This is my reflective essay about what I have experienced in past 8 months. Last April, I was struggling with which university should I go, and now I have already completed over half of my course. Rethinking again the whole journey, I still found it amazing that I have got frustrated, tried, then eventually learnt something. Also, I met so many people with great passion and ambition. In my reflective essay, I will describe what I did and learnt from my course. (Not only design thinking module, since all of them are relevant) I will start with the story of my team, and how I changed my attitude toward my role, then rethink about the influence in my life.
Team up and early steps
“A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty” (Ries, 2011) Under the extreme conditions, sometimes we would get an ‘aha moment’ and be inspired by small things.
One year ago, I could not imagine that I tried to do it and have already finished it. I still clearly remember the day that I teamed up with my team－Start Me Up. (As you guess, the name comes from The Rolling Stones.) I was worried since I didn’t find my members until last moment. Luckily, eventually I teamed up with Arturo, Celina and Michaela, the people who I enjoy working with a lot.
Before we really started running our start-up, we completed many different tasks. For instance, once we went to Unlimited Lab and design a piece of wood which can gather the USB cables as a clothes line and also could be hanged on the window or chair. (see my past blog) That day, we obtained a prize from Unlimited Lab. It was our first collaboration.
Another time, we went to a restaurant and observed what might confuse customers. We found out that sometimes customers forgot the table number－which is necessary when they order. Hence we designed a small sticker with table number (there’re also various version for different areas and seasons) It was our first collaboration. Few weeks later, me and Celina went to laundry room and found out that students feel inconvenient that the others sometimes leave their cloths in laundry machine yet there’s only limited machines to use. We were inspired by poop bag and designed laundry bag to take the cloths out without touching them. Also we make a rough marketing strategy for it.
Through completing different kinds of canvas, we were getting clearer about what the value of our product is and who our customers are. These are precious processes. Although we didn’t develop these ideas, we learnt how to observe, design based on the needs, and more realistically, consider the customer and sales.
My favourite canvas is probably Customer Profile in the Value Proposition Canvas. (design by Alexander Osterwalder) This canvas includes customer jobs, customer pains and customer gain.(Osterwalder et al., 2010) For me, the thing I like most about design thinking is ‘knowing people’, and this canvas does help me know more about my customer.
Eventually, we adopted Arturo’s idea. He observed that elders had a problem to reach the right card in a queue. With a passion of ‘maybe it could help people’, we decided to develop a prototype based on it.
Unlike big business, a small start-up doesn’t have resources and budget to create a product or service. And the most important thing is－we did not know what people need. Hence, we made a list of assumptions and interviewed people on the street. Based on these answers, we created a prototype and tested again.
It is not only about the product or service itself, but its process, and our mindset. Through these processes, I realise that we were not supposed to make a perfect product. (Basically, none of us is product designer) Instead, we had to focus on ‘solving problem’ “When you design, something new is brought into the world with purpose.” (Clark and Smith, 2008) Our ‘purpose’ is solving people’s problem, not changing their behaviour. We treat people who buy our product as users, not just customers.
We made the different version of prototypes. As Hasso (No Data) stated, creating a prototype could communicate with others, start a conversation, fail quickly and cheaply, test possibilities and manage the solution-building process. The first prototype was a fall-out wallet. After consulted professional advisers, we decided to develop a product with the simple design.
The role of Marketer
In the beginning of the semester, I was considering to change my module. My goal is to do something for the museum. However, I found Advertising and marketing modules are too ‘business’. I am not a person with the business mindset, thus I found frustrated and lost. Luckily, I have great classmates in advertising module and we had great experience of advertising project, which is creating a whole advertising campaign for an existing company including online and offline strategies, costs allocation and so forth. When our start-up started running, I became a ‘marketing director’ in my team, then I was glad that I choose advertising as my major, since I could make strategies based on what I learnt.
Kliatchko and Shultz (2014) stated, marketers should use multiple media tools and deliver its messages. Through my marketing communication module, I learnt the importance of the integration of various marketing channels. Hence, after discussing with my team, we decided to do online and offline marketing as figure shown.
In terms of online marketing, Virvilaitė (2005) addressed, the internet is the most powerful environment to develop and implement interactivity. Our online marketing strategy also allows us to keep a great relationship and got feedbacks from customers. Also, we know word of mouth is extremely important, thus we encouraged our customers to post their feedbacks on their social media channels.
According to Fill (2016), a good strategy should include two significant values－ informational content and emotional content. Hence, we not only explain the functions of the product, but also created an advertising video which evokes audiences’ emotion through addressing the problems, then shows the solutions while explaining the features.
Although online marketing is important, speaking to customers directly is more crucial for us. As a start-up, the most effective way to make customers know you is to approach them directly. Direct Marketing Association (2011) indicated “direct marketing is a way of selling goods and services, or raising charitable contributions, through customised communications exchanged with pre-selected audiences or markets. We went to trade fairs, where we sold the most of our products. We printed out the leaflets and put them in campuses and student accommodations. We also negotiated with student union for selling it in the campus.
In order to build a stronger impression of our brand, we design our package and trade fair stand based on the characteristic of our product, which is made by eco-friendly recycled leather, and could make your payment or commute experience easier.
As a brand, having a simple yet clear message is essential, and we did this in order to deliver a great experience to customers.
Last year, I thought the strategies are merely the words on my textbooks. However, learning theories and implementing them in real life is fun and exciting. I still don’t describe myself as a business person, but now I know that in fact I could enjoy a lot through marketing and advertising.
Teamwork and Improvement
The start-up experience is unique for me. This is my first time to work with people from diverse backgrounds, which is totally different from my past experiences. I do enjoy it. Most of the people prefer to work with alike people. However, a good team has some diversity－not only the skills or knowledge, but the way we think, the value we have, our priorities and approaches. (Parker, 2010) Although we have different backgrounds and the ways we communicate are quite different, as long as we are open-mind enough, the diversity helps us see things from other aspects. It helps us see our business in a more objective way. These differences are actually the good ‘flavours’ of our memory. (Also see my past blog: Lego and teamwork: ) We also set a shared Google calendar and had a weekly meeting. It helps us to track everyone’s progress and makes job assignments are fair.
Another lesson learnt is always improving by feedbacks. According to the survey at the first trade fair and feedbacks from customers, we improved our product with new colour, new materials, and better stitches. Regarding the stand, at the first trade fair, one judge told us our message was not clear enough. Visitors had to get very close to know what our product is. Hence we improved the design with bigger posters which highlights the features of the product. Eventually, we got the award of best stand design. It let us know, sometimes we think we are clear enough but actually it is not for the others. Probably it is also an important point of design thinking process.
Our team was selected as top 5 teams on Dragon’s Dan. It was a great affirmation. None of us is product designer, but we were able to create a product which does solve the daily problem. And the most important thing－you learning by doing, which is a unique experience in my life.
Influence and future
I also wrote some posts about museums. Yes, I know－It seems not directly relevant to this module. However, while the processes I experienced through this module, now I pay more attention to the details while visiting museums. (That is relevant to my dissertation as well) I started observing the layout, the colour, light and so forth. Also, I consider more in my daily life than before. We always take things for granted, but without thinking them thoroughly.
The module is finished, but I believe－for everyone, the influence is permanent. We learnt how to collaborate with people we just knew, we tried to find the solution with limited time and resources, we challenged ourselves in different ways. Some people were afraid of speaking in front of audiences but they always did well; some people learnt new skills in order to overcome the crisis. For me, the biggest lesson learnt is preparing a presentation, like Dragon’s Dan
As I mentioned above, design thinking is also a mindset. These experiences are not only about knowledge learning, but the attitude change. This intense yet wonderful half a year will definitely become one of the most memorable times in my life.
Clark, K., Smith, R. (2008). Unleashing the power of design thinking. Design Management Review, 19(3), pp.8-15,87,90
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DIRECT MARKETING ASSOCIATION, INC. (DMA), 2011. NY 10036-6700, THE POWER OF DIRECT MARKETING. Available at: http://www.marketingedge.org/sites/default/files/pdf/PowerofDirectMarketing2011-12Electronic.pdf (Accessed: 17April 2017).
Fill, C.,& Turnbull, S.,2016. Marketing communications : discovery, creation and conversations. Upper Saddle River.
Hasso, P. (2010) An introduction to Design Thinking Process Guide, Institute of Design at Stanford. Available at: https://dschool-old.stanford.edu/sandbox/groups/designresources/wiki/36873/attachments/74b3d/ModeGuideBOOTCAMP2010L.pdf?sessionID=1b6a96f1e2a50a3b1b7c3f09e58c40a062d7d553 (Accessed: 17April 2017).
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