As a departure from our usual focus on a single Featured Ideator – this month we're highlighting a motivated group of students. DFA UIUC stands for Design for America studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – part of the national Design for America network of interdisciplinary student-led design studios. They are a mix of over 100 designers, engineers, business students, social scientists, architects, both undergraduate and grad students, American and international. They explore social problems in Urbana-Champaign, seeking to make impact, using human-centered design. They were high-flyers on our E-waste Challenge, with their Chargers & Cords Exchange Box & E-cycle Truck ideas featuring in the winners list.
What first drew you to get involved in OpenIDEO?
DFA UIUC was planning on having a summer project and as we were brainstorming the topics, OpenIDEO had drawn our attention with this interesting challenge. E-waste has always been a big issue throughout the world and we thought that with a little help with design, we could start changing the situation starting from our local community. We wanted to come up with an innovative yet simple solution to the problem that allowed others to take green actions.
And how's the ride been so far?
This is our first year as a DFA school and the E-Waste Challenge our first official project. Starting anything new can be a wild ride, and DFA UIUC + OpenIDEO has been no different – but the amount of interest and support from the students, faculty and local community has been incredible, inspiring and humbling.
Your mission is to use design to "look locally, create fervently and act fearlessly." How do you use this approach on OpenIDEO?
We think that the E-Waste Challenge was a great opportunity for us to apply our design approach. E-waste is such a broad topic with numerous issues – however, before we jumped into designing, we first looked into our local community to understand the problems by conducting interview and online research. After we identified the why, what and how aspects of the current E-waste problems, we brainstormed as a team to come up with smart solutions. We believe that if our designs can help the local community recycle used electronics in a human-centered way, that they can likely be adapted for other communities as well.
What other socially-innovative projects have you been involved with?
DFA UIUC was founded within the year and we are very excited that we are able to gather a group of people that are passionate about social impact design and want to help improve the Champaign Urbana community. Beside this project, we also worked on a project where we apply our design process to solve the late night safety issues on campus. We developed a safe ride app that can potentially help promote the use of this free safe ride service and increase the numbers of students to use safe ride with its easy-to-use user interface.
What are your future plans around design + social impact?
We are having our kickoff workshop this week where we will be nailing down 2-3 more social problems to tackle in the coming school year. One of our biggest challenges as an organisation is narrowing down what specifically we want to tackle. OpenIDEO has given us some great ideas, a lot of inspiration and a platform for our students to create positive social impact.
Cheers guys – we hope to enjoy more of your collaborative action in future!