really helps within this process to make the brief as concrete as possible in order to get more feedback and further the development.

In my Final Bachelor Project it can be seen that the initial brief was a very abstract assignment, but through making it more concrete with the case study I was able to develop the project on both the abstract level as well as the case study. Making the topic more manageable allowed me to gather in depth information from stakeholders for the case study and synthesize this information to use this in a final design. Switching between the case study and the design of the tool has provided me with different perspectives for reflection, which I think is very important in the design process.

Professional Skills
Communicating

During my first year I was quite uncomfortable with being in the spotlight and presenting projects. In the first year I focused on developing my visual communication skills by creating presentations and report with a visual identity. However, I think that being a designer it is essential to be able to communicate about your work in different ways. Therefore improving my presenting and pitching skills was one of my goals in the second year. I volunteered to do most of the presentations to grow comfortable being in front of people presenting my project. Getting over the fear of being criticized for presenting has made me a lot more comfortable presenting now.

During this year I also noticed that bringing my work to coach meetings helped a lot in communicating about my project as I could show what I had been working on. The visualizations could be used to lead to conversation. This is something that also helped me in my Final Bachelor Project in doing focus groups, as I always made sure to have something to show and direct the session. This also helped in going more into depth on the topics.

Teamwork

At Industrial design collaboration is a key skill to be successful. Throughout the program I have explored different roles when working in a team. I realized that often I take a leading role in the group work as I often have a good overview of the entire process and how to connect different parts. Next to that, it has been important to divide group work in a way that everyone can work on their learning goals, which I learned to discuss at the start of each project. In future projects, I would like to have more reflection on learning goals within group work so that we can make sure that everyone in the team has the opportunity to meet their goals.

In the Final Bachelor Project you work individually, but it remains very important to collaborate with others. It really helped my process to involve the other students working on the same case when I had difficulties. The different perspective of others can sometimes help you to see things differently. Also, involving experts during the process helped to work through problems much more quickly than I would have been able to do myself.

Planning and Organizing

One important aspect of planning in design is the planning of your process. I do not believe in planning exactly how you are going through your process as you should be able to freely adapt an re-direct. However, I do think that it is important to set deadlines for when you want a certain part of the process finished so that you have enough time for everything. In my final bachelor project I worked with deadlines for each important part of the process, this helped me to finish everything in time. I like to work in an organized manner by keeping track of what I have done. This helped in coach meetings as I could easily explain where I was and what the next steps were.

Another aspect of planning is directing my personal development. I think creating a personal development plan helps to direct your learning towards your vision guided by your identity as a designer. Getting feedback on the personal development plan also helped me to realize what competencies were my focus points and what I still needed to improve.

Dealing with Scientific Information

Dealing with (scientific) information is an important competency as the projects often build on work that has already been done. In my Final Bachelor Project I used academic sources from different domains to create an understanding of the design challenge. The context was not only related to design but also to economics and sociology. It therefore made sense to look at these other domains to see how this knowledge can be used in the future for design.

Reflecting

At Industrial Design there is a heavy focus on reflecting in order to plan, monitor, and improve your development. This method of reflection has not only been part of my personal development, but it has also become part of my design process. Reflecting after each stage in the design process has helped to make well-argued decisions and learn from experiences. Throughout my bachelor, I tried to reserve time to reflect on my decisions in order to check if I was still working towards the end goal defined in my vision.

In my Final Bachelor Project I used reflection as an essential step in my design process. After the creation of a certain visualization/design, I reflected on this from a first person perspective. This helped me to understand the aspects of each of the design that I created in the process. I also kept track of my progress each week through having pictures and notes for everything that I did. This also made it easier to reflect on my work at the end of the semester.