Rivers, Sediment, and Design Challenges

So, if you’ve been reading almost any of the iD cohort member’s blogs, you’ll be aware that we’ve been undertaking a cohort-wide design challenge for quite a while now. It’s certainly been a learning experience for all of us, and I personally have gotten quite a lot out of it. Now, to go into further detail, you have to be aware that each of the 4 advisories (~6 people each) is undertaking a different spin on the design challenge, and that no advisories match another one in terms of prototype, process, or the journey in which they’ve taken to get to where they are.

I’m unashamed to say that, in my humble opinion of course, I believe that my cohort has had the most tumultuous journey from the beginning prompt to where we are now. From “create a mission statement” to “design a way for lost iD students to get back on the right track” to the now somewhat broad “design a new way to promote iD to the prospective raising freshmen and their parents”, we’ve been tossed and turned, then turned some more and sent the opposite direction, and then back again.

Kind of like rocks in a river.

Yes, I know this is stretching an analogy a little long, but it makes sense once explained. Let’s say your design team is this imaginative rock that’s just been thrown into the fast-paced tipsy-tumbly world of a design challenge with few restrictions. What’s your first step then? In reality, gravity is pulling down that rock into the riverbed, where the rock can sit for long times without being disturbed or moved, but the current and speed of that river keeps pulling that rock up and to the sides of that stationary river bed. Back to design thinking=rocks world, that pull of gravity seems to represents outside pressure; deadlines, time constrictions (hrmbellshrmhrm), and the desire to just figure out the challenge and start to really dig into the work. Even though these “gravitational forces” are trying to bring the chaos down into a settled state, the “currents” like other interests, team members ideas, someone telling you to do other things, etc. are still carrying your team-turned-rock up and down, back and forth, left and east, etc, and taking you away from your initially prescribed challenge to some place different that you feel can be worked on. And of course, once you get to that river bed, you finally feel like you can get work done, as you’ve stepped away from the spin cycle phase and on to the digging in and progress towards a initial prototype.

Please don’t think I’m crazy, it makes sense in my head.

Anywho, when reflecting on my group, I think we were in that river for much longer than we had any business being in. We’d settle down into the riverbed for a short while, only to get kicked back up into the current for another round to figure out just what we were doing. We coasted down the imaginary iD river for days, departing our initial design challenge for new horizons, settling down, then getting tossed up again and sent farther down. For me personally, it was tough to watch other groups “sink and hit the riverbed” very quickly when compared to ours, but each group has it’s own track to follow. In the end, we have finally settled into that river bed, and have solid work, but also have a few things to get done. To be completely honest, I’m glad the first design challenge wasn’t a walk in the park, but more of a tumble down a hill with one shoe tied to the other. I’ve learned a lot from our long voyage through this river I’ve seem to have conjured in my head, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

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