DEVELOPING STUDENTS’ SKILLS IN EXPERIENCE DESIGN THROUGH INDUSTRY COLLABORATIONS
Nowadays, companies in the field of electronics and digital devices more and more are challenged by the need of advancing their products at the technological level. However, advances in technology may not be enough for a product to succeed on the market. Other factors, such as the experience these products elicit in users, are determining to create successful products. Therefore, companies are required to identify meaningful applications for the technology they develop, in order to create valuable experiences for users. This is where design can make the difference and can contribute to a tech-based company’s activity. Designers in this area should be concerned with user experience as much as with the development of new products’ technology.
To discuss this issue, this paper will refer to a design workshop held last February 2014 at Politecnico di Milano (Italy) in collaboration with Chiba University (Japan) and Toshiba Corporation, a worldwide leader company of electronics and digital products. The objective is to discuss how important is nowadays to develop design students’ curriculum in the field of experience design for such companies. In this perspective, it was an excellent occasion to collaborate with Toshiba, who promoted and participated to the educational activity. Also the cross-cultural framework of the workshop was very challenging and valuable for all the participants: students, tutors and company’s designers.
The design workshop aim was to explore the “future of handwriting” by the creation of new design concepts. At the beginning of the workshop, the company presented a brief to the design students, asking them to explore new applications for digital handwriting. In fact, the company had developed a very sophisticated technology for handwriting by digital devices and they were looking for new contexts for applying it, in order to make it meaningful for users. The aim was to find scenarios that could motivate the use of handwriting in digital devices, by mixing the physical gesture to the digital technology. Students worked in teams to envision new contexts and scenarios for the use of this technology, seeking for the creation of new emotional experiences for users. The workshop result consisted of design concepts that explored the deep and emotional meanings of handwriting.
After the workshop, a questionnaire was delivered to students in order to investigate their opinion about the activity. Some questions focused on the design of product experience by leveraging on users’ emotions and feelings, while others investigated how the workshop had improved the students’ design skills in this specific field. Results show a positive response about the student’s skills improvement in the field of experience design and about the possibility to work with a real company, also in a multicultural context. The workshop turned out to be a good training for acquiring new skills as future designers involved in the technological field. Starting from the questionnaire, this paper focuses on the assessment of potentials and weaknesses of teaching experience design by practical activities with companies, rather than on the design result of the workshop. The aim is to highlight what elements can be improved in order to develop design students’ skills in the field of experience design.