Category: Communicate

“Listening and iterating are equally, if not more important, than reaching an end goal in an expedient or rushed manner.”

By: Drew Flanagan

I have learned a lot going through the entire open design process.

I would say my number one takeaway is that, when designing, it is important to solve with the user-center problem in mind, not with the solution that you, the designer would like to implement. This is important because in order to produce a design that is effective, it is key that it aligns with the specific needs of the user. In the innovation space, it is all too common for designers to build with aesthetics or technology in mind, rather than the essential user needs.

One way I learned to be user-centered was to co-create. Collaborating with stakeholders is not simply a “step” or a “box to check” – it is a continued process. As my team designed, we constantly reached out to stakeholders for feedback and input. While this can sometimes be exhausting, it kept us grounded in designing a solution that specifically fits the community’s needs.

One of my most memorable challenges was when a stakeholder thought our team was not taking the most effective approach to solve our problem of focus. While many other stakeholders had helped us craft a particular way of solving, this stakeholder disagreed. It was a defining moment for our group because we had to decide the extent by which we embrace all feedback versus weighing the priorities of other stakeholders. We decided to only adapt some of the feedback from that stakeholder, recognizing that our solution could not solve all needs – we would have to be more specific in deciding who we exactly we were solving for.

From Open Design+, a main learning for me was to have an open mind. Listening and iterating are equally, if not more important, than reaching an end goal in an expedient or rushed manner. In other words, feedback makes for a more productive process and a better solution.


“Reflection is an integral part of purpose-finding”

By: Caroline Surret

My experience with Open Design+ has taught me several important lessons. 

Radical collaboration makes for impactful solutions.

Working with my team was the most joyful part of my Open Design+ experience. Throughout the process, we bounced off of each other, debated approaches to research and solution-finding, and grew a strong working relationship. Our team’s collaboration allowed us to think outside of the norm and work toward a better future for Duke, but collaborative action didn’t only exist within the team. In conversations with 40+ stakeholders, I learned the value of integrating as many perspectives as possible into the design process, and I truly believe that this radical collaboration led my team to lay the framework for an incredibly impactful solution.

Reflection is an integral part of purpose-finding. 

My team’s research was focused on the ways that students find purpose at Duke, and we learned that reflection is crucial to path-finding. This research insight has led me to reflect more on my own journey at Duke and I’m in the process of re-evaluating where I dedicate my time and energy. As I prepare to start a new semester, this reflective practice has been helpful in clarifying the courses and experiences that I want to dedicate my time to in the fall semester.

Negative feedback is good feedback too. 

The open design process taught me to turn negative feedback into opportunity for change and improvement. Throughout the design stages, my team was able to iterate quickly to address feedback, and we learned to love it. While it’s not always easy to hear, negative feedback is good feedback too. I am so grateful for the Open Design+ experience and all that it has taught me. As I look into the future, I am excited to integrate these lessons-learned into my personal journey at Duke and beyond.








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