Students test their concepts out on me, their lecturers and peers

I just got back from UniSA where I got to see 14 of the student groups for this year present their early ideas for their VMH projects.

Having been briefed back in March, the groups have had a month to ponder their topics and develop 3 communication/design concepts based on that topic.

In today’s session they shared their concepts with a couple of the participating psychologists (thanks Rachel and Sarah), their lecturers, and their peers. Everyone was given a chance to give feedback. This usually revolved around which of the 3 concepts was strongest and most consistent with the topic. Hopefully all the groups left today with a decent idea of which concept to develop further and how.

My time was spent primarily with students working on the mental fitness, courtesy and emotions topics. Whilst mobile apps remain a popular choice for students on what they like to design, there was also a strong theme of tangible products: journals, diaries, stickers, posters, card games and board games. It is great to see the analogue and digital ideas co-existing happily.

It can be a daunting process for the groups, having to present their ideas in public, especially when they have only had a small amount of time to wrap their heads around their topic. They did well though, navigating the awkwardness of group presentations quite well. Giving presentations is quite a skill and nerves can sometimes get in the way of enthusiasm. I found however in the Q&A that followed each presentation, you could get a better sense of where their energy lay.

One thing I noticed this year, in comparison to previous years, is that the student groups have been more focused on the mental health aspect of their topics, and less on the design. So we saw students focus more on what effect they hoped their concept/design would have, rather than decisions about colours or typography or design. This means the groups are trying to understand the topics appropriately before stretching their design muscles. This is a good sign. If students understand the underlying concept well, it gives them the freedom to be more creative in the design aspects.

This year, we also didn’t get students to do powerpoint presentations. Instead they had to describe their ideas, with the help only of basic a4 or a3 printouts that they could put up on a board. Perhaps this contributed to them focusing more on the ideas, and less on the design elements.

A big thankyou to the many people required to make these sessions work; Lynda, Chris, Doreen, Melinda. Jane, Rita, Sarah and Rachel. And a big thankyou to the students for inviting us into their space to hear about their ideas. I hope we provided some valuable feedback. Thanks also for letting me take a couple of photos. They knew that if a man as hairy and unkempt as me was willing to be in a photo, they’d be fine.

Now the students have until May 21st to take one of their concepts to almost a production ready state. For those that are designing apps, this mostly means just the look of the app and some basic wireframes to understand how the app works. For those creating tangible products, this means getting a physical product to the point that it at least closely approximates the final product, along with some digital renders.

Good luck everyone!