First Class: Team Formation and Client Meeting

   “By combining interested people and the design process we can not only solve authentic problems but also share these skills with others.”

With this quote from Dr. Matthew Wettergreen the first session of City Wide Design was off and running. On Thursday community participants, clients, and instructors met officially for the first time at TMCx, an innovation space in the Texas Medical Center. All attendees were told the main outcomes for the next six weeks: they will learn the design process (and have fun while doing it), learn how to solve client based design problems, work collaboratively, and apply the design process. For many participants the design process is not new. Some have applied it in their work life and others have learned it in school. For others, the design process is new entirely. For all there is one uniting factor: the desire to learn and apply the design process. As one participant put why they were there, “I just thought it would be really fun.”

Matthew Wettergreen

Matthew Wettergreen teaching at the Houston Design Thinking Workshop

After introductions to the course participants were thrown straight into the design process with a warm up exercise called Redesigning Mondays1. Dr. Hesam Panahi led participants through the  activity, aimed to do exactly as the name implies: redesign the Monday morning experience. In quick succession participants interviewed partners about their Monday morning experience, gathered insights, generated “How Might We”2 statements, brainstormed around these statements, sketched out ideas, and before time was up, tested their potential solutions. Ideas ranged from completing brain puzzles to break out of mundane routines to a robot valet that prepares tea and retrieves a work bag so that people can get out of the house quietly without waking up their kids. This exercise was a good warm up for the deep dive into the design process teams will soon be making.

Hesam Panahi

Hesam Panahi teaching at the Houston Design Thinking Workshop

With new interview techniques in mind it was time for team formation and meeting clients. Representatives from Green Money Search, Shriner’s Hospital, Community Cloth, and Grit Grocery pitched to class participants. Teams were formed and the designers quickly got to the first part of the design process: understanding the problem/empathy3.

A brief overview of the pitched problems:

Shriner’s: There are children between ages 4 and 9 who are not able to dress themselves independently because they are wheelchair bound or do not have the muscle capability. How can we help these kids dress themselves independently?

Grit Grocery: How can we address the problem of food accessibility in Houston? How can we build community through the shared experience of cooking?

Community Cloth: How can we connect people to refugee women who are sustainably creating products using their specific skills? “There is love and creativity that goes into each product.”

Green Money Search: How can we enable commercial and residential sustainable development through matching incentives. Their approach has failed in Houston only. What are one or two problems preventing the success of these incentives and how can we address those problems?


At the end of the class we employed an “I like / I wish / I wonder” board to check learning and participants impressions of the first event.

I like / I wish / I wonder board

I like / I wish / I wonder board at the Houston Design Thinking Workshop

Check back next week for a recap as teams begin research and brainstorming solutions!



  1. Redesigning Mondays was created by Stanford’s D School. We will be posting all of our materials online for participants and voyeurs to use on the “participate” page.
  2. Design traffics in “How Can We…” statements. These statements orient the clients and designers to the problem that is being solved. For more about “How Can We…” statements see here.
  3. The type of design that we are teaching meshes the Design Thinking that Hesam Panahi is experienced in with the Engineering Design Process that Matthew Wettergreen uses.

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