Two Willing Sacrifices to the Goddess of Sleep

As though there wasn’t enough to do in grad school, I couldn’t pass up on two chances to take part in CCA’s very different two-day design sprints, held just three weeks apart.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 00.16.17Secret Project (October 18-19) was created and delivered by John Bielenberg of Future Partners and Project M in conjunction with CCA Adjunct Marc O’Brien, Eastside School, and Google.

After sending us out in small teams to talk with residents of East Palo Alto, we retired to the Google offices, where John split the group into two teams of about six people each and encouraged us to “think wrong” using the blissfully creative “rapid ingenuity” model of idea generation.

After identifying that a main issue in this high-crime area is a lack of proper streetlights, our team devised a motion-activated lighting system for fences that would deter crime and help people feel safer walking around after dark by illuminating people’s movement through the community. Read more about it on John’s blog.


The challenge of the second CCA design sprint, Techraking (November 8-9), was to devise innovative solutions to current issues with media delivery: “How might KQED create new ways for people across a region to communicate about the growth of tech organizations in the Bay area and economic repercussions as it relates to their daily lives?” Fifteen teams of 3 – 5 students each produced excellent concepts and presentations. Our team’s concept was a “Brain Food Truck” that would travel to a different communities in the Bay Area each day to gather lesser-heard voices, perspectives, and opinions.

Created by CCA’s Centre for Art and Public Life, the Techraking sprint skewed heavily towards Design MBA-style problem solving (don’t color outside the lines!) but it was well-organized and had excellent mentor support.

Both ended with evaluations by exciting industry professionals, and both design sprints were exceptional opportunities to gain experience working cross-discipline, to hone our group creation skills, and to learn creative and professional strategies from students in Interaction Design, Architecture, Fine Arts, Graphic Design, CCA’s Design MBA, and outside mentors.

These mentors — both from the industry and other areas of the school — were essential in helping us execute professional, innovative, and well-reasoned presentations within the tight 24-hour timeframe.

(BTW in case the concept is new to you, here’s Dynamo’s great explanation of what a design sprint is and why it works.)

If it weren’t for exhaustion and existing course deadlines I would definitely be signing up for the next Secret Project, happening this weekend. These sprints are intentionally challenging, but with intense challenge — and a few nights’ sacrifice to the Goddess of Sleep — comes huge reward. The greatest of which is simply getting to meet and play in the idea space with so many fun, talented, and community-minded creatives.

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