In week 4, we engaged in a quite exciting experience developing our techniques of design thinking. When it comes to a user’s need, it is very important to first understand what difficulties they may encounter on their everyday journey and what values are applied to their expectations.
We all expect to find something that could solve our problems, however it can sometimes seem impossible to do so. That could be related to the lack of perception by others compared to our own. In other words, understanding value can be more important than creating an immediate solution or trying to identify how to develop it. In Design Thinking we work with values, and to project them into a solution we must first experience the problem for then to achieve results.
Divided in groups, we were given the task to role play and identify problems that wheelchair users could encounter when in the university’s building. Personally the experience was very enriching and being in the position of a user made me realize how many problems they may have whilst moving around and performing tasks. Our group specific assignment was manage to fill up a bottle of water from the drinking fountain next to the toilets.
The first problem identified was opening the classroom’s door and passing through it. The door is not wide enough for a wheelchair and opening the door can be complicated if the users cannot move much. Once in the corridor, the second problem came ahead as the signs for the toilets are too high for one that is sitting on a chair to immediately read it.
There are big doors that separate the corridor from the toilet space, which is also a fire exit. Passing through the door was probably the most difficult task I had to perform. The doors are extremely heavy and do not stay opened once pushed forward, meaning that every time I tried to move in, the door would push me back. After a while and very frustrated I finally managed to pass. Filling up the bottle was not a problem, as the fountain has a perfect high.
After returning to the classroom, we gathered around the table to reflect on the performance. Alice requested that my group mates asked me questions about the experience, to understand how I emotionally felt about the situation and what was my point of view regarding changes that could be made. That was the point where the empathising was successful.
Furthermore we started our brainstorm about ideas that could support on delivering a new experience to wheelchair users. It is very interesting to analyse people’s different points of view, and to observe how they react to specific experiences. Our group came up with some ideas such as:
- Classroom door – The doors could be redesigned so they would be compatible for a wheelchair size and able to slide instead of opened to the inside.
- Toilet signs – A user’s eye level in lower than of a person standing. The signs should be adapt for a better visibility.
- Heavy doors – Sensitive doors that would open automatically for easy entrance.
The next step was analysing how the solutions could interfere on how wheelchair users feel compared to others. Our concern was to make sure they would not feel excluded but comfortable.
Developing a solution after the understanding of the problem and its value is the main goal for a designer and its strategy as it can lead to a closer approach to the customer/user. According to Dorst (2010) what designers do is actually not look at the world as it is, but at the world as it can be, and this is reframing. Realizing what the problem is about and where a company stands is what helps developing creativity and focusing on what is as a fact valuable.