Design Jams

What is a Design Jam?

A design jam is a 2 to 3 hour event at which graduate students from the School of Information, including Health Informatics, who are studying human computer interaction (HCI), respond to real-world,  user-centered design problem directly for sponsoring companies.   

Design Jams are coordinated by the Student Organization for Computer Human Interaction (SOCHI), with support from the UMSI Career Development Office. 

What is the Goal of a Design Jam? 


  • Provide exposure to cutting-edge usability techniques
  • Apply new prototyping/mock-up technologies
  • Solution to a design problem
  • Deeper knowledge of user-centered design techniques that students practice 
  • Engage with student talent for recruiting needs  
  • Evaluate talent, skills and “fit” for organizational needs
  • Develop your company brand/presence at the School of Information


  • Get exposure of real-world design problems
  • Develop design skills
  • Learn from peers through collaboration/team experience
  • Network with employers
  • Showcase skills and competencies to employers
  • Organizational impact by solving a design problem

What is a Design Problem?

A design problem is a specific issue that a company or organization is trying to solve.   A “good” problem should include constraints and focus on a single problem, to better focus students’ work for a short period of time. The problem should encourage user-centered thinking.  It can also be related to interaction design, the user interface, or user behavior. 

The Design Jam

Below is a general outline of a design jam event:

  1. Welcome: students arrive, get some food, chat and find seats (typically, about a dozen students participate)
  2. Introduction: a SOCHI representative introduces the company representative
  3. Presentation of Problem: company/organization representative presents the design problem, constraints, and the type of deliverable desired. A deliverable can include sketches, wireframes, user workflow diagrams, storyboards, prototypes, and videos. 
  4. Inspiration: the company representative provides additional information relevant to the challenge as a “springboard” for ideas. Information to provide includes: 
    -What is the story behind the problem?
    -Why is it a problem?
    -Relevant user research/data is helpful
  5. Brainstorming
    -High-level brainstorming: students brainstorm about the idea as facilitators take notes
    -Small-group brainstorming: students form interest groups of about 4-5 students 
  6. Creating the deliverable: groups work together to create the deliverable in whatever format(s) were specified.
  7. Sharing and Feedback: each group has 1 representative briefly describe the group’s approach to the problem and solution.
  8. Conclusion and Wrap-up: documentation of each group’s deliverable.
    -Optionally, the company can hold a contest to solve the problem. Individual students can continue to work on the problem after the design jam, and submit polished deliverables to the company by a deadline. 

Previous Design Jam Sponsors

  • Mozilla
  • Zattoo
  • Bosch
  • Humana
  • Google
  • CTools
  • Problem Roulette
  • Shure
  • TechSmith
  • UM Health System
  • Shwetak Patel from the University of Washington

Previous Design Jam Problems

  • Website redesign brainstorming
  • Design interactive interface
  • Design a mobile interface for a current website
  • Add new functions to a current interface
  • Create tracking tools for user behavior

How to Submit a Design Jam Proposal

If you would like to sponsor a Design Jam at UMSI, please complete this form. All Design Jam proposals will be reviewed within 2-3 business days. 

If you have questions, or would like more information on UMSI Design Jams, please contact