platFORM is a collaborative product development class that brings together design and business students to work in trans-disciplinary teams from the beginning of a project. Together they develop products, services, and systems that address contemporary social, economic, and environmental issues. Student projects are addressing issues such as sustainable travel, social isolation, textile waste, cosmetics packaging, and food packaging.
Entrepreneurship has the opportunity to make massive changes in the way we can live sustainably in our economy. We need to be agile and efficient in addressing existing and impending problems in society. Design is starting to move more upstream in the process. The designer as entrepreneur is an emerging field. We want to equip designers with tools to create their own careers in a new sustainable economy. It's no longer about putting lipstick on a pig, design is at the core of successful ventures. The role of business is also changing. It is longer an option to be sustainable, but a necessity. Business students tend to create obvious solutions that address symptoms rather than problems. Our goal is to add more depth to the process and use a wider lens to position their products in a greater context. Finding a method for these two industries to collaborate early on can be difficult. This is where educational institutes come in. We have the ability to experiment with new relationships with fewer barriers, in the spirit of research and experimentation.
platFORM is a collaboration between the Faculty of Design and Dynamic Media, the Social + Interactive Media (SIM) Centre at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University. It is also a partner course at CityStudio, supported by Leslie Ng from the City of Vancouver. Thank you to the Beedie School of Business Dean's Circle for their generous financial support of this innovative program. platFORM is part of the Scotiabank Platform Program, launching in 2015, which prepares enterprising art and design grads, who are early stage entrepreneurs, to enter a competitive marketplace.
Project conceived and designed by: Andreas Eiken, Maia Rowan, and Lisa Papania.
2014 cohort instructors: Andreas Eiken and Maia Rowan (Emily Carr University, Masters of Design Candidates), Lisa Papania and Sarah Lubik (SFU Beedie School of Business).
Students teams from 2014 Cohort /Box Band: Mario Fong, Dol C Imnamkhao, Vivian Lin, Rachelle Roberto / Hole Seam + Hem: Jayde Chang, Miguelito Buenacruz, Victoria Lee / Jayde: Sydney Juzenas, Haoqian Liu, Lisa Liu, Vincent James / Pronto: Brandon Ling, Leah Pirani, Johannes Schut / Twisted Laundry: Cheryl Li, Lauren Watkins, Ryan Budd
Describe the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what were some of the challenges?
Having recently graduated from undergraduate degrees in Industrial Design, and suddenly finding ourselves thrust into the work environment we fully understood that design education is missing key aspects of how the business of design works. The entrepreneurial side of design, whether that is in the form of a studio, or freelancing, is not introduced to students. Furthermore Vancouver is a small city has limited employment opportunities for emerging designers, which makes the ned for entrepreneurship even more accute. We noticed that startup culture is growing, but the business community is still often unaware of what design can offer. We have found that the traditional client-designer relationship isn't really appropriate for startups, or emerging ventures as they can't afford to pay for design consultation, but definitely need to bring design in to the forefront in order to enhance the user experience of their product or service.
Describe your intent with your approach to the project. What is your point of view?
We thought that by bringing design and business students together to collaborate on the development of new products and ventures we would be able to introduce designers to some business knowledge, and business students to the design process. Their complimentary skills would allow them to get further in the product development process, with more robust user centred design solutions.
Describe the process that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc.)
The development of platFORM has been iterative. The main methodology for platFORM involves learning by doing. This methodology is an integral part not only of the student's project, but also in the design of the course itself.
The development of platFORM: Platform was born from an observation that Maia and Andreas had during their own undergraduate studies. They found that there was no real opportunity to connect to the outside world with the design skills that they were learning in school. They wanted to know what it was like to be designers in Vancouver and how to leave an impact with their work. Andreas and Maia understood that there was ample opportunity to explore how to better prepare students for graduation, and that as students themselves they understood the needs of their users. Starting with a one day design charrette for local businesses they began connecting students with real world experience.
Two years later, with two more student led design charrettes under their belts, they collaborated with Simon Fraser University (SFU) Business Lecturer Lisa Papania an expert in sustainable product development and Sara Lubik a key figure of entrepreneurship from SFU to launch a 3 credit inter-institutional course in collaborative product development.
Bringing together expertise from the business sector was a key element of the development of the course. Lisa Papania and Sara Lubik offer key expertise, and years of research in entrepreneurship, sustainability, and concepts like circular economy practices. Between the four of us we have extracted the essentials of both design and business processes, and identifying where they overlap, and where there is opportunity for collaboration.
A project like platFORM doesn't just happen. It takes slow iterative and organic growth to get there. We always had our guiding principle which didn't change: to provide students with real world experience while having a positive impact in the community and on the planet. The method in which we did that has evolved and adapted which requires constant checking in and evaluating to make sure we are on the same course.
Student process: The curriculum of platFORM is designed to facilitate the collaboration of business and design students from the start of a project. Each group goes through a combined design and business process that includes inspiration, research, problem identification, ideation, prototyping, and ultimately making it to the point of sale. Design has traditionally been an afterthought for business. So we're experimenting with the formula by introducing designers at the very beginning, before the conception of an idea. We're challenging the students to create products beyond just a prototype by moving them into the real world. At the end of the course they hold a pop-up shop to launch their products.
How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Social and environmental problems are becoming increasingly complex, we see this in the media all the time, and many of us are experiencing it first hand. The way in which we approach problem solving needs to change in order to innovate in these ever evolving situations. We believe that entrepreneurship and small business have the opportunity to make meaningful changes in the way we produce and consume products and services.These are people and organizations who are emerging in the midst of contemporary challenges, and have the capacity to iterate quickly.
Traditionally entrepreneurs have emerged from the business sector, but we are now seeing design move upstream in the process. By incorporating design in the development of new ventures we can achieve more creative and user centred solutions.
The role of the designer is changing. We want to equip emerging designers with tools to create their own careers in a new sustainable economy. We are seeing the business community starting to recognize and embrace the value of creativity. platFORM challenges and supports business and design students to hone their creative thinking and begin to shift the directions of their industries.
progress through the blending of design and business