|Duration||May 2018 - Oct 2018 & Dec 2018|
|Position||Interaction Design Intern|
Ever since I started learning design, frog design has been added to my dream list. I never thought the opportunity came so fast, and it came twice!
From May to October (with May-Aug in studio, Sept & Oct remotely) as well as in December 2018, I interned at frog Shanghai studio as an interaction designer and partcipated in two projects. Due to the Non-Disclosure Agreement, I am not able to to share project details and client information, but I would love to share my overall experience and learnings during the past half of a year.
First and foremost, I wanted to shout out my mentor Joyce and project manager Brenda, who let me experienced two completely different client projects in depth. Special thanks to Sara——the beloved service designer from Milan, Alex——the cool design technologist, and my fellow intern friends Linwei, Nicole, Jennifer who has made the two project adventures full of love and fun. It was really encouraging to be trusted and treated like a full-time designer and directly contributed to the design outcome and deliverables to clients throughout the process. For me, the experience not only honed my professional design skills but also quickly pulled me out of a "student mindset".
There's no "Design Thinking" but only "Thinking"
My first project at frog was with a client from automotive industry to improve their retail experience. It was a large-scale service transformation because it would influence hundreds of flagship stores and dealers in China. We started from solid user and stakeholder research to understand the business and consumers. It was a great opportunity to train my systematic thinking: the comprehensive customer service journey would involve both digital and physical touchpoints. More importantly, design shall not only focus on customer-facing interactions but also take back-end organizational support into considerations. To sum up, the whole design process was a top-down approach. We firstly constructed the upper-level customer journey map, and then broke down each step into detailed touchpoints:
The second project was related to interfaces on hardware, aiming to unify the interaction pattern on a set of smart devices. Unlike the first project, we attached great attention to detailed interfaces and gestures in this project. Although prototyping interfaces and conducting usability testing sessions were things in my comfort zone, my previous experience was limited to single product solutions or even single features. It was my first time to Different devices have different using scenarios and purposes, thus it was important to look at them respectively at the beginning. Only through deep understandings about the uniqueness of each products and similarities shared by multiple products, we could develop a higher-level interaction system that could be applied to the whole product line in the future. This was a bottom-to-top approach.
"Design Thinking" and "Human-Centered Design" has now been cliche across disciplines, and design consultancies are regarded as the birthplace for it. Through project experience and communications with designers at frog, I realized that there's actually no predefined standard thinking process and methods in design. "How to think" and "what to consider" could vary from case to case. What won't change is the goal to solve problems and the empathy to both stakeholders and users.
Always Push the Envelopes
Every design project has to face limitations: It might be the manufacturing budget limits, or it could be hinders caused by redundant organization structure. We are not designing for an ideal world, so we must be fully aware of all the potential restrictions in reality. As a matter of fact, to some extent, human needs and human goals can also be the boundaries. In my mind, a good designer is the one who dances in fetters and always pushes the envelopes with limitations in mind. The precious lesson I learned during the internship was : compromises could be made if it is necessary for the business, however, effort to bringing comfortable and delightful experiences shall never ends.
Design Communications for Designs
There's never too much emphasis on the communication skills and storytelling ability for designers, especially for design consultants who will occasionally meet clients with little knowledge in design. In the automotive retail experience project, my team struggled to align project goals and design expectations with the client. One of the most important reason was that we were from two completely different cultures and spoke "different languages".
Preparing presentations is just like a design project, and we can treat clients as users. We need to know who the target audience is, what they care about, how they would perceive our deliverables, etc. In the meanwhile, some clients, just as some users, are not always clear about what they really need. One of the designer's responsibility is to help them identify the essential problems they are facing and explain them in comprehensible way. Of course, you can never convince a client without empathizing their business goals.
Design Professionalism Lies in Daily Life
What impressed me the most was not only the people's pursuit of pixel-perfect deliverables but also their designer's mindset. Every one I met at frog is living with a design mind, meaning that people are, consciously or unconsciously, proactively thinking about how to design better at any time and any places. They are very sensitive to things around us, and could get inspired from any tiny piece of things they encounter. Design becomes a way of living. Only true passion for life and enthusiasm for solving problems can nourish great work.
Learning is an Endless Process
Dynamic conversations about design and skill improvment happen every day. There are a variety of workshops and sharing ranging from programming, branding, coffee making to Keynote tips. I do agree that consitnuous learning is a necessaity for designers because there will always be new business waiting for design, new technology empowering designs, and new group of users/consumers raising new design challenges.
For many design students, maybe even for many in-house designers, design consultancy like frog is a mysterious existence. Part of the reason is that many projects are under NDA. People are wondering what frog is doing and what kind of impact it can make. It is true that sometimes external design teams cannot ensure the final implementation quality due to many reasons, however, what truly values is the out-of-box thinking. Sometimes being in an industry or a corporate for too long would possbily trap people in a "comfortable bubble". As a result, they are more likely to follow routine acitivites and make conservative decisions to avoid risks. Also, it is hard for one to evaluate her own work objectively. Voice and power from a third party matters when it comes to innovation. More importantly, I feel that the impact of design consultancy actually goes beyong design work itself: it is actually an opportunity for corporates to reflect on their past working methodologies and organizational culture. The collaboration also opens a window for designers to look at design from a higher level and stand in decision-maker's shoes. After all, being aware of alternatives and possibilities is the key to making changes.