Demo Thesis Class : Picking The Right Team

This semester at ID is more than half over and I thought it would be nice to reflect on how various classes are proceeding thus far. Since there is a lot I want to write, I am going to break them up into chunks.

The biggest project that occupies my mind is my demo class with Jeremy Alexis. Demo is like a thesis project for the students at Institute of Design where we work on a real client with a real project (albeit with a faculty advisor like Jeremy). Since the project is under NDA, I can’t reveal names of clients but the company is a large transportation manufacturing company based out of the west coast who approached ID to tackle the challenge of understanding the special needs of the aging population during travel.

The project seemed open ended but challenging, and when Jeremy asked whether I was interested, I jumped at the chance, especially since he gave me the chance to pick the team for the project. Now I hadn’t led a team on a project of this magnitude and I was definitely anxious to make sure that the team would be individual capable, would work well together and have fun while they were at it. I’m glad I picked the team I did, since they have been great to work with thus far.

As I was trying to decide who I wanted on the team, I was looking for folks with a combination of capabilities. Picking teams is a delicate matter at ID where there are a lot of friends who might be interested in the project. However, since this was a real live project, I wanted to make sure I was picking the right people for the team. So I decided to stage my decisions and get each member of the team who agreed to come on board, help me pick the rest of the team. In addition to potentially knowing and working with folks I had no exposure to, I figured this would allow them a sense of ownership in the team. So far, this has seemed to work as the team at present is getting along fabulously.

Each member of the team is quite different. One was a senior automotive designer for Volkswagen prior to ID, another an English major with freelance graphic design experience and and finally the third had ethnography experience and was working part time at a design research firm. 3 out 4 of us on the team were pursuing an MBA in addition to our masters in design. With such a diverse range of talents, tackling a complex problem has been made much easier and each offers different and valuable perspectives.

There have of course been intense debates on how to approach the problem, what methods of research were appropriate, how to scope the research etc. but each member seems to respect each other and has been willing to either compromise or disagree but support the direction the team has taken.

The moment of truth for me was this past week, when we flew to present and discuss our work thus far with the client. While I was confident in our work, I was still anxious to make sure we met or exceeded the expectations. Based on feedback from the client and from Jeremy, it looks like we did a good job. There’s still a lot of work to be done before the final presentation but with the current team, there seems to be no reason why we would not be successful.


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