Frequent Student Problem during the Creative Phase of a Project: Birch Solutions

«Bruno, that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.»
«Don’t worry, there’s plenty of more where that came from.»
Gus Cardinale and Bruno

I’ve advised a lot of students projects (groups and individual qualification works). One problem when it comes to developing usable products I noticed is that students to have an okay’ish analysis. They have the necessary “Lego” pieces to play with (users, problems, tasks, organization, context) and know necessary limits. But despite this good grasp of the requirements and lots of pieces and plates to play with, they come up with one very straightforward solution in the conception/conceptual design phase.

They are like a birch tree that is growing in a green plot.

And to make matters worse, they are often concerned with irrelevant details in the formative evaluation. Instead of trying out different ideas when wrong ideas do not cost much (only sketches or quickly changeable mockups), they invest hours into getting every pixel right. Or the color scheme. Or icons. To use the description from “Sketching User Experiences” by Greenberg, Carpendale, Marquardt & Buxton (2012), they are concerned with “Getting the Design Right” instead of “Getting the Right Design”.

And that’s a shame. They skip the fun part, the playing around (with available material from the analysis and within the borders of the constraints) to develop solutions that are new and useful. What they end up doing instead is constructing one solution which a … rather rugged critique can fold easily to the ground.

I think an … evergreen solution would be more worthwhile.