Ideas as Friends

This is a reflection on Phase Two of my cross-registered class at Olin College of Engineering called User-Oriented Collaborative Design. Each team is assigned a user-group to co-design with. My team’s user group is employees in legal aid organizations. You can read my reflection on Phase Three here.

Our initial ideas and brainstorms

a. Write ideas on sticky notes.

b. Pass to person on the right.

c. Build on the ideas that were passed to you.

d. Repeat step b-d

This was the first idea generation exercise we engaged in. And as we scribbled away, one of my team members spoke up with a smirk.

“Did all of us just happen to write something along the lines of a legal aid tinder?”

We nodded, chuckling.

This idea started popping up in all our other idea generation exercises, and naturally we started flushing it out a little bit more. It revolved around the problems we saw during our user interviews, of how it is both hard to acquire the right client and hard to find the right lawyer. Additionally, client discovery and acquisition typically takes a lot of time and resources, often form both lawyers and support staff. So, “Tinder for Lawyers” was meant to match lawyers with potential clients in a more effective manner, through an app.

Quick prototype of our idea for our co-design visits
One of our co-design visits

We liked it. Our users during the co-design visits liked it. As the design review drew near, we decided to put it as one of the gallery sketches we were going to present. Yet, when it came to deciding whether or not it would make the cut as one of our top three ideas that we were going to go more in-depth in, our team was split.

Our gallery sketches for the design review

“Tinder for Lawyers” was, to an extent, a good idea. But it was simply an app. It wasn’t even an app that facilitated a larger societal transformation. Though we had grown slightly fond of it (after all, it was with us from the very first day of the phase), we did not see it as the bold proposal that we were expected to come up with. So, we finally agreed to let it go.

Looking back, I think that was a good decision. When it comes to ideas, as UOCD students, we are meant to develop a game-changer that can be projected 10–15 years into the future. It is easy to think of app ideas because they are the go-to solutions for businesses these days and there are so many models out there for us to imitate. However, I think the freedom this class provides allows us to go beyond that, and tap into the potential of up-and-coming technology innovations, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality, or redesign a totally new system.

All in all, the lesson learnt here for me is not to stick with an idea that if personified, is the loyal, caring, safe and familiar friend. But to go with the idea that if personified, is the friend with a leather jacket and rainbow hair on a motorcycle, beckoning you to go to who-knows-where.