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Collaborative Design

Design thinking is more than a way of thinking. It's a way of solving problems that puts the customer first. It's a way of creating presentations that tell a story to identify the problem and present a researched solution. This capstone course is part of the Design curriculum. It leverages the power of multidisciplinary teams to tackle various design challenges, with an emphasis on story development. We applied design methodologies to a range of project proposals. For all these projects, we relied on individuals' strengths within the random teams to execute decisions and deliver quality projects.

ND 2030

As part of the Collaborative Design Development class, this project posed the question: “What should the University of Notre Dame be like in 12 years?”  Our team of 5 was tasked with taking an introspective look at our university and asking ourselves how it could improve to be the ideal university by 2030.  To start, we began by examining all of the stakeholders at the university, creating a large and extremely complicated web of lines and titles that mapped out all the nooks and crannies of who made up this university community.

Noting this interconnectedness, the team created interview questions and worked to discover possible pain points and points to build upon.  After refinement, the three themes of how the university could improve were innovation, academic integration, and "being a global force for good”.  Pointed interview questions with faculty, students, and staff elicited helpful insights and discussions regarding the direction of the university.

Using these insights and sharing what member learned, major topics were mapped out to generate personas that expressed the needs, desires, and interests of the stakeholders.  This began the concept development of possible strategies and initiatives to make Notre Dame collaborative, integrated, and innovative.  These discussion produced the three main tenets of our vision: a revamped First Year of Studies Seminar lecture and discussion series; a more engaging classroom environment utilizing  company projects, flipped classrooms set-ups, and more; and a study immersion experience focused on applying classroom knowledge to real-world situations.

Once these concepts were finalized, the team benchmarked competitor websites, targeting layout and design of similar caliber schools, to guide our website design for Notre Dame in 2030.  After constructing interactive paper prototypes, our idea came alive in the Marvel App. (

The Hub

Collaborative Design Development was a class unlike any I had taken.  It brought together students of all majors to work in groups to solve WICKED problems, that didn't necessarily have a solution.  The first project of the class had defined guidelines to help the groups find their way.  Each group was charged with developing a restaurant concept for a particular area in South Bend.  My group was responsible for the University Park Mall.  This mall is a ten-minute drive from campus and has a food court, restaurants, and extensive shopping areas.  The team was in charge of recording observations, discovering possible avenues to explore, brainstorming and designing a solution, and delivering the solution in a concise presentation.  The group first traveled there to document the area, interview mall-goers, and interact with the space we were designing for.  From this feedback we divided the data collection into AEIOU (activities, environments, interactions, objects, and users), and determined three possible styles of restaurant that would fit in at the mall.

We brainstormed a huge range of ideas including roller-blade delivery, virtual ordering stations at the entrance to the mall, and a brewery.  After weighing our options, we decided to move forward with The Hub, a food-truck style space that shifts its role throughout the day: coffee shop in the morning, lunch and seating area during the day, and hip bar at night.  It creates a gathering place for families and businessmen alike.

One key conversation regarding the new restaurant was the ownership.  We saw two options to either rent space out to individual food suppliers or run the entire operation ourselves.  This conversation led us to a middle ground, in which the restaurant runs all operations and can control business-customer interaction, but sources food from local companies.  This was a big development for The Hub.  Additionally, we decided to have long bench seating for different sized groups, theme nights and birthday party opportunities to attract a larger crowd, and a kitchen in each truck to create an atmosphere (not just trucks as decor).  The group created menus, a detailed business plan, and CAD renderings of the space that are all presented in the final deliverable below.

Team Members: Rebecca Huber, Sydney Losco, Justin Reimonenq


In the final project for the Collaborative Design Development course, our professor pushed us into a vague and even uncomfortably ambiguous challenge: problem-finding rather than problem-solving.  As engineers and designers, we obsess over solving wicked problems but aren’t encouraged to find those same problems, problems we may not even realize exist.  Guided by the prompt to improve a “transition” for Notre Dame students, my team of five began exploring the types of transitions college students experience, eventually choosing to concentrate on “daily transitions.”  Knowing that Notre Dame students are some of the most sleep-deprived students in the country and recognizing how we ourselves often fail to prioritize this biological necessity, we chose to hone in specifically on the transition to sleep.

In our preliminary research of emotional mapping and photo studies, we noticed that students, in this “unscheduled” portion of their day after classes and meetings, often prioritized relaxation, use of technology, and social interactions over sleep.  So as to not minimize the value of these priorities in students’ mental health, we tried to avoid eliminating these activities and focus on how we might help students make more conscious decisions around their sleep, bedtime routine, and schedule.  We used sleep diaries and graffiti walls to explore the pain points and opportunities in this problem by capturing habits, attitudes, and the influence of technology.  Our discoveries included a pressure to hit deadlines, guilt around social interactions, and an overwhelming amount of “deep thoughts.”  We ideated around controlling duration of student breaks, managing expectations around academic workload, improving sensory experiences before bed, and creating healthier social interactions.

Condensing our brainstorm into two main products, we decided to prototype and user test sleepEASY roommate cards and easySLEEP digital notification reminders against each other and compare the efficacy of an analog versus digital solution.  The sleepEASY cards consisted of question cards to be discussed between roommates before sleep, intending to synchronize roommate routines for accountability, create a restful environment, decrease stimulating screen exposure, and improve social interactions.  In contrast, easySLEEP digitally notified users of reminders to go to sleep at their goal bedtimes, helping students plan and stick to a schedule.  While both products had some challenges shown through user testing, it was clear that sleepEASY roommate cards better achieved product mission as a creator of a restive state with a higher usability over time.

Group Members: Borah Chong, Alexis Dorsey, Nick Nielsen, Sarah Pieslak

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