Meet the Mentor — Geri
Designer at Lloyds Banking Group. Geri loves seeing her students get wild ideas into an interface.
Tell us a bit about you
I’m a product designer, currently the UI lead in a design systems team at Lloyds Bank. Before Lloyds I worked for lots of startups and before that a few banks. I’m mum to a French bulldog and teenage twins who endlessly serve as guinea pigs for my volunteer projects!
Why did you start a Design Club?
I ran a weekly coding club at a primary school which introduced me to volunteering with kids. We made some fun stuff and I got pretty handy with a micro:bit but the part that was missing for me was design thinking. Who is this project for? What is their life like? What problem does it solve for them? Towards the end, I started setting the children challenges rather than copying pre-set projects.
Design Club seemed like a natural progression as their curriculum runs through a basic design process. Learning these simple steps of discovery, ideation and iteration is an invaluable skill that can be applied to any problem, on or offline.
This term my crew of nine 13-year-old girls have defined a challenge, got to know their users, brainstormed feature ideas and user journeys. They’ve drawn out screens, photographed their sketches to make Marvel prototypes, tested and reflected. Low-fi paper prototyping removed any development constraints so their ideas were not limited by what they could code. The girls have been excited to show off their ‘real’ app prototypes on phones and are keen to come back next term to work on the intermediate project.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own after school club?
I’d recommend dropping in to meet the teacher before you start. That way, you can introduce yourself, see where you’ll be working and establish the kit that will be available to you. I bring in everything I need to run a session — screen adapters, pencils, post-its, paper and whiteboard markers.
The students I’ve been mentoring have their own phones which has made prototyping easy. If you’re volunteering at a primary school it’s less likely that children will provide their own devices. If you are relying on using students’ phones it’s also worth checking the school’s phone policy; some schools are relaxed, others have rules on phone use you’ll need to comply with.
As a volunteer, you need to allow time to prepare each week but it’s not a time-consuming commitment. The Design Club curriculum provides you with a guide on how to structure each session and an accompanying slide deck. Each Sunday I read through what we’re going to cover and add in a few slides to give some industry context. Preparation takes about half an hour. I then run an hour-long after school club once a week. So all in, the commitment is around an hour and a half each week, plus travel time.
Lastly, don’t feel you have to be the best designer to volunteer or have any specialist skills. An understanding of design thinking is helpful but ultimately common sense and enthusiasm are all that’s needed!
What’s the best thing that’s happened at your club?
The children’s ideas! As a grownup, your thinking is automatically constrained by the tech, skillset or budget you have to work with. Children go at a problem with none of these boundaries and their ideation ability is immense.
A couple of groups initially struggled to fit their wild feature ideas into an interface. It was a real joy when they started seeing how they could get it to flow, scribbling out and reworking screens. They’ve generously offered me a 25% cut when their app gets to market!