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Design Thinking

Vol. 6 Spr ing 2015

contents 03


Letter From the Director BY J. KEVIN MCCURREN

The WMCAT Student Perspective



Accountability Report

Why Design Will Change Every Business





Explaining Design Thinking

Ideation Time vs Approach



07 Interview With Provost Davis on GVSU’s Design Thinking Initiative BY GRAYSON DEYOUNG

09 Social Impact by Design BY KIM DABBS

15 Entrepreneurship in the Arts BY ALAINA CLARKE




The Makerspace in Action: GR Makers





The Making of Hello Mr. A Design Narrative

Redesigning Medical Devices with Fluition Innovations





Design Briefs

RefuTea: Serving Humanity


23 Muckflat Meadery A Sweet Taste BY GRAYSON DEYOUNG & MELISSA JOHNSON


29 Breathing Safe With Airway Innovations BY GRAYSON DEYOUNG

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Photo by: Kevin McCurren

Letter From The Director J. Kevin McCurren How do food trucks, neighborhood bazaars, art, festivals, music, museums and bike lanes make a community entrepreneurial? The answer lies in history and in Austin, Texas.

Austenites have kept “Austin weird.” What we saw was a community of diversity, art, food trucks, and active lifestyles. We had conversations with Austin leaders who work hard to keep their community open to all lifestyles. Austin encourages personal expression and exploration.

“Different Strokes for Different Folks” was a term used by Sly and the Family Stone in their 1969 hit, “Everyday People.” This urban slang captured the essence of the 1960’s counterculture that respected different ways of approaching life and doing things. Once society encouraged people to look at life, problems, and opportunities from different perspectives, the floodgates of innovation opened wide. This was the era that launched the personal computer revolution, which shifted power from the institution to the individual, and continues with today’s mobile technology.

When society encourages new approaches to art, lifestyle, and culture, entrepreneurship explodes. The creative process is the germinator of innovation. When problems are approached with creativity and varied perspectives, solutions become game changing. This edition of NEU is about design thinking. Design thinking is the customer experience crossroad of creativity, art, science, and commerce. In this edition you will see articles on a wide range of topics including food trucks, art, and business. Entrepreneurship is first and foremost about helping people find their full human potential — whatever pathway they choose. Likewise, each person who finds their potential also contributes to the entrepreneurship of the community. Enjoy the articles.

Austin, Texas is one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. Once the size of Grand Rapids, the community has grown to be the eleventh largest city in the US and a top relocation site for millennials. It also has one of U.S.’s top entrepreneurial communities. Grand Rapids community leaders recently traveled to Austin, Texas to learn about its growth and how


ACCOUNTABILITY REPORT GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Throughout the years, the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) has been dedicated to connecting startups and young businesses in West Michigan with opportunities and experiences designed to develop their ventures. CEI continued to make strides in the 2014-2015 year through establishing programs, growing talent development, and working with the community.

the GVSU chapter was awarded first place in Entrepreneurial Action across the nation. Also, CEO has initiated a variety of new programs, including Small Business Saturday and the Commodum Group of Covenant House Academy. Additionally, CEO hosted the 10th annual Idea Pitch competition, and awarded three students with over $2,200 in startup money.

Community Sponsorship & Partnership:

Talent Development:

Entrepreneurial Women’s Symposium In March 2014, CEI hosted its first annual Entrepreneurial Women’s Symposium, which focused on the theme of “Finding Your Voice.” The symposium, which attracted over 150 attendants, included a keynote address given by Kim Dabbs, three diverse breakout sessions on women entrepreneurship, and a student showcase.

MWest Challenge In April 2014, CEI established and hosted the inaugural MWest Challenge — a regional business plan competition where students develop and grow new ventures based on their own ideas. The competition created cross collaboration between students spanning across eight West Michigan colleges and universities, representing over 75,000 students.

Grand Angels Grand Angels is a West Michigan based Angel investment group fueling the entrepreneurial economy of innovative companies throughout Michigan. The Grand Angels consist of 40-50 active and accredited investor members who typically invest anywhere from $250,000 to $1,000,000 in early-stage companies. Some of their recent investments include Blue Medora, Grand Rapids Asceptical Pharmaceutical, ProNai Pharmaceuticals, Varsity News Network,Vestaron.

8th Annual Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) The GVSU Teen Entrepreneur Summer Academy (TESA) is a community based, five-day entrepreneurial activity focused on growing the awareness and possibility of small business opportunities in West Michigan. During TESA, students in grade nine through twelve interact on a college campus to work with college faculty, current GVSU students, and local entrepreneurs. During TESA 2014, 21 Michigan high schools represented by 29 young entrepreneurs participated in the program, which was concerned with farming and agriculture. TESA also invited current industry experts to present valuable information to the students.

Muskegon Angels Formed in 2013 in Muskegon, Muskegon Angels is a 20+ angel group that is largely focused on businesses in the Greater Muskegon area, however, it also invests in other Michigan based companies. They anticipate funding several investments each year with investments ranging from $100,00 to $200,000. Some of their recent investments include American Glass Mosaic, Local Orbit, Sportsman Tracker.

Entrepreneurship Curriculum CEI helped create and launch the Entrepreneurship curriculum and major in 2014. Students can now elect to pursue a double business major in a functional business discipline as well as in Entrepreneurship. Through a series of courses that include hands-on and experiential learning opportunities, students will develop the knowledge and skills that will serve as a spring-board for those who wish to start, run, or grow their personal or family-owned business. The curriculum is also for those interested in innovation in a general corporate setting.

Sprout Lab Sprout Lab brings entrepreneurship to local Michigan communities by helping to connect program participants to Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by hosting workshops, ideation bootcamps, and more. The program focuses particularly on issues rooted in Michigan’s Great Lakes economy, such as its agriculture, natural resources, renewable energy, and tourism opportunities.

Grand Valley State University Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) In 2014, the GVSU Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization (CEO) and fifteen of its members attended the CEO National Conference hosted by the University of Tampa. While attending,


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GR Current In 2014, the incubator GR Current expanded into a stand alone space at 234 Division Avenue N. At its core, GR Current supports emerging business ideas and solutions in the “high-tech, high growth” industry. The incubator helps connect participants with the appropriate people and resources to help further their businesses. Also in 2014, GR Current created social dialogue within the community by hosting 31 events.

For its first year, 64 students with 31 ideas competed for a total of $45,000 in prizes. Also, teams had access to resources, mentors, educational workshops, and opportunities to network with angel and venture capital investors. The competition also involved 11 community partners and 51 judges. According to the seven follow-up survey responses, two teams have achieved sales and three teams have raised funding as a result of the competition, totalling over $120,000.


DESIGN THINKING is a process that combines empathy, creativity, and rationality to meet user needs. It is a creative process that does not start with a clear end in mind. Some have identified design thinking as a problem finder as well as a process to meet a need. The understanding of the user’s real needs is a key component of design thinking. One learns design thinking through doing.

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Design thinking has been popularized by the firm IDEO and its work with Stanford University in the development of the Hasso Planter Design Institute, usually referred to as the, which was established in 2008. More recently, design thinking has been the subject of several books, published articles, and Ted Talks. Design thinking has also become a popular process to include in K-12 education. It allows younger students to experience the process along with the energy that comes from collaborative creative thinking.



In higher education, specifically at GVSU, students will gain access to the experience and the understanding of design thinking, which will be helpful as they partake in the same kind of teamwork and collaboration that happens in the working world. Such an approach is becoming much more common as organizations are striving to find more innovative ways to meet both old and new problems. This is true for businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, social impact organizations, health care services, and any other entity that works to meet the needs of others. Design thinking is a process; it is not a formula. The typical steps in the process include empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing. These steps are considered the five principles of design thinking.

Photo by Adam Bird

Empathizing is certainly about understanding real human needs. It includes being able to understand and share the feelings of others. Gaining such insights can help design thinkers develop the actual knowledge of a possible appropriate solution, instead of imposing a perceived solution, to existing problems. Real empathy goes beyond focus groups and surveys by seeking to gain a deeper insight. Defining uses empathetic insights to frame the problem, which allows the issue to be put in a broader context. This is a critical step and may be different than the initial recognition of the issue. Ideating is brainstorming with no judgments and an encouragement of wild ideas. As Nobel laureate Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.�

Prototyping can mean either a rough physical approximation of an idea, such as a storyboard, diagram, chart, or any visual representation of the idea that lets all team participants have a shared understanding of the suggested idea. This allows for easy adjustments, changes, and or the prototyping typing of a new idea.

John R. Berry is the Director of the Design Thinking Initiative at Grand Valley State University.


Testing involves extending the idea into an environment that allows for others to react. The testing process allows for converting assumptions into knowledge or the recognition of a need to prototype again. As Holly E. Morris and Greg Warman wrote: “Design thinking focuses on users and their needs, encourages brainstorming and prototyping, and rewards out-of-the-box thinking that takes wild ideas and transforms them into real-world solutions.� At GVSU, there are existing classes and activities that use the principles of design thinking. An objective of the Design Thinking Initiative is to discover those existing experiences and create new ones to allow for a credentialed experience of design thinking. How design thinking becomes more fully integrated into the university will evolve from the team of students, faculty, and community members brought together by pursuing new ideas. Those suggestions will then be vetted with several other groups and prioritized as a plan to implement.

It is my hope and belief the Grand Valley has an opportunity to become a leader in providing design thinking experiences for its students in the Midwest. We live in a design centric region. Many area companies and organizations seek graduates who have had collaborative team experiences beyond their specific major. In a broader sense, the design thinking process enables individuals to gain the insights of those who have a specific need, whether it be a social issue, service issue, or product development. Such a process allows people to create more innovative solutions for human needs. With a collaborative team and a shared understanding of who is being served, design thinking streamlines the ability for people to directly and effectively problem solve within the context of a complex and integrated world.


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There are examples from other universities across the country that have developed opportunities for students to experience design thinking. Stanford University is considered a leader in this area with its; Brigham Young University provides a design thinking cluster; Miami of Ohio University grants a design thinking certificate; University of Minnesota offers an extensive series of project-based programs that works to help resolve local community issues by using design thinking practices.

neu: What do you think is the essence of design thinking? Provost Davis: What I see as the essence of design thinking, and what has driven me to bring the initiative to Grand Valley, is the way it is a multidisciplinary perspective, especially in its scope of concerns while a solution to a problem is being found. Thus, it brings people together with really dissimilar backgrounds and perspectives to one common problem. That is one piece of design thinking’s essence that is attractive to me.

Interview with

The other piece is empathy. In design thinking, empathy becomes the idea that a person is not going to create a solution based on their own perspective, then push it on to another person, institution, or country.You have to engage the people you are working for in the issue you are addressing, in order to have a full understanding of the whole perspective. It is both the empathy with the end user and the multidisciplinary perspective that attracts me to bringing design thinking here to Grand Valley.


On Grand Valley State University’s

neu: How does design thinking lead to better education?

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P.D. : My reason for bringing the Design Thinking Initiative to Grand Valley was not about elevating areas of design, but about bringing design thinking to every student at Grand Valley. Whether students are studying philosophy, art, business, or French, I want them to be able to look at the world with design thinking principles.


I am interested in counteracting the simplistic way of looking at very complex problems. I am not talking about an easy problem to solve; I am talking about the implications of our decisions for the world.

neu: What led you to drive the Design Thinking Initiative? P.D. : As the Provost, I am in charge of our academic direction for the university. I keep thinking of how we can give our students a leg up in the competition for jobs, graduate school, or any other opportunity they cross after leaving Grand Valley. Design thinking is a great differentiator for any major, and can give students a leg up in the competition.

The idea that design thinking can be added to a student’s repertoire is applicable to the future life of students. If it is what employers are asking for, what the world needs, what makes for a good life and citizenship, then I want to keep adding to those elements of education and exposing our students to them. Design thinking is definitely more in the people’s conscience since the recession. Everyone has had to rethink how we do business, how we run our lives, and how we solve our problems. To me, design thinking is just good thinking. When design thinking came to mind to be added to Grand Valley, and when the opportunity to bring John Berry here arose, it seemed timely. I wanted him to introduce this idea to the campus community.


To me, that is what design thinking is — it is just an approach, not a conclusion.”

neu: How will this help prepare students for the workforce after they graduate? P.D. : Anywhere you go, an employer is worrying about efficiencies, creativity, reinvention, and better ways to do things to get ahead of the competition. With the Design Thinking Initiative, a student can tell an employer that they’ve been working in that arena already and they have a transcript that says they have a certificate in design thinking, or they were a part of the innovation center, or some other credentialing. It is one of those things that push that person a little bit higher in the consideration list. In fact, they can be seen as a resource to lead in that way once they are employed. It is giving people experiences before they’re even in the job market so that when they get there, they are ahead of the game. In my view, it is very practical.

neu: What do you think is the future of design thinking in our educational system? P.D. : I cannot tell you what the future holds, but I can tell you that we are interested in getting design thinking into early level education. It could be in general education or in interdisciplinary courses. It may be that we engage with all of the design disciplines and set up an innovation center — a space where people can come together and work on problems. There is a number of ways this could go, or it could go all of these different ways.

Also, the Design Thinking Initiative is not a mandate on our campus. People do not have to do this or be involved. But, for those who are attracted to the initiative and for those students who would like the experience, it is an easy one to pick up. As of right now, it is so new and I am unsure of where it is all going, but, it has a bright future. Dr. Gayle R. Davis

Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Grand Valley State University


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neu: Do you have any last thoughts? P.D. : I would like Grand Valley to become known for offering non-disciplinary specific design thinking certificate. It is not an overlap; it is an expansion of the approach. And to me, that is what design thinking is — it is just an approach, not a conclusion.


D ESIGN How Arts and Technology are Empowering Teens to Change Their World By Kim Dabbs Executive Director of the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology

There is an exciting intersection between entrepreneurship and education today, where innovation and experimentation are putting students at the forefront of their learning journeys. The West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT) is at the leading edge of this new frontier, fostering innovative approaches to education through social impact design.

WMCAT contracts with an evaluation specialist to annually evaluate the program for its progress toward meeting immediate, intermediate, and long-term outcomes for teen students. Outcomes include program completion, student retention, academic success and engagement at school, achievement of personal goals, high school graduation, and plans for post high school success.

Through our after-school Teen Arts + Tech Program, WMCAT is engaging urban high school students in the design thinking process as a vehicle for learning artistic and digital literacy skills relevant to twenty-first century career success. Each of our 150 students, who all attend Grand Rapids Public High Schools, are spending an entire school year on a design team that meets twice a week and is focused on a particular visual arts and technology discipline, through which they will address a driving social impact issue. The curriculum for each design team meets state education standards and aligns with the school district’s requirements, allowing teens to earn half of a high school credit for completing the program. Each design team is guided by a professional teaching artist — a working artist with education and career experience in their field of teaching.

Last school year, 100 percent of our seniors graduated on time with their class, and 94 percent of them applied to and were accepted to college. Our retention rate for this school is still at 100 percent. Our teens are engaged and inspired. With our professional studios, student gathering areas, and exhibition gallery, WMCAT is their space. Why design thinking? WMCAT was quite successful in engaging urban teens for eight school years by offering classes in skateboard design, photography, screen printing, and illustration. We consistently served 150 kids per year.Teens and their parents loved us. We were the cool place to hang out, and create and express your views without judgment. But then we started to look at retention and graduation rates from our teens.While our graduation rates were higher than the state average, and our retention rates were pretty good, we knew we could do better and really move that needle toward academic success, high school graduation, and post high school goals. Over two years we partnered with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) to evaluate our program and research best practices. Their recommendation was that the best way to grow our program was through increased engagement with a smaller group of students, rather than increasing the number of teens coming through our doors.

This is not your typical after-school arts and crafts class. This is the exciting, innovative, and proven world of project based learning and design thinking where students learn by exploring real-world challenges and issues. It is grounded in student experience and driven by student interest. Our students are tackling topics, such as bullying, discrimination, violence in the media, and substance abuse. How did we decide upon such weighty topics? We didn’t. Our teens did by asking themselves, “How Might We…?” This year, our design teams are working in the following studios: Photography: addressing discrimination Video Game Design: one team is addressing violence in the media, another bullying Video and Audio Production: the video team is addressing discrimination and stereotypes; the audio team is tackling the relationship between police and community Street Art: looking into abuse of power in our community and schools Comic + Zine: both addressing the negative effects of media Fashion Design: taking on bullying Ceramics and Sculpture: the ceramics team is addressing bullying; the sculpture team is dealing with substance abuse Leadership: delving deeper into sustainability from a local and global perspective

WMCAT leaders were connected to the school at Stanford University (the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design). There we engaged in a residency and subsequent professional development in design thinking. Recently, I was invited to a semester-long intensive in design thinking at Stanford, including a three-month residency. As one of four executives chosen globally, I will gain invaluable insight from faculty and graduate students on fostering systemic change in education through design thinking. Our inspiring work with teens, support of our teaching artists, and drive to innovate puts WMCAT in a continuous cycle of innovation. We are a forward thinking and flexible organization that is committed to disrupting traditional models of education and arts engagement.WMCAT is making a significant impact in Grand Rapids, while simultaneously sharing our innovative solutions with leaders nationwide. This past year I shared WMCAT’s work with social impact design at the Aspen Institute’s XChange Conference, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts.

So what are our teens actually doing? They are learning and experimenting with new art and technology skills daily.They are also following the design thinking process, which revolves around their “wicked question” of “How Might We...?” The steps are: discover, ideate, experiment, create + refine, and share. The “share” phase could be a photo essay, an interpretive fashion show, an original video game, a comic book, a public mural, sculptures, an original film, or audio pieces. The possibilities are exciting, open-ended, and teen-led.

An original sculpture, mural, photograph, costume, or video game really can change the world for urban teens. Social impact through design thinking is revolutionary, effective, and inspiring.


The WMCAT Student Perspective Ari, 18, Audio and Sculpture Q: What do you like about design thinking at WMCAT? A: You’re thinking about problems creatively. WMCAT isn’t about coming to class and doing whatever the teacher tells you. It’s being able to say what you want to do, and what ideas you have. It’s an issue that is closer to your heart. Q: What’s your favorite part about being a WMCAT student? A: The culture. There’s people from all over. It’s not a judgmental place.You can be who you want to be, and not be afraid to be that. People want to be here. This isn’t somewhere people have to be, this is somewhere people want to be.

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Q: What do you like about design thinking at WMCAT? A:We’re trying to get through to people.We’re coming up with a better ideas that can grab a lot of people’s attentions. Our theme is discrimination. We’re trying to find the beauty within people. Q: What’s your favorite part about being a WMCAT student? A:This is where I can come to express myself and my art. I have been a fan of photography ever since I was little. I’m trying to do something with my life, instead of getting in trouble, so I come here to express my feelings with art.

Iris, 16, Photography Student Q: What do you like about design thinking at WMCAT? A: I know a lot of kids don’t like going to school, but here, they can come and express themselves and solve problems. They feel safe. Q: What’s your favorite part about being a WMCAT student? A: Being a student here at WMCAT means you get to express yourself here. You get to be yourself and not have to cover yourself up with lies, or fake things that happen at school.We’re our own little family at WMCAT. Photos by: Alycia Choroszucha


Why design will change every business B Y K E I T H B O SWELL

One of the refrains I'm surprised I continue to hear from people is, "Some businesses won't be affected by the digital revolution." Let me show you clearly why they will, how they already are, and whether companies are willing to admit it or not.

That’s a design decision staring you in the face. If you’re like most citizens using technology, you don’t blink twice about extending services into new ones because it makes more sense to have one login versus many.

I'll set the rustic, rugged scene as best I can.

What the tools and services I mentioned above share in common is that almost all of them are driven by strong human centered design. Amazon makes buying anything easier. Uber makes getting a car in the city easier. AirBnB makes booking travel outside of hotels easier. Facebook constantly adapts the news feed to feed you better signals.

Your customer drives a truck down a small rural road every day after work, unwinding as they do from their day. Tomorrow they'll order parts from your small shop, including custom work, the way they always have - a copied version of a fax order form and a phone call.

Have you improved your customer’s world in any way since the fax machine came along? Are you still getting lunch special coupons flowing in around 10:30 - 11 am every day like you used to? Every company stands to be disrupted by technology.

Tomorrow back in the entrenched town, your customer is on hold waiting to place their order with you. They'll be daydreaming about NYC and how easy it was for them to put together a really big family trip.

Disruption sounds so damaging and daunting. Improving is something every businessperson I've met can usually get behind. Don't be distracted by disruption, focus on how you can improve your business for your customer.

They spent 20 minutes per the usual routine this morning filling out your order form.The same form they sent yesterday. And last week, the week before, and infinitum. And you still don't think there's room for technology to help things even a little?

You have the ability to design a better world for them. If you do, they will reward you with their continued patronage. Have you considered radically redesigning how your customers do business with you? If so, I’d love to hear about it from you.

Digital tools and services are iteratively improving things that people thought would never change, like free enterprise class software, business reviews, distributed pricing, and crowd based learning. As we progress down this path collectively, designers of all types are reshaping how we interact with our work and our family and friends. Increasingly, they blend together and we set the boundaries of crossover we’re comfortable with.

Keith Boswell ( is the Chief Strategist at Perceptint, a digital marketing and operations consulting firm founded in 2012. He’s currently a resident at GR Current and in the Start Garden partner ecosystem. Keith is also the co-founder of Master Succeed, a publishing company focused on creating professional business books at an affordable price. Keith has worked with clients such as Kaiser Permanente, Expedia, MSN, Dell, Ideomed, and more.

Have you used your Facebook or Twitter login for another site or app that you did not want to create an exclusive account for?


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And they keep making it easier. Each one of those companies is iteratively using design and data to learn and improve their service for their customer’s benefit. Their relentless quest is improving their efficiency and delighting their customers at the same time.

But at home tonight while warming by a winter fire, your customer is planning a family trip to New York City. They've assembled a bevy of tools and services such as AirBnB, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Google, various social networks, and many others.They will look at parts of it on their computer, some of it from a tablet, and bits and pieces on their mobile device.


Ideation is the act of sharing thoughts with others in hopes of identifying a solution to problem. Often, these ideas haven’t been shared before, which makes ideation an act of foundational communication.

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Ideation is an act largely defined by the amount of time available. Time governs the rate and depth at which we ideate, or whether ideation is allowed at all. To illustrate the relationship of time to planning a solution to a problem, imagine moving to a new home. This is an important event in life that requires those moving to perform tasks in preparation. The amount of preparation involved would change, perhaps dramatically, if the upcoming events were suddenly sooner rather than later. Would you try to accomplish the same number of tasks if given less time? Would you completely forgo some tasks and expedite others? Would you add more?


When planning for ideation, consider the amount of time available in every question you ask.Who will your ideas impact? What features and/or services are necessary? How should you present the idea? When is the best time to present the idea? How long is your proposed project? How immediate is your deadline? How large or significant is the task?

Personas Creating fictional characters to represent the motivations, frustrations, and ideal experiences of the targeted market segment. Hopes & Fears (& Expectations) This exercise allows participants to group their thoughts and build a common understanding of goals and potential issues.

Once you’ve identified objectives and a timeline, begin “shopping” for exercises or techniques. Remember, the best exercise is the one that fits your timeline. As you get started, your first realization will be that there are a lot of options, depending on the amount of time you have. Sure, these exercises will yield various levels of understanding, but the general rule is the longer the exercise, the greater the learned understanding. A two- or three-day exercise or workshop may not be the best answer if you only have a few days available. While the best time to include an ideation session is at the beginning of the project, it will take you more than two days to document the findings, so plan accordingly. What about a focus group approach? Can you work with a few key minds in an exercise and produce findings within the same amount of time? Perhaps. Having command of your timeline means you control the caliber of participants, the depth of data exploration, and the quality of documentation.

Affinity Cluster Map A visualization approach of revealing similarities by sorting key elements according to likeness. Card Sorting Participants individually rank topics in order to inform a project’s information architecture. Popular Media Research Examining relevant cultural trends throughout heavily trafficked or focused media channels. Analogous Modeling Researching comparable themes or models for inspiration, direction or help support new hypothesis.

Below are a number of notable ideation exercises grouped by the time (generally) required. It should be noted that the “who, what, where, how and when” of a problem, scenario or objective is essential before beginning any of these listed exercises. If this level of understanding isn’t shared by all participants, begin with an exercise included in the “Foundational Knowledge” category. If given more time, exercises under “Deeper Knowledge” will expand on the foundational findings. If given even more time, “Deepest Knowledge” will yield a Jedi-level of understanding.

Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis: Evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats an organization or project may face. Role Play Generating concepts based on a fictional character’s perspective.


DEEPEST KNOWLEDGE Engagement Mapping A visualization of every touchpoint a user has with a product or service helps reveal opportunities for improvement. Subject Matter Expert Interviews Interviewing a professional within a given area to understand the events, trends or overlooked opportunities. User Journaling Also called “Journaling,” this approach invites users to document their personal experiences to help inform research. Writing, photos, drawings, and/or video can be used. Interest Group Discussions Research Creating an online discussion group/forum to capture the thoughts of active users. User Interviews / Subject Matter Interviewing relevant users to understand their thoughts, concerns, and impressions.


Survey Examining and documenting the areas and features of special interests by asking participants specific questions.


Dynamic Conceptual Sketching Allowing an illustrator to visualize, in real-time, the thoughts of an individual or group to help strengthen a project’s vision.

Human Factor Research Studying the physical, social, economic, gender, and ethnic dynamic, cognitive plus emotional factors that impact user’s experience.

Convergence Mapping Visualizing themes to locate opportunities for collaboration within the overlapping elements.

Intent Statement Also called “Goal Statements,” this method involves setting a creative or innovative purpose based on a project’s objective.

Opportunity Mapping Similar to “convergency mapping,” key elements of a project are visualized to locate any opportunities for further innovation.

Finally, keep in minds there are many, many more options to choose from.These simply represent approaches I encounter that offer quality deliverables if conducted well. For other methods, please refer to Vijay Kumar’s 101 Design Methods, or as we call it at Visualhero, “The Manual.”

Focus Group(s) Gathering a group of individuals to participate in a guided discussion about a project or to provide ongoing feedback. Position Mapping A visualization of the relation or perception competing products hold in two specific characteristic (e.g., style versus partiality, expense versus affordable, etc.).

Kevin White is a Senior Visual Designer for Visualhero and also a member of

the AIGA West Michigan Diversity Community. His work has influenced projects for Apple, Google, Disney, The Nike Foundation and NPR, to name a few.

Group Concept Sketching Allowing team members to openly sketch, share concepts, and collaborate while building a collection of ideas helps to guide a project.


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Field Studies Allowing researchers to immerse themselves directly with the individuals, locations and materials of existing and /or potential users.

User Journey Mapping A visual representation of a user’s journey, including highlights of crucial touch points that characterize their interaction.



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The mystical, magical land of an artist can paint a pretty picture, figuratively and literally, of what it must be like to play all day.” This is one of the first common misconceptions or myths of being an artist. It is hard work and sometimes it is a love/hate relationship, but for most artists, it is their first love and they will never be able to let go. It is important to define these myths, which are perpetuated by a number of sources, then discuss how to expel these myths from today's society. According to Caroll Michels, a career coach and artists advocate, these myths are as follows:



These myths personify and imply that being an artist is not a valid career choice. We see this demonstrated throughout the artists’ developmental stages of life, where they should be encouraged and nurtured to develop. However, most teachers are undermining potential, redirecting creativity, and developing a less than nurturing environment for artists to thrive in. In some instances, this cyclical process starts at an early age. Michels explains, “Teachers are either ignoring the economic impact of the arts or they are telling their students that an interest in art has little if any economic career implications.” As a result, we see this continue into college where artists are told to have something they can fall back on that will support their “starving artist” lifestyle. This ideology could also be perpetuated by the parents of a would-be artist. In truth, the arts stimulate the economy, create jobs, and provide a sustainable base for a growing city.

“Without struggle, complexity and suffering, a creative will cease to become a real artist.”

2. “A happy, healthy, financially stable life will falsify

So then, where does the problem lie?

art and its practice.

In art school, there is a great deal of focus on concept and storytelling, which is where most of the focus should be. However, the gap in learning becomes evident when certain questions about professional development and business skills are answered. The late Jo Hanson said,“[A]rtists are set up for difficult career adjustments...that discourages, and even scorns, attention to business management and competence in it.” What it comes down to is that most colleges, universities, and trade schools are not equipping art students with the skills necessary to make a living from their art. Instead, they are focusing on being represented by a gallery or pursuing an MFA.

3. ”Everything, except for art, is dishonest.” 4. “An artist is only discovered after they die.” 5. “If an artist is successful, it must mean that they “sold out” (even though most are not even in a position to do so).”

6. “An artist's persona is linked to moodiness,

The landscape of being or becoming an artist is changing and evolving every day. We see this change perpetuated by a technology-laden world that is obsessed with immediate

flamboyancy, and weirdness. They are also very anti-social.”


What separates

just a field of study or a “thing” one does, but a mindset that instills dreaming, creating, inventing, imagining, and exploring. It requires training, time, investment, vision, passion, calculated risk-taking, and bold leadership. As a result, we see the strategic partnerships of the entrepreneur and the artist forming because of the need for continual reinforcement, reinvestment, and experimentation that helps enhance their growth. Now, it is about merging art and entrepreneurship together in a succinct program to close the existing gap.

entrepreneurs from the rest of the world is how they use

Aware of the gap between arts and entrepreneurship, The Avenue for the Arts collaborated with Grand Valley State University’s Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to create a curriculum that intertwines entrepreneurship and art into a concise, six-week program called Break It Down: Doing Business.

their education in a completely different way..”

Break It Down: Doing Business has the rare opportunity to take advantage of Grand Rapids’ thriving entrepreneurial community in a way that supports lifestyle entrepreneurial efforts. Grand Rapids also has the opportunity of ArtPrize — the largest artist competition in the United States. The competition assists in opening up the dialogue of arts being a part of the economic boom that Grand Rapids needs. From a monetary perspective, the city brings in over twenty-million dollars during a span over three-weeks. ArtPrize is a testament to the necessity of arts in a city’s survival. The next steps are to show the community that art needs to be supported fifty-two weeks per year, not just three.This advocacy starts with Break It Down: Doing Business. If the artists can understand why it is important to grow their practice as a business, then the support needed by the community will only increase and soon become an extension of normal day activities. With this knowledge base, artists will be able to clearly and effectively market their products, grow their business, and become sustainable lifestyle entrepreneurs. If the arts community can begin this movement, then Grand Rapids will continue to grow as the vibrant and effervescent city that is seen by the locals on a daily basis.

Photos by Anna Dorsey

gratification. Both artists and creatives have to fend for themselves in a way that they have never had to before.There are so many opportunities for an artist to sell their work and make a living now because of technology. Which, in turn, requires the artist to completely alter the way their art is produced, marketed, and sold. Not to mention all the other hats a business owner must have. We as people, are constantly learning and educating ourselves in so many ways, in all the interactions we have. What separates entrepreneurs from the rest of the world is how they use their education in a completely different way. Entrepreneurship is not

Alaina Clarke holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metalsmithing and Jewelry, is a Graduate Assistant at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a Masters of Public Administration candidate with a concentration in Nonprofit Management and Leadership.


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With a focus on practical business skills and strategies for creatives, Break It Down: Doing Business will break the mold of a traditional small business model and refresh creative entrepreneurial skills. The program’s curriculum converts business techniques and skills into terminology that is conducive to the creative mind and assesses the skills of the artist in relation to their business.The hands-on series will take an in-depth look at the artists’ current business practices, to envision a healthier balance between the business and creative output.The series will help identify opportunities, provide access to business-building tools, strengthen networks, and refine promotion of brands and goods while discovering ways to reduce costs and increase income. By working together, Cohort participants will troubleshoot issues specific to business development.



Photo by Alaina Clarke

The Makerspace in Action

importance of moving from ideating into prototyping. For him, designers can get lost in the infinite possibilities of ideating when they could learn more by doing. Bowles explained, “I will always have to do the thinking by making.The earlier I do it, the less waste will be involved.” GR Makers gives designers the resources to spend less time planning by designing their ideas through action. Both Van Holstyn and DuBois are also proud of GR Makers’ diverse membership. Currently, members range from high school students to young adults in college to the retired. Makers also consists of 30 percent female members, further indicating the space’s reach to be a more inclusive and diverse community. Another area of pride for GR Makers is located in its membership interaction. Outside of the tools, members use each other as resources. Even though each member comes with a particular set of skills, projects often go beyond a member’s specific discipline.Van Holstyn said, “With our space, [members] are able to lean on the community and the resources that are here for the things they are not necessarily good at.”

GR MAKERS’ function is quite telling by its title; it is a maker space located downtown Grand Rapids that offers a place for individuals to get their hands dirty and build something. The space thrives from its 70-plus members and community-centered integration. “GR Makers has always been about a sense of community and helping each other,” said co-founder Casey DuBois. Before GR Makers occupied its current 8,500 square foot space and contained hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment, it was a simple weekly meeting. Every Wednesday night, a group of handy individuals would meet at DuBois’s house to “play around” with some of their projects. “That’s all it was. It was people getting together on Wednesday nights tinkering,” said co-founder Mark Van Holstyn. After consistent meetings, the dedicated craftsmen realized they were a growing community in need; they required more space, time, and equipment. Thus, GR Makers grew from DuBois’s home into the expanding maker space that it currently is. Van Holstyn described the current state of GR Makers as, “a community workshop that creates a space for people to come make, build, and do whatever they want to do.” More specifically, GR Makers offers a large space, and a wide variety of tools, resources, and educational classes available for members, and specific events that are open to the public.

Outside of the space and its members, the founders spend a lot of time working in the Grand Rapids community and educational sector. GR Makers itself offers a slew of educational classes and training for all ages. These specialized workshops are divided into two sections: Safety Training and Skills Training. Again, in order to meet the needs of as many as possible, these workshops range from video game creation to 3D printing.

One of the most notable aspects of GR Makers is that they’re boasting an ever-growing inventory of tools. Van Holstyn said, “When we started out, we mostly had woodworking equipment and a couple of welding things.” Now, however, the list includes everything from 3D printers to laser cutters to jewelry making tools.

In addition to classes, they teamed up with Southwest Community Campus and Camp Fire to create a summer maker camp for younger children. One large project they focused on was deconstructing computers, and then putting them back together. DuBois said, “[The students] had a computer and they took it apart, and then put it back together in one day. And the next day, they were using it and were able to take that home.” GR Makers also works with Rays of Hope, Cook Library, and Pinewood Elementary schools to continue providing educational opportunities.

The availability of the tools offers members a unique opportunity to constantly create without restricted access. Thus, designing is based on the individual member’s agenda and creative freedom. However,Vice President of Mutually Human, Samuel Bowles, said that GR Makers and their community has its own unique approach to design and design problems. “Through the process of getting your hands dirty and getting involved in the act of creation, we find the answers to many of the questions that we struggle with,” said Bowles. So the processes highly stressed within the walls of GR Makers are simply making and doing. Bowles especially emphasized the

The future of GR Makers hinges on the continued opportunity to evolve and expand. Van Holstyn said, “We want to keep building the set of tools and set of resources that we have, so no matter what is someone is trying to do, we can offer those resources for them to do it.”


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An example of this community-oriented collaboration is the four-story tall ArtPrize entry, “Exposed,” found in the UICA. The art piece, a brainchild of six GR Makers members, is an obvious display of innovative team work. The multimedia installation includes electrical and mechanical engineering, design, welding, and computer programming.With the resources of the makerspace and the diverse set of skills of each individual member, “Exposed” is a testament to GR Makers community-drive work rooms. Beyond the ArtPrize installation, members also use each other as sounding boards and tools of inspiration. DuBois said that the older generation of members rethink their own processes when looking towards the younger members’ iterative use of innovation and design-thinking.

influenced me to push Hello Mr. to become something bigger than I had even imagined.

MY WORK with design extends all the way back to high school. Instead of sports, I was interested in my positions as the design editor for the school newspaper, a club member for emerging business leaders, and a member of the Arts Honor Society. All of these experiences led me to pursue Graphic Design at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). The Art and Design program helped shape my comprehension of the value of design and defined my career path. In my final year, I took an opportunity in my editorial design class to use an assignment to come out as gay. I created a book about marriage equality, and for the first time ever, I felt the influence of design and the role it plays in shaping people's understanding of important issues.

The most challenging adjustment for me was knowing when to transition and prioritize the various phases of development. In the early stages, while I was forming the style guide, designing the website, and assembling a contributor’s agreement, I was also scouting writers, photographers, and illustrators that I wanted to work with.

Another obvious challenge was that creating the “inaugural” anything was perhaps the most terrifying and anxiety-inducing experience I had ever put myself through. I had designed plenty of new things for existing brands, but creating something entirely After graduating in 2009 with a new understanding of design’s unprecedented was intimidating. New brands have to do a lot of impact, I became a communication designer for the global design work proving themselves, but over time, the “newness” wears off consultancy, IDEO, in San Francisco. The projects I worked on and the mission starts to become clear.More than a magazine, ranged from enriching teacher effectiveness in the K-12 Hello Mr. is a community of men education system to understanding that hope to rebrand their image the emotional behaviors behind by starting new conversations our financial decisions. I spent the The Making of about their interests, values, fears, greater part of my three years in and aspirations. It is an San Francisco traveling, which at opportunity to step away from the IDEO means immersing yourself stereotypes in the spotlight and in a culture and uncovering spend a little time reflecting and meaningful stories. I was able to A D E S I G N N A R R AT I V E defining our own unique travel to Singapore, Chicago, São experiences. Paulo, Mumbai, Boston, Los By Ryan Fitzgibbon Angeles, London, New York City, Only after the first issue was Sydney, and Melbourne. Needless published, did I understand the to say, my time there made me impact that it could have on well-versed in the ethnographic people like Will, who wrote to me saying, “I just read the first practice of Human Centered Design. issue cover to cover and happily flaunted it on my train ride this morning, a sort of personal fête for this quiet gay 25 year old. However, from the ages of 21 to 24, I had helped restructure Something I have sought after for a very long time.” organizations, redesign brands, and build on existing strategies. But, I had never built one of my own from the ground up, or Through sweat, tears, and four issues later, the magazine was stayed around long enough to manage it. So, I left IDEO to picked up by Barnes & Noble. Even though there is still more pursue a path that would allow me to create more personal work. ground to cover, it was a small feat worth the world to me Around this time, I had started a blog about being a gay knowing that a young man in rural Indiana, Chattanooga, 20-something called, “Hello Mr.” Living in the heart of the Tennessee, or upstate Michigan, could now find the magazine in Castro District in San Francisco, the cast of characters I kept their local bookstore. around me began to grow, along with my understanding and interest in this collective experience as a “post-gay” generation, as In many ways, Hello Mr. has become a symbol for a larger described by professor and writer, David Halperin (amongst movement and a platform to express ourselves during these others).The Hello Mr. blog was resonating with its audience and evolving times. My goal all along was to elevate visual aesthetic soon evolved into the concept for a magazine about a new for the traditionally glossy and crude category as a means to make generation of men who date men. the content inside more accessible for everyone. And through all that, design has been the driving factor of its success.With all the Both the GVSU class assignment and blog were my early options available to us, a brand must be visually compelling to attempts at shaping my own definition of what it meant to be break through the noise. However, design needs to impact more gay. Be it for myself or others around me, the feeling that my than what meets the eye. Hello Mr. was built from a series of “lifestyle” was being misrepresented by the current selection of design decisions that influenced how our story would be magazines motivated me to create something that I wanted to be communicated to our audience. Upholding those decisions (read: associated with. values) throughout all parts of the brand makes it difficult for anyone to judge you simply by your cover. So I set out to create my own version of this. I launched a Kickstarter to raise the funds to produce and realize my dream. At Ryan Fitzgibbon is the founder and publisher of Hello Mr. Graduating from the end of the thirty-day campaign, I raised over $26,000 and Grand Valley State University in 2009, Ryan began as a communication designer at caught the attention of many notables in the LGBT community, IDEO, located in San Francisco. In 2013, he launched the first issue of Hello Mr. like Neil Patrick Harris. More importantly though, I gathered a from Australia. Currently, Ryan lives in Brooklyn. strong interest from potential readers, which motivated and

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hello mr.


Photo by Justin Chung

Kate Hunt

DESIGN BRIEFS Connecting Past to Present, Community to Collaboration

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So, what is this Design Briefs thing and why have we — a group of chronically over-involved volunteers from American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) West Michigan — spent so many early mornings plotting with our friends at Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) to make it happen?

departments of Learning and Audience Engagement, Guest Services, and Communications, and members of AIGA West Michigan’s Design for Good committee. We also enlisted the support of Herman Miller, WorkSquared, GR Current, Custom Printers, Proper Soda, and Brewery Vivant. Maybe most importantly though we engaged Visual Hero — a design research, visual communication, and experience design firm in Grand Rapids — to help facilitate the event and lend their expertise to presenters and participants.

Well, long story short, we saw an opportunity for experimentation that we couldn’t pass up. This past summer’s GRAM exhibition, Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America, was a perfect framework for our community to explore design, collaboration, and innovation in the context of the region’s collective history.

With all moving parts in place, Design Briefs came to life. Panelists, Julia Jamieson and Laura Vaughn of Sitting in a Tree, kicked off the June session with a few words on the importance of design in entrepreneurship.The session included presentations from Custom Creativity Cube, an oversized customizable dice for educational games and group activities by Dave Veldkamp; GRArt, an interactive calendar of events designed to pull together art-focused events by Veronica Kirin; and Blue Marble Threads, a fiber arts incubator that combines a design studio, retail store, and sewn product manufacturing by Camille Metzger, Janay Brower, and Jen Zimmerman.

Michigan has a unique history of design, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy, and fortunately for those of us who live and work here, that energy is still alive and well. Unfortunately, as the nature of work has become increasingly specialized since the mid-century, and as the importance of efficiency, productivity, and clear ROI have been stressed, the casual or chance collaborations that have led to so many meaningful, and inherently cross-disciplinary advances, have been lost.

The August session included presentations from Open Me, a smartphone controlled garage door opener by Justin Menkveld; Collapsable/Expandable Bike Rack, a bike rack designed for triathlons and other large events by Matthew Vidro; and Slate, a digital signage software that aggregates news, curated content, and social feeds by John O’Neil.

We wanted to help change that attitude, and we wanted to do it by sharing the power of design as a strategic tool with the people hungriest to move the needle. So, connecting two of the community’s most valuable assets — designers and entrepreneurs — sounded like a pretty basic idea. The plan was to connect the idea-havers with design-thinkers, and to engage them in a conversation under the guidance of some of our communities best do-ers in order to better understand and chart the landscape of the work ahead for individual projects.

In both sessions, each entrepreneur was asked to present their project — its strengths, its weaknesses and the largest challenge they believed they were facing — to a panel of professionals in product design, visual design, industrial design, strategic design, and communications. The panelists then asked a series of thought-provoking questions and gave several points of feedback from the stage, before joining individual breakout sessions with each entrepreneur.

To set these big ideas in motion, we brought together a cross-functional team with representatives from GRAM’s


The team went out on a limb to bring a new type of programming to an established institution, and made a bet that collaboration would create exponential shared value, and we couldn’t have been happier with the result. To learn even more about Design Briefs visit

I’m happy to report that Custom Creativity Cube took its first official pre-order at the June event, launched a website shortly after, and started the manufacturing process with prototypes for material and user testing. Along with that success, the bike rack received inquiries from a local arts organization that brings thousands of visitors to downtown Grand Rapids on an annual basis. One entrepreneur shared that the event helped her “see clearly what [her] business should be and clarify the starting point versus the end game.” The number of new ideas, connections, and resources identified at each event were not formally quantified, but the anecdotal feedback was excellent.

Kate Hunt, Principal of She Does Design, works as a Strategist, Designer and Creative Consultant. She has served on the Board of Directors for AIGA West Michigan. Her most recent projects include the local Design For Good initiative, leading design for TEDxGrandRapids, and launching an active coLearning program in Grand Rapids. Email:

The GRAM has also been a beneficiary of the success of the event, which transformed the museum into an incubator for ideas. Through this series events and real-life application of design-thinking, they’re quickly becoming a leader in the museum innovation space. In November of 2014, we held a free webinar about Design Briefs and had over 50 individuals and organization in attendance from all over the US and Canada, including the Director of Education from the Smithsonian National History Museum. Design Briefs started as a bit of an experiment — an idea about ideas and how to help bring them to life in our city. It was intended to be a one-time series, however, it has found a life of its own. Our next endeavor will be a continuation and evolvement of the 2014 events, with a focus on Benefit Corporations in partnership with Local First, and with a new exhibition as backdrop, Edward Burtynsky: Water.


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The audience was encouraged to join presenters in facilitated brainstorming session, led by the Visual Hero team. Participants were taken through a series of exercises, specific to the project, and the challenges each faced. With this collaboration, the entrepreneurs were able to better understand the landscape of their work ahead.

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than the generation before them. The most recent addition to the family’s produce portfolio, which is blueberries, is the venture of Heiss’s father and current president, Tim Heiss. Along with embracing adaptability, the Heiss family has a history of encouraging independence and education. In fact, Tim Heiss holds an engineering degree from Ferris State University and worked in the energy sector for several years before rejoining his father, Arnold Heiss, on the family land. Taking cues from his own father and grandfather, who insisted that he plow his own way, Jake Heiss chose to pursue a business degree at GVSU.

by Grayson deYoung & melissa johnson

If you hear the word “mead,” your first thought might be of caroling warriors toasting to great victory in a gothic hall. Glorious tales like Beowulf and a Christmas carol recount the goodness of the sweet honey-wine and many scholars believe that the origins of the merry beverage extend as far back as ancient Egypt. While mead has lightened hearts for centuries, it has been forgotten by many, except for a niche market in the modern alcoholic beverage world.

The combined influence of his family and education have proven to be an effective starter for Heiss’s new business idea. After a few attempts at distilling wine “just for fun,” in true entrepreneurial form, he bought a mead kit based on the suggestion from a local liquor store owner. Heiss has since used the designed thinking process, the tools he gathered from entrepreneurship coursework, and his background in farming to explore how mead could be a solution to a problem within a specific community, mainly, craft alcohol enthusiasts, gluten-free drinkers, and non-beer lovers. Even though the idea for mead-making came from friends, Heiss developed a business plan brimming with potential by capitalizing on the resources at his own disposal.

One member of that niche market is Jake Heiss, a fifth generation member of a centennial family farm. Today in Grand Rapids, Heiss intends for mead to make a comeback. And as the first student to graduate from the Seidman College of Business with a major degree in Entrepreneurship, Heiss is becoming an expert in reinvention of old business. Located in Ravenna, just thirty minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, the Heiss family has been growing various foods for decades. Founded by Heiss’s great-great-grandfather Leon in 1936, Heiss farms began as a corn farm. Land that first produced a basic cash crop has seen potatoes, onions, pumpkins and more. As the farming industry changed over time, each succeeding Heiss farm leader tried their hand at bringing up a different crop

The Heiss family respect for autonomy has helped propel the enterprise, but it is also their support for one another that has firmly stabilized the business. When Heiss brought the idea of a mead-making business to his parents and grandparents, they readily offered their resources for his efforts. His great-grandmother, Beatrice Heiss, offered the garage off of her




BLUEBERRY MEAD Designs by Anna Dorsey

Heiss says that he has met overwhelmingly positive support from the community around him. Like his family, the business community has offered crucial advice, numerous opportunities, and vast resources. Thanks to the variety of connections he has forged, Heiss is in the process of obtaining his liquor license and getting his rental space cleared for production.

With blueberry mead on the table, Heiss keeps the ideas for his mead endeavor flowing. He continuously alters ingredients to expand on the first stable idea. In his family farm house workshop, Heiss has ideated new flavors, tastes, and recipes. He intends for this artful process to result in a fully-rounded mead experience for his future customers.

Heiss continues to gain traction thanks to this variety of experiences. His background in family business, coupled with a design-thinking outlook and education at GVSU, has resulted in success in multiple settings. He is not limiting himself to the mead market; he plans to one day return to his childhood home to operate the family farm. His entrepreneurial spirit and increasing experience bolsters Heiss as the likely future leader of Heiss Farms.

Muckflat Meadery’s products will offer consumers a new taste. The sweet mead flavor has been missing from bars, restaurants, and stores alike.While in his prototyping phase, Heiss constantly revisits his targeted consumer base, which is comprised of young Grand Rapids professional, or anyone that desires something a little sweeter than the average fruit beer. In building his business, he has built relationships with beer and mead companies, GVSU business leaders, and other key partners.

Finding ways to creatively embrace both tradition and innovation can be a great challenge for family owned businesses. However, when families like the Heisses are able to engage in the process of leveraging both old and new, it often becomes a catalyst for stable and consistent growth. By practicing design thinking, Heiss has been able to produce an exciting and viable idea to support himself, provide a potential new platform for the family business, and offer a tasty new beverage for the masses to sing about.

By analyzing the various circles that Muckflat Meadery is connected to, Heiss has been able to successfully empathize with the individuals he seeks to serve through his product. He admits that one of the most fun aspects of Muckflat is the ability to connect with others and discuss his ideas with anyone who will listen. For Heiss, finding willing listeners is often as simple as offering free tastes of his latest mead. It's no wonder his networking efforts have proven fruitful.

Melissa Johnson is the intern at the Family Owned Business Institute. She is a senior general business major and is actively involved with Young Life, an outreach ministry to high school students.


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century-old home to serve as Heiss’s startup distilling facility. The space is free for his use on the condition that he’s careful not to dirty or damage the forty-year-old cabinets hanging on the walls. Heiss also took advantage of Heiss farm's blueberries and honey as the first two kickstarter ingredients for his new business, Muckflat Meadery.

Redefining ugly:

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The Ugly Food Truck “There are 300 tons of fruits and vegetables are thrown away every year,” said Megan Lasley, with a smile on her face. The reason for the smile? Lasley has a solution.

rising food prices are perpetuating the wide gap between different classes’ access to a healthier lifestyle. In reality, one in four children are food insecure — they lack access to enough food due to financial resources. To further explore her proposed solution, she enlisted the help of Clarke and other classmates to develop her ideation process.

The idea of Ugly Food Truck originated from the Grand Valley State University course, Management 331, Concepts of Management. The assignment was to create a new business concept. Having no prior experience in creating a startup, Lasley simply began by researching modern innovations she admired. Eventually, she landed on food trucks. With the help of GVSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Graduate Assistant, Alaina Clarke, Lasley was pointed to France’s Supermarche Initiative. Supermarche combats food waste by selling certain fruits and vegetables at a 30 percent discount. But why are these French fruits and vegetables discounted, considering the fast rising cost of food?

With the aid of feedback from peers and experts in the field, she took her idea to GVSU’s Idea Pitch Competition, where she won second place. The entire competition process helped solidify Lasley’s mindset that this problem could be fixed with her resources, if utilized in the right way. She wants to look into how Ugly Food Truck can be implemented within the downtown Grand Rapids community, and possibly expand the idea into a food truck program to help public schools save money with ugly fruits and vegetables. Lasley believes that the food truck could attract the health-conscious city dwellers who are just passing by after a workout, or on their way home from work. But most importantly, it attracts consumers who do not have an option to spend more money in the grocery store on “pretty” fruits and vegetables.

Because these carrots and potatoes are ugly. “They are perfectly edible, but they’re just ugly,” said Lasley. She explained that ugly food is not sold in stores because it doesn’t fit the aesthetic qualifications set by supermarkets. For example, a potato with an extra lump is deemed ugly, as are carrots with two legs. Thus, these ugly foods get thrown into the trash because, experts say, shoppers won’t buy them, which in turn hurts the bottom-line sales of the store.

At this point, Ugly Food Truck is in the exciting beginning phase of a new business. Lasley has found a way to resolve the unnecessary waste of ugly food by transforming it into a healthy and beneficial solution for the needs of others. Ugly Food Truck is a concept with a myriad of possible applications and the exponential possibility to positively affect peoples’ lives.

So, how do ugly fruits and vegetables fit into Lasley’s food truck idea? She modified France’s model to fit the needs of the Grand Rapids demographic. Lasley used human centered design to define, empathize, and research the needs of Greater Grand Rapids residents. Through this process, she found that residents within the city lack access and funds to healthier eating. Also,

Megan Lasley: Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and Management, General Business and Sales emphasis.


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Photo by Danny Cary Elisevich


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Redesigning Medical D ev i c e s w i t h F l u i t i o n I n n ovat i o n s Fluition’s fantastic success has been, in large part, due to their ability to fit themselves within the design thinking model. With a heavy emphasis on empathy, the interdisciplinary team, Kathryn Christopher, Briauna Taylor, Brittany Taylor, Andrew Van Dyke, and Leah Bauer, believe in “superior medical devices.” Their goal is to design and provide innovative medical devices that cater to the needs of the healthcare industry.

Christopher said that one of the most crucial pieces to the team’s success was, and continues to be, “absorb[ing] everything from everyone… We want all the feedback someone can possibly give us, whether it’s about our design or the business plan.” Fluition members have spent huge amounts of time talking to actual patients, nurse users, and business developers in order to understand every angle involved in the process of integrating the Stratus X1 into ICUs.

Their first product, Stratus X1, an electric sit-to-stand device, was born out of an engineering project at Grand Valley State University. The project came from a specific need within the medical community. The sponsor, two intensive care unit (ICU) nurses, and physical therapists came to Fluition founder Christopher’s class with a solution request. They explained that the current sit-to-stand devices, which are being used in the ICU to help recovering patients, are uncomfortable, hard to use, non-rehabilitating, and feared by patients.

After finding so much success in winning both the Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize (MCIP) and the MWest Challenge, Fluition continued to rework their prototype. Since their sit-to-stand device was inspired from a classroom assignment, they initially set out to create a product that fulfilled the requirements. However, during the design process, the Fluition team became heavily invested in their product’s ability to help others, leading them to refine their prototype. Now on the third prototype, Stratus X1, Prototype 1.3, they are beginning to focus on the smaller details. After each prototype, they again act as sponges to receive as much feedback as possible and work that feedback into the next model.

With no background in medicine or medical devices, Christopher said, “At the beginning, we had no idea what we were doing.” However, the feeling did not last long and the team began cranking out preliminary idea after idea. In their initial ideation session, the team thought to look at engineering solutions that they already knew of from their own personal experiences.They thought about redesigning the device to use a balloon, a crane, or even a tilt-table. During these initial processes, Fluition team members settled on the model of a regular chair that harnesses the patient at the pelvis.

Christopher said that Fluition’s next steps involve completing a limited clinical trial and obtaining FDA approval for clinical testing. Once they reach that point, they will be searching for major investors to support their full-scale production of their product. She hopes that these tasks will be completed by Summer 2015. One could argue that Christopher’s being quite optimistic with this timeline, and she would agree, offering up this encouraging advice to fellow designers and students: “Always be optimistic.”

Landing on this initial idea occurred after extensive brainstorming, pages and pages of research, and, as simple as it sounds, talking to people. Although the empathy phase of design-thinking is the second step of the process, Fluition constantly reverted back to this model to assess their work.

Kathryn Christopher

Bachelor of Science in Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering


Serving Humanity

Imagine your friend leaning over to you in class and pitching you a business idea for a tea shop. How would you react? For co-founders Autumn Modena and Jenna Petersen, this quiet conversation took place in their Teaching English as a Second Language class, and ultimately led to a full-blown business project, now known as RefuTea. As the name suggests, RefuTea involves two main components: refugees — individuals that have been displaced from their own country due to disaster — and tea. There has been some confusion from the word “refugee;” many are unaware that the word “refugee” refers to the special status of citizenship that one must apply for. Modena discovered the complexities surrounding the growing Grand Rapids’ refugee population and community through her volunteer work with Bethany Christian Services. “By providing a job,” Petersen said, “we are taking them off of government assistance.” With human-centered design ingrained into their business operations and mission, Modena and Petersen brainstormed how to craft RefuTea’s business model to meet the needs of both the refugees and the market. There are, on average, 600 refugees who resettle in Grand Rapids every year. Petersen said, “We knew that there was a large population of refugees, but we had to define exactly what we wanted to do.” With further research, they soon found that current refugees are not becoming stable in Grand Rapids due to the lack of job opportunities. “Most refugees that are brought here are thrown into factory positions or positions where they are really isolated,” said Modena. Eventually, Modena and Petersen settled in on the idea for a tea shop, which is centered on the experience and capabilities of current refugees. Not only will RefuTea provide refugees with customer service and retail jobs, they also plan to employ them as tea blenders. “We want them to be able to blend the tea too, because a lot of them have experience in the agricultural sector,” said Modena. By focusing on refugees’ past backgrounds and their desire for stable employment, RefuTea incorporates empathy into their practices as the number one driving force behind their business.

Jenna Petersen: Bachelor of Arts in English Autumn Modena: Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, Minor in Spanish


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Some have criticized RefuTea, telling them they need to go to market at a faster rate and focus on larger profits, but the women firmly believe in their “purpose driven approach.”Their primary goal is to create a lasting business model that will help refugees create a better life for themselves. Profit is important to grow the business and help more people, but getting rich quick is not a concern for Modena and Petersen. Still, they will need more capital in order to realize the full scope of their dreams. RefuTea began selling their original tea blends via their online store in February 2015 in order to make the physical tea shop a reality. While selling their product online, Modena and Petersen will continue to talk to local farms and investors to grow the base of RefuTea.They have already scouted a location that they hope to convert to a dedicated retail space and shop, discussing possibilities with a realtor and architect. “We’re as close as we can get without the funding,” Modena said. If their determination and progressive design thinking are any indication of potential success, the funding could come quickly. Despite starting with nothing but an idea and each other, Modena and Petersen are steadily moving towards a full-grown business that could change the lives of refugees across Grand Rapids.

Breathing Safe with Airway Innovations

Photo by: David Chandler

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As a Grand Valley State University graduate student, Spectrum Health Innovations’ product design engineering graduate assistant, and the brains behind Airway Innovations, Eric VanMiddendorp found himself extremely busy during the past year.

additional clamps and patient restraints to prevent self extubation. However, these materials have proven ineffective. With Airway Innovations, VanMiddendorp has designed a standalone device that does not allow the option of unplanned extubation, thus, keeping patients safe from their own reflexes. Over time, Airway Innovations proved itself to be a product that challenges the current system of medical device design. “You need to rethink it in order to solve a problem,” he said.

Through Airway Innovations,VanMiddendorp offers a new and exceptionally innovative solution to a long-standing problem found within current medical centers.VanMiddendorp’s product is essential to reducing patient health risk from unplanned extubation, which means a patient is not able to remove their inserted breathing tube. The problem of unplanned extubation, often the result of self extubation, creates hazardous conditions for the patient.

Airway Innovations also aims to improve patient comfort and ease the transition into consciousness. However simple of an idea it may seem, Airway Innovations’ solution is revolutionary in the field of medical tools. The persistent problem of self extubation, which occurs with eight to twenty percent of all patients, has been struggled with for decades without remedy.

VanMiddendorp began working on this issue through an innovation grant between GVSU and Spectrum Health Innovations because it touched close to home. His nephew, born three months premature, self extubated.“Luckily, he was OK, but that’s not always the case,” said VanMiddendorp. The choice to work on this case came from a place of empathy and understanding, and provided an extreme challenge for VanMiddendorp.

VanMiddendorp’s dedication, talent, and ambition has paid off in full. Presently, VanMiddendorp is collaborating with an industrial designer and a design engineer for Airway Innovations’ prototype. With an entire year of work under his belt, he is working on manufacturing and eventual FDA approval, while continuing to fine-tune his product. “Design is an iterative process, so we’re constantly going back and getting more feedback, improving the prototype and taking all their considerations into account,” he said.

One of the main challenges during his design process appeared at the very beginning. VanMiddendorp admitted, “I was very ambitious.” He spent two months conducting extensive research by reading as much literature as possible, and most importantly, placing himself in the midst of the hospital environment to better understand all perspectives involved in unplanned extubation. In doing so, VanMiddendorp talked to Spectrum clinicians, respiratory therapists, nurses, and surgeons. He said he wanted to gain a full understanding of “why [unplanned extubation] happens and how it’s currently controlled.”

This willingness to listen and dedication to meeting patients’ speaks to an empathy that could result in extreme success for VanMiddendorp early on in his career. Lives are valuable, and any technology that could save or extend human lives will always be in high demand, and Airway Innovations is doing that through design thinking practices. By engaging a problem and addressing it with design thinking,VanMiddendorp will make a real difference in lives of individuals across the world.

First, he learned that unplanned extubation happens out of human instinct; “It’s a natural reflex,” explained VanMiddendorp. He then learned that current breathing tubes on the market use clamps to attach to the patient’s mouth, requiring the use of

Eric VanMiddendorp:

Bachelor of Science in Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering, minor in Biomedical Engineering Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


Photo by Bree Luginbill

makers of neu J. Kevin McCurren EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


Grayson DeYoung EDITOR



SPECIAL THANKS TO: Alaina Clarke Melissa Johnson Michael Kurley Lindsay Noonan | 616.331.7582 L. William Seidman Center 50 Front Ave. SW Grand Rapids, MI 49504-6424

NEU: Design Thinking  
NEU: Design Thinking