Design Thinking is an initiative that emphasizes process over product through tools such as problem framing and empathy. I was first introduced to the Design Thinking initiative through an architecture studio class, where we were tasked to design an entrance to the future studio space under Scott Gym. Before the class started, I expected the class to be challenging— the emphasis on the process of design rather than the end product went against all of the training I’d had since grade school. Throughout the week, the interesting lectures and fun, on-site practice of the techniques helped to calm my uncertainties about the class. At the beginning, I felt a pressure that I had to understand and be good at all of the concepts, but working in the small groups helped a lot. I’ve come to learn that there are some things that I’m not necessarily good at/comfortable with, such as interviewing, but my strengths in analyzing and idea building/bouncing still made me an integral and contributing part of the team.
Design Thinking is closely related to my major, so I could definitely see myself using techniques I’ve learned from class in studio classes. One critical exercise we did in class was designing a prototype within a period of a few minutes; this was an important lesson for me because I tend to agonize over small details. This exercise has shown me that quick iterations are just as effective and allow more time for improvements or exploration of other ideas. I think this class has made me grow as a person— I was able to explore and challenge a side of myself that I wasn’t necessarily familiar or comfortable with— and learn lessons about empathy. It was stressed in class that empathy was key to the design process and that it was important to not jump to conclusions. I think seeing this happen in our small group observation has made me more conscious of really getting to know the situation and given me agency to prevent projections of my assumptions onto the other party. I like the space that the studio was situated in— the whiteboard were great for illustrating thought processes and the open layout with movable walls and furniture really was conducive to creative work. I wish the space was a little bigger and that the class was longer (I really wanted to use a 3-D printer!). I do wish that there had been a D-Shrink time set aside for teams to discuss at the end of the day what worked and what didn’t. I liked my group, but I feel as if we didn’t have a lot of time for team building, which made it harder during communication when we were moving so fast that some things were lost in the rush and we didn’t all quite see eye to eye. I think that the class was a good introduction to the topic of Design Thinking and really tempted me to re-work my schedule for the spring class. I can’t wait to see how the program grows at Smith in the future!