Design Club
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Design Club

Meet the Mentors — Elsewhen

Matt and Bailey from Elsewhen ran a Design Club project at School 21, delivered remotely via Google Meet.

Tell us a bit about you

Matt Flynn: I’m Design Principal at Elsewhen. I cover design output, quality, hiring, that sort of thing. When I first heard about Design Club from Tadhg (Elsewhen’s co-founder), it was a good 18 months ago. I waited until the pandemic to get involved! I’d always been keen to do it but hadn’t been able to. My family are all teachers. It’s rewarding giving something back and mentoring within the company. Working in a group made it seem easier.

Bailey Trinh: I’m the office manager at Elsewhen. I’ve got an organisational, get-things-done kind of background, rather than a design background. If Matt couldn’t do stuff, I could do it. I became involved in the project because we were trying to find a way that we as a company could give to the community. We reached out to School 21 and Design Club naturally fell into the project as something we could use.

Matt: We have this internal “Good Stuff” initiative…

Bailey: Yes, we’re in the process of trying to become a B Corp. That’s the ultimate goal. At the end of 2019 we wanted to do some physical stuff, but then the pandemic happened, so we had to go remote!

Matt (top left) and Bailey (top right) chatting to me over Zoom for the blog

How did you come to be running a Design Club project with School 21?

Bailey: One of our employees’ wives is a teacher at School 21 (a state-funded school in Stratford, east London). School 21 likes to push innovative projects for students. She gave our contacts to the school’s programme manager for careers, who asked us to run a skills building course. The brief was to think about our day-to-day — what we do at work — and show students that. We made our course quite design-focused, although the last week was engineering.

Matt: The students were 16 and 17 year olds who are thinking about which industry to go into. We wanted to use Design Club and make our sessions engaging and interactive.

You delivered the project remotely. How did it work?

Matt: The course was 6 weeks in total. The first and last sessions were 90 minutes and the others were an hour. For the first session we introduced Elsewhen as a company and did some live wireframing.

Week 1: Introduction and live wireframing exercise

Then we used Design Club resources to highlight the design process.

We had three different briefs:

  1. Help students to find the perfect career
  2. Help a child (or parent) to homeschool
  3. Help people stay connected (and not feel lonely)

We did everything through Miro. The students were empathising with users, mapping out a typical day, filling out empathy maps. We had a Notion page. We did coding together, and How might we…. The students came up with app names and tag-lines.

I did some mockups for them — two flat screens. We didn’t have the time and space to create something visual together. We also needed to focus on engineering.

Weeks 2–3: Define a challenge and empathise with your user

Design Club resources informed the whole thing. Even the delivery guides on how to run sessions — they were my steps to take students through activities. They were great to help you reiterate goals and provide hints.

We were pretty confident going into this project. We’d just come back off six months working with Spotify, running Miro workshops. So setting up boards was completely second nature to our design team.

Weeks 4–5: Ideate and prototype your app

Bailey: We had 9–12 students sign up to the course, but 6 came regularly. We had 2 groups with 3 students in each. It was last term (Autumn 2020) so the students were in school. We were remote but the students were working together physically.

Do you have any advice for someone starting a club or delivering design activities remotely?

Be prepared

Matt: You need to be prepared to think about everything from the room the students are in, to having the right tech, to the teacher in the school. You should do dry runs remotely.

Hopefully others can use the Miro templates we created. We designed the board week by week so that everyone had a sticky note with their name on it. We laid everything out really clearly. You can have the weekly sessions pre-prepared and make them visible as needed.

Be adaptable

Bailey: At the start we were very ambitious but as weeks wore on we simplified, so you need to be adaptable.

Matt: We had a course outline but we didn’t know the audience. Are they going to come up with loads of ideas or will they be silent? We built on it each week. We were constantly course-correcting as we found out what the students were like.

Cameras off doesn’t mean they’re not listening

Bailey: Even though students aren’t actively participating, it doesn’t mean they’re not engaging. At the start none of the students had their cameras on. It was weird — like talking to a brick wall! But when they gave feedback at the end, we realised they’d been really engaged. So it’s good to be ambitious.

It’s ok to have silences

Bailey: Don’t rush students within the sessions. With any public speaking you tend to rush — if there’s a silence you feel nervous. On a Zoom call, it’s ok to have silences.

Reiterate your goals

Matt: Keep explaining the goals at the top of the board. Students will take their own routes. If you constantly repeat the point of each exercise, it really helps: “The point of this is X. And here’s a hint to help push this forward”.

Consider group dynamics

Matt: Bailey and I took a long time trouble-shooting and thinking about group dynamics without ever meeting the students, or seeing them. Covid and self-isolations and lockdowns genuinely seem to have had an impact on students. They tend to be shy on camera anyway. With older students it’s even more difficult to draw them out. We put students in groups and they chose a leader to speak for them, that seemed to make things a little more comfortable.

What’s the best thing that happened during your Design Club project?

Bailey: Seeing the progression. How much they changed. And how involved they got by the end. That was the best, the most rewarding. Seeing they were actually interested!

Matt: When we finished the first session we were told the students didn’t have to have their camera or mics on. They slowly came out of their shells, and after a while started talking to us on camera. Seeing them being really shy at the beginning and then, by the end, really excited about their ideas was great.

Big thanks to Matt and Bailey for talking to us. If you’d like to know more, they’ll be sharing their experience at our Meetup on 27 January.

Elsewhen is a digital product consultancy and a founding supporter of Design Club. You can read about their fabulous work on the Elsewhen website.

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Jemima Gibbons

Jemima Gibbons

Engagement, social media and content design / co-founder @DesignClub / #techmums #oneteamgov / #MonkeysWithTypewriters book + blog / #ABeachWithWiFi blog

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