UCD Charrette


On Thursday, March 30th, 2017, I had my first studio section of HCDE 210. This week, our studio section was focused on a user-centered Design Charrette, which is a short, fast, and intense activity to help give us a very brief overview of the user-centered design process.

To start the activity, the students grabbed sticky notes and had a few minutes to write down potential users of a car dashboard interface. With my interest in accessibility in design, most of my ideas were users with disabilities such as the elderly, hearing impaired, visually impaired (maybe not the best option for a user driving a car), and more. After a few minutes of brainstorming, the whole studio sorted their potential users into categories.

Sticky notes with potential users sorted into groups on the whiteboard

After all the sticky notes were organized, each group was randomly assigned a sticky note to start designing for. My group was given “parent with a baby in the car”. Next in our charrette, we had to figure out possible features that our given user would want. Again with sticky notes, we wrote down as many ideas that we could come up with. As Tim Brown said in his book, Change By Design, “Linus Pauling said it best: ‘To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas” (p. 67), so I was throwing out ideas left and right. My group’s favorite ideas were: a baby speaker feature that would play through the car’s speaker to monitor the baby, a search-for-nearest-bathroom feature, and entertainment section to help keep the baby occupied. We wanted the parent to be able to focus on driving and have the ability to manage the baby’s needs at the same time. After we picked our favorite ideas, we began creating usage scenarios on how the users would work with our ideas, and then created a flowchart of the implementation of the ideas. This was to get our ideas into action, begin thinking about how it would work in a real life situation, and figure out how a user would go about working with our ideas. Then, with our ideas, usage scenarios, and flowchart, each group presented their work to the whole studio.

Picture of our flowchart and UI sketches


As I mentioned earlier, when we were brainstorming for possible users, a lot of my ideas reflected my interest in accessibility in design. When talking to the other students in my group, persons with disabilities didn’t make it into their brainstorm. This raised a question in my head, “How much do other students care about accessibility in design?”. I know there’s amazing people doing great work for those that need it and without experience or exposure to the idea, it’s easy to overlook, but the brainstorm made me a bit more curious about accessibility in design.

I was trying to brainstorm for accessibility in design, where other students had other ideas. Each student had their own unique ideas in each step of the process, and it was difficult at times to work it out. There were times when students felt very strongly about their ideas so they would try to push it onto the rest of the group, but more commonly, the major problem was the implementation of the idea, how the idea would actually come to life. In the short amount of time we had, it was difficult for some to fully communicate their ideas to the rest of the group in a way that helped the whole group understand how the idea worked. For example, we had issues with the UI sketching because we had so many ideas from the beginning and we were all separately imagining how it would look, we ended up with conflicting views on how to implement our ideas. I think with time and experience working in group activities and projects, we’ll become much better with effectively communicating our ideas and compromising on our ideas. Learning to work together is important considering most of the work done in the professional field will be with others.

To The Future

I believe this Charrette gives me a very condensed, but still good, idea of what it’s like to work in the professional world of design. We were thrown into groups, given a set of challenges, and had to work together to get past these challenges. On your own, the challenges would not be very difficult. Brainstorming possible users, brainstorming features for what those users would want, creating usage scenarios, and finally creating a flow chart / wireframe of your product. Anyone could do that. Whether or not they would end with a good product, is another question. The difficulty of the challenges came from having to work with others. Learning to effectively communicate ideas, and learning to pick and choose from large sets of ideas is an on-going challenge, but the need for effective communication and compromise will never go away. Group work is something I’m excited for in my future, but I need to be prepared for when there’s trouble understanding each other. So for now, working on communicating my own ideas more effectively and clearly while also trying to understand others’ ideas is my current focus and also the biggest takeaway from this Charrette.


Brown, T., & Katz, B. (2011). Change by design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York, NY: Harper Business.

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