Book Updates Like many things that are worth doing books sometimes take longer than one would anticipate. As neophyte authors Sara and I are both experiencing this. We did however, want to share a few updates for you that are eagerly awaiting this book. First, our book is officially in production. This means that all the content has been written and gone through multiple technical and editorial reviews. Chapters and concepts have been reviewed by our editing team and Pearson, our publisher, and also our talented technical editor for the book, Branden Hall.
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This is especially true of projects or endeavors that involve technology. And, if technology would stay put for a minute, we could reuse the patterns from the last successful project—alas, technology is a constant of change. How do we keep up? Pick the "right" methods? Learn and adapt? As a rule, software systems do not work well until they have been used and have failed repeatedly, in real applications.
Parnas, Ph. For several years, the tech industry has become fascinated with failure; stories of failure, learning from failure, and celebrating failure. This is not at all coincidence. Humanized interfaces, gestural touch technology, and intuitive, predictive, user experiences; this is cause for revolution in every facet of how we think of and execute on ideas. So now what? How can we expect to change what has historically been a frustrating, pride-swallowing battle?
A journey back in time, to how other industries successfully built products in a time of disruptive change, is a great start. The industrial innovation surrounding the mass production of cars, the advent of advanced innovation in architecture practice, and the engineering books that document the techniques used are all ripe for exploration.
It may sound odd to seek-out groundbreaking design processes from a nearly year-old engineering reference but we can learn quite a bit from The Mechanical Design Process by David Ullman. The following are a few powerful examples of the engineering process that have been adapted to both the design and software engineering process. Most importantly, Ullman discusses why the prototyping process is so critical to our work.
To whit: Whenever possible, organize the talent around the project. Build it twice: once to fail and second to succeed. Take what is learned from the first prototype and apply to the second. Rinse, repeat. The more complex the function of the product, the longer design prototyping will take. Reduce the problem you are trying to solve with the product into one inclusive statement. Every phase of product design is iterative; requirements included!
The human requirements ARE functional specs. At its most basic level, we can describe the design process as it relates to sketching and prototyping with the following model. Figure 2. Fundamentally, design process is about developing and communicating insights. There are two major influences that we think are important when it comes to the idea of sketching and prototyping. One is focused on the work of Roger Martin and his thesis around how organizations need to seek validity versus reliability.
Typically, many organizations focus on developing evidence for future product needs based on past outcomes. They use a limited number of objective variables to remove judgment and bias from decisions to support innovation, along the lines of "Our customers told us they want this" or "This is what everyone else is doing, and they are successful.
Designers are often called upon to focus on substantiation based on future events. This means that they use a broad number of diverse variables. Using processes that integrate judgment and that acknowledge the reality of bias is what design processes are used for. They are needed because most organizations make decisions based on facts, or what Martin called reliability. Tapping into the gestalt that motivates those decisions is what design thinking and design processes are engineered to facilitate.
Martin characterized the difference in skill sets between designers and business decision makers and their propensities via something he called the predilection gap. Organizations that skew toward reliability often have difficulty innovating or recognizing good ideas.
Organizations that skew toward validity often have a hard time getting their good ideas into the marketplace. The result is often paralysis in an organization. Although there are multiple books on this subject, and some of the names may change, the typical process that designers go through is fairly straightforward. If you ever hired a product design or innovation firm, you would most likely be exposed to a process such as this—or it would at least be the process applied to solving your problem.
If you were to explore the techniques being applied in academia around design education and strategy, you would also find that these are the techniques that many designers are being exposed to in graduate and undergraduate education when it comes to learning about "design thinking. A Typical Design Process Design processes are about a journey of discovery.
There are numerous techniques that can be applied to each stage of the design process, and each stage is designed to build on the other. Design-driven innovation is different from business- and technology-driven innovation in that is starts with a focus on understanding your customers or users first versus starting with a technology or a business. Most design processes contain the following steps. For large projects, it can take weeks or months to go through all of these phases, but talented design planning teams can also accomplish these steps in a matter of days for focused efforts.
Definition and Intent Design process starts with an idea or, more often, a hypothesis—something you are trying to prove or disprove. This definition state is where designers state their intent, or where the business process is framed and where a research plan is hatched. This is an example of a product mapping completed for a Portfolio Planning Class at the Institute of Design.
Research The second stage of a design process is focused on research; it can take many forms, but one key difference from the typical "stakeholder" interviews and secondary research that we might be familiar with is that this research typically takes the form of what is often called contextual or ethnographic research. Direct observation and anthropological techniques are often used. Often one of the biggest challenges for designers is not coming up with ideas, or collecting them, but figuring out which ones are the most important to pursue.
Synthesis and Ideation This is at the point where most people think the design process begins, and that is around the phase of synthesis or ideation.
This is the point in the process where we start to develop and flesh out some of the themes and memes that come out of our analysis process. It is also the phase where tools like SketchFlow can start to become useful.
By looking at competitor offerings and matching them with a different company, teams can uncover new business opportunities. Here is an example of student work of one of the authors; it was identifying competencies and needs that would allow for a new business to be created, which would deliver new value to an existing customer segment.
Planning Have you even been frustrated when you ask someone for an estimate and a plan and their first response is, "It depends. Another way to think about this is that solving hard problems is, well, hard. Production and Implementation This phase is often known as a micro or detailed design process. In many cases, a designer might not even have been engaged until this stage of the process with a mandate to "Make it pretty" or "Make sure our customers love this"—which may be an impossible task by this point.
Sensing and Feedback Great products are never really finished until they are abandoned. New releases, features, and innovations follow the lifetime of a product or service. Good design processes acknowledge this and ensure that a mechanism is in place via process or technology to capture, judge, and act on feedback and insights that are collected over the lifetime of product.
Just as SketchFlow is a great tool to use at the beginning of a project, its utility can also be realized to support shipping projects and services that need to evolve.
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