Arkansas’ first-ever Design Thinkathon is designed to be a collaboration of students, community members, and facilitators and is the idea of Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Li Zeng of the University of Central Arkansas and founder of Plus Designer.
Plus Designer uses social design projects to create collaboration between Zeng’s students and local non-profits for the purpose of solving real-world problems. Plus Designer has helped organizations such as City of Hope, Braves Field for special-needs children, Chicks for Children, and Read the Culture.
“The event is a two-day ‘Design Thinkathon’ that organizes interdisciplinary college student teams around solving community problems with design thinking. Over the course of two days, students will learn the concepts of design thinking through hands-on and highly engaged problem solving that is informed by community organizations,” noted an event statement.
A “Portfolio Happy Hour” will take place 4 to 7 p.m., April 8 at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub in Little Rock. The students, partners, and facilitators will work on real-world projects over a two-day period which will culminate in a final presentation held 3 to 6 p.m., April 10, at the College of Business Auditorium (room 107) at the University of Central Arkansas.
The idea is to have students to work on solutions for problems using design skills. Students will be represented by schools from throughout the state including UCA, Arkansas State University, John Brown University and more. Students will also be represented from various disciplines such as computer science, biology, design, and business.
Zeng, board chair of The Locals Shawn Goicoechea, Metova lead designer Kandace Parker, UCA Innovation & Entrepreneurship business professors Dan Fisher and Ron Duggins, and Plus Designer writer/strategist Michael Barnett, are part of the planning committees for the Design Thinkathon.
Through Plus Designer, Zeng recently received a grant from the UCA Foundation and sponsorship from creative agencies Studio Science and Startup Junkie that will allow the Plus Designer to host the Thinkathon.
Goicoechea recently recruited business partners who need help in solving real-world problems. The Thinkathon will have five teams of six who be working on design and innovation solutions for the various business partners. Among the organizations benefitting from the Thinkathon are city of Conway bike sharing program, the Park Hill Neighborhood Association (as part of the NLR Jump Start Coalition), and The Faulkner County Urban Farm Project.
“From the community perspective this event provides an opportunity to see some creative, student-driven solutions to real challenges that our local government and civic organizations are working to solve,” Goicoechea said. The specifics of the problem and solution will be shaped by the teams and community leaders during the event, but we have worked to select partners that allow students to see the broad spectrum of issues that benefit from design thinking and creative problem solving.”
The final presentation jurors will be Kristian Anderson, High Alpha; Jessica Boyd, Community Venture Foundation; Jeff Standridge, Acxiom; and Michael Hargis, UCA.