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Students Discuss Living the Good Life With Design Thinking

SoHE’s Design Thinking initiative is evolving our school’s culture and curriculum. Through it, we are equipping UW-Madison students with the skills and tools to solve both simple and complex problems in a way that improves people’s lives and well-being. In other words, teaching them how to find answers the human ecology way.

This five-step process is the core of the DS 501: Design Thinking for Transformation class that is open to all UW-Madison majors. Students empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test solutions to find answers to a range of issues, from everyday hassles to real-world problems.

We interviewed three students who completed a “Living the Good Life” course project that challenged them to formulate solutions to everyday problems. Here’s what they had to say about the experience.

How do you define design thinking?
Photo of Olivia Dahlquist, a SoHE student majoring in COmmunity and Nonprofit Leadership
Olivia Dahlquist

OLIVIA: Design thinking takes a human-centered, problem-solving approach based on a person’s or community’s needs.
COLIN: It’s about stepping back, unpacking a problem, and understanding all of its facets.

For the “Living the Good Life” project, what was your team’s everyday problem?
Photo of Colin Strong, SoHE sutdent.
Colin Strong

COLIN: Our team looked at how to use up that last bit of soap or product in a bottle while also eliminating plastic waste and reducing cost. We came up with a biodegradable, thin plastic container design.
GABBY: Olivia and I were on the same team. We realized that, like a lot of college students, we waste too much food.
OLIVIA: The problem was food expiring in the refrigerator. So we created color-coded, electronic tags that attach to each product. An LED light tells you when your food needs to be eaten.


Of the five steps in design thinking, which resonated the most with you?
Photo of Gabby Ortiz, Journalism Major
Gabby Ortiz

GABBY: What stood out most to me was “ideate.” As a writer and journalist, I tend to write what I’m thinking and then edit. In design thinking, I enjoyed hearing people throw out lots of ideas first.
OLIVIA: Definitely the “empathy” stage. I think for my major, learning what people want is important.
COLIN: “Empathy.” As designers, we already do the other steps for projects. It was tough to not just jump in and try to find answers right away.


Olivia Dahlquist is a SoHE senior majoring in Community and Nonprofit Leadership.
Colin Strong is a SoHE junior majoring in Interior Architecture.
Gabrielle Ortiz is an L&S senior majoring in Journalism.

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