A few weeks ago when our professor mentioned that our theme would all be participating in this workshop, this was what she said in summary: English was going to be the common language among the students from the participating Universities: Yonsei University ( Korea ) , Chiba University ( Japan ) , Zhejiang University ( China ) , Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication ( China ) and us, SUTD.
So I was expecting things to go something like this for everyone: English to brainstorm, English to ideate, English to discuss, English to present. I was not expecting smooth English, just English, you know what I mean? And coming from a bilingual background, perhaps I could help with the translation to English albeit being a painful process. Spoiler alert: I was not the translator and I was only right for the last point on English presentation.
That aside, I was really looking forward to this workshop not only because it was in collaboration with Alibaba but more so because it was a platform to understand the business perspective of design. And I don’t know about you but the idea of business is pretty exciting to me because it is so dynamic yet elegant AND most importantly, it is something that drives the world, doesn’t it? Alibaba prides itself for making business easy anywhere, so what better place to witness what we can materialise at the crossroads of design and business other than this workshop?
This is how Day 1 went:
Brief introduction of our schools – what an honour to represent SUTD and introduce SUTD in front of all those established universities though.
Lecture on Service Design by the Vice President of Chiba University – the part that left the most impression on me was nature of service: Intangible, Indivisibility, Dissapearness, Simultaneous, Temporary. Also, 1+1 is sometimes >2 referring to if a design incorporates two existing function, we can get more than what these functions present itself when in isolation.
Field trip to Alibaba Xixi Campus – cool things cool things cool things more description in pictures.
I also vividly remembered what when though my mind when I notice all my group members’ names were Chinese. “ OK that’s cool, all of us are from Mainland China… well except me” . When we broke up into our group, and all the names were given a face and voice , it was confirmed that I was in for a five day Chinese crash course as well. I was right.
Kidding… it would be in English.
Introduction of topics- In short, all of us are split into 4 themes and in each themes, there would be two groups. For me, I was in theme LOGISTICS. Instructors from Cainiao gave us a comprehensive presentation on which directions our project can take on. We were given three options to redesign: Cainiao Box, Cainiao Station and Parcel Recycling.
Teamwork – It was time for the real grind. After much brainstorming, researching and translation ( from Chinese to English on my end ), we finally decided on redesigning the Cainiao box. Initially, I preferred the Cainiao Station option because it was a much more familiar mode of parcel delivery. But we came to a conclusion that there were more directions to explore when it comes to redesigning the Cainiao box. What came after that was a series of discussion on the topic……I am sure you can imagine the process by now.
Oh yes, and this cool thing called field research? Yes, we interviewed three working adults on their experience with parcel delivery to form a better understanding of consumers of parcel delivery service. This process reminded me of the time a professor in Singapore emphasise that it was important to understand the users by asking them instead of just making assumptions. I also remembered how he gave an analogy then : Imagine- as a transport minister, you cannot just assume you know the pains of public transport commuting if you haven’t actually commute on one yourself, right? Then what makes you think you can solve the public transport woes? Touche. User empathy indeed plays a big role in design and this interview we did reinforce that to me.
Cainiao box? What was that? Educate yourself here
Day 3 and 4
This is how Day 3 and 4 went:
Presentation- Today our main deliverable was a 5 minute presentation to show which direction our group is headed. In short, our design statement is something like this: While the current current Cainiao box has a high-tech security system in place it , consumes a lot of space for its frequency of usage. We also presented three ideas that are directed at redesigning the Cainiao box.
The setting of the presentation was pretty intimidating actually. I did not expect that we would be presenting in front of a panel of Alibaba instructors and that they would give us feedback on the spot. And again, it was another fun time of public speaking in English at least.
Teamwoooork- We had constructive feedback from the Cainiao instructors and after that it was work work work. Video shooting, presentation slides, video editing, cadding, storyboard all those things but with Chinese in the mix. Most of the time I had to stop the group so that they could re-explain in Chinese slower or in English to the best of their abilities. Nevertheless, throughout these 48 hours how the different schools looked at design and It was really an honour to be working along side with such competent teammates from the other universities !!!
So this is the day we are all waiting for:
Final presentation – The day has finally come. We presented what we have been working so hard for for the past 5 days. It was quite nerve wrecking to be presenting infront of big names in Alibaba, but truly a fulfilling experience ( i cannot say enough ). i reckon it was even scarier for the other students who do not use English frequently but they did it anyway. At the end of our presentation the instructors said she only have one word for our design: COOL. Which was nice to hear :’) Yay all the hardworking paid off in the end.
Farewell – Before we bid our farewells, we had a fancy dinner followed by KARAOKE!!!! And the obvious concern was: how are we going to cater to people of various tongues: Chinese, English, Korean, Japanese. Whatever it is, we settled that and had a great time – performing ( for some ) and doing a bad singing job (for the rest)
Finally I could tune back to Channel 5 for the week. But I have to admit that my Chinese did improved exponentially which I am thankful for.
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