In the beginning, when we first formed our group, everything was unclear. We barely knew things about each other. We all have different personality, background, culture and ways of thinking. It was really hard for me to join the group discussion and conversation in the beginning, because I did not know whether my opinion was worth to be told or not. The thought of the group members responses and reaction to my points made me anxious. The first lesson we learnt in the first class – Empathy, we tried to put ourselves in to others shoes, accept everyone’s difference and appreciate the opinions. Since the first term, I have made some progress in expressing my thought without hesitations and worries such as tolerance of thought now. However, sometimes, I still only paid attention to what was going on during team discussion without me talking much, doing my best to provide constructive suggestions. The atmosphere in the team was friendly and relaxing rather than tension and conflicts making people feel embarrassing or vulnerable (Catmull, 2014), and every team members was willing to participate in and contribute to the team through expressing their viewpoints. Moreover, as a result of spending so much time with my group, I noticed that the differences among the people and individuals are diverse due to the variation in culture, race, education backgrounds and life experiences. Most importantly, diversity is the mother of creativity and the source of inspiration. It is also the fundamental foundation of my team, provoking ideas and perspectives resulting in a better level of decision making and problem solving.
Since the start of the business, we have had at least one meeting once a week. Several discussions and brain storming were conducted. In order to efficiently run the meetings, we use Podio to manage, delegate tasks and record significant decisions made and relevant topics discussed in the meeting. In addition, we divided our group into three departments: design department, marketing department and finance department, however, decisions were still made and finalised together as a team. After trying being an entrepreneur in this course, I realized that task assignation based on each individual strength is essential. Because if people have enthusiasm and passion about their work, it would lead to a wonderful outcome and enhance the quality of it. Hence, I enjoyed being in the design department, dedicating myself to the work entirely.
Prototyping/Business canvas model
Before the process of brainstorming constructive and potentially feasible ideas, we introduced ourselves to each other. It was found out we all have a common interest in travel. Therefore, we concentrated on problems bothering travellers, trying to solve them. After all the meetings and discussions, five conclusions were drawn. All of us like them. However, we did not have much time to develop products, considering the manufacturing process, flI is the most doable team member who could produce it. After that, we used some simple and cheap material, such as cotton pads and clothes, to create our first prototype. Since the first prototype was made of simple and cheap materials, we did some research to find the most suitable and doable materials with reasonable prices for flI. Because it was still a prototype, we sewed it by ourselves with our hands. Following by this, I not only gained a skill in sewing, but also got patience to try different materials. Also we learnt design thinking– having Empathy to think of what the target audience needs and their concerns for our products.
In order to have better and deeper understanding of our customers, we used business canvas model, such as Value Proposition Canvas, User-Centred Business Canvas, Consumer Pathway Analysis and Business Model Canvas. By filling out those canvas, we got clearer about how to reach our target, see our customers’ needs and problems they encounter. With the help from the business canvas, I developed knowledge about how to establish a business idea and plan.
During the Christmas holiday, I still remembered to do the assignment which is taking pictures and finding inspirations from window display on the streets. According to the blog post Display Design in the Design a business blog, there are eight types of approaches to show products: having clear signs and words, creating a setting, offering samples which allow people to try it out, ditch the table and take a stand, using a backdrop, using different sizes of items to show the balance of products, ensuring people know our brand image and products, and offering deals that the customers might prefer. After reading the eight types of way for display and searching good display in London and Germany, we created our own display for flI. With the explanation on the blog, I noticed that people do really have some rules for display. Also I pay more attention to the window display on the streets now, even if it is not an assignment any more. It becomes a habit. Since I am in London, I should make the most of many opportunities to see and experience a variety of design.
From the two trade fairs we had, we got a lot of feedback from different people, such as students, tutors, staffs in the library and staffs who work in the café in the business school. Most people did not believe in our products functions at first. After they tried it, almost everyone was amazed by the sound proof function and satisfied with the comfort it provided them. Many people also encouraged us to keep developing this product and have confidence in it solving the problems which travellers have. The reaction and feedback that we got from those people really motivated us to develop and keep running this business. Furthermore, it was good to see people smile after trying out flI. It feels like our product can really improve people’s life.
As for the product development, we need advice from people who have never heard about flI, as they have clear points of view toward it. Following by the feedback we got, we searched for new kinds of fabrics and different colours for flI. We went to Goldhawk Rd where there are lots of fabric shops. Besides, we found a tailor in east London to sew flI. But the only thing the tailor had to do was sewing it, so we had to combine everything before taking it to the tailor. Most of the flI production was still completed by ourselves. For example, we had to take apart the ear protector, cut all the fabric into the right shape and stick ear protector on the fabric. Thus, it still took a long time to manufacture our product. Furthermore, everyone in our team understood the flI design and manufacturing process. We collected feedback from the two trade fairs and took them into account. Based on the feedback, we made the length between eyes and ears shorter.
Compared to our first pitch in the first term, we have made much more progress. And I got less nervous when I was pitching in front of people. I have never thought I could speak English and present things in front of so many people. With the chances we had, such as Dragon’s Den, workshop and trade fair, I had to talk to random people in English even if I do not like it. But it helped me to practice pitching and explaining flI to people curious about it. It also helped me to build up my confidence in talking to people in English, which might be the reason why I did not feel really nervous at the final Dragon’s Den pitch. In addition, we had learnt how to minimize all the points that we thought were important to pitch in three minutes.
Based on a storytelling lecture in the first term, we developed a story for our advertisement. And I really agreed on what Irene said, “If you let people understand your story will become your Reality” in her blog post – Tell your Story. Shape your Reality. Having everything we wanted to convey in the 60 seconds video was difficult for us. We had to find out how to express the brand persona and also demonstrate the approaches to use flI. And there was another problem that had to be considered, which the technique to create a video desired. We wanted to be creative and did not want it to be like normal advertisement, so we ended up integrating illustration into the video. We filmed the main character first, then I used After Effect to cut off all the background, which is a part of post-production. Since I studied in computer animation in my undergraduate, I was assigned to edit the video. The most difficult part in this post production was cutting the background, because it was the first time that I cut out the background for a video even if I have learnt a little bit before. It took me a lot of time to learn new ways to cut out the background and try it out. Although cutting out the background for a video and editing the video were a lot of effort, I still enjoyed doing it.
Through attending Bright Idea workshop or networking event, our group gained more contact with people. It was also a chance to practice pitching to people who have never heard about flI, then we could find out what kind of information is not clear to them.
Our group attended Bright Idea workshop at the end of January. It was a three day event. The first day was only for networking, and introducing people’s expertise. On the second and the third day, there were some guest speakers and mentors coming to help us to fill out the business canvas for the business idea. Also I got many chances to pitch the product-flI to the mentors. The mentors gave good feedback, taught me a better method to pitch and also pointed out what was missing in the pitch. For this reason, I practiced many times to pitch on those for two days. Our group also built a good relationship with the mentors. The mentors also provided access to help us to get into the market and some advice for product development. This enhanced my pitching skills and deepened the understanding of the market. With all the feedback and help, our product won £1000 from the Bright Idea competition.
Since I wanted to work in a company consisting of several people from different countries, such as an animation studio, all the things I learnt in the last seven months are treasured to me. I think I have developed in many skills more than I thought I would. For instance, I can accept others opinion about my work easily compared to I was before. When I was doing my graduation project-a three minutes animation, I used to get angry easily at people changing something in the video which I have finalised. Because it took a long time and a huge amount of work to make changes. Now, I can accept opinions easily even if we are just discussing changes that might need to be made, which I think it is also good for me in the future when working with others as a team. Moreover, the pitching skills we learnt might also be useful in the future. For a designer, it is all about communicating with people, so both things I mentioned above will be really helpful for me in the future work place. This course also gave me an opportunity to work with people from different countries, which I think it was a really good experience.
Catmull, E. E. (2014) Creativity, Inc : overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration. Great Britain: London : Bantam Press.