Design & Prototyping

with Devika Patel and Natalie Griffen

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Problem Solving

Exhausting all resources is crucial when problem solving.

Devika Patel

Co-founder of Orenda, Stanford Student, Product Designer

Natalie Griffen

Designer, Incessant Doodler, Coffee Lover

Lessons Learned

Facing a problem? Stuck on issue? First, step back.

Fresh perspective is important when problem solving.

Never be self-critical when brainstorming.

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Lesson: Design & Prototyping with Devika Patel & Natalie Griffen

Step #1 Problem Solving: Exhausting all resources is crucial when problem solving

Natalie: I think writing everything out on post-it notes is helpful because, especially in the what they always tell us is to throw all of your ideas. It doesn't matter if they're bad or if they're good, which is a weird thing to me because I was very self-critical, so I thought I shouldn't write up the stupid ideas that I think of. Even from the ideas that you think have no potential, you can get some pretty good stuff out of them if you take them further. So that's really nice because if you have everything on post-its, you can just take off whatever you don't like and crumble it up, throw it away and move on.

Brainstorming does involve a lot of other people, which is not something I would've said initially when I started the product design program here because I always think that I'm right. So I would just think, "No, I can do this totally by myself," but it's always good to have somebody who's a check and it's like, "That's actually not that good of an idea if you think of it this way." Even though sometimes it's a hit to your pride, I think it's very, very helpful to brainstorm with other people. 

To find a team to brainstorm with, it's important to find people who have similar interests that you have, but a totally different perspective, because if I found my twin, it would be totally useless. So somebody who's going to challenge your thoughts is super, super important. At least in college it's really easy because you can just pick from your friends or from your classes and there are always people to brainstorm with. That might get harder once going into the real world, but maybe in the work place.

Devika: When we face a problem or an issue where we don't know what we're doing, the first thing that we do is that we step back. And that's really important. Sometimes you can get really invested in your project and have this filter where you don't realize anything that's happening in the periphery. So stepping back usually helps and helps de-stress a little. Then what we do is that we ask for help. And the way we ask for help is we usually go straight to our peer advisor. And our peer advisor, her job is to help us find the resources that can help us with our problem. Basically what she'll do, if we have a problem, for example, using a piece of technology we don't know how to use, we don't know how to code in iOS, so she will help us find somebody who can code in iOS and answer our questions.

We reach out to our Design for America peer advisor. Depending on the context of the problem, we'll reach out to either a wide array of our resources or just maybe one or two. For example, if we have a technical problem, we might reach out to our SAP mentors, we might reach out to professors, who are knowledgeable in that field, researchers that are knowledgeable in that field. If our problem is more design-thinking oriented, or design oriented, we'll reach out to our Design for America mentors and peers. So it depends on the context of the problem, but we have our Design for America peers, we have our researchers, our faculty mentors, and our SAP mentors.

Natalie: For SIR, the shoe project, I think that the closest person that I could refer to as a mentor would be Christina Mesa of the UAR Undergrad department because she's been keeping me confident about the idea even during times when I'm second-guessing it or just being too tired or anything. So she's been pushing me through and has really facilitated all the grants and funding that I've needed to complete the research projects related to the idea. So she's been a huge help both emotionally and with actually facilitating the project itself.

To connect with any mentors that I've had during my collegiate experience, I would say that I've just sent out emails until I'd get feedback. And I've never been hesitant to send cold emails to people asking for help and it's always turned out well. So I think that cold emails are a little bit underrated. I think it's a very, very good way of just connecting with people. 
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