We don’t need another Mustermann


Co-teaching w/ most talented and savvy ︎︎︎Deborah Sillmann: we led a 3 week project for undergraduate design students at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences in the module 'perspectives and social skills'. Since most of the students were just starting their design studies, it was important to us to give them practical design methods that would be useful along their way. Also, we wanted to address the importance of awareness of one's responsibilities as future designers. Within the 3 weeks, they developed their own projects, making use of different design methods.

How might we make students aware of their responsibilities as future designers and provide helpful resources?

A great number of products today are made for a non-existent mass of Max Mustermanns and John Does, replicating the views and beliefs of their developers without taking into account a huge amount of needs of different people.

This can be traced back to common methods used in the design process, such as personas, which are oftenly not applied correctly and thus reinforce stereotypical, cookie-cutter insights and 'users'. Instead of embracing diversity, many important needs are hastily dismissed as 'edge cases'.


For designers making use of the right design methods is important. This is true during the whole design process but especially crucial when qualitative research is being carried out to provide a solid basis for a product.

In this project we wanted to make the students aware of their personal lenses in order for them to pay attention to any biases and to critically question development during future projects.


The project framework was deliberately kept free in order to do justice to the span between freshmen and students from higher semesters as well as their different majors (Graphic Design, Interface Design and Product Design).

Like this, each one of them could learn and create at their own pace, no matter their previous skills or knowledge.


We asked the students to observe their everyday life in the sense of auto-ethnography and to dedicate themselves to a topic that occupies them personally and that is important to them - no matter how trivial, embarrassing or irrelevant it might seem to others at first.


During our bi-weekly meetings we provided the students with talks and activities to support them with insights and hands-on methods to fuel their process. We encouraged them to use their fellow students as a resource to collectively support the development of each others individual projects.


The students used their classmates to host their own workshops, trying out new methods like collective mind maps, personal inventories, different interview techniques, questionnaires, probes or other methods that they wanted to apply to their own topics. In their free time they kept on working on their own, using the time to apply content from class for further progress.


In order to equip the undergrad students with a range of design methods, we created a deck of cards introducing methods to be used across the whole design process from research to user testing.


The deck featured different methods to gain user insights (e.g. surveys, interviews, shadowing, or design probes), methods to evaluate insights and guide ideation (e.g. how-might-we questions, personas, use cases, user journey mapping, jobs to be done, hypothesis-writing or storyboarding), co-creation strategies (e.g. personal inventory or card sorting), as well as methods around prototyping (e.g. paper prototyping or clickdummies) and user testing (e.g. wizard of oz).


7 different projects were developed using different design methods, which the students adapted individually to their topic.


Taking into consideration the different skills and majors of the students, they were free to decide on the kinds of results to be presented on the last day of class. While some students used design methods in order to develop artefacts, like a habit-journal, a click-prototype, a zine or a poster, some of the outcomes were directly related to a certain design method, like a really well developed design probe to be used as a research tool for a future project.