2018 was a year of tremendous opportunity for Elon’s design thinking initiative, Elon By Design. More faculty, staff and students were able to benefit from learning about the process, mindset and methods behind design thinking.

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Elon By Design: 2018 Highlights and 2019 Adventures

2018 was a year of tremendous opportunity for Elon’s design thinking initiative, Elon By Design. More faculty, staff and students were able to benefit from learning about the process, mindset and methods behind design thinking.

2018 saw Elon gain a great appreciation for the value of design thinking, join a national design thinking network of collaborative relationships and resources, and tap into a global network applying design thinking and service design around the world.

In 2019, Elon By Design aims to expand our collaborative networks, increase design-thinking awareness among students, faculty and staff, and provide opportunities to fold elements of design thinking into learning experiences throughout the university.

Design Thinking Workshops

“We’ve regularly offered Introduction to Design Thinking workshops that have been extremely popular. Many faculty members have come to these to learn what design thinking is, how it works and how it might be used in their teaching,” said Elon By Design leader Dawan Stanford, adding that some faculty members have already integrated design-thinking strategies, techniques and processes into their classes.

In addition to the introductory workshop, Experience Mapping and Designing Your Life workshops have also been popular with students, faculty and staff interested in opportunities to employ design-thinking strategies and methods to solve real-world problems and answer real-world needs. Attendees found these practical-application workshops to be extraordinarily helpful in understanding the versatility and effectiveness of design thinking in creative design and problem-solving, Stanford said.

Experience maps and journey maps are a method for understanding, prototyping and launching innovations. “[T]hink of a journey as the conceptual trip a person embarks upon to achieve a goal or satisfy one or more needs.” (Orchestrating Experiences: Collaborative Design for Complexity, Risdon & Quattlebaum, 88).

Significant Events in 2018

Elon By Design also organized and participated in some milestone events in 2018. Design Forge, held in March 2018, was a hands-on, two-day convening for Elon faculty and staff to explore the idea of how to use design thinking as project-based learning. Participants generated building blocks for a faculty toolkit that might make using design thinking to achieve non-design learning outcomes easier and faster.

At the Service Design Global Conference, Elon was able to participate in a global conversation about learning and applying design thinking and service design.
The second major event of the year was the Service Design Global Conference in Dublin held in October. Elon joined more than 800 design leaders from around the world. Participating in this event allowed Stanford to make direct connections with people from outside the U.S. and broaden the network Elon has been building with universities around the nation to a more diverse, international group.

Stanford said it’s important for Elon as an institution to take an approach to design thinking that “leverages its mindset and methods to support and deepen a liberal arts and sciences education.” European practitioners are ahead of us in their application of design thinking and service design in government and to address social challenges. Lessons from their work can inform how Elon continues its high-impact learning practices leadership, especially in the areas of community engagement and service learning.

Also in 2018, Elon By Design continued its strong representation at the Future of Design in Higher Education convening, held at the University of Texas at Austin in June. Approximately 40 universities around the country and several universities abroad are now part of this growing group.

Last year was promising for trainings, retreats and strategic sessions. One standout was providing the Designing Your Life workshop as a professional development opportunity at the Student Life Retreat. Elon By Design has an exciting year ahead, with plans to contribute to additional retreats in response to questions and needs from faculty, staff and students. Elon By Design will continue the enduringly popular Introduction to Design Thinking, Experience Mapping and Designing Your Life workshops.

Elon By Design is working to create more opportunities for students to learn and practice design thinking. These opportunities include co-creating workshops with faculty and staff, and hosting more class visits to the Center for Design Thinking for a session that combines student coursework with design thinking.

Elon By Design is also serving as a design resource to support the wellness team that has grown out of the Student Wellness and Well-being Workgroup recommendations. Elon By Design will help apply design methods to acting on the recommendations and assist with facilitation that engages students, staff and faculty across campus. Stanford sees Elon By Design as a natural partner in a mentally healthy Elon, since “seeing like a designer involves a natural mindfulness and attention to how we shape and create the world.”