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DSI / Social Design
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Thesis Intensives: Prototyping and Effective Meeting Methods

To close out our thesis intensive series for the semester, thesis advisors Sahar Ghaheri and Mari Nakano held two final workshops on prototyping and hosting effective remote meetings, respectively. 

In design, and especially social design, prototyping is an important part of the design-thinking and implementation process. Sahar explains that it is an effective way of “drawing on the designer’s toolkit to create something new and innovative to address a problem”, and that “self discovery and a better understanding of a unique idea” often comes from good prototyping. In working with communities, there are also careful considerations of local context that need to be taken so as not to induce harm throughout this process.

Alongside considering local context, this workshop encouraged students to hone their awareness on who benefits from their designs, what human rights may be questioned from sourcing to delivery, how their intervention may impact the safety of people using their product or service.

These questions also determine the kind(s) of prototypes that should be utilized. This can range from something simple like sketching, mood boards, or role-playing, to more in-depth systems such as rapid prototyping, low-fidelity models, body storming, and physical models.

Regardless of their selected prototyping method(s), our 2021 thesis students are faced with the unique challenge of Covid-19 restrictions, which Mari helped them plan for in her effective meetings workshop.

There are ways to effectively organize and facilitate virtual meetings to ensure they are effective, engaging, accessible and productive. In order to discover the most effective methods, Mari posed meetings as a design challenge worthy of prototyping in itself, rather than something that can just be put together quickly. Each meeting should also establish expectations for before, during, and after, and take into account the necessary roles, tools, and tasks required to meet those expectations.

Both of these processes are key pieces in a designer’s toolkit, and will help our second years engage with their community partners on a higher level.

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