Undergraduate Blog / Defining Your Babson

Harvard Intercollegiate Business Conference – A Reflection

Post by Christina Gee ’17

During the Intercollegiate Harvard Women in Business Conference, I was able to attend a breakout workshop called “Human Centered Design” hosted by a Senior Business Designer at IDEO, Kelly Schaefer.

The session began with defining Human Center Design. While most people believe that design is about making graphics, or aesthetically pleasing websites, Human Center Design is a framework to teach you how to think in order to solve problems. Graphic design can communicate an organized design, but is not necessarily focused on humans. The workshop emphasized the importance of creativity vs. efficiency and honing in on understanding human needs. There is a Human Center Design framework that people use to help solve problems:

  1. Desirability: What does your audience want, and what are their frustrations?
  2. Technical Ability: What is possible and is it feasible to do?
  3. Commercial Viability: Is this sustainable?

What I realized from this session is that Human Centered Design is similar to being an entrepreneur. The “desirability” stage of human center design is a lot of what we do with market surveys and focus groups for FME. We are listening to people stories, observing what they do and not just asking questions about whether or not people would like our product, but going beyond to understand the basic needs of humans as to why they would want to purchase a product. This ultimately helps us when we begin to start our own companies in freshman year.

At IDEO, the brainstorming phrase to turn ideas into solutions is by the following template:
“How might we ___________________________”

Breaking this phrase down, it works because the “how” assumes that the solution exists, “might” means that there is room to ideate with no constraints and “we” emphasizes the importance of collaboration. It is important to not keep the problem too broad such as “How might we end world hunger” but also not too specific.

Kelly Schaefer then paired us up into teams where we were asked to use the brainstorming phase and come up with possible solutions. Our team decided on “How might we improve the ramen experience.” When looking at the ramen experience we first created a list of the human desires of the ramen experience and then brainstormed how it could be improved:

  • Desire: Fast, convenient, cheap, easy to store, somewhat good tasting
  • Improve: Quality, healthiness

What we realized that if we tried to make the ramen healthier, it would take away from the affordable pricing. Thus, we focused more on the “experience” portion by trying to think of a distinguished packaging in order to evoke a sense of nostalgia – the memory of college eating ramen. Perhaps we could change the packaging material to be a bit thicker and glossier. Or perhaps we could create a large box with spices so people could add to their ramen and become their own chef. By adding these elements, we are focusing on enhancing the experience that is centered around human needs.

Design is an often hard and complex idea to think about. However, having the business background from Babson has given us a significant advantage over liberal arts students because we have conducted focus groups and know how to ask the right questions. My goal is to one day work at a company like IDEO so that I can continue building products that focus on addressing people’s needs. As a result of this workshop, I also plan on taking a human design course. Although Babson does not offer any, I have crossed enrolled at Olin in Spring 2016 to continue practicing and learning more about design thinking. Thanks to the Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund for making my attendance at this conference possible!