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The Ivey Design Project shows students the human side of business

Mar 2, 2020

Ivey Design Project Day One

HBA students practising their persona presentations

Business isn’t all about products and services. At its core, it’s about people. That’s why Ivey’s faculty in entrepreneurship, communications, and Leveraging Information Technology created the Ivey Design Project, which introduces students to design thinking. Design thinking is about trying to understand the people you’re creating your product or service for and their needs.

This week, HBA1 students are participating in the Design Project, a five-day immersive experience that forces them to meet people, discover their problems, and find a solution. The students are being challenged to find ways to improve campus life at Western University – everything from food, clubs, and athletics to library, policing, and custodial services.

We’re tracking their experiences with a day-by-day update on where they went, who they met, and what they learned.


The faculty perspective – What did the students do today and why is it important?

The students were asked to describe what experience they are improving and who they are improving it for. They worked on three personas and considered the different approaches to answering the question. They then chose one to move forward with.

Kanina Blanchard, Lecturer in Management Communications and General Management, said it teaches students to think critically and be innovative and take an interdisciplinary approach to business.

“The students will bring their best foot forward related to their communications and interpersonal skills by adding the art and science of interviewing to the mix,” she said. “Engaging with real people, building relationships and trust, garnering insights, and focusing on understanding others is key in business, no matter what field or sector you work in.”

The student perspective – What did you do today and what was the key takeaway?

We were sent out to collect information from a number of people by directly interviewing them about what is important. We were asked to build personas and consider the different people at Western University and the issues they might be facing. It showed us how important it is to have a primary perspective.

“Seeing a number on a page, or seeing just what someone else said somebody said, can only give you so much information. But when you hear it directly, as they say, ‘from the horse’s mouth,’ you really understand how people feel.”
–  Yan Castaldo

“This was completely different from anything we’ve done before because usually we are in the classroom or doing a presentation. This was quite spontaneous... It was a very accurate representation of what will happen in business. You’ll be thrown into the fire and you’ll need to figure it out.”
 –  Taja McLean

“It pushes us out of our comfort zones to talk to strangers and get their opinions. For me, the biggest takeaway was learning what design thinking is. I noticed that a lot of our interviews started out very broad and without any real direction. Then we were able to pick up on the trends people were mentioning and narrow in.”  
–  Nicholas Yeung