adrienne baer



In Fall of 2016, I was part of the teaching team for a course called "Redesigning Health Care: Developing a Clinic to Meet Community Needs."  Students collected data from members of an underprivileged community through empathy interviews and gleaned insights from that data using the design thinking process.

I designed and led a 2.5 hour synthesis session on mapping and interpreting data.




First, students (in pairs) created profiles of the community members

Then, students placed those profiles on a painter's tape map of the area in which they had done primary research.



Using warm colored sticky notes they recorded key observations from their empathy interviews.  Then, they teamed up with another pair and using cool-colored sticky notes each pair gave feedback and they worked together to glean insights about the profile. After that, the class as a whole used different color string to connect profiles thematically.

(ie red string indicated loyalty- connecting people who both feel loyal to family).


Finally, with a connected map, the students took a step back and I lead a debrief regarding the most surprising and insightful connections they had made. 


What Happened Next:

From there, the students launched into design projects to tackle the issues they found most pressing. Their proposed solutions were presented to the Mona Clinic - a community clinic built in Temple Hills, MD, which was where the empathy interviews took place.

Things I Learned:

  • This particular class was planned to the minute - we ended up scrapping the rest of the class plan because the students were BUZZING with energy while making connections.  Sometimes even the best teaching plans need to be thrown out the window! 

  • Everyone can tackle important challenges. Novice eyes see things differently than a practiced eye - though neither is better! Being in a space that gave college students the ability to weigh in on community health care was incredibly meaningful to me.

  • Empathy work is and will always be important. Weaving stories and data together to discover connections and opportunities is my favorite part of any design process. I RELISH in synthesis, because I love digging through qualitative data to find unique lenses and idiosyncratic points of view that lead to specific, actionable, opportunities for design.