Design Lab Launches City-Wide Civic Design Challenge

Calling all entrepreneurs, designers, engineers and problem solvers!

Register for the Kickoff and Information Session on Sept 21
Register for the 2017 D4SD Civic Design Challenge on Sept 22-23

In a combined effort to solve complex city problems through human-centered design and crowdsourcing, the University of California San Diego Design Lab has launched a city-wide civic design challenge called Design for San Diego (D4SD) with support from the City of San DiegoSCALE SD, the Design Forward Alliance, and the National Science Foundation.

Michèle Morris, Associate Director of The Design Lab and Design Forward founder stated that “The Design Lab is committed to applying human-centered design in real world contexts and integrating our efforts with existing civic and community initiatives in San Diego and beyond. D4SD is a fantastic platform on which to demonstrate design’s essential place in the innovation ecosystem and the value it can bring to complex sociotechnical issues like mobility. We are thrilled to be working with our regional and national partners on this initiative.”

This year’s D4SD challenge focuses on urban mobility. We all have places to go and people to see. So whether you’re traveling by car, bike, train, bus, boat or foot for work or play, mobility significantly affects millions of city goers everyday. Join D4SD for an unique opportunity to compete and collaborate with other city innovators to help solve the most pressing mobility-related issues facing our city. Participants will have opportunities to work and learn from UC San Diego Design Lab educators and the City of San Diego data science team to use their Open Data portal ( The best solutions will earn cash prizes and private one-on-one meetings with city leaders and startup investors.

Steven Dow, assistant professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego who is directing D4SD as part of  the Qualcomm Institute-based Design Lab, said “D4SD presents a unique educational opportunity, both for university students and for the city’s residents – to gain hands-on experience with real-world issues and participate in San Diego’s innovation community.”

A class that Dow taught at UC San Diego in the Spring quarter of 2017 helped identify the challenge topics, with students surveying San Diegans, attending meetups with city and community leaders, and conducting targeted interviews. Dow will also teach a Civic Design class this Fall. These students will take part in the challenge alongside the public signing up through the website.
On September 21, join Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and design icon and Design Lab Director and founder Don Norman for the kick-off and hackathon hosted by SCALE SD, the city’s newest smart-city accelerator, at Downtown Works.

On September 22-23, join other innovators to participate in design sprints, find teammates, build prototypes and win prizes. The final deadline for the challenge is Oct 24.

The official schedule for the D4SD Challenge is:

  • Thursday, September 21, 201710am – 1pm
    Kick-Off & Information Session
    Introduction by Mayor Faulconer, Chancellor Khosla & Don Norman
  • Friday, September 22, 2017:  5:30pm – all night
    D4SD Challenge: Design Sprint & Hackathon – Day 1
    Learn about the challenges, brainstorm, form teams & build prototypes
  • Saturday, September 23, 2017:  all day – 9pm
    D4SD Challenge: Design Sprint & Hackathon – Day 2
    Present prototypes, win prizes & party

Learn more at

Cat Hicks Q&A: A Conversation about Google & her new start-up Signal IO

The Design Lab has long lasting impacts. Catherine Hicks has seen the Design Lab since its inception. After starting out as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, she took her expertise to Google as a Learning Evaluation Analyst and is currently the co-founder of Signal IO, a startup that develops software to support engineering teams.

Q: How did you get involved in the Design Lab?

A: I met Scott Klemmer at UC San Diego while I was in the last year of my PhD in Experimental Psychology. We shared a research colleague who introduced us, and we had a long lunch together where we chatted about learning, technology, and cross-discipline challenges in bringing those things together. I quickly realized that across different backgrounds, we were interested in some of the same exciting problems.

Q: What was your role in the Design Lab?

A: During the Design Lab’s inaugural year, I was the first postdoc researcher in the lab, working with Scott’s research group on challenges in scaling learning, particularly for virtual environments. Along with Ailie Fraser and Vineet Pandey, I focused on questions about how we can take principles from learning science and put them into technology design in a way that supports adaptive human behavior. We were especially interested in the recent use cases for large online learning systems such as massive open online courses, but also in how future technology could cultivate a virtual studio environment. One of my long-standing research questions centers on how we can create safe spaces for giving feedback and disclosing mistakes, especially for people who are new to a domain.

Some of Scott’s students and collaborators at Stanford created a tool called Peer Studio, which was an online system that people could use to trade feedback on their work. I was interested in how peers help each other learn, and I wanted to ask what design choices push users toward more productive learning behaviors. We ran several experiments where we looked at different features that we could change in the tool itself—for example, how the system divided a review task , and whether or not users could see early drafts of work. These choices impacted the content of the reviews that people wrote: when users were able to see an earlier, rough draft version of the work they were reviewing, they gave more developmental and growth-oriented feedback.

Q: What is your relationship with Google and what work have you done since leaving the Design Lab?

A: I’ve had a few different relationships with Google. My first experience with research at Google was in 2013, when I joined the People Analytics team as a PhD intern and worked on some large statistical analyses exploring questions about internal mobility within the workforce. I joined the People Development team at Google fulltime in 2016 as a learning scientist and evaluation analyst. My experience there was varied and interesting, as I consulted across multiple teams to build out a research program that informed learning and development strategy for employees. I worked on a wide range of projects, from large survey analysis to qualitative interviewing projects.

Currently, with Chapman Snowden I’ve launched a San Francisco-based startup, Signal IO, which is centered on decreasing technical debt for engineering teams and increasing collaboration for developers. At Signal I’m both a co-founder and the head of research, which  has been a really fascinating opportunity for me to bring together my experience in academic learning science, high tech, and mixed-methods research.  My research focus started with the basic science behind learning environments. In the Design Lab, I got to apply that work towards the development of complex human-technology systems, and at Google, I worked to inform embedded systems within a nexus of business and development strategies. Now, I get to bring all of those pieces together into our startup work as we develop software that tackles day-to-day learning and decision-making processes for knowledge workers.

Q: How do you think the Design Lab influenced you?

A: The Design Lab has had a deep influence on my thinking: it provided an opportunity to get exposure to and learn from a diversity of talented and hard-working researchers, and fundamentally, to really think about how people with different backgrounds can come together to solve problems. The Design Lab built a culture that echoed the classical liberal arts belief that everyone should be able to immerse themselves broadly across multiple disciplines. When you are allowed to do that, especially as a young researcher, you get to live in an environment where you see more methods than you could have mastered on your own, and ask more questions than you could have tackled on your own. Something really lovely happens out of that, something that’s hard to find in more traditional academic spaces. The Design Lab was a very creative space, a space that prioritized interdisciplinary and collaborative problem-solving, and it’s a rare gift to get to live in that space.

Information & Interaction Design: Students Present Ideas to Esteemed Panel

One theme of design classes at UCSD is to learn how to interact with the world, get feedback to shape design ideas, and learn what works.

On Friday, June 9th, 2017, approximately 120 students in Steven Dow’s class COGS122 Startup Studio and DSGN 100 Information Design, as well as Scott Klemmer’s COGS160 Advanced Interaction Design presented various ideas such as a company that performs oil changes in your driveway, an emporium where fans can sell and purchase fan-crafted goods, and what happens when we start to communicate with the cars next to us when we’re stuck in traffic.

For their final, students in the Startup Studio class presented Kickstarter campaigns and Design 100 students gave verbal pitches on their ideas to different jurors, such as UCSD Design Lab Director Don Norman; Hilary Nemchik, the Comm Director for Councilmember Barbara Bry, Sam Ladah, VP of Human Resources at IBM, Doug Powell, IBM Distinguished Designer, as well as other researchers, scientists, and professionals in the Design community.

Steven Dow said, “We decided to combine the two classes and invited external people because it makes it fun for the students. It provides  an occasion for students to show their work  to other people in the university and beyond.”

“For the startup class, we learn data driven design and how to use the Internet and web based advertising to understand if an idea has merit and how to potentially get funding for an idea. The other class is about information design and being able to work visually with text and images in order to communicate effectively. Students followed a human-centered design to explore  problems around mobility within San Diego,” said Dow.

Students in all three classes learned how to reach people, how to get over their own shyness, talk to people, and how to get out of the classroom. They figured out what kind of resources they could pull to shape their design.

Dow said, “Each time we move students through these design courses, we’re giving them opportunities to build up their portfolio, showcase what design means in UC San Diego, and hopefully are starting to build bridges between the university and San Diego at large. When we bring a bunch of people and we get to see what they do, in both directions I think it’s positive. It’s building awareness for what we do.”


San Diego is Getting Serious About Healthcare Design

By, Dr Steph Habif

In June 2017, San Diego hosted two of the largest annual healthcare conventions – the American Diabetes Association and BIO Interactive. In the wake of these meetings, it’s more obvious than ever that if any of these companies want to succeed, they need to be better at incorporating human-centered design into their businesses.

Here’s why.

Diabetes technology companies want to make it easier for people with diabetes to manage daily life. Said Bigfoot Biomedical CEO Jeffrey Brewer, “We are a new diabetes consumer company aiming to provide access for people of all kinds of skill levels. That means we need to put the consumer at the center, and rather than offering something general, we need to offer something personalized.” The CEOs of Dexcom and Qualcomm Life also talked about the critical nature of being more consumer-friendly and focused.

“We are about connected technology,” said CEO of Qualcomm Life Rick Valencia. “We believe the smartphone should be the remote control for managing everyday health. We want to enable people to get diagnosed faster, get better faster. That means we need to focus on usability and engagement. How do you get patients to engage regularly? I don’t know. We are trying to figure that out. We are looking to successful consumer technology companies to help us better design for engagement.”

Examples of consumer technology companies with human-centered design at the core of their businesses: Instagram (sold for $1 billion to Facebook after being in market for less than two years — now with ~600 million active monthly accounts), Opower (sold for $532 million to Oracle in 2016 — currently enabling 100 global utilities), and Ebay (increased the number of active user accounts from 90 million to 169 million between 2010-2017).

One health technology company that embraces human centered design is GE Healthcare, which was founded on the work principles of Thomas Edison. “Edison understood that in order to use something, it had to be useful, it had to be usable,” said Bob Schwartz, General Manager of Global Design at GE Healthcare. “We prototype things very quickly at very low resolution. We have a bias towards action. We always have an eye toward what we have to deliver; and what we have to deliver is value to customers. The patient is the ultimate customer.”

Healthcare has unique industry challenges, though, because it’s not just about designing for engagement, but also developing a model that the healthcare system can pay for that people will stay engaged in.

Really Complex Problems

The Director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego, Dr. Don Norman, says his team is focused on complex, socio-technical systems. “These really complex problems don’t have obvious answers. There isn’t one solution. But we can certainly make headway, we can make improvements, and so part of what we are trying to do is understand how to take simple steps and make things better.”

Human-centered design is what the Design Lab does: healthcare is one of its core problem areas, and the Lab is working with several departments in the medical school and hospital system, as well as and major medical companies, foundations, and government granting agencies. For example, the Design Lab works with the National Cancer Institute, and is forging partnerships with local companies like Dexcom. “Healthcare,” says Norman, “is an example of something without a simple solution. Healthcare grew over time to form the unorganized, somewhat chaotic combination of government policy and regulation, political forces, medical systems and independent practicing physicians, insurance plans, and the complicity of multiple specialties and clinics, all trying to work together. Yet the system has fundamental contradictions. Although there are no simple solutions, it is possible to make progress, piece by piece.”

The San Diego Scene

While San Diego has always been a leader in biotech and life sciences, there’s more consumer-focused healthcare design activity around the city these days. Example start-up companies include Clarify MedicalCureMatch, and Reflexion Health.

In the Fall, the city will host the second DesignForward Summit, for the purpose of strengthening local and global communities through human-centered design. The event is part of an effort to establish San Diego as a global hub of design innovation. Here’s to the future.

IBM Design Thinking Workshop at The Design Lab

IBM believes in design thinking. And design doing. So much so that throughout the company, teams can leverage IBM Design Thinking for better ideas and happier users. The Design Lab is all about design doing, so last month, IBM visited campus to facilitate a workshop for UCSD students.  

Students gained insights around current IBM practices and how design plays a core role in the global giant’s business and approach and practices.  Additionally, students had the opportunity to translate tose insights into better ways to engage with prospective employers for their future careers.

“It was a useful experience getting to meet the IBM design team,” said Elmer Barrera, current President of Design at UCSD. “I learned a lot about their company culture and how they’re using design to push for innovation in the way they think, which in turn translates into the products they build. I enjoyed the journey mapping activity, which we did to identify pain points in a person’s job search.”

Understanding users through empathy and observation and taking a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving were key design thinking principles covered by IBM. Part of the workshop required students to collaborate in small teams to create an “as-is scenario,” often referred to as a user journey map. Students crafted need statements for undergraduate and graduate student personas

Tori Duong, Class of 2018, said, “I loved being able to hear about what design means to them and how they tackle the design process in their company. My favorite parts were definitely the ones where they had us think of problems and solutions, whether it be through sketching on our post-it notes or collaborating with each other on the journey maps. I was extremely grateful they took the time to answer our questions. It gave me a lot of insight on what I should work towards as I think about starting my career in industry.”

Ed Ngai, a UCSD graduate and former President of Design at UCSD said, “The workshop offered great insight into IBM’s design process and company culture. It was exciting to hear how a well-established, 100+ year old, company is using design to redefine its products and values. It was also a great opportunity to learn about what IBM looks for in potential candidates and how organizations like Design at UCSD can help students land jobs. Hearing from various designers and managers offered a lot of insights into IBM’s vision and how design plays a key role in achieving it.”

IBM will be returning in this Fall for a more in-depth workshop and recruiting event.  IBM is also a principle partner in the Design Lab’s Center for Design Driven Transformation, a joint project with Rady School of Management focused on the intersection of design and business.

Smart Cities: Urban Innovation & Design Thinking

UC San Diego Design Lab Associate Director Michèle Morris recently joined venture capitalist, entrepreneur and author Greg Horowitt at a “Community Fireside Chat” hosted by SCALE. SCALE is a startup accelerator that provides funding to exceptional companies developing technology for urban innovation. SCALE partners with prominent local city officials, universities and corporations to provide “smart citizens” with the resources to tackle urban problems.

“Design thinking is critical to creating smart city solutions,” said Michèle Morris. “Design thinking involves group thinking for a multi-faceted approach that really looks to find the root of city problems.” The talk was held at one of San Diego’s premier co-working spaces, Downtown Works, and moderated by Daniel Obodovski, co-author of The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things, a book about the upcoming technology revolution. Mr. Obodovski was formerly the director of business development at Qualcomm and director of strategic marketing and business development at Motorola Germany. During the event, Morris and Horowitt helped clarify how startups can utilize human-centered design thinking and smart-city solutions to address urban problems.

The talk also included a lively discussion on how human-centered design can be applied to smart city technologies such as sensors, networks, data analytics, machine learning and robotics. Morris and Obodovski explained how these technologies are leading to new “smart city solutions” for transportation, parking, sustainability, climate action and open data city projects and proposals.

“We were thrilled to have Michèle Morris and Design Lab join us to help further our understanding of urban innovation and design,” said Obodovski. “At SCALE, we set our focus on helping entrepreneurs and start-up companies get to the next level in the urban innovation space. We believe we are at the perfect moment in time to bridge the divide between talent and technology, by providing support to entrepreneurs who are bringing great ideas to urban innovation,” he added.

First-Ever UC San Diego Design Conference sponsored by Design Lab Unites Students with Leading Design and Business Professionals

By Kaila Lee, Design at UCSD

In late May, over 150 students and leading industry professionals representing top design-centric companies such as WorkdayIDEO, and Intuit attended UC San Diego’s first design conference. Among those in attendance were Scott Robinson of Freshform and Alex Waters of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. The all-day event was hosted by Design at UCSD, a pre-professional design organization on campus, in partnership with Delta Sigma Pi, UC San Diego’s premier business fraternity, and drew attendees from a variety of disciplines including cognitive science, computer science, economics, international business, and more. The conference was aimed at teaching attendees the interdisciplinary nature of design and why it is essential to business.

The conference kicked off with a keynote address presented by lecturer Michael Meyer of the UC San Diego Design Lab and the Rady School of Management. During his address, Meyer dispelled the myth of the “genius designer” and conveyed that the true vision and creativity driving human-centered design emerges through acknowledging that we are designing for people who have diverse human needs.

Meyer empowered attendees through stressing the importance of embodying the qualities characterized by a balance of professional competence and a genuine, insatiable thirst for knowledge. Moreover, he illustrated that successful designs are achieved as a result of combined expertise across a wide range of skill sets. He inspired attendees to strive to integrate various disciplines across the spectrum of design and business into their professional endeavors.

The opening address was followed by a panel discussion featuring Neema Mahdavi (Workday), Nastasha Tan (IDEO), Sharon Carmichael (Intuit), Oz Chen (, and Erwin Hines (BASIC Agency). The panelists shared their unique insight into the roles they play as designers in their respective organizations and how they envision design and business intersecting to optimize success in the workplace and beyond. Panelists emphasized the importance of showcasing tangible, real experiences to support skills learned in the classroom.

In addition, the speakers collectively echoed the value of candidates who exude the depth of technical expertise in addition to a breadth of knowledge paired with strong communication and problem solving skills. Panelists further engaged with the audience to address questions and provide advice pertaining to professional development and differentiating oneself as an aspiring designer and business professional.

Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in interactive hour-long breakout sessions facilitated by experienced design and business professionals. Breakout sessions highlighted topics such as navigating the design process, delving into UX Research, and creating an effective design portfolio. Following the breakout sessions, the conference concluded with a networking session in the forum of Price Center Theater where attendees were encouraged to speak to industry professionals. Conference participants left the event feeling motivated and excited to continue exploring the rapidly evolving fields of design and business, equipped with a plethora of new tools and key takeaways to apply to their own professional journey.

Trust your Gut: Vineet Pandey and Team win First Prize at HDE Conference

Follow the Gut Instinct project on Social Media:



How much do we actually know about our gut microbiome? A lot more than we might think, and Gut Instinct is tapping into that. Led by UC San Diego PhD student Vineet Pandey, the project was born when microbiome researchers and Design Lab members thinking about similar research problems chanced upon a potential collaboration.

“When my advisor, Scott [Klemmer], and Director of Center for Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego, Rob [Knight], shared a ride together in Fall 2015, they started chatting about Rob’s research on the human microbiome and his Coursera class ( on the topic. Around the same time, Scott and I had been discussing how we could enable online learners to perform work that is personally meaningful for them but also useful to the world at large. Popular online classes operate at massive scale and with rich diversity; online learners put in thousands of hours of work every day,” explains Pandey. “But we were still looking for a concrete domain in which we could try out these ideas. The shared ride gave us an answer to this question.”

Currently, the American Gut Project, run out of the Knight Lab, receives samples (stool, skin, oral, environmental, etc.) from citizen scientists all over the world, with the overall goal of building as comprehensive of a map of the human microbiome as possible-and making the database of microbiome sequences and associated host metadata freely available for anyone to explore.

“This project is a specific domain in which we can test our ideas of learning and doing useful work. And this was also meaningful for the Knight Lab with whom we are collaborating, because they were discussing ideas to enable people to provide insights from their lifestyle and help understand the gut microbiome data,” says Pandey. “So it was just a really good match!”

Gut Instinct ( is an online system that encourages citizen scientists by teaching them about the gut microbiome and then having them reflect on their experiences and life stories to generate unique insights. On the site, users can pose and answer health-related questions. This sets up a dual-objective system: not only do users learn about the gut microbiome, but scientists also get a deeper look at people’s insights and folk theories they may not be able to collect in a lab.

“Questions and discussion raised by people on Gut Instinct are meaningful for researchers. People’s insights about their own life, in other words, contextual insights, can help researchers understand their gut microbiome data and actually figure out if there are any novel correlations” says Pandey. “As an extremely naive example, say someone adds a question about whether kombucha improves their bowel movements, maybe 100 people answer this question as ‘Yes,” and 50 people say ‘No,” then we can look at their gut microbiome data and figure out if people who said yes and no are actually quite distinct in terms of their gut microbiome. Moreover, people’s discussion comments can provide more specific insights about what happens in their body.”

So far, there have been positive signals that Gut Instinct is a good platform for creating useful scientific questions. “When a test group of people used an early version of Gut Instinct, we found that they raised interesting questions, many of which of which were similar to those in the American Gut Project survey,” explains Pandey. “People raised 29 questions, and 10 of those questions actually matched with the official American Gut survey, meaning that people were thinking of the same topics as leading microbiome investigators were.”

Though Gut Instinct can be thought of as a form of crowdsourcing, Pandey argues that it exceeds that definition. “A lot of scientific work involving citizens asks people to actually look at say, their yard, and count the number of flowers that blossom in every season. Researchers then use that data to generate results about effects of say, climate on blooming” says Pandey. “People can do that, that’s great, and it’s been successful as well, but people can also go beyond and share their own personal insights which they are curious about which can be really helpful for scientists. And we think this can be really useful in a lot of domains where scientists need further insight to figure out what’s going on.”

In terms of design, the team initially went through multiple ideas early on in the prototyping phase.

“Initially, we tried many ideas. For example, we thought it would make sense if people would actually chat with each other in real-time, as compared to asking and answering questions on a forum,” says Pandey. “And that was terrible because when people chat, they have open-ended discussions with a lot of noise – we needed to encourage people to think in more structured ways, Some people are also uncomfortable chatting about personal details, even anonymously on the internet, so a structured question-answer format seemed more suitable: people have control over what they wanted to discuss and researchers can make quick use of people’s insights.”

Ultimately, the collaboration among all members is vital to the success of the project. While Knight and Klemmer were the originators of the project, Pandey has been the engine driving the original idea forward by creating the software with help from UC San Diego undergraduates Brian Soe and Chen Yang and Computer Science Masters student Tushar Koul. All of the work has been done in close collaboration with domain-experts from the Knight Lab: Embriette Hyde, project manager of the American Gut project, and post-doctoral research associates Amnon Amir, Tomasz Kosciolek, and Justine Debelius. Embriette’s expertise with American Gut has been critical in bridging the gap between the Knight lab and the Design lab.

“At every meeting between our two groups I show a prototype, which everyone can provide concrete feedback on or interact with, so that keeps things specific” says Pandey.

Gut Instinct has a clear plan for the upcoming months. “We want to work with participants who have certain ailments, like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and IBS, as well as individuals on the autism spectrum,” says Pandey. “We hypothesize that these specific groups will have specific personal insights, and they will be highly motivated to act as citizen scientists.

The final goal of Gut Instinct is to open it up to the public, which Pandey hopes to accomplish within the next 2 months. Hopefully, then, the project members, as well as the rest of the world, can get one step closer to decoding the gut microbiome.

Design Lab Faculty Reflects on Inspiring the First Design-Thinking Workshop on a Warship

By Michael Meyer

A few months ago, Naval Air Force Cmdr. Jeremy Vellon participated in a design-thinking workshop I led with Joshua Welle, a technology entrepreneur, public policy expert and Commander in the Navy Reserves, and Micah Murphy, a federal executive fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) at the U.S. Naval Institute’s “West 2017” conference.

A few months after my talk, I received notice from Cmdr. Vellon that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was going to hold the first-ever Navy “Bridge Talks” event, the first of a series of open ideation events, to kick off U.S. Pacific Fleet’s new innovation program called “The Bridge.” The Bridge is a program designed to give all sailors, regardless of rank or experience, an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas for improving the Navy in a non-judgmental environment.

Over the years, the U.S. Navy and other branches of the U.S. armed forces have had a number of issues arise from the need to maintain superiority among the ranks of its members. However, according to Rear Adm. Jay Bynum, there is now an existential urgency for the Navy to accelerate learning, innovate and “create a culture where we hear from the people closest to the problem.”  The rear admiral, who is considered to hold one of the highest-ranking positions in the Navy, acknowledges that all sailors are poised to help solve Navy problems. This is design-thinking.

I was thrilled that Cmdr. Vellon chose to kick off “The Bridge” ideation series with a session entitled, “Why Empathy? An Introduction to Design Thinking.” Congratulations to the sailors of USS Theodore Roosevelt for conducting this and to Cmdr. Vellon for leading them through it. It is tremendously satisfying to see design-thinking ideas spreading through the Navy, as helpful tools in service to our nation.

Focusing on the vital first step in the process, Cmdr. Vellon framed up how design thinking can integrate with the (at first thought incompatible) Navy Planning Process. The ensuing discussion drew inspiration from a diverse and wide array of sources from the Navy’s own revisions of the traditional enlisted rankings (involving job titles like Boatswain’s Mate) to the works of celebrated poet and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou.

According to recent Navy news release Cmdr. Vellon said, “I’m thrilled with the sailors’ reactions to the event. I hope sailors feel more comfortable engaging across ranks, across ships and across commands. I have a feeling the innovators aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt will continue to grow with this program.”

For more news from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), visit

San Diego Regional EDC teams up with Design Lab on Link2 Project

Kate Gallagher with the San Diego Economic Development Corporation (EDC) needed a website redesign for their Link2 San Diego program that connects students to critical industries in the region’s economy. Instead of looking to hire high-powered UX and web design companies, she reached out to students involved with UC San Diego’s Design Lab. Here’s why.

The San Diego Regional EDC launched the Link2 San Diego program in 2015 to help repair the disconnect between San Diego college students and San Diego companies in sectors such as manufacturing, life sciences, defense and information technology. Recent studies indicate that San Diego students are not informed of opportunities in the San Diego region and feel pressure to move to the Bay Area or  other urban areas around country.

Under Link2 San Diego, the San Diego Regional EDC wants to change this perspective by bringing students directly to industry leaders through a series of events where students can meet with professionals, gain connections and build local career paths.

“Coming into this project I was kind of shocked that we didn’t have any student involvement in this part of the Link2 San Diego program,” said Gallagher. “It was kind of a no-brainer to have students design something that students will use.”

Before the website redesign, Gallagher was spreading the word about Link2 San Diego events through flyers and Eventbrite pages. “I had a vision for the website. I wanted it to be a more of a resource for students and less of a halfway point,” she explains.

Gallagher recruited help from the Design Lab for the Link2 San Diego website after she was approached by Dev Bootcamp, a company that teaches coding and web development skills. Looking for more projects for their graduate students, Dev Bootcamp asked the San Diego Regional EDC if there were any opportunities for their graduate students to build websites. Right then Gallagher saw a huge opportunity. She realized that with Dev Bootcamp students working on the back-end coding and UCSD Design Lab students working on the front-end design, this website could be the best opportunity to showcase student talent in San Diego.

Enter Enrique Zavala and Fiona Chang, a third-year and fourth-year student, respectively, at the Design Lab. Both approach cognitive science from different paths, Zavala from business and Chang from psychology, but both were equally excited to apply their design-thinking concepts to real-world problems.

Like every project, the Link2 San Diego website had its own set of challenges. Early on, Zavala and Chang realized that this project was too much for a two-person team to handle in such a short amount of time. So they recruited more students and developed a two-team system.

“We kind of split into halves when we were doing the prototype,” Chang says. “Enrique and Alex [were] making the first prototype, the wireframe, actually, and me and Melissa were working on style tiles, the design elements. And then we combined…we trusted in the process.”

“I think one reason why it took longer than expected is that most clients don’t really know the UX process,” explains Chang. “They didn’t expect so many steps and usually are looking for people who just design, make it pretty [or] something like that. But many people didn’t know there’s actually user research, competitive analysis, card sorting and making personas.”

“Dealing with the client taste [is] something that we definitely learned, managing client expectations, managing how we should defend our designs and whether we should go with her taste or not,” says Zavala.The Link2 redesign was also a learning experience for Gallagher.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I had never seen their work before, I had never designed a website, so I was just glad to have students on board and so willing to put their time and effort into the project,” she says. “During our initial conversation, both the designers and I had big ideas for what this website could become, but we decided to focus on building something basic first. I was glad we didn’t bite off more than we could chew. We are all busy and it would have been too much of a lift for either me or them to commit to something too complicated.”

Gallagher’s exposure to the UX design process also introduced her to new types of data and different ways of thinking.

“Before we even started on the design, Fiona and Enrique were very adamant about conducting user research, which the EDC had never done before, and the results were something I found very valuable,” Gallagher explains.

Ultimately, Gallagher has no regrets about the project.  “I’m really happy we decided to go this route,” she says. “I know Fiona and Enrique feel like they got real-world experience, but I want to be clear that it was a mutually beneficial relationship. I have a product I’m happy with.”

Upcoming Events

D4SD Hackathon Kick-off

Friday, September 22, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. Don’t miss out! The San Diego Union-Tribune just issued our call to action: “Public invited to all-night hackathon to solve San Diego’s commuting nightmare.” It’s all about our Design for San Diego (D4SD) challenges that kickoff this Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Downtown Works. Join us for this incredible opportunity to collaborate and compete with other […]

Design Forward Summit 2017

October 25-27, 2017 Human-centered design has the power and potential to drive economy, industry, civic infrastructure, and quality of life. Design Forward 2017 is the lens to see it happen. Entrepreneurs, technologists, product managers, designers, business and civic leaders are all welcome. Visit the Design Forward website for more information and to purchase tickets.

Studio Session with IBM’s Talent and Design Teams

Friday, June 9, 2017 at 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM UCSD The Design Lab, Atkinson Hall, 1601 UC San Diego students are invited to join us in the Design Lab for lunch and listen to the IBM Teams discuss what differentiates IBM in the tech industry, and how you can get ahead! Come with questions […]

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Are you a Design practitioner, student, or industry professional interested in getting involved with the Design Lab? Contact us, we want to hear from you.

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