Nature has challenged us. Society and Economy are looking for solutions to get out of this crisis. Companies are concerned about the future and their sustainability, and rightly so. It is a global problem. But a problem does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. It is a principle. A driver that leads us to ask questions in the expectation of an answer. Design is all about this journey, starting from a problem and getting to a solution. The design approach and its methodology can help foster positive transformation.
1. Uncertainty is part of the process and it is normal
In creative industries, either in design or architecture, there is an unshakeable truth. We always start from an ill-defined problem and we are called to find a very well-defined solution. However, no matter how clear and specific a request may be, the analysis of the problem and the definition of opportunities create many uncertainties that must be clarified throughout the process. That is why there is a process, to clarify and to turn uncertainties into certainties.
The search for information in the research phase makes the design process divergent. Questions are asked and certain assumptions are undone. Ideation creates alternatives on which we must act, decide and implement, but with no certainty that our choice is the right one. Prototyping serves precisely to test certain features where doubt still lives. It is a constant. Uncertainty accompanies the entire design process.
We live in times of uncertainty. That is true. But let’s face the future as a design project and apply the methodology in order to eliminate those uncertainties as much as possible.
At the start of the design process, the designer is usually faced with a very poorly defined problem; yet he or she has to come up with a well-defined solution.
2. Constraints? That’s the energy of creativity.
Nowadays, different economic activities are being faced with various constraints. Also, consumers will probably change their consumption habits and thereby affect how brands will develop and promote their products. But what would be the human capacity to imagine new solutions without constraints?
In certain projects you hear the expression: “I will not give you constraints so that it won’t be conditioning your creativity”. This does not work. There is no creativity without constraints. It’s these constraints that put our brain on alert and allow debate and discussion around a problem. In design, constraints are welcome, many of them. And we can list some of them as Ourselves, what we know and the capacity we have to do it; our Customer; Industry, what is possible or not to do; The final User, how he or she uses and understands a certain product; the Suppliers; the Producers; the Distributors; the Laws and Rules; the Time we are given to complete a project; Society in general and Trends; the Environment and the Sustainability of the planet.
These constraints feed uncertainties, but they also create the conditions for a project to be effectively cohesive and structured, allowing products to enter the market and have a positive impact on people’s lives. The constraints that arise today can boost innovation. We need to act and adapt.
Frame the mystery that needs to be solved. Instead of telling us what we cannot do, constraints help us reframe the problem and discover new opportunities in the process.
3. Collaboration is not just a buzzword. Design knows this.
The design of new products is anything but a solitary activity. The romantic idea of someone sitting on a park bench drawing, and suddenly is hit by a strike of inspiration and creates a new product is unreal. And uninteresting.
In the design area what is real is teamwork. Teamwork is one of the most valuable aspects of the product development process. But this collaboration is not limited to the team that designs. If there is no collaboration between the design team, the client’s team and the user, there is no design. There is probably an idea and an image that will never get off the paper.
A product to be successful it’s necessary to know how to collaborate with the commercial and marketing departments, engineering and production teams, logistics and supply chains, external suppliers, among others. And also knowing how to bring the user into these collaborative processes. It is not easy, but in the end, it pays off.
The magic of collaboration speeds up the process. The different teams become aligned and the results are shared by everyone. These new times call for collaboration. Strategic and structured collaboration. Between people, companies and entities. Between everyone.
He (designer) knows how to work with others, meeting executives on an equal footing and still gaining the confidence of the man on the bench.
Harold Van Doren
4. Usefulness, please. More than ever.
Design is a complex process, but it has a simple objective: to make products, brands and services useful for those who use them. The usefulness of an idea is essential to its success. It is what differentiates invention from innovation. The invention is just something new. Innovation is something new that brings value (through usefulness) to the consumer.
The design process, with all its tools to approach the consumer, seeks only one goal: to create empathy. Through empathy, we are able to assimilate people’s real problems and thereby create need-oriented solutions, enhancing utility.
More than ever, the future will demand meaningful and useful products. Products that bring utility and meaning to people (users) become sustainable in the long run. As agents of material culture, designers/design companies in collaboration with product companies/brands must take on this responsibility and create the conditions for a sustainable future. Remember: useful > meaning > sustainable. To do this, focus on people.
Good design makes a product useful. A product is bought to be used. (…) Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
Embrace a design approach at your company. Turn your problems into design projects. Embrace uncertainties and constraints. Collaborate (a lot). Put people/users first and look for utility and meaning. If you need help, ask us how.