How diverse, beginner designers won an audience with Shipt

The students at Huge XD School were tasked with designing food waste solutions for the grocery delivery app.

Huge XD School, the UX design program from digital agency Huge, provides students from diverse and underprivileged backgrounds with the opportunity to develop their creative skills. 

This past year, the program expanded and adapted to the constraints of the pandemic by selecting six students from across the US to participate in the program virtually. Students were enrolled in a 10-week course covering each stage of the design process, from research to testing, prototyping and presenting.

To open up the talent pool, students were not required to include a high school or college diploma in their application. Instead, Huge put a call out for students aged 18 and older with an interest in design. The agency also partnered with organizations We’re All the Black Designers, Bay Area job boards, the Contra Costa Community College District and Brooklyn-based Stoked to connect with prospective students. 

“We tried to think outside the box and had to come up with creative ways to engage talent, because we weren't requiring resumes or portfolios,” said Arianna Romanoff, talent lead at Huge. 

The effort paid off: Huge received 521 applications for the program.

“We need to flip the script and behave very differently to bring new representation into the industry for the first time,” said Mark Manning, president at Huge. “The talent is there, and the potential and the raw ability. They just don't have the hard skills and haven't had the access historically.” 

While focused on UX design, Huge XD also teaches strategy and project management skills. Mentors from Huge led the program, which culminated with a creative brief to address food waste for grocery delivery service and Huge client Shipt. Students, in groups of three, presented their solutions to the client at the end of the program. 

Standout ideas included a food-inventory function to help Shipt users track their grocery purchases and food freshness based on where it's stored, a feature to determine the nearest food pantries to donate excess food, and a reward system for users who waste the least amount of food. 

Students received feedback from the client and Huge leadership on functionality, design and commercial value. 

“The way they packaged it with insights and concepts, and then ultimately designed product experiences, it was great,” Manning said. “I said ‘let's make that, let's work with our clients to go create that service within their product experience.’”

The client was also impressed, noting that “the quality of work that the Huge XD School students presented off the back of [the] brief, highlighted raw talent, passion and focus that excites us for the next generation of creatives,” said Shawn Woznicki, senior director of brand design at Shipt, in a statement. “We are looking forward to working with the Huge XD School graduates as they embark on their next professional chapter.” 

While the program continues to take place in the summer, Kali Beyah, global chief talent officer at Huge said the agency is looking into creating similar programs throughout the year. 

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