Skip to main content

University of Michigan School of Information


Media Center

UMSI welcomes media inquiries

Meet the Design Clinic students improving higher education outcomes

Graphic featuring the headshots of three Design Clinic Students
From left to right: Kira Mintzer, Cynthia Ding and Jenny Li.

Thursday, 04/15/2021

After a year of remote learning, the education technology industry is booming. Four UMSI students in the Bachelor of Science (BSI) and Master of Science (MSI) programs have had the chance to be a part of the industry’s growth firsthand thanks to Design Clinica co-curricular program where student teams apply design thinking methods to interdisciplinary information problems. Design Clinic students are led by Jen Chizek, Design and Innovation Program Manager, and mentored by professionals while producing deliverables for client-based projects.

Catherine Yang, Kira Mintzer, Cynthia Ding and Jenny Li are working on Knowmia, a higher education video hosting platform created by TechSmith, to mitigate user pain points and increase the usability of the tool in educational settings.

UMSI caught up with three of the group members to learn how they’re utilizing their UMSI training to improve outcomes in higher education.

What brought you all to Design Clinic?

Kira, BSI ’21: After graduation, I knew I wanted to do something in consulting or in product management, so I really wanted to gain some more experience working with clients and also prepare myself for my capstone project this semester. I thought [Design Clinic] would be a really good supplement to the work I was doing to actually apply my learnings. I’m really glad that I did it because it's helped me in getting a job in the workforce, and also with my client projects this semester.

Jenny, MSI ’22: My undergrad focused on psychology, so I didn't have industry experience doing UX. I was looking for a piece for my portfolio when I saw an email about Design Clinic and that's how I got on board.

Cynthia, MSI ’22: I first heard about Design Clinic from a friend that was in the fall cohort. He highly recommended it as an opportunity that I had to be a part of. However, what really drew me to Design Clinic was because I knew it would be a great opportunity to apply the knowledge learned from coursework with client-based projects to shape a more robust portfolio, making me more marketable in the workforce. 

What does your Design Clinic project entail?

Cynthia: Once we were assigned our teams, we met weekly with TechSmith, a video recording software company mainly targeted at enterprise-level clients, to help them better understand why their clients were getting stuck and what kind of challenges they faced. We were so lucky to have such an easy-to-work-with client that was very understanding, because they’re also UX people. They were like mentor figures, as well.

For this project, we conducted user interviews and gathered data to make personas.

Personas are the target customer or target audience. When coming up with solutions or recommendations, when you have a person in mind instead of just ‘this percentage of people believe in this,’ it's a lot easier to design for someone in particular. One big thing in UX design is really empathizing with the user.

Kira: Exactly. From our interviews, we learned a lot of valuable information and we were able to create two personas. Like Cynthia said, personas really just humanize the data to help a client, someone who might not be familiar with the UX field, understand the target person that their product is for.

What are the project’s deliverables?

Jenny: Based on the persona and the data we analyzed, we organized all the information and created a user journey map. It captures the journeys of the two personas, and then that's our final deliverable.

Kira: We already handed over the journey maps to the company after we made the personas. To give a little more background, a journey map basically allows us to show the emotional ups and downs of the process of adopting the technology. It helped us better break down the workflows of each of those people.

It really just highlights each point in the journey and allows us to provide recommendations to the client. The journey map isn't one person's story, again it goes back to that persona, which is a culmination of everyone's stories. It highlights various trends in the data, but in a more actionable and digestible form.

What were some takeaways from the project?

Cynthia: Design Clinic helped me better understand how to properly scope out projects and how important that is because a lot of times you're working with someone that really doesn't know UX. It makes it a lot more difficult to produce results that are beneficial to both parties. Design Clinic feels more structured and the scope is a lot better defined, so it definitely makes the process of client projects easier and it really optimizes the learning experience.

Kira: I was the project manager of our team, and it really helped me learn a lot about myself and how I would want to go about leading a team in the future. It was a good learning experience, because of course this wasn't for a class. I think everyone can say that this really helped us all work together as a team, and to figure out our own selves and identities within a team.

Jenny: I definitely agree. My biggest takeaway is interacting with clients and I really appreciate our client Jesse. He was really understanding that we're still learning in the process, and he was really a mentor.

Any advice for future Design Clinic participants?

Kira: [Design Clinic] is completely voluntary. If you're doing it, you should really want to be there and be present. I think that it's a fantastic learning opportunity and it's whatever you make of it, so really giving it all of your effort will give you so much in return.

Jenny: I entered looking to have more experience in UX and it ended up being a really good networking experience. I applied for an internship at TechSmith and I got an interview for it.

Cynthia: Design Clinic is really one of those experiences where you do it not only to network, but get that project-based learning for your portfolio. It really is what you make of it. 


- Kate Cammell, UMSI News