INF536 • Design Brief • Blog Task 3


The Student Services Reception area in the college where I work is not exactly fit for purpose. If you take a look at the photos in my previous post you will see that this space is utilitarian in the sense that it functions as it should (most of the time) but its not a thing of beauty. Suffice to say it could do with a makeover.


Knowns (What we know)

  • This space can get very crowded
  • This space can get cold due to cold air entering when one or other of the glass doors is opened
  • No disabled access
  • Students need to go through this space to get to their classes
  • We are renting the building such that we can only make minor changes to the floorplan
  • Similarly, we cannot change the access and egress


Unknowns (What we don’t know)

  • Are there specific building regulations which we must comply with before, during and after the remodelling?
  • How many students need to see someone from Student Services on any given week day?
  • What do students and staff think of the current configuration?
  • To what extent will key stakeholders including students and staff be inconvenienced by having the floor remodelled?
  • Will these stakeholders be prepared to put up with this inconvenience?
  • Do we have the budget to do this? If we do have the budget, how much will it cost and how long will it take?
  • To what extent will other stakeholders cooperate (or otherwise) during the refurbishment?



  • The campus is growing so we may need to move to another campus within the next few years
  • We are renting an old warehouse and cannot make any major changes to the design of the building without first consulting the owner of the property as well as local government


How might we redesign the Student Services Reception area so that…

  • it looks more inviting?
  • students are not held up when trying to get to class?
  • students with a physical disability are able to gain access?
  • the temperature is more moderate?
  • it functions more effectively?


Next steps (Ideation)

  • Observe flow of students in an effort to better understand patterns of use
  • Survey key stakeholders including students and staff in order to better understand their needs
  • Develop a structured competition (or design challenge) where rival teams are tasked with figuring out this problem


Ideas for redesign/implementation

  • Move the Student Services Reception area away from the stairs
  • Install a lift and suggestion box
  • Install a self service multimedia display so that students can get the information they need without having to speak to someone
  • Improve signage ie. display contact details including opening and closing hours as well as telephone number and email address
  • Play soothing music to help people to stay calm



Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. Harper Business, Stanford University, How might we?… Method Card: Accessed August 17, 2014

The Design Council (2013). Design for public good. Retrieved from:

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  1. Hi Graham,
    Interesting challenge that you have there! Two things really stuck out for me. Firstly, it was great to see that you were not just thinking about the finished solution but also the impact on staff and students during the renovation. Secondly, I really liked the idea of challenging students through a competition to come up with ideas. That could work really well.

  2. Hi Graham,
    You have put together an engaging brief and collected a rich collection of observations. The collection of Unknowns is thought provoking and well communicated via a format of question. One point that I am pondering is, if the section on “Ideas for Redesign” should be included in the brief. Brown (2009) states “The classic starting point of any project is the brief.” It does not however give instructions or attempt to answer a question before is has been posed. (Brown, 2009). I am wondering if your brief would encourage a richer learning journey via a Design Thinking Framework by not venturing into the realm of problem solving? What do you think?

    Brown, T. (2009) Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Summary by Get Abstract. Retrieved from:

  3. Graham,

    You have made some great suggestions… I particularly like the idea of soothing music 😉 . It seems you have some great ideas and simple things that could have an impact. I was encouraged that you looked at having students in put.

  4. Hi Graham,

    I like the idea of a design challenge! You also pose some interesting considerations about the campus potentially moving in a few years, and the fact that you rent the space and therefore cannot make any serious structural changes. As the space seems to be yours only temporarily, I’m curious to see what kind of creative ideas you come up with that don’t involve a complete renovation or building overhaul. In my opinion, more constrained types of projects usually wind up being the most creative/innovative because you have to do much with little. It reminds me a bit of Alastair Parvin’s Ted Talk “Architecture for the People, by the People” where he describes how a school wanted to fix their congested corridors by redesigning the whole building. Parvin tells how a team of architects stepped in and said, how about you just stop ringing one big bell to signal the end of class periods, and instead have a system of smaller bells that effectively regulate hallway traffic?

    Looking forward to see how this design project progresses. Thanks for sharing!

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