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Part 4 :: Getting It Done :: Post 1

Posted Mar.12.06 :: As part of the conversation Design Vision

Dirk Knemeyer

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Design is about creating things: visioning a solution and then rolling up your sleeves and making it real. Any steps or documentation used in the design process should either be essential to the actual creation itself, or an important component of the communication process. The goal must be clearly focused on getting the product built and getting it out to market. Great design isn’t just about innovative solutions: it is about working within constraints like budgets and deadlines and ship dates.

Today, conversations about design often center around artificial process tools like personas, or how design professionals should work together, or busy work like a usability assessment. Lost in all of the noise is the basic fact that design is a process of creation, and empowering someone to create an effective solution quickly cuts through all of the clutter the typical conversation brings with it. In this case, I’m not using “process” to describe a series of steps that are blindly followed, often by rote: process is, quite simply, the way someone accomplishes something. And we need to start freeing designers to apply their own process and approach that results in great design instead of expecting them to apply specious methods that might be appropriate for specific context but are not appropriate for each design situation, or every designer. “Getting it done” means hiring the right people and empowering them to do what you’re paying them for.

Luke Wroblewski

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I agree with Dirk that putting forward the right design vision requires focus and thereby a different approach from our all too frequently applied “artificial process tools”.

Broad generalist research of what is going on in the market and within your organization can pave the way for a design vision that hits the mark. I’ve found that when you have the right breadth of understanding, you don’t need a large amount of time or deterministic processes to compile an effective product design. A natural path usually illuminates itself for you. When your entire understanding of the problem space is measured in depth, however, thinking broadly enough to assemble a design vision is challenging and time-consuming.

Personally, I try to go out of my way to form relationships outside of my immediate team and discipline. This helps broadens my understanding of the solution space. To echo Bob’s corollary in part 3 of this discussion — “he who can define the problem, declares the solution.”

I’ve also found in my work, that the person (or people) driving a design vision can’t leave the product before it is done. There’s a tendency within companies to rotate strategic teams in and out of projects. Come in, provide some strategy, then its off to the next product. More often than not, the vision a rotating design strategy team provides only makes it out the door 40-60% intact. A design vision needs to endure many obstacles on its way out the corporate production cycle- its best for it to have its champion or champions alongside.

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