This post was co-written by Christina Melton and Chris Larson, User Experience Designers at TechSmith
What is it?
TechSmith would like to provide students with an opportunity to expand their design skills by participating in real-world brainstorming and design activities helping to solve the problems users face with TechSmith products. Such skills are vital to any designer, regardless of their chosen career path. Also, the connections established during these activities will allow them to network with professional designers in the field. This will help the design students feel more confident in their skills and knowledge about the design field thus aiding them in their career choices as they approach graduation.
How it got started
Over the course of the past couple of years, the design group has identified some problems with our level of involvement with the community.
- At TechSmith there are a lot of activities engaging students studying engineering. There wasn’t much engagement of students in the way of design.
- When we were students ourselves, we were never taught much in the way of real world problem solving. As we grew in our craft at TechSmith we have developed a toolbox for problem solving and want to share!
- Our design team met to talk about why we weren’t getting candidates with the right mix of skills. We had strong candidates that were either strong in HCI or visual design, but rarely was there a mixture of both.
- We realized that, in our experience, students in design majors are encouraged to look in the creative market for careers (magazines, web design shops, advertising, etc.). There isn’t much mention of software companies.
Refined goals from initial ideas
We got together as a team and synthesized goals from the problems we identified.
- Advocate for the connection between HCI and visual design.
- Build relationships and get the TechSmith name out there.
- Encourage more students to apply for internships here at TechSmith.
- Bonus: Build the skill set of our current TechSmith design group for facilitation, foster creativity, and build relationships.
- Our designers are great practicing their craft in house, but haven’t had a lot of experience working with large groups.
After developing our goals, we proposed the program to Lansing Community College. After some back and forth with the logistics, we went to their campus and conducted our first student Design Studio. We have since spread out to Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.
The Design Studio activity
One of the best tools we’ve found for problem solving at TechSmith is the Design Studio. Before the Design Studio starts, we state and explain the context surrounding the user problem we are trying to solve. Students are thirsty for these opportunities and our design team is getting more confident in their skill set after every session. Out of this comes these experiences:
- Brainstorming with the entire group
- Individual design
- Small group design
- Sharing with the entire group
- Time management skills!
- Learning how to better state the problem and context
- We are so immersed in our products that sometimes we assume that everyone knows what we’re talking about.
- Reading the crowd and knowing how to adjust things on the fly.
What we’ve learned:
This is an ongoing iterative program that isn’t just limited to Design Studios; we have since branched out and conducted several portfolio workshops and reviews, and we are currently working with professors to have the Design Studio become a part of their curriculum.
Would you like to learn more about the Design Outreach program? Contact Christina Melton!