I've spent a great deal of time this year finding ways to becoming more involved in solving the problems faced by the education system in England when it comes to the web.
Back in October, Ben White, Viviana Doctorovich and I were given a unique opportunity to teach a one-day introduction to User Experience Design at Ravensbourne College in London, an institution that specialises in design, art and media.
The workshop was run for students in year 2 & 3 to coincide with the kickoff of their end of year project which would be focussed on digital product design. The day had a full attendance and by the end of it we had introduced the students to some core exercises and skills from the UX arsenal. We set them a brief for the day with a loose brief of designing an app for students to use during their first week as new students at Ravensbourne College.
Last week, I was invited back, along with faculty and another industry figure to act as a review panel for the end of year projects for year 2. It was surprising to see so many of the students who had attended the workshop had incorporated some of the design thinking exercises and skills we had taught during our workshop into their projects, notably some well thought out user journeys using both storyboards and flow diagrams.
During a back-to-back day, we were presented 14 product ideas and asked to provide feedback to the students. I was there to provide feedback on the product design, whilst my industry colleague provided business advice ranging from presenting skills to whether an idea is sellable. This is where at times our opinions differ and it was a shame that part of their project brief had been to find ways to monetise their apps and that there was a note of adding 'social integration', both of these requirements academically meant that many of the projects suffered as they looked for ways to tick boxes and crowbar requirements in (how familiar is that?).
There were some truly outstanding products and not a single group had created the same thing, they weren't even in the same ballpark. Most groups had thought about genuine problems that concerned them and then thought about how to solve the problem. Almost all of the groups concluded that this was a solution only a 'native' app could solve; I highlighted that it wasn't necessary to many as they had made website prototypes that worked better.
One project in particular struck a chord. One group had been looking into ways in which they could bring students, soon to be graduates and recent graduates, closer to people within the industry explaining that, as a young designer finding their way there are so many websites, so many design companies that it is impossible to know where to find the right information, inspiration and discover people's work which may sway you to seeking employment with them.
The concept had some solid ideas, but a little lost in the 'I want to make an app' ideology, and I think is viable, to the point that I requested they get in touch to see whether we can make it happen.
It became the theme for the day. Why I was there was because the lecturers had acknowledge that there is a separation between academic study and application in the business world and we all need to work towards bridging that gap. Much of the feedback reflected on the research undertaken, the methods they could have used for more accurate results and how we would approach this research in a commercial environment. There are things which we do by instinct in our business lives which students are not being taught. Research methods like user interviews, or competitor analysis are not modules in schools and colleges, or at least not encompassing the exercises we carry out, and the way in which we choose to present and use this data.
This year we chose to not run any internships. 2015 sees us opening that door again which I am excited for, it was sad to not share our style, and work with a new generation of designers and to see what ideas are emerging from these new bloods. If you are interested in exploring what we do and spending a few months with us in Brighton, please send us your details to (mailto:email@example.com)[firstname.lastname@example.org].