When: In general, creating a design challenge is a way to initiate a project where students cycle through an entire design thinking process at least once. This way of using design thinking differs from interjecting individual elements of a process, like prototyping or brainstorming into a traditional unit.
Why: The primary purpose of design challenge is to set the stage for empathy. It gives students direction and helps instructors coordinate empathy experiences that contain human needs.
Types: We think of Design Challenges being 1 of 3 types:Small
– 1 to 2 hour challenges that cycle students through the processMedium
– 1 to 10 day challenges with student teams engaging in multiple cycles that focus on a few topics usually within one disciplineLarge
– Multiple week projects where student teams work on projects that typically span multiple disciplines
How do you know if you have one?
There are no hard and fast rules that tell you whether or not you have a successful design challenge. Ultimately the proof comes from how students interact with it.
But much like the questions you have to answer to board a plane, there are a couple of things you can ask yourself:
1. Does the challenge contain a variety of explicit and implicit human needs?
2. Does the challenge allow for a range of solutions?
You're looking for a yes on both.
A challenge like, design a way to make public transportation more efficient, although a great engineering problem lacks a variety of human needs. Perhaps designing a way for to make public more kindergarten friendly would lead to more interesting needs.
Likewise, designing a backpack for a blind person, could be changed to design a way for the blind to transport their belongings.
Pay attention to scope.
Sometimes you aim for a medium challenge and scope something that is more like a small.
ex. Redesign the bathroom to so that people will not grafitti on it is an interesting challenge. If you want to make it larger and longer, have students investigate the underlying reasons for why people grafitti in the bathroom and work to solve that. The needs are less obvious and uncovering them will take longer, as will developing a prototype since the solution is hardly defined.
briefing: Often times we some up a design challenge as a single prompt like: improve the physical and emotion well-being of youth. Other times the design challenge is written up in a short memo the outlines the constraints. See the examples below.
Design Challenge Implementation Criteria:
Once you have an idea of what the challenge is going to be, here are some things to think about in implementation:
- Does the challenge grab the attention of your team? Does it make sense why there is something to solve there? Is it easy to understand but difficult to master?
- Are there multiple users to design for? Is there a setting? Are there multiple problems to work on?
Trade-offs - Some trade-offs to consider : How much time should we spend on each stage of the design process? How 'close to home' should the challenge be?
Flex - Flex means amping up part of the challenge or process to deepening the student understanding or skills in a given area. For example, this might mean giving lots of time for interviews to emphasize empathy. Or you could require a certain number of iteration cycles to emphasize prototyping.
Cycles - We like to have participates experience design challenges over increasing amounts of time (i.e. start with a 1-hour challenge, then one that's an afternoon, then a day-long challenge, etc).
Team - Be mindful of team make-up. We encourage diverse teams (perspective, background). Think about who to add to the team for different parts - such as who to invite to the brainstorm.
Space - Does the environment feel student-owned? Is there room to be generative? Is there an ability to keep things persistent (stickies, prototypes, etc)?
Access - Do you have access to the challenge? If it's about the airport, then can you get behind security? How are the students going to be able to interact with users?