Ahh group assignments. Like a first date, everyone has had a bad experience. In one of my units this semester ‘Collaborative Design’, its whole purpose was to understand and reflect on what working in a team is like. I know… how thrilling, right? Well, throw in a mix of design disciplines and an international design competition and I found myself in one my favourite subjects so far.
Knowing that a group assignment was inevitable from the beginning, all third year design students chose what kind of design project to do. Choices ranged from Parking Day 2010, to designing and constructing a set for the Romeo and Juliet production at the Latrobe Theatre, to working with Brisbane City Council on improving King George Square. The one I finally decided upon was the Index Design Challenge 2010.
In simple terms, the annual challenge invites design students to form interdisciplinary teams and address serious issues and make a real difference to people’s lives. The theme this year is designing for education, either with furniture or flooring, to improve the wellbeing of children’s lives and the right to a proper education in the developing countries.
My initial motives were:
- If you’re a finalist you get to go to Copenhagen in February 2011
- I’m actually really interested in designing for developing countries or those in an emergency situation
- It’s furniture design, which generally means lots of industrial designers (who are usually the nicest people in group assignments)
These now seem a little shallow, but honestly in Week 1 I didn’t know what I was getting to. Over the course of the semester, my group of all-girls chose the country Haiti as our context and got completely overwhelmed by its current situation. Regardless, we pushed through, developed clear objectives and began to really enjoy it. Week by week we completed tasks as we were supposed to, dealt with issues as they happened and last week we proposed a design we were all proud of.
I think the key to a good group assignment is everyone having the same goal. Whether it be getting a high distinction or only just passing, if you aren’t all heading in the same direction it just isn’t going to work. It makes a massive difference to the overall outcome of the project (and your stress levels by the end of semester).
I will give you one last piece of advice: if you’ve had a bad experience with someone in a group assignment, do not put yourself through it again. No matter how much you think you can “change” them. Just like a bad first date, they usually aren’t worth a second chance.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our project, send me a comment or visit one of these websites:
Our concept development: collaborativedesign.tumblr.com
Our final submission: www.imaginehaiti.squarespace.com
Index Design Challenge: www.indexaward.dk