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MIT's Discover Product Design project

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  September 21, 2010 06:00 AM

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Justin Lai's Discover Product Design project at MIT, where he is a PhD student in mechanical engineering, finished up recently, and he's ready to show off the students' photography. Justin had the help of his fellow co-coordinator, MIT alum-turned-employee Josh Velasquez, and the supervision of their advisor, Professor Maria Yang. The project was sponsored in part by MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

But first, here's a reminder of the details of the project as outlined by Justin:

"Discover Product Design (DPD) is a week-long pre-orientation program, introducing product design to incoming MIT first-year students. DPD is run by members of the MIT Ideation Lab, a mechanical engineering research group studying early-stage design processes.

"The five days are filled with campus lab tours, visits to design firms, and various design exercises and activities to show participants different aspects of product design.

"This photo essay project is intended to give the 22 students a chance to learn basic photography along with documenting their exciting week of experiences.

"Each day, the students will go through their recent photos and share them in small groups. Through the discussion and feedback, the students can develop their photographic abilities, useful for their undergraduate years and beyond."

Justin updated us after the program ended; he and his colleagues gave the students basic photographic composition tips on the first day. Then they met twice in small groups to share their best photos from the day and get feedback.

The importance of photography was emphasized in other contexts, such as documenting one's work for design portfolios and ethnographic research for understanding existing behavior to inform the design process, Justin said. On the final day, students submitted 5 photos which they felt represented their past week.

After looking at all the photos, Justin and the other coordinators decided to select 3 of the 5 submitted photos from each student, in order to create a narrative of the week from the eyes of the students.

He posted them to Flickr; here's the Collection page -- the first gallery of 63 photos contains all of the photos taken by the students in chronological order. The other galleries are the 3-photo portfolios of each student.

Enjoy, and congratulations to Justin and his colleagues for what looks to have been a very enjoyable and educational exercise.


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