Stories & Projects

Creating together in the digital space

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Can collaborative design processes evolve in a time of lockdown and separation? In a project with Microsoft, the students' imagination was tested as they embarked on a quest to co-create in the remote space during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Text: Jens Persson / Illustrations: Christina Bauer, Prithvi Ranjan & Oliver Weglinski

In a course entitled 'General Product', students at the Master's Programme in Interaction Design were tasked with rethinking how to approach a design brief in the era of Covid-19. By necessity, all work became remote - from lectures to meetings - as university facilities began to lock down.

"Working solely in a digital environment was surprisingly easy, actually. Of course, it's not the same experience as getting out on the field, talking to people directly. But this is how things are now and the way we conduct workshops will probably change forever. In the end, we are designers and we work with what we have and try to make the best out of it.", says Katharina Brunner.

1 Thea Team1 Methods

From the outset, Katharina Brunner and Inna Zrajaeva had to run co-creative workshops distanced from their co-creators. The actual challenge of preparing these workshops remotely ended up informing the very path of their final project. The pair's end result, the 'Remote Workshop Guide', attempts to solve the challenge of creating together in the digital space.

Recipes for designers who love to co-create

"We explored different co-creational methods, from interview techniques to ideation activities. Due to covid-19, this whole process had to happen remotely and we had to figure out how to build a creative environment online, for non-designers and for people who are not used to hour-long zoom sessions. At the end, we felt like we wanted to share our learnings with our community as it was clear to us that others will likely find themselves in the same situation", says Inna Zrajaeva.

The 'Remote Workshop Guide' is a cookbook for remote workshops, offering a host of recipes for designers who want to co-create in the digital space. Katharina and Inna documented and refined different activities, varying from adapted versions of existing methods to newly invented ones. The recipes can be found in the catalogue, and users are then able to put together their own menu. The final guide invites new perspectives on: what remote workshops can look like, how to prepare for remote sessions as well as a method catalogue

Remote Workshop Guide Sida 01

"We collected the most important learnings in the guide. Among them, we found that having smaller groups of participants was more beneficial. Also, everything takes more time online, about three times longer than expected, and it is super important to test your methods before having the workshop with your user group. And of course, you need to consider who it is you are working with - how tech savvy are they?", says Katharina Brunner.

A universal how-to handbook in workshopping

The 'Remote Workshop Guide' is not just a tool for advanced industrial designers. Really, it's a comprehensive how-to handbook for everyone and anyone who sets up workshops in their line of work. Users are free to pick and choose from the menu in order to update their own workshop routines along their specific needs.

"The guide is really aimed at everyone who is interested in working creatively, and with others, and who are excited about holding workshops. We already got some positive feedback from other students at UID as well as from former colleagues. Ideally, we would love to keep hearing from people on how they are dealing with these situations in order to evolve the guide further", says Inna Zrajaeva.