Prototyping for a pandemic: Mentoring SVA students to design for today

For several years, Doblin, Deloitte’s human centered design practice, has taken part in the School of Visual Design's Interaction Design program as industry mentors, sponsoring a challenge for the Strategic Innovation in Product & Service Design Course.

Crafting the brief this year was a no-brainer. Doblin designers Jesse Gaskin, Connie Wang, and Yehezkel Lipinsky gravitated towards a purposeful and timely ask around COVID-19 and its affects, challenging students, "How might we reduce social isolation in a COVID world, particularly among the most vulnerable?"

SVA students, Sharon Lee, Myunghwe Ku, and Wenxiao Wang had the opportunity to frame the problem more specifically to their collective passion, quickly identifying seniors as a vulnerable population they wanted to design for. "Designing for seniors is especially meaningful to me because, in some sense, it is an opportunity to create a solution for my own grandparents who are living alone and having difficulty connecting with people over digital means,” explained Sharon.

For the past few months, Sharon, Ku, and Wenxiao have been virtually meeting with Doblin designers to work together through some really tough questions. We’ve coached them on interviewing potential users, parsing through research, and sensemaking data into insights.

It’s been a treat to see how students tackle this question, and how we can help them expand their thinking by meeting with them weekly to think about the problem differently”, remarked Yehezkel, a designer at Doblin.

Most often, the mentoring has been centered around helping students think through what questions they need to ask, and how to translate answers to those questions into solutions. "One of the things that we love about working with Doblin sponsors is their spot-on, thought-provoking questions that help us expand our perspectives. Whenever we are stuck, they are so great at asking, guiding, and leading questions that challenge us to think outside of the box rather than providing the easy way out," said Sharon.

In the last weeks, the student started developing ideas and concepts that build on the insights they gained through research. Already well into coaching, they’ve built a rapport with the designers, enabling creativity to happen in a safe space. "There is a very positive working relationship where you can listen, present, and ask questions with a peace of mind,” said Ku.

Being a mentor for SVA over the last four years has been extremely rewarding. The students never fail to impress me with their ingenuity and design skills

– Jesse Gaskin, Senior Manager

In the next few weeks, students will prototype their concepts and bring their vision to life. “The best part about a course project is that what you ultimately design is only limited by your own creativity, making it a very special time in their lives as a designer. The magic is about to happen,” Connie remarks in anticipation.

Contributed by: Jesse Gaskin, Senior Manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Connie Wang, Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP; and Yehezkel Lipinsky, Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP.