"The Design Lab" is an entry to the 1-week design jam organized by Adobe and Amazon. The project brief is to design a tablet app to provide a safe way for high school students (13+) to discover design. This app should encourage students to discover what design is and how they interact with it every day, help them see the impact of good or bad design, encourage them to explore jobs/careers in design, and inspire them to start their own career in design.
Design is a privileged and exclusive discipline. Young creatives who are interested in art and design lack the tools, education, support system, and confidence to explore their career paths in design.
The Design Lab is an online experience that help young creatives learn about design as a career and a practice through extensive curated content and engaging design challenges. For every proactive learning, there's an exciting reward. Users are also encouraged to explore design with friends and other young creatives.
How might we create a digital experience to help young creatives learn about design and become confident about pursuing it as a career?
Onboarding: personalize content and connect with friends
During onboarding, users will select their topics of interest and find their friends who are also using the app, therefore they can receive curated and personalized content and work on projects with like-minded young creatives.
Discover: extensively curated content on design and career
It's hard to explain design in one sentence because it includes numerous sub-disciplines and philosophies. Instead of inundating users with long articles about what is design, the Discover page features bite-size videos about design, based on user's interests.
Create: learning by doing
In the world of design, the best learning comes from hands-on experiences. We know that many schools don't provide design education, so we designed "Create", a feature that encourages users to do interesting design challenges.
Social: you don't have to be in this alone
Teenagers are more motivated when learning and practicing with friends and like-minded people. Social enables users to showcase their design work and stay connected with their friends.
Profile: keep up with the reward system
In the profile, users not only see their information, but they can also keep track of the achievements gained from discovering design and doing design challenges.
In the short span of the project, we were able to survey 15 teenagers and had 3 in-depth interviews. Here are some key insights.
1. Many teenagers know about design vaguely: Some people confused design with art. They may know about the most popular design professions like graphic design, but might not know about them in-depth or other design paths that might fit them better.
2. High schools are not proactive about design education: Because most schools don't offer design as general education, many teenagers lack the access to the resources to learn and practice design. Many thought the only way they could get into design is to go to a design school in college.
3. Lack of confidence: The lack of knowledge and experience in design leads to the lack of confidence in design.
Considering our research insights and the characteristics of teenagers, we decided to focus on young creatives, high school students are who are interested in art, as our target audience. After mapping out various design opportunities, we decided to create a digital experience to help young creatives learn about design and become confident about pursuing it as a career.
During the first round of ideation, I proposed "discovery", "mentorship", "events", and "home" to be the four main features because these are the common themes in the interviews. However, these features will make our app a teenage version of Behance, Linkedin, and Eventbrite combined. We shouldn't create a mega app that doesn't directly solve the problem.
After long discussions and debates, we decided to focus on helping users to discover design and do hands-on challenges. For safety concerns, we decided not to do "mentorship" to connect teenagers with adult professionals.
We adjusted the hierarchy of features and combined "Social" and "Dashboard" to simplify the app and to make the user experience easier.
At first, I designed the pages to be scrolling both horizontally and vertically, maximizing the amount and variety of content can be shown. However, this interaction seemed to be complicated and confusing, so I changed the layout to be vertical scrolling. I also realized having the navigation bar at the center is not optimized for usability: people, especially teenagers with smaller hands, need to use both hands to hold the iPad. The design should allow users to navigate the app without having to remove one of their hands from the device. After prototyping and testing 3 different positions of the navigation bar, I designed it to be on the left bottom of the screen.
Learning from past failures and moving forward with growth
One week is a really short timeframe for a complete design process. Some people might choose to sacrifice research to polish the visuals. That was me in my first and second hackathons/design jams a couple years ago. After having a holistic design education and working with human-driven designers, I learned to put people first and developed an evidence-driven design approach, which I used in this project. I persuaded my teammates that although time is short, we can still do desk research and in-depths interviews. A good product is a product that solves a real problem, not something just looks good.
Leadership doesn't have to be intimidating
As the person who organized the team, I felt like I should be a leader. But leadership has been an intimidating word for me because in my past experience, I've always been a team member, and most teams don't have a clear hierarchy: everyone just works hard together. But this project made me realized that a leader doesn't have to be the person who walks in front of everybody else, they can be working hard with the rest of the team side-by-side, having disagreements, and finding better solutions through research and iterations. And a leader is needed because someone should take the responsibility to hold everyone accountable, to check in with everyone's well-being, and to be there when a teammate can't pull their part together. This person will take blames, also cheers. This person might feel really stressed, but rewarded at the end. This person was me. I felt very grateful to lead this amazing team.