Carnegie Mellon University

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Inspiring the Next Generation to Embrace User-Centered Design

This past fall, Metro21 partnered with Carnegie Mellon’s Policy Innovation lab to give students the opportunity to solve real-world problems related the smart cities. The class had a strong focus on user-centered design, an iterative design process where students focused on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process. By involving the users in each step of the process, the students were able to create highly usable and accessible products for their clients.

The Policy Innovation Lab has only been offered at CMU for a year, but this was the first class where they partnered with an organization like Metro21. Policy Innovation Lab professor, Christopher Goranson, said “it was great working with Metro21 because they provided very relevant and timely information to smart cities along with using their network to find problems for the students to solve.”

Metro21 Executive Director, Karen Lightman, was a co-instructor for the course, took the students on a journey of the importance of user-centered design and urban prototyping. Her message to the class was that “design can be a catalyst for community-driven change in cities and human-centered design is critical part of prototyping – start from the ground-up.”

The class had about 20 students and five client partners. Each student and client walked away from the course with much more than a completed project. Everyone involved learned about the process of user-centered design and how, although it can be challenging to restructure your current process, service or offering, asking your end-users what they want will help ensure success in the long term.

Metro21 is looking forward to seeing what other collaboration opportunities will allow the organization to drive change in the field of smart cities and help inspire a new generation of professionals fluent in the concepts of user-centered design.  

To read more about the Policy Innovation Lab, click here!