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MIT's Discover Product Design program

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  November 3, 2011 05:37 PM

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Photo by Fernando N

You may recall that last fall we featured a project by one of our RAW regulars, Justin Lai, and the Discover Product Design (DPD) team at MIT that involved students taking photos. They ran the program again this fall.

Lai and Geoff Tsai's program finished up recently and they're ready to show off the students' photography. Justin was a Master's student and Geoff is currently a PhD student, both under the supervision of their advisor in mechanical engineering, Professor Maria Yang. The program was sponsored in part by MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Here's Justin's description of the project:

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 students a chance to learn basic photography along with documenting their exciting week of experiences.

Students learned about product design in various contexts. The first evening, we watched the documentary, Objectified, which introduced many ideas that we saw later on in the week. We visited design firms and MIT-related businesses such as Eleven Product Development Studio in Boston, Altitude Inc. in Somerville, THE MEME in Cambridge, and Anderson Porter Design, also in Cambridge. We were able to catch the last day of Design Museum Boston's exhibit, Retail, at the Prudential Center as well.

In addition to this photography essay project, students designed a product for their dorm room (created on the laser-cutter in thin acrylic), created posters to encourage student life, and took apart existing products to learn about how products are manufactured.

We gave students basic photography tips on the first day. Then they met multiple times in small groups to share their photos from the day and get feedback. Also, 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. On the final day, students submitted up to 9 photos which they felt represented their past week.

After looking at all the photos, 3 were selected from each student in order to create a narrative of the week from the eyes of the students. You can view a student's 3 photos by clicking on their name, or view the gallery that contains all photos in chronological order.

Here's the entire collection on Flickr. Please let us know what you think!

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