View from the Inside: Innovation Hub Orientation

In the View from the Inside series, we take you into the work of the Innovation Hub as seen by its members. Our students share their experience with our team and what they’ve learned so far.

This week, we hear from Eric Hanson, Design Research Assistant. Eric recently graduated with a Bachelor of Design from OCAD University and came to the University of Toronto, where he started a Master of Information and joined the Innovation Hub.

Eric Hanson, Design Research Assistant

Whether we’re engineers, doctors, professors, or students, design influences how we do our jobs, how we communicate with others, and how the world communicates with us. As a designer coming from a Bachelor of Design degree at OCAD University and starting a Master of Information degree at the University of Toronto, I understand the importance of human-centred design and design thinking in redefining our experience in today’s disruptive and innovative society. Empathy and social innovation were cornerstones of my undergraduate work, and coming to the University of Toronto is an exciting opportunity to see how a larger institution can use design thinking to improve the university experience and the way it serves its students.

I learned about the Innovation Hub by chance, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the university sees design as an important factor in student programming and services. Though we often think of design in relation to technology-enabled organizations, I think design thinking has a lot of potential for helping educational organizations build their relationship with students. As I learned more about the Innovation Hub’s mandate, its focus on student-led design, and its interdisciplinary team that incorporates students from Chemistry and Religion Studies all the way to Education and Policy, I really understood how a university can harness the power of design thinking and how students can be active contributors to their own university experience.

Fortunately, the Innovation Hub saw my interest in its work and hired me as a Design Research Assistant. I went to our orientation on September 5th with a lot of excitement but also curiosity. Here I was, this designer going into an environment where I had not expected to see design thinking, and this was completely new territory for me. It was so interesting to see the perspective each person brought to the table, especially as we talked in-depth about articles related to design thinking, empathy, and failure, and how we each related to these topics. It was eye-opening to see a different perspective on design—that design is not relegated to just visual thinkers but is applicable to all domains, whether you are in Humanities or Science.  In our discussions, empathy stood out as one of our key themes, which revealed the genuine curiosity of our team and the importance we place on human-centred design and on fostering an environment that is accessible and serves our diverse community.  I think that speaks volumes about our collective consciousness and shows that individual perspective is valued as something that can make a real and lasting impact in our environment.

Going forward, I am very excited to be working with such a diverse team of thinkers to help solve many issues our school and our students face daily. This work affirms my belief that educational institutions should continue to promote design and design-thinking initiatives to examine factors that are not easily quantifiable or always considered important, but that nonetheless affect the overall experience of the community.

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