Category: Create

“I reminded myself that I enjoyed and embraced design-thinking because it teaches me how to embrace and navigate ambiguity. “

By: Anwuli Onkojo

Moving onto the create phase was exciting because I was not sure what to expect. By the time we had concluded the understanding phase, it still felt like there were gaps in our understanding. I wanted to be absolutely certain that we knew who our persona was and whatever we came up with would fit exactly. But I had to accept that we had done our best, thus far, in getting to know the stakeholders and building our understanding of our persona, and  moving onto creating did not mean that we were detaching from our constituents. Moreover, I reminded myself that I enjoyed and embraced design-thinking because it teaches me how to embrace and navigate ambiguity. 

Moonshot thinking was a useful tool for easing into the ideation process. For some reason most of my initial ideas had to do with space and genies… I didn’t even know I cared about astronomy or genies like that. However, gradually more concrete ideas began to take shape as I thought about the values, culture and problems we’d talked to stakeholders about.  “A Freshman’s Guide to Everything” was the first solid thing I thought of. Something that would be responsive to that exploration period of a Duke student’s life when you really have questions about anything and everything. I remembered that by junior and senior years, students have settled into a more stable sense of self and (for the most part) have some direction to their lives and decisions. But the process of getting there in the first two years was more challenging and anxiety-inducing for more students than it needed to be. 

I threw down as many ideas as I could think of. Some, I knew, would be immediate misses. By the time my team and I got together to discuss the board was completely full with post-it notes of ideas ranging from totally ridiculous to actually kinda cool. Some ideas we spent more time discussing than others and I loved seeing how well some of them naturally fit together. As unsure as I may have been about our level of understanding of the issue, the ideation process revealed common themes and demonstrated that we clearly had a strong shared sense of what we were working on and towards.  

When we got to the Freshman’s Guide to Everything, I was nervous because I thought my teammates would hate it and would not understand it at all. But I decided to do my best to pitch the idea and show how it could tie in with some of the other things we discussed, and how it could reinvent the existing Blue Book. Surprisingly, they loved it! And we were all extremely excited about it. The sense of affirmation and camaraderie I felt was unparalleled in that moment, as my teammates started to build on the idea. I was so excited that in the break I wrote a full fledged pitch, “a freshman’s guide to everything, a sophomore’s scrapbook, a junior’s journal, a senior’s time capsule”. It was the “Aha!” moment Kevin had always talked about. Slowly, the pieces were falling together.  I also realised that one of my strengths was working with my teammates to understand and articulate their ideas, when they may have had something incredible to contribute but were perhaps struggling to really convey it. The create phase, to me, was just as much about solidifying our dynamic as a team as it was about crafting solutions to the problem at hand. It was easy to say “Yes, and…” because I knew that even if the ideas my teammates shared did not fit well with mine exactly at times, we had a shared goal so I could understand the essence of what they were trying to say.



After 3 weeks of persuading the students to put their solutions in the back of their minds, last week they dived into ideation. The process took them out from their comfort zone and based on their reflections, it was also deeply satisfactory to open their minds to the outlandish and unbelievable, leading many ideas run free.

“Moving to the “Create” phase, this meant embracing the “yes, and” mindset”

By: Zsofia Walter

As an engineer, I have utilized design thinking and gone through the ideation process many times over the past year. The differences between the ideation I’ve done in my engineering courses versus the ideation we’ve done in this program are small but impactful. 

The structure that the leadership team has set up forces us to remain problem and user oriented. In the “Create” phase it is easy to become entranced by a cool idea and just run with it regardless of whether or not it fulfills the needs you set out to meet. Resisting that urge, and pushing to keep coming back to “what is the real problem our user is facing” has been key throughout this phase.

An important thing I have learned is to withhold my initial “knee-jerk” reaction. In the “Understand” phase this meant that in interviews I wouldn’t jump in and lead the conversation when they said something I found compelling. It also meant that I would try to resist thinking of solutions to the problems I was presented with, rather simply focusing on empathizing. 

Moving to the “Create” phase, this meant embracing the “yes, and” mindset. It was crucial to hold back the initial criticisms that came to mind during ideation, focusing on listening and appreciating every idea regardless of feasibility. As it turns out, the idea we now have, which I am incredibly passionate about, I initially thought was crazy and impossible to execute. Not shooting it down, and keeping myself open minded has led to the development of a concept I think could truly change the community at Duke.


“The “yes, and” ethos also emphasizes the open-minded and collaborative feature of the design thinking process”

By: Sanya Uppal

Compared to the understand phase, I have found the create stage to be more natural and instinctive. Yet, to develop and frame a concept that solves the needs we identified demands an exploration of ideas and creative thinking that is almost as challenging as determining our problem space. This week has pushed my team to brainstorm and find the values that we celebrate. Having a shared purpose has informed our ideation process and cemented our desire to succeed and fully realize the opportunities we have in this program.

During the create stage, my initial inclination was to reject ideas that seemed to diverge from our purpose or “how might we” statement. However, as I received more feedback, I began to adopt the “yes, and” mindset and realized the importance of allowing ideas to flow in a space without any constraint. It was highly encouraging and inspiring when some of our “outlandish” ideas became the center of our concept. The “yes, and” ethos also emphasizes the open-minded and collaborative feature of the design thinking process.

The most challenging aspect has been to consolidate and synthesize the multitude of ideas and different perspectives of each and every member of my team. It has made it difficult to form a comprehensible concept and prototype without spiraling into several different directions. However, this has also presented the greatest opportunity for growth and learning. Finding the relationship between different ideas and understanding their connection to our purpose has been extremely rewarding. 


“Once you retrain your mind to thrive in a collaborative environment, you begin to notice the wonderful impacts it has”

By: Marcus Ortiz

“I am Iron Man”, or at the very least, “I am Great Value Iron Man”. Whether it is making a wall of sticky notes or having brand new, innovative, and collaborative ideas with my team; the create phase has easily been my favorite part of the design process thus far. Quite honestly, the most fitting word to describe the create phase is simply fun. Combining what we have been building towards for the past three weeks is just so exciting!

However, the significance of the create phase doesn’t lie in the amusement I have in it, but in how much I have grown because of it. Particularly, in fostering a “yes, and” mindset to encourage collaboration, which has easily been the most difficult aspect of the create phase. It is quite disheartening that our minds are almost trained to doubt ideas rather than encourage and build upon them. However, once you retrain your mind to thrive in a collaborative environment, you begin to notice the wonderful impacts it has. Rather than scrapping an idea filled to the brim with potential, we are able to tap into that potential and create the best possible solution for the user.

By using this collaborative mindset to build on ideas, our team was able to come to a solution that we all love! Now that we have narrowed down our vision, we can not wait to continue innovating it!


“Maintaining such open-mindedness has been my greatest lesson thus far”

By; Kaelyn Griffiths

I’m not sure that I’ve ever really been pleasantly overwhelmed before? That’s what this phase has done for me. While still tackling the understand phase, shifting into a space to design solutions from our understanding has been such an exciting, yet difficult process. It has really opened up our team’s creative side and displayed how seemingly crazy ideas can morph into something that would bring about tangible change. Though, with this comes great responsibility; balancing what we can actually provide as student researchers and trying to think radically/out-of-the-box has been a consistent battle throughout the understand and now, the create phase.

Adopting a “yes, and” mindset is something our team wanted to prioritize when building our team dynamic and has been a staple in how we navigate our discussions, especially when consolidating our ideas. Maintaining such open-mindedness has been my greatest lesson thus far, as it has taught me that all ideas and input are valuable and contribute in some way to designing a solution that considers all approaches.

Creating a learning environment that prioritizes purposeful and intentional decision making and discussion is the future. What is learning if it isn’t meaningful? Why do we make the academic and extracurricular decisions we make? Do those decisions reflect what we’re most passionate about? Those questions are at the forefront of our team’s project, but also have made it to the forefront of my life. Do I make space and opportunity to reflect on how I choose to navigate Duke? Do I, whether intentionally or unintentionally, give in to the pressures of being in “competition” with other Duke students? What is my purpose? Why can’t I answer some of these questions? There’s something really powerful in feeling supported and encouraged to simply do what makes you happiest and as I examine that for myself, I wish to create that space for my community of Duke students. I just want to be a small part in building that future.


“My biggest impact on my team has been my ability to connect the dots”

By: Justin Koga

Design thinking is a lengthy process; one at face value that may seem arduous and slow. At first, I didn’t necessarily buy into the “process”. However, it didn’t take long before I was teaching my family, friends, and colleagues about design thinking. 

I really appreciate the methodical structure of the design process. Where solution-based thinking may feel like a shotgun approach, where you spray and pray to land an impactful idea, Design Thinking allows an innovator to come up with an iterative design model that is formed by his/her close interactions with various stakeholders. Solutions are not meant to be robust, rather, they are aligned with complex problems posed by one’s stakeholders. 

I think that the biggest challenge so far has been the consistency of analysis from our team. We all have different perspectives and as a result, we have different takeaways from interviews, research, etc. This is great, and it just takes practice to articulate these perspectives. 

My biggest impact on my team has been my ability to connect the dots. Every opportunity, experience, and deliverable is interconnected in some way. I also have encouraged a culture of reaching out to people in power, and believe that I’m decent at conducting an engaging interview.


“Duke and the people that make Duke what it is, and they deserve something beyond incremental change”

By: Jonathan Browning

Coming into Open Design+, it was hard for me to imagine approaching  a problem without a solution-oriented mindset. But now, after an intense and impactful week of truly getting to know our stakeholders, I have no idea how anything would get done without first working in the problem-space of a topic. At this point, I have no clue what solution I probably had in the back of mind during the beginning of the understanding phase, but it certainly wasn’t what my team is working on now – and for that I am grateful. 

The eyebrow moment came quickly for my team, in part because all of us readily embraced the “yes, and” mindset. No idea was shot down, but we realized that many of our ideas by themselves weren’t going to create the 10x change we want to see. However, together they could create something truly impactful. All of us care deeply about Duke and the people that make Duke what it is, and they deserve something beyond incremental change; they deserve our best moonshot thinking. 

I really like how one of our team leaders Aria Chernick put it: “If the solution feels exciting, it means that you’re addressing a need.” For me, this has rung especially true. New ideas that could be incorporated into our concept are constantly coming to me without regard for what I’m doing – eating dinner, brushing my teeth, etc. I’ve learned to dream big, but that’s not to say I’m losing my grip on the reality of what we’re doing. I know that some of the logistical, social, and technical aspects we’ve discussed won’t be easy to accomplish. But I’m okay with that. I’ve spent too much of my life getting bogged down in the technicalities of everything. I’m letting myself shoot high this time. 


“I realized that the greatest obstacle of the initial ideating process is letting mental barriers and fears of feasibility get in the way of creativity”

By: Florence Wang

Wow. This week has really been a rollercoaster. Having been in this extremely divergent and “open” mindset for so long, it has definitely been a change in pace transforming into a convergent mindset and truly diving deep into the solution space. It’s kind of ironic because I’ve been aching to start designing a solution and now that it’s finally here, it almost feels foreign. However bizarre the beginning of ideating felt, I have experienced such a tremendous surge of eagerness and have developed an extremely anticipatory attitude towards what our team can create. 

For our first idea, my team and I have decided on a sort of “virtual Duke map” that has embedded zoom links on the map in correspondence with the actual events or academic resources that would normally occur in those physical spaces. We hope that through this idea, we can use a virtual platform to create a more realistic, “day in the life” experience for Duke undergraduates.

The “yes, and” mindset has been very challenging but at the same time, so rewarding. I think it’s easy to remain in one’s own perspective instead of considering all possible ideas, especially when working in a team atmosphere. However, this mindset encompasses the ideals of “open source” learning and truly working with and alongside our team members. By fully embracing this idea of “yes, and,” we have learned to build off of one another’s ideas and experience levels of creativity and innovation that wouldn’t have been possible before. It was also through this process where I felt the most impactful. It was rewarding to work with other people’s ideas and thoughts as a foundation of something great, and in turn, have that be reciprocated. 

My most memorable learning experience was affiliated directly with this idea of “moonshot thinking” that we were all encouraged to implement. I seem to be saying this a lot throughout the program, but at first, I was skeptical. How are these outlandish ideas supposed to help us come up with a feasible solution? Our goal is to be designing for the here and the now–why are we spending time on thinking about these impossibilities? However, through the design sprint and our own team brainstorming process, I realized that the greatest obstacle of the initial ideating process is letting mental barriers and fears of feasibility get in the way of creativity. That initial spark–no matter how fantastical or unrealistic it may sound–is the key to unlocking potential solutions that can truly address the greater implications of the problem at hand. 


“I have come to see that the “yes, and” mindset creates an atmosphere where ideas can flow”

By: Drew Flanagan

My team and I feel like we have a solid understanding of the user-based need during online learning: more intentional student engagement in purely academic spaces. To approach this user-centered issue, we think it might be best to cultivate a sense of “purposeful wandering” and experiential opportunities as these experiences, of which largely occur on campus and not in a virtual setting, are critical to student development.

Given a strong understanding of the user’s needs, my group was excited to go into week 4 and move into the “Create” phase. My experiences with the “Create” phase has been productive so far; however, it remains challenging to work with stakeholders. We have talked a lot about the “Create” phase involving co-creation with stakeholders. This is difficult though, especially given that many stakeholders have different views about the best way to design with the need in mind. Nevertheless, I am enjoying the open design process because it allows me to have an open dialogue with users and continue to re-think, re-build, and solicit feedback. 

I was initially resistant to adopt the “yes, and” mindset because I think contrast and immediate feedback are important when ideating. However, through my experiences in the program so far, I have come to see that the “yes, and” mindset creates an atmosphere where ideas can flow. In other words, no idea is stunted or challenged until the full process of brainstorming is complete. Then, once we have all the ideas on the table, it is more productive to narrow down and expand. Often, some of our best ideas were a more practical iteration of the ones that seemed too ambitious or nearly impossible.

This week, I feel like I’ve made the most impact in my team sessions. I have tried to keep an open mind as we go about creating while also pushing my team members to think further or helping to clarify our team vision.


“The create phase of the open design process is allowing me to feel that sense of involvement”

By: Caroline Surret

The start of the create phase was incredibly intimidating to me. Given the nature of the open design process, our team was trying to make sense of all the qualitative data we’d collected while adding more every day. At some points it felt as if there was just too much information to process, but with persistence and a little moonshot thinking we were able to arrive at a solution that feels meaningful. 

My team is currently in the process of iterating our idea and collecting feedback from potential users, and it is now more than ever that I understand the value of open design methodology. In co-creating, our team is addressing a real need and creating a solution that has the potential to make lasting change.

In the understand phase of the open design process, our team became acutely aware of the role that connection and community play in facilitating purpose-finding. The create phase of the open design process is proving this to be true, in that the more I connect with students and create community around designing a solution, the greater sense of purpose I feel in the work we are doing. 

In our interview process, my team asked almost all of our interviewees either “When do you see students the happiest,” or in the case of students, “When are you the happiest at Duke?”. When someone flipped the question back onto me, I answered that I am the happiest at Duke when I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself. The create phase of the open design process is allowing me to feel that sense of involvement, and, despite the difficulties that come with this work, it is remarkably rewarding.


“This week of the open design process has taught me what it means to work in a team”

By: Aria Patel

The create part of the design process has been both energizing and challenging. Ideating above and beyond our constraints and realities allowed us to think up solutions that might never have crossed our minds without the open design process. This freedom and creative space gave me a lot of energy and hope. At the same, narrowing down to an idea out of a garden of attractive ideas that each hold value and good intention was very hard. The team had to rethink and revisit out ‘How Might We’ statement and stakeholder problem areas to come to a consensus. 

A large part of the final step of our ideation process was the “yes, and” method. It allowed our ideas to become study and durable rather than fragmented and spread thin. We were able to build off of each other’s thoughts and concerns, merging and mixing elements in different amounts until we figured what worked best. This was such an exciting process especially when ideas fit perfectly together! 

Above all, this week of the open design process has taught me what it means to work in a team. In addition to focusing outwards to our stakeholders, we were also looking inwards to what made sense, created meaning and was purposeful to each of us. As we struggled and celebrated through our ideation process, we better understood each other, our collective lived experiences, our strengths, and what makes each person think as they do. This understanding will definitely help us exponentially further down the process in the coming weeks. 


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