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Month June 2014

Ways to work effectively with a designer

Designers are in the business of improving situations in a wide range of fields of practice. Whether that’s consumer goods, systems and services, environments, or social situations.

Their solutions save lives, they make it so that people can navigate, vote for the right candidate during political elections, and they make it so that people can use technology without reading a manual.

Design is both – an art and science, and it takes a long time to get really good at it. Designers have a special set of skills, behaviors, and attitudes which make them very talented and effective problem solvers.

They have come up with all sorts of tools, techniques, and methods, that can help experiment in a relatively low-risk way.

If you are working with a designer, ask them about their process and how they work. It’s important to manage expectations before a project starts and whether you can work WITH each other.

Did you notice how I am emphasizing WITH and didn’t say FOR? That’s because if you create an environment where the designer is working FOR instead WITH you, then you are taking away the designer’s ability to help solve your problem that you approached her for in first place.

Below is an overview of five design stages. The things listed are a suggestion and don’t need to be covered all at each stage. Each stage though is important and should be part of the design process.

  1. Discovery
  2. Interpretation
  3. Ideation
  4. Experimentation
  5. Evolution

Discovery

discovery

Activities
What the designer does

  • Engaging with target audience
  • Watch what people do
  • Listen to what they say
  • See how people behave, and how they react

Purpose
Why the designer does it
Understanding and immersion into the design problem within its context

Strategy
Methods + tools a designer applies
Conduct research + collect data

Examples:

  • Observational studies (people and their context)
  • Ethnography
  • Competitive research
  • Interviewing
  • Asking questions
  • Expert reviews
  • Task analysis
  • Surveys
  • Facilitation collaborative consulting
  • Process analysis

Approach
Skills, behaviors, + attitudes a designer demonstrates

  • Unbiased
  • Passive
  • Listening
  • Observing

Collaboration
Who the designer (needs) to work with

Examples:

  • Project owner
  • Target audience
  • Users
  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Stakeholders
  • Trainers
  • Technical writers
  • Customer support

Advice
How to work WITH the designer

  • Provide the designer with a design goal
  • Tell the designer who she can speak to, or get her in contact with your researcher.
  • Be open + unbiased
  • Build trust

Interpretation

interpretation

Activities
What the designer does

  • Synthesize + organize collected information in meaningful ways
  • Comparing across disciplines
  • Identify patterns
  • Identify gaps
  • Ask questions, eventually redefine the problem + the design goal
  • Take on different viewpoints
  • Consider the entire product life-cycle

Purpose
Why the designer does it

  • Generate new insights and knowledge
  • Decide on point of views

Strategy
Methods + tools the designer applies

Examples:

  • napkin sketches
  • design board synthesis
  • empathy mapping
  • user journey maps
  • experience maps
  • persona profiles
  • collaborative consulting

Approach
Skills, behaviors, + attitudes the designer demonstrates

  • Active
  • Unbiased
  • Not drawing conclusions just yet
  • Positive

Collaboration
Who the designer works with

  • Preferably with other designers
  • If the designer is working independent, it is required to have feedback loops if the project is highly complex or technical

Advice
How to work WITH the designer

  • Be constructive
  • If you find a piece of information is missing, add it.

Ideation

ideation

Activities
What the designer does

  • Conceptual thinking
  • Play
  • Sketch

Purpose
Why the designer does it

  • Generate quickly many quantities + qualities of ideas
  • Identify possibilities + opportunities

Strategy
Methods + tools the designer applies

Examples:

  • Game storming
  • Brain storming
  • Facilitation
  • Collaborative consulting
  • Playful thinking/role playing
  • Problem solving angles (removal, inversion, reversal, confrontation, source removal, isolation, division, analogy, attributes, challenge assumptions, phenomena)

Approach
Skills, behaviors, + attitudes the designer demonstrates

  • Active
  • Unbiased
  • Be playful + open
  • Not drawing conclusions
  • Not deciding about the final solution just yet, i.e. leave room open

Collaboration
Who the designer works with
Preferably with other designers.

Advice
How to work WITH the designer

  • Non-judgmental
  • Be positive + open

Experimentation

experimentation

Activities
What the designer does

  • Prototyping (from low to high fidelity)
  • Testing
  • Evaluating
  • Engaging with target audience
  • Gathering feedback
  • Incorporating feedback
  • Iterating
  • Defining quality + attributes

Purpose
Why the designer does it

  • Optimization
  • Narrowing down the choice of options

Strategy
Methods + tools the designer applies
Use cheap, + low-risk methods

Examples:

  • Paper prototypes
  • Wireframes
  • Models
  • Dioramas (miniature or real-size)
  • Sketching
  • Interactive prototypes

Approach
Skills, behaviors, + attitudes the designer demonstrates

  • Engaging with target audience
  • Active
  • Positive
  • Asking for feedback
  • Decisive
  • Evaluating

Collaboration
Who the designer works with

  • With other designers
  • Product owner
  • Stakeholders

Advice
How to work WITH the designer

  • Provide constructive feedback
  • Schedule meetings
  • Provide support + find ways in how to involve stakeholders

evolution

evolution

Activities
What the designer does

  • Mature the design
  • Engage with target audience
  • Test before deployment
  • Eventually accompany production cycle
  • Consider the entire product life-cycle

Purpose
Why the designer does it

  • Getting the solution ready for real-world implementation
  • Gathering feedback
  • Incorporating feedback
  • Ensuring that design gets implemented as intended

Strategy
Methods + tools the designer applies

  • High fidelity mocks
  • Build or have it built
  • Usability testing
  • Testing in general

Approach
Skills, behaviors, + attitudes the designer demonstrates

  • Engaging with target audience
  • High emphasis on quality + intend
  • Benchmarking against design goals

Collaboration
Who the designer works with

  • Production companies
  • Product owner
  • Stakeholders

Advice
How to work WITH the designer

  • Be honest + constructive
  • At this stage there shouldn’t be any new requirements
  • Give compliments for a job well done, or better: recommend the designer to others you see benefiting from their abilities