I translate learning into design, in an attempt to honor the people who inspire it.

My job is to meet people’s needs through a designed product. I take that job seriously by remembering how the people I meet inform design. 

When a team from the public library system in South Bend, Indiana, supported by the Drucker Institute, came to IDEO to find new ways to connect working class residents to learning opportunities that help prepare them for the changing nature of work, they knew there were already a wealth of educational resources in the area. What they didn’t know, was why no one seemed to use them.

Through research methods including in-home interviews, community-led feedback sessions, and user testing, we realized a large barrier for residents to connect to learning online, was their limited experience using digital technology.

This led my team and I to create a series of principles to inspire design created for their level of digital comfort. Each was directly inspired by someone in South Bend:

People learn digital behaviors that help connect them with others.

Monique, a grandmother and machinist, says she’s not good with technology and has her daughter help her use her phone. Yet she’s comfortable scrolling and clicking endlessly on the Facebook app because she says she likes staying connected to her friends and family.

 
(Photo by Rachel Young) Monique in her home. Her name has been changed out of respect for her privacy.

(Photo by Rachel Young) Monique in her home. Her name has been changed out of respect for her privacy.

 

Accessible design is a source of inspiration, not a constraint.

When Matt struggled to set up a cash transfer app on his phone so we could pay him remotely for his work as a community researcher, he gave us critical feedback that “people aren’t as tech savvy as you think.” He persisted through the initial technical set up because he valued developing relationships with others through the program. He has since gave us invaluable feedback on making our product radically accessible, and beautiful.

Social connection enables learning. Use technology to facilitate connection with others.

Jim, a manufacturer worker, musician, and uncle, has struggled to keep up with how much technology has changed, especially after he got out of prison. He’s learned how to use the scan gun at work, when someone showed him how. He never misses the weekly gatherings at a local community center, where people meet to talk through issues in their community.

 
(Photo by Rachel Young) Jim at work. His name has been changed out of respect for his privacy.

(Photo by Rachel Young) Jim at work. His name has been changed out of respect for his privacy.

This process led us to a key insight about the learning needs in South Bend— that social connection enables learning. This led us to create a digital product, Bendable, that enables social connection, by elevating the expertise of South Bend residents through community-curated learning playlists.

 
A screenshot gallery of Bendable, currently being built by our Carbon Five development partners.

A screenshot gallery of Bendable, currently being built by our Carbon Five development partners.

Learn more about this developing work from our clients at the Drucker Institute, here.