BIMA Digital Day: Zone shares digital expertise with students from Ada

Zone’s Service Designers, Kate Ellis and Caroline McElroy, and Experience Principal, Chi Chung Tsang, tells us about their BIMA Digital Day experience with Ada students.

As part of BIMA (British Interactive Media Association) Digital Day, we visited Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, to engage with students about their career pathways and give them insight into the world of digital careers. In small groups, students collaborated on a nationwide digital challenge where they will have the chance to win £500 for their school.

One challenge saw students linking Primark’s in store shopping experience with the digital version to improve sustainability awareness for customers and make fashion kinder to the planet. The other challenge saw students helping Royal Mail imagine the best possible experience for sending and receiving parcels for everyone, whether they are young, old, unable to afford travel, living with a disability, or at a higher risk in crowded environments.

To tackle these challenges, we guided students through a lean design process — Discover, Design, Deliver.

Discovery

In the first stage, students conducted research to explore their briefs and companies further and identify the problem to be solved. To do this, they examined what competitors are doing, identified existing trends, and built empathy for their customers.

This was no easy task for students who, like many designers at the beginning of their careers, were keen to jump into solutioning. Students required further insight into what it means to design for people, which begins with a deep understanding of the target audience that will be using the product or service and the problem they face.

To decide which idea to push forward to design, we encouraged students to prioritise ideas based on desirability, feasibility, and viability. We asked them: does it solve a customer problem based on current resources? Would the company be capable of developing this idea in the foreseeable future? Will it have a positive return on investment and be a positive gain for society?

Design

In the next stage, students brought their ideas to life, demonstrating what they look like through design work and the step-by-step processes of how the products will be used from beginning to end. They stress tested their ideas by confirming the look and feel was right for their audience and client, that it solved the identified problem, and was a unique solution.

We were inspired and surprised to see students’ curiosity about designing sustainable solutions. Although sustainability was unspecified in the Royal Mail brief, groups tackling this challenge considered it a lens through which they could contemplate the impact of their solutions. For groups with the Primark brief, we had interesting conversations around waste and upcycling, which led us to introduce them to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s circular economy principles. Sustainability is extremely valuable for students to consider now and in the future, as people and businesses are currently implementing measures to help protect our ecosystem and preserve natural resources for future generations.

Deliver

Finally, students prepared to deliver their pitches. With only five minutes to present their day’s work, they collaborated on creating visualisations and representations for their thinking before showcasing their pitch to the rest of their peers. To excel, we encouraged students to communicate their ideas through the art of storytelling, an often-under-tapped skill that enables digital experts to persuade and motivate people towards meaningful change.

Final verdict

The most challenging part of the day for us Zone digital experts was deciding on the one project to be submitted to the national BIMA Digital Day competition. Every group presented compelling pitches that went from strength to strength — whether it was the use of statistics to convince us why the problem is significant, or the quality of lo-fi prototypes created, we had a tough time choosing just one solution. One thing we knew for sure was how impressed we were by the amount of effort, collaboration, and creativity they managed to pack into the day.

From this experience, we suggest that digital skills-specific schools push beyond digital. It was evident that these students excelled in software skills, and therefore an important next step is to develop their thinking on what it means to design and how digital is an enabler to help solve problems, rather than purely the solution.

We believe BIMA Digital Day was important in painting the picture for students that there is no single pathway one must follow to work in digital. One of the best things about working in the industry is the people who surround you; they are as unique as the stories about how they wound up there. Our discussion with the students enabled them to open their minds to the possibilities that can unfold when you are tenacious in following your skills and discovering your passion.

We participated in this event because of its impact on developing students’ skills and giving them the confidence to explore their digital careers. For Zone, it was an opportunity to form and strengthen our ties to the local community by giving the next generation a safe and secure space to practice and develop their digital skills. It was a privilege for us to facilitate these students through BIMA Digital Day, and if the future of digital is anything like what these students produced in the challenge, then the future is looking bright!

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We write about customer experience, employee experience, design, content & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.