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Designing a Digital Scholarship Lab

MSU Digital Scholarship Lab




UX Designer

August 2019 - December 2019

Pen & paper, FloorPlanner, iMovie, Outlook


The Challenge

Michigan State University's Digital Scholarship Lab received a location extension which our team was tasked with designing. The main question was, how might we design a physical space considering the translation of current branding?

The Solution

Iterated design was presented and handed off to stakeholders. The redesign of the extension will show whether the stakeholders decided to implement elements of this design.


Below are the steps of the design process for this course project!

A graph showing three steps of a design process: user research, design, and evaluation

User Research

Consent Forms, Focus Groups, Observation

This beginning phase of the project consisted of defining the scope of our project and its needs, understanding the vision of stakeholders, and gathering research on the users of the space.

Consent Forms

The first step for this project was the construction of a consent form. As this was a course project, we drafted a consent form derived from previous forms evaluated in class.

Screenshot of the team's consent form

The role of the consent form is to outline individual's rights and consent to have their data recorded—video, audio, or notes—for the project’s research. Additionally, members were allowed to withhold answers.

Focus Groups

Before meeting with the focus group, we brainstormed overarching questions to ask stakeholders. Through this process, we narrowed down three key topics to fit the allocated time for the focus group.

Screenshot of the discussion guide for the focus group

During the focus group, we questioned each stakeholder’s vision for the space, users of the space, and possible constraints of the space. Within this time, we were able to see the differing views of stakeholders and how—as designers—we can help achieve their vision.

Key Takeaways

  • We had to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of the space. These attributes would be major deciding factors of how our team proceeded to design the new space
  • This was my first facilitated research group so I was able to see the importance of respecting participants of our research, many factors go into how comfortable participants feel—especially in a focus group environment


Each member spent at least two hours observing the space and interviewing users. This enabled us to identify the users of the space.


Item Documentation, Low Fidelity Sketches, Team Contract, Iteration, Digital Prototype

While in the design phase of the project, many different challenges arose: design conflicts and feedback that pushed the design to become a better, more user-oriented version of itself.

Item Documentation

This document outlined our group’s design choices for furniture and branding in the extension. Additionally, we provided example pictures so stakeholders could imagine the vision we had in mind.

Low Fidelity Sketches

Each of our team members created a paper prototype. From this, our group discussed the design thinking and reasoning based on our individual prototypes.

An image of the first paper prototype drawn for the project

The final paper prototype consisted of the most uniform and accessible functions for users and faculty. This prototype also featured ideas and feedback focus group members brought up.

An image of the final paper prototype

Team Contract

In this stage of the process, our team began having internal issues about design choices and time management. There were often times where conflict would arise over design choices. Furthermore, members of our team would often be absent or tardy to arranged meetings.

To solve the ongoing debates within our team, we drafted a team contract outlining how we would handle conflict and consequences for infractions of the contract.

Key Takeaways

  • Take a step back and evaluate bias
  • Understand the possibility of being married to designs
  • Ask for feedback from neutral parties

Digital Prototype

To provide our stakeholders a 3D representation of the space, our group created a model with FloorPlanner, an online editor that can create floor plans. With this, the stakeholder can actually “walk” through the space and experience the design.

Black and white redesign blueprint of the Digital Scholarship Lab
Colorized redesign blueprint of the Digital Scholarship Lab

Limitations and advantages came with the FloorPlanner program. The editor was simple and easy to navigate for a beginner making floor plans. However, a major issue with the program was the inability to enter the length and width of a room to the exact measurement. A user would have to drag out the wall and try to get the correct measurement, proving to be a challenge to trackpad users.

Side view of the space
Entrance of the space Common area of the space, also referred to as the flex space Shot of the space's offices
Outside view of the space's kitchenette Ouside view of the research space The meeting room within the space


Presentation, Feedback

The goal of the video pitch presentation was to reflect on our team’s design process, engage with our stakeholders, and communicate our design choices of the extension.


This video was produced with iMovie and showed the 3D model, the reasons behind our design choices, and how our design changed with the feedback from our stakeholders.

Thumbnail of a video with a picture of a floor plan

Moving Forward

The final design was handed off to stakeholders. Whether or not our design choices were enacted will be seen when the design of the space is finished.

Lessons Learned

  • A team contract is a necessity especially when working with a diverse team of people. Our group struggled with communication, especially when it comes to deadlines. Although we were clear when work needed to be finished, there were no contract/rules that held an individual accountable for their work.
  • Plans don't always go in the team's favor. Half way through this project, our team discovered the library already had floor plans for the new space. Nonetheless, we pushed through with our design ideas.