A happy ending


By the morning our work was done, ready to be printed and presented. We were all happy about the results but we still had a major task ahead: our pitch. The process to describe was long and articulated, as these past four days of intensive work. We all agreed that the best way to deliver a good pitch would be by being clear, concise and… rehearse as much as possible! I felt a lot of pressure because of the guests that were going to be present and, in my heart, because I wanted to do everything I could to give a positive contribution to our presentation.

All together we organized the speech and then we started rehearsing. We had to present in both languages, we therefore decided to alternate between English and Chinese every few sentences. The instinct for all of us was to start presenting in English and then translate into Chinese. It only crossed our minds afterwards how maybe it should have been the other way around… English is not my mother tongue, so I see it as language through which I can communicate when I am abroad, a language that in my culture is widely recognized as everybody’s second language.

Watching all the presentations was just amazing and inspiring. It was great to see how each group developed a very unique project and delivered it with great passion. Thinking about how I felt on DAY 1, it’s unbelievable to see how everything changed so fast. From “unfamiliar” and “confused” to “comfortable” and “at ease”. From “a stranger” to “a friend”. In our differences we found common grounds, and on those we were able to go beyond any cultural diversity to contribute to an amazing project from which I learnt a lot.

Betty, Xanadu, Micheal, Ulissys, Daniel it was amazing working with you. Thank you for everything you have taught me.
DUT, thank you for allowing this great cultural exchange, it has truly changed my life.
Dalian, thank you for having me. It has been an amazing adventure!


Presentations, Farewells and Celebrations!

Day 5 – State change – Ideation


By the morning of day 5, we were desperately completing the final components of our presentation. With one of our group members having worked autonomously throughout the night (without even a few hours of sleep) and the rest of us feeling quite exhausted as well, we decided that the final components of the presentation would have to be presented in a simplistic way, rather than burning ourselves out even further.

We had two main components left to complete, the role play, and the model of our proposal. We had been told that the presentation must be bilingual. In terms of a role play, how were we going to do this? Should we act the role play out in Chinese? English? Have one narrating the other? This was getting too complex for our tired brains and the state that they were in, so we simply decided that the role play would have no language in it, to make it simpler and potentially understandable to all parties. This is an example of how being in a tired state allowed u to make simpler decisions due to our reduced mental capacities.

In terms of the model that we still had to produce for the presentation, the type of work that was being performed was definitely that of more physical and repetitive work than mental work. Sure, the physical work took mental concentration, but it was a welcome change to our tired brains. The design of the model had some specific locations of columns, and other features. Following the design to the nth degree was simply too daunting for our minds to bear, so we simply had the idea that we would construct and place columns into the model as we saw fit by means of visual evaluation. This saw us complete the model at a much faster rate and as a result, felt much more prepared for the presentation.

Essentially, having the altered state of mind (tired and oxygen deprived) made us be more creative by making simpler decisions in the execution of the presentations that we delivered.

After the presentations, we were all very glad to be able to go out and celebrate with our team mates and other class members. We started off the afternoon with a small party outside the front of the building we had spent the last few days in, where we were all able to say goodbye to each other and exchange email adressess and such. Then we headed out for one final dinner and a wild night of Karaoke!! Many drinks were had, only to be matched by fun as well! 

[AY3] Intensity in Representation during Processes of Ideation and Design




Today intensity began to underpin the tasks begun in the workshop. We continued to ideate the business model and design of the development. We began work on the stakeholder diagram and business canvas. We began the architectural and landscape design of the development. In the evening a lecture was given to DUT students and staff, both those involved in the workshop and other interested individuals. Jo Jakovich talked about u.lab, biketank and the Entrepreneurship Lab subject. As E-Labbers we UTS students each gave a short explanation of one aspect of the E-Lab. I spoke on prototyping. At the conclusion of the lecture, we relished an early mark and the opportunity to unwind after an intense few days.


This morning the deadline for the final pitch on Friday began to loom for all of our team. We developed an outline of the tasks that lay ahead and assigned roles and time deadlines. We ideated in block modes and continuously as questions arose. We began to design our respective aspects of the development, our aspects dependent upon our skills. When questions arose representation quickly became the dominant form of communication across state change barriers as well as across tasks.


A quick piece of paper or a notepad would be passed over to a teammate, with a colour, a word, a diagram, a sketch placed upon it. A nod or a pause would indicate a response. If a pause, a new representation would be created in response or else a short conversation would take place. The intensity factor played a large part in this. We were all aware of the tasks that lay ahead of us and we all had a desire, both individually and importantly, as a united team, team six, to succeed. On occasion verbal communication was the most effective medium, but often low fidelity representation was most suitable, especially given time restraints. Quick questions were required, with quick answers given.


In the evening intensity was significant for me personally in its impact on representation. Earlier in the day we had been assigned our aspect of the E-Lab to speak about during the lecture. However, perhaps due to the intensity of the work undertaken for our project or perhaps due to a lack of sleep on my own part, I had not realised that the lecture was that evening. Suffice to say, when I sat down in the lecture theatre and Jo announced that we would be speaking after she gave her talk, it came as a surprise. A short whispered discussion followed with some teammates, before Jo gave her talk. As I stepped onto the slightly raised stage to speak I utilised acting as a form of representation to convey my ideas; that is, acting to hide my lack of planning and practice, and acting to hide my nerves as I stood looking out at a room full of expectant faces. I said my words on prototyping, and I think I got the essence of the process and its importance across to those listening.


By the end of the lecture we were ready to go out and unwind, which worked out well, because the intensity of this day turned out to be nothing compared to the next day.  



Ideation, Diversity and Dumplings





“The classroom glowed like a sweet shop. Sugar Paper. Coloured shapes.”

In Mrs Tilscher’s Class, Carol Ann Duffy

With exhaustion starting to set in, it was every man for himself in the campus coffee room on Wednesday morning; nothing like a double shot of espresso to warm the fingers in the cold, academic hallways of the Arts and Architecture faculty.

The room was ablaze with coloured post-it notes from the previous few days and it was great to have a space of our own, it made the process of ideation so much more fluid and satisfying.

We spent most of the day developing our concepts; compiling all of our empathy research and knowledge of the site, to create value propositions for our stakeholders.

The language and cultural barriers that were present during some of the looser design thinking exercises were bridged when we all worked on our value map; it was great to have all 6 of us working on the one piece of paper together. Our Ecopark was taking shape!

Another productive day at DUT was followed by a lecture from Jo (& team) about U.lab and its ecosystem. It was a great learning experience even for me and gave me a much deeper sense of what I was a part of. The lecture really brought home the diversity of our cultures but also the structure of education systems around the world and how U.lab is part of something really new and exciting.

A welcome early mark, gave us an opportunity to join groups and dine around one giant red table, with the biggest Lazy Susan I have ever seen. The meal was a stretch for some of us Aussies with lung and blood pate rotating around the table. If the food was a possible source of division, the antics that followed weren’t. Job decided that we should all indulge in some spontaneous singing and that got everyone laughing and joining in together. Ashily’s haunting Mongolian folk song, about the grass plains and wild horses, will stay with me forever. 


Mood Swings



Day 3


[AZ3] Our intense ideation process today can be described below:

5 minutes brainstorm of the team’s ideas about how to use the quarry in Dalian represented by one word and one sketch. Followed by 5 minutes brainstorm of the connecting factor of those ideas represented by an overarching top part of a2 paper with notes and sketches. Followed by 5 minutes brainstorm of how to visually present that concept by sketching it. Followed by 5 minutes of 3-word goal for project: Recycle-Connect-Future Value. Followed by 5minutes brainstorming of post it notes stuck next to those 3 words(e.g. recycle what? Connect who and what? What kind of value?). Followed by 5 minutes of connecting each part to create 4 groups by moving post it notes around, which created 4 categories. Followed by 5 minutes of prototyping each category to be a functional type of space. For instance: recycling plastic to build bridges to create better communication. Followed by intense discussions about filtering this information with our previous empathy work and research of the user’s needs and desires for this space.  


My brain was on a high during that time as these spurts of ideas motivated me to do more. Only when I realised I was stuck on not knowing what questions to ask, my energy levels went down. My physical body needed some attention. I needed a new representation/solidification/articulation prototype exercise. Maybe a change of state was what I needed, as I started to become less creative with my questions. 


Took a bit of a break, jumped around, laughed a bit, then went onto more ideation sessions! This time, brainstorming, discussions and post it note relationships were not as important representations except for brainstorming about brands and their value propositions. We played Chinese whispers to communicate our value proposition within our group and observed how it was perceived and communicated in different ways. Then we acted out a role-play and a jingle to solidify what we stand for. We had only short moments to prepare so we had to be extremely focused, articulate with few words all of our complex thoughts. For some reason we all managed to do it with great success! Actually, the reason might lie below:


This frequency and speed of idea articulation in a variety of manners helped us focus instead of multitask and resulted in new ideas due to productivity. Then, when this solidification was shared between members, we bounced off each other’s ideas and linked them together to create newer or more developed, complex ones. I was surprised how much my energy levels were influenced by this intense process. As long as I was coming up with ideas, I was motivated to come up with more. Intense mood swings-maybe that’s just me.




Day 1 – Intense


For the past 20 years, every morning of every day, as soon as I wake up I always start my day by instinctively pulling the curtains and opening the windows. I sometimes thought about why I do so, at first I thought it was because I needed fresh air to turn my brain on, but lately I realized what I really look for is a piece of sky. I truly need to know how the sky is doing to assess how I feel. I guess this is why I’ve been so happy since I moved to Sydney. Nothing beats a clear blue sky.

This morning when I “went for the window” I had a moment in which I felt lost, and then I remembered: you are in China! I could not see past 200 meters, and all I saw was gray. I did not understand if it was fog – or mist – or smog … I just felt cold and unfamiliar. Somehow uncomfortable but respectful and curious. I just knew this was going to be an intense day and I wasn’t wrong.

I rushed to class felling freezing and as soon as I got there I started to warm up. So many nice faces smiling at me, asking me many questions to which I wanted to answer. Their kindness stroke me immediately, as I started to fell less lost and more curious. As we were divided into groups my team members introduced themselves with their English names and as I talked to them about the project, their individual research, their expectations and goals, I found myself trying to remember their real names, the ones I could not pronounce properly. I felt frustrated – how can I not remember?

After a very interesting lecture by Professor Hu Wenhui on the urban design history of Dalian, Xanadu, Betty, Ulissys and Micheal (our team members) took Daniel and I out for lunch! What a delight! My first hotpot ever – so exciting! I had no idea of what we had ordered as I could not read a word on the menu, I did not know what to expect but as I watched the waitress display all the food on the table I was amazed by the smells, the colors, the textures – so beautiful and intriguing!


And then came the afternoon … our visit to the site.

During the drive there I was thinking about what to expect, I tried to picture it in my mind … but when we finally got there I understood that this was nothing I had ever seen before, this was nothing I had ever immagined. For a moment I thought I was about to experience the Apocalypse. All that devastated land and all those piles of rubbish left me speechless and furious. How could this happen? How is this OK? How can people live here? How can they accept this?

And at this moment my emotions went crazy. I felt sorry and lucky. I felt sad, I felt upset, I felt responsible, I felt appalled. I felt I needed to do something.

Still on the site I spoke to my new Chinese team mates and I asked them how they felt. They felt somewhat like me, just more positive. They clearly understand the magnitude of the issue and they know that with this project they have a chance to change things. They can actually do something about it. Back in class, we sat at a table to talk abut our first impressions and ideas. Communicating my feelings and at the same time wanting to be respectful was very important. We all agreed on one point: the mine we saw today is a huge scar for our planet, the people of Dalian and the Government. We need to change this.


Our diversities came out through the ideation process. Our culture, our personal background, our formal disciplinary training, are all elements that played a key role in the way in which we came up with ideas. What was obvious to me, wasn’t to them – and vice versa. This allowed us to open our minds and observe the situation from different perspectives. When this happened a deeper and greater understanding of the issue developed and all the different ideas we generated were able to feed into one another and resulted in a great initial concept.

I was very pleased with the quality of the interaction we were able to achieve today and I am very curious to see where this is going to lead us.


[BZ2] Diversity in Ideation during Processes of Empathy


The importance of diversity during ideation and creative collaboration in processes of empathy was highlighted through numerous tasks today. Today, our team discussed the work on the project to date and our ideas for its future development, as well as ideating and planning questions to ask our empathy interviewees. We conducted empathy interviews with representatives from the local government urban planning department and mining department. We took part in an intense multi-lingual 5×5 later that afternoon. After more ideation and discussion we explained empathy mapping to our DUT teammates before proceeding to create an empathy map based on the interviews conducted earlier.


During our team discussion of the project to date and our ideas for its future development our DUT teammates showed us some architecture from Shanghai, that myself, a business student, and Cristian, an industrial design student, had not seen before.


During the 5×5 later that day post it notes scrawled in English and Chinese were flung down on the table. Until we compiled them all in a representation in Step 5 we, being non-Chinese speaking UTS students, didn’t know what they had written. While it was interesting for me to see that sometimes ideas matched up, even with our diverse cultural, linguistic and professional backgrounds, many new ideas were also bouncing around as a result of these diversities.


This was the same for the empathy mapping. After a short period of trial and error we were soon all contributing our individual insights to the diagram. Through the process of pinpointing our persona’s thoughts and feelings the benefits of our lingo-cultural diversity were exhibited in particular. DUT students had greater insight into the Chinese persona from the empathy interviews as well as their general cultural knowledge. Our professional diversity, with teammates with architectural design, landscape design, industrial design, communication and business backgrounds, also challenged each other’s ideas of the persona and in doing so developed a more insightful and accurate understanding of the persona.


Cultural, linguistic and professional diversity played a significant role in ideation during process of empathy. Through our teams’ diversity, our comprehension as a team of the persona for whom we were conducting empathy, our idea generation for the project itself, and the methods of collaboration themselves were enriched.


Due to our team’s diversity our insights were deeper, more creative and more unique. They were developed further and quicker than would have otherwise been possible. They were particularly important in processes of empathy, specifically, resulting in conflicting impressions and ideas, which in turn resulted in more discussion, and thus a more insightful and accurate empathy map of our persona.