IBM gives students hands-on design experience

Brooke Vincent

International Business Machines recruits more graduates from UT than any other college in the world, and they are continuing to strengthen that relationship through a design thinking class offered for the first time this semester.

In collaboration with the new School of Design and Creative Technologies, the class is named “Radical Collaboration” and focuses on solving problems for stakeholders through critical thinking and human-centered design.

“As our students leave UT to enter the workforce, these are the skills they will need to be competitive,” said Doreen Lorenzo, assistant dean of the School of Design and Creative Technologies. “(Employers) are looking for students who can solve problems, who can work in an interdisciplinary environment and who are empathetic. That is design thinking.”

Students are shuttled out to the IBM studios in North Austin for class, where they work on a semester-long project that involves real stakeholders and IBM designers who meet with them once a week.

“Something you can’t get (in a traditional classroom) is that industry experience,” design junior Caroline Rock said. “When you are taken out of that environment and put into the actual design studio you automatically feel like you’re held to a higher standard.”

The class is available to students in every discipline, not just designers, said Brooks Protzmann, lecturer and IBM designer.

“The focus really is this broad base of students, and getting them to interact with each other has really been a fun thing to see,” Protzmann said. “They’re all working together to solve a problem that really had nothing to do with any one of their disciplines.”

IBM hopes to use the students’ prototypes and ideas as part of the company’s eventual final product they develop for the market. The company has been really impressed with the students’ ideas, said IBM designer Douglas Powell.

“It’s been really amazing to see how easily the UT students have taken to this approach of human-centered design,” Powell said. “They are very curious. They ask really smart questions, and they’re discovering things for each of these projects that are truly insightful.”

The School of Design and Creative Technologies will offer two classes off campus with McKinsey Design and USAA Design Studios next semester.

“This is a wonderful way for students to immerse themselves in real-world issues and problems and see how things are created outside of the classroom,” Lorenzo said. “It gives them experience and knowledge to be more successful.”