Design for America, WashU
I haven been involved in DFA since my first semester freshman year, and I have been an executive board (Blueprint) member since my second semester. Through my roles as President, Director of Design Outreach, Director of Communications, Team Mentor, and project teammember, I have developed my own leadership skills, dramatically shaped studio structure and culture, and realized that the design-thinking process can be used not only on community projects, but also on organizational experiences.
The first step in solving the challenges the studio faced was developing a culture of feedback to identify issues. Over the years, we have iterated through several techniques that allow us to collect feedback from Blueprint and studio members, including:
HCW make the member education process more meaningful for different experience levels and less demaning for busy schedules?
FEEDBACK #1 Older members did not feel they knew the process well enough to teach it to new members in their mixed-experience teams, which is what we expected them to do.
INSIGHT #1 We need to provide new members with a stronger foundation in design thinking principles before expecting them to work in indepedent teams.
FEEDBACK #2 Members found it difficult to find a convenient meeting time for everyone on their team, and team meetings were bogged down with logistics and process-confusion, instead of moving the project forward.
FEEDBACK #3 Members struggled to achieve tasks between the weekly team meetings because of a lack of accountibility and heavy courseloads.
INSIGHT #2 It is less overwhelming for WashU students to schedule a 1-hour meeting per week than to agree to do the equivalent 60 minutes of work on their own.
HCW increase member retention?
FEEDBACK #1 Members don't feel a strong connection to other studio members outside of their team, and most teams aren't very social.
FEEDBACK #2 Members want more social events, but tend not to come to the ones we plan later in the semester.
OBSERVATION #1 The members that continue with DFA semester after semester are the ones involved in leadership roles.
OBSERVATION #2 We tend to overload our onboarding process with logistics instead of social events.
INSIGHT #1 We need to better connect Blueprint to the studio to increase studio interconnectivity between new members and passionate veterans.
INSIGHT #2 We need to make socialization the priority of the onboarding process, instead of jumping into education.
HCW attract students with diverse majors and backgrounds to join DFA?
Prior to Spring 2015, the WashU DFA studio was predominantly made up of students in design-focused majors, specifically architecture and communication design. I created two recruitment campaigns over my tenure as Director of Communication that promoted design as "problem solving" instead of traditional forms of visual design. My campaigns resulted in a studio membership made up of more than 50% non-design majors, along with greater ethnic and socioeconomic diversity as well.