Rubika is a private vocational school specializing in digital creation. Since 1988 they have been nurturing cultural, artistic and technical talent through their diploma programs in the fields of 2D/3D animation, design, and video games at their three campuses in Valenciennes (France), Pune (India), and Montreal (Canada).
In fall 2022, a group of Rubika second-year UX design students from France came to Montreal for the semester. The goal of their four-month exchange was to connect with the design professionals in Montreal—a city ranked in the top five globally for the game industry and is considered one of the world's four centers for animation and special effects—and to give them an experience abroad.
Rubika was searching for companies, studios, associations and partners with strong design skills to provide interesting subjects for students to work on during this exchange. As a company that lives our values and is big on sharing knowledge and giving back, we offered our time and expertise for one of Rubika’s five-day “intensive weeks.”
Our intensive week at Rubika took the form of an adapted design sprint, a methodology for testing ideas and creating a prototype in only five days. We gave students a theme, assigned a project client, and split them into teams to solve a real-world problem. As their company partner, we mentored them throughout the week, then they presented their work on the final day to a jury panel who evaluated their project.
We chose “inclusivity” as the central theme for the week—a value that is near and dear to our hearts. And, as the project client, we selected QueerTech—a non-profit organization headquartered in Montreal striving to “queer the tech ecosystem by breaking down barriers, creating spaces, and connecting communities to support and empower LGBTQ2S+ people to thrive.” QueerTech tasked students with addressing different axes of the QueerTech member experience, inviting them to find ways to improve their solution.
“I thought it would be an amazing fit for QueerTech as an organization (one that has limited resources and supplies, and is a non-profit) to work with a company to help guide the future of the organization. And also, to get a fresh perspective from students and others outside of the Montreal tech ecosystem, so that we make sure that we’re not operating in a bubble.” ~ Andy Saldana, Founder of QueerTech
The students were split into four teams. Each approached the QueerTech member experience and reformulated “how might we” (HMW) questions—a popular technique in design thinking used to generate many creative ideas, while staying focused on the right problem—into one guiding problem statement which they set out to answer during their sprint.
A sample of the kinds of problems students were asked to consider in their process:
- How might we provide a personalized QueerTech experience to each audience member (Individual, Corporate, Community)?
- How might we define the future of QueerTech online and offline presence?
- How might we represent QueerTech values and inclusivity in the way we design their products?
- How might we encourage members to give back to the community (e.g. mentoring, volunteering, supporting, referring)?
It’s worth mentioning that the design sprint we did with Rubika’s students has close ties to the Discovery Phase that we lead with our own clients at Osedea. Our team takes the time to fully understand our clients' business needs, align on the problem we want to solve and create a prototyped solution that can be used to create a backlog of functionalities to plan the execution of the project. Students were therefore able to test out a condensed version of our methodology, one they will surely use again in their professional careers.
Here are the tasks we focused on for each of the five days of the sprint, to give you a sense of what we mean:
- Structured discussions to start the sprint week
- Introduce QueerTech and their mission
- Q&A session about what students have to consider to offer an inclusive experience
- Present the different prompts / themes students can work on
- Split into teams
- Clarify objectives for the next day
- Explore potential solutions through ideation
- Reframe the problem statement with HMW questions
- Create a benchmark of existing ideas to be inspired by
- Generate ideas and explore first concepts
- “Crazy 8” sketching (sketch eight solutions or variations of a solution in eight minutes)
- Consider how inclusivity will guide their design decisions
- Review the sketches and proposed solutions from Tuesday
- Make a selection of ideas and decide on a direction
- Create user flows using persona scenarios
- Refine production and set a realistic goal to achieve on the next day
- Using a relevant design library with QueerTech's brand guidelines, colors, components, etc.
- Use Figma to communicate tips for efficient production, according to best practices
- Work on client presentation and storytelling
- Students present to a jury panel (the week’s mentors, two additional designers from Osedea and one QueerTech member)
- Feedback given related to: the quality of the prototype, storytelling, whether they team was able to answer the problem statement and how it fits the QueerTech audience
This was our first time collaborating with Rubika and overall we feel it was a very enriching experience for everyone involved. Students really engaged with the subject of inclusivity in their design approach, and this shone through in their final deliverables at the end of the week. The jury gave constructive feedback and members were impressed by the young talent. We’re happy that there may be some ideas that the QueerTech team can use as inspiration in the future, and we hope this week opened the minds of students to the different types of users that they’re going to be able to create for in their careers. We’re confident many of these students will excel once they enter the workforce!
"We asked the students at the beginning of the week what design was to them, and easily half said something about helping other people, creating solutions, creating something better, and we can just see that come through in some of the designs that really were just so strong and empathetic and really joyful.” ~ Mitch Schwartz, QueerTech member, Designer, Product, and Team Facilitator