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The Importance of Design Thinking for a Community

RJ McGuire

Design thinking is the thought process that is used by creatives and can be adapted to any field or industry. This way of thinking isn't limited to just designers, and artists, but can be adapted to business owners and other industry professionals to see problems in a new light and think of innovative solutions.

"At the heart of Design Thinking is the intention to improve products by analyzing and understanding how users interact with products and investigating the conditions in which they operate. At the heart of Design Thinking lies also the interest and ability to ask significant questions and challenging assumptions." (“What Is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?” The Interaction Design Foundation)

Let me give you an example.

This past weekend, I participated in a Creative Jam hosted by Adobe and four UT Campuses. The Creative Jam tasked my partner, Aaron Rodriguez, and I with the challenge of designing a mobile application targeted towards developing a smart community to help solve a problem. The challenge required a functional prototype to be completed to present in 72 hours.

Luckily, when it came to the software side of the challenge, Aaron and I were fairly experienced. We had both played with Adobe XD a fair amount and had a good grasp of the technical skillset needed to be successful. The challenge for us, wasn't the software ability, but what problem can we solve with a mobile application that hasn't been done already? So we both resorted to what we knew, design thinking to develop a solution.

We took our experience as visual designers and started ideating solutions to problems we were passionate about solving. We both had a passion for bridging the large digital divide in the San Antonio community and educating students about the STEM fields for those that don't have immediate access to technology to make them successful. The question was, how were we going to solve this?

First, we identified our target audience and defined the issues they may have. Young students, without immediate technology access, but a smartphone.

We then addressed their problems by ideating solutions and asked, what can make them more successful? Our answer was a free mobile application that connects local industry leaders to anyone willing to learn and provide in-app certifications that can be completed on the mobile application. With the completion of those certifications, you get a recycled laptop with open-source software provided by the city as a reward.

Next, we had to prototype in Adobe XD. We had to think with design and user experience as a massive component to the success of our idea as our design choices and decisions are what make the app accessible and easy to utilize. Our ongoing process involved sketching our concepts and testing new ways of presenting the information needed.

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Out of 80 teams, they narrowed down the projects to just 10-- and we were one of the ten finalists.

The entire experience opened my eyes to see the massive benefits of design thinking and how being able to look for solutions creatively has led to great results in a timely manner. This way of thinking can be applied to any problem or issue and can lead to new discoveries of a new solution to be adapted in your community. After participating in the Creative Jam, I can now see the benefits of having a creative thinking mindset and search for opportunities to grow and expand these new skills. I hope to have shed some light on the benefits of thinking creatively on a project and have inspired you to put a designer's mindset towards your next endeavor.

To find out more, go to (27) The Importance of Design Thinking for a Community | LinkedIn

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