Industry-Academia Collaboration: Applying Design Thought to Enhance Traveller Experience
Design Thinking elements were applied to adopt a user-centric perspective for an internship project at the prestigious UC Berkley’s course on Entrepreneurship. Elements of good design helped the team throughout the journey from need identification, product – market fit, to generating prototype for quick user feedback. Students were inspired by Design and was adopted by them. They believed that Design Thinking was a life-skill and had applicability beyond the credit course.
- The School of Design Thinking introduced ‘Design the Thinking’ as a two-credit course for second year Computer Science and Engineering students of one of India’s prestigious universities.
- This credit course was introduced into the curriculum as an industry-offered elective. Thirty interested students opted for this course.
- The course included a healthy mix of theoretical concepts of Design Thinking along with an ongoing application in a live project.
About the client
The visiting university is an autonomous institution considered as one of India’s top-tier private universities with the highest accreditation by the National Assessment & Accreditation Council (A++). They are the pioneers in providing quality education and industry perspective to students to make them capable agenda-setting engineers for the market.
The university campus sprawls over 600 acres with more than 38,000 students graduating every year under the guidance of over 6000 strong, highly educated faculty. The institute has tie-up with esteemed foreign universities such as MIT, Stanford, UC Berkley, Cambridge, and NUS Singapore, to name a few.
Purpose of the workshop
After the completion of the course offered by School of Design Thinking, one of the students of the batch applied Design Thinking in his third year course project offered by UC Berkley on the topic of Entrepreneurship. This arrangement with UC Berkley was as per the Foreign Exchange University programme.
This brief case study explains how he leveraged Design Thinking elements for the topic.
The internship project, titled ‘An Enhanced Shuttle Stand Experience’, was a study on the experience of commuters who await their shuttles (bus) at the shuttle stops. The purpose of the project was to improvise their overall experience during the time they spend at the shuttle waiting.
The first step: Empathy
Design Thinking’s Art of Observation led to key insights about the target audience. Empathy is putting ourselves into the shoes of the users. The team’s empathy with commuters helped them on following insights, which proved crucial into their final product. They observed that:
- Parents need additional support to deal with children during their time at the shuttle stand.
- Insecurity about an expensive luggage at the shuttle stand plays a crucial dampening effect on the experience of a commuter.
- There is no real-time information about a shuttle’s current status and an estimated time for it to reach the station. This lack of knowledge results in loss of productive time for those commuters who start early to arrive at the stand in time, if the shuttle arrives late.
- Lack of any interactive / entertainment facilities at the stand.
- Need for enhanced security infrastructure for any exigency.
Making it creative: Innovative Ideas
Divergence of creative ideas led to interesting concepts such as:
- Smart Stands that will make the shuttle stops more interactive with entertainment facilities and choices for the commuters to enjoy a lively wait. It will also involve providing real-time information.
- Bag Buddy to provide the service of taking care of expensive luggage.
- An SOS facility to deal with any emergency at the stand.
Actioning the idea: Prototype
Design Thinking as a human-centered future-focused approach positions the human being in the problem statement at the pivot. It works in an iterative way, where the final launch of the product is subjected to quick user-feedback with the help of prototype (proof of concept).
The team created a physical prototype of their smart shuttle stand named ‘SpaceFul: Enhanced Shuttle Stand Experience’. This was provided to the potential users for suggestions.
The Design Thinking course has made a deep impact on the students of the university. Here is what a few of them feel about it.
The course curriculum was very innovatively designed and conducted. It gave me insights into how to observe, introspect, widen my thinking horizon and prioritize. Now, I am able to understanding and analyze a situation better by studying all the stakeholders involved and empathizing with them. I have understood that every idea can be great, so we should not limit ourselves, but rather broaden our thinking and explore new avenues.
After the course, I applied the Wheel of Life and started making short term goals and weighing priorities, which helped me become more focused. It has also made me a better listener.
I have started approaching problem solving in a very different way – and I feel it’s the best way. Tools like empathy map and journey map have transformed my life, and the Wheel of Life will definitely help me a lot in balancing priorities and academics too.
The course has taught me how to observe – observe keenly, observe patterns, and observe in order to find solutions. I now make a conscious effort to listen and respond, and not react.
The course gave me the opportunity to learn and apply something new in my life – it gave me a different outlook towards problem solving. In the process, I came to know some really amazing people. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.