Erin Blasko | March 23, 2018
When the city of South Bend needed ideas for a new community technology center, it turned to Ann-Marie Conrado’s design research practices class at the University of Notre Dame for help.
Part of the collaborative innovation minor in the Department of Art, Art History and Design, the class brings together students from multiple disciplines, from design and engineering to business and anthropology, to solve complex design problems.
In this case, the city wanted to create what it called an “inclusive technology resource center” to help residents on the wrong side of the digital divide take advantage of technology for personal and professional growth.
“We’ve been thinking for a while about what type of investment we can make and how we can position ourselves to become a thriving city in the 21st-century economy,” said Santiago Garces, the city’s chief innovation officer. “We want to be able to enhance the capabilities of the community and make South Bend a tech hub, but we have to think about how to do that in an inclusive way.”
The design thinking process seeks to identify innovative solutions to design problems through rigorous research, beginning with discovery or inspiration, then ideation and implementation.
First offered in 2016, Conrado’s class tackles a single real-world design problem each semester, using qualitative research to inform and visualize potential solutions to the problem and drive future decision making.