Designing Better Skateboards – an example of user-centered design

I caught a commercial on CNN last night that visually summed up the design thinking process in under 30 seconds. Unfortunately it has not made it to YouTube yet, Cisco isn’t that cutting edge, but you can view it here. In case they change their website around, look for the Thundersk8 Skateboard Manufacturer clip.

Essentially the video shows how they took a basic design and gave it to users, who in turn improve the product functionally and aesthetically, arriving at an ideal board. It demonstrates the process of working out flaws based on a prototype, and striving toward the perfect skating experience.

I can relate…

We’re in the process of exploring a minor renovation to a high traffic area in the library. We’re approaching it with a completely open mind, really trying to keep our bias out of it and listening to users. There is an elaborate assessment backbone to this renovation– one component involves a series of focus groups. I spent two hours composing “ideal” focus groups, matching up students sure to have interesting opinions, ranging for accomplished artists, scholars, leaders, and other interesting personalities. I sent out my invites and got little response. In fact, at my first session I had no participants.

Time to regroup. I starting spending a lot of time in the proposed area and approached people within the space and invited them to attend focus groups and other means of contribution—this has been very successful. Like the skateboard case study, I had to take it to the streets. Take the problem/idea/concept to the people actually using the space, who had a greater chance of being passionate about the area and an invested interested in the renovation. We’re hoping to design several prototypes which we will again turn over to our users for additional feedback.

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