UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For their final project, students in the Foundations of Human-Centered Design and Development course in the College of Information Sciences and Technology had the opportunity to gain real-world industry perspective and feedback on the prototypes they spent the semester building.
On Dec. 10, students presented seven-minute lightning pitches for their ideas to build technology solutions for cosmetics consumers. Each team identified a persona, or target user; presented a scenario where their proposed technology could benefit that individual; and showcased wireframe demos of the proposed technology solution.
Focusing the assignment on the makeup industry, forced a class of mostly noncosmetics users to think outside their comfort zone, according to Steven Haynes, teaching professor of information sciences and technology and instructor for the course.
“In a consulting company, you’ll have to do this all the time,” said Haynes. “Consultants need to learn new domains and what makes people tick. They need to work to find out what real problems are and help clients discover ideas for solutions.”
Proposed solutions included a face scan to suggest personalized products, an online subscription for customized monthly cosmetics deliveries, and an app that stores before-and-after photos to track an individual’s progress while using certain products.
IST alumna Jennifer Brant-Gargan, who currently serves as vice president and Clinique global technology lead for the Estee Lauder Companies, Inc., attended the final class to listen to the presentations. She said that assignments like this one help to prepare students for their professional careers.
“Taking the time to think through all of the details of a digital consumer touchpoint and working to fully understand what people are looking for is a key skill,” said Brant-Gargan. “The concept that this class is teaching about empathizing with users is huge.”
She added, “If students thoroughly ingest these concepts, it will serve them in everything that they do (in their careers).”
Jimmy Kane — sophomore, human-centered design and development — was one of the students in the class to benefit from those lessons.
“Empathizing with users, or being able to understand problems that affect people that do not affect oneself, is probably the biggest skill I have gained from this project,” said Kane. “I do not wear makeup, and it was hard at first to interview women about makeup since I had no knowledge about the subject. But, through this class, I was able to gain this valuable skill.”
The real-world ideation, prototyping and feedback were other critical skills fostered throughout the assignment. First-year student Hannah Kern, human-centered design and development, was part of a team that designed a kiosk that implemented an existing Clinique Clinical Reality app, cosmetics education and on-site purchasing.
“This was my first experience designing a project to this scale,” said Kern. “It was exciting to see our brainstorms become real possibilities.”
She concluded, “Feedback coming directly from an industry professional was scary, but it was honest. (Brant-Gargan) gave us insight into our pitches from a company perspective, and showed that while an idea may seem cool from the outside, it may not actually work.”
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