How to Innovate: The Methodology of Design

 

Author: Frederik Verstraeten

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The Process of Designing

If you want to help your company move forward, an innovative mindset is extremely important. However, obtaining a new idea and making it viable takes more than just the right mindset. It is essential to use a methodology to streamline your process of design in order to deliver quality and save time in the realization of a new product or service. This blogpost will tell you all about the necessary steps for design you and your team should take for the best implementation of a design solution.

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The first step for the creation of a new product or service can be considered as a separate process where we can identify best practices to improve the quality. There are 3 main phases that can be identified in the process of designing: product definition, generating the design and the detailed phase. The initial step of the product definition is the research and analysis. In this step we choose a well-defined scope to explore and come up with a strategic choice for potential improvement, a solution for a problem or the identification of a new demand on the market. After the analysis comes the ideation step where the goal is to come up with innovations or improvements based upon the research done in the first step. The third step will detail the product definition. In this step, the viability, desirability and feasibility of the solution will be evaluated. Here, each feature is defined in detail. After the last step, the process of designing ends and a complete prototype can be presented to be evaluated.

Design Thinking

The mind-set of design thinking is a huge benefit to improve the quality of your design. By using the double diamond model, you can easily come to a well-founded prototype.

In this model you start by exploring possible improvements or innovations and come up with a design brief for the new concept. The next step is to review and analyse the design brief. A common approach is to test it against the three cornerstones of design, which I will pose as questions:  

1.      How will the user experience the design?

2.      What is the best technology to realize the design?

3.      How can the design be commercialized?

If you ask yourself these questions, you will run twice through the process of design to substantiate your eventual prototype. In the end, this saves a lot of time when it comes to rebuilding prototypes.

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Tips to Design

You now know the whole designing process and have a view on best practices, but how do you start designing?

To start, setting up a complementary team provides a true added value for your design process. Different perspectives not only bring up new ideas, but they also ensure that evaluation of the design is done in different areas of expertise.

It is very important that an idea is fully developed, and that people can imagine what it would be like to use the new product or service. You can then identify all the flaws in the design more easily and anticipate the possible fallbacks. To facilitate this evaluation, you can challenge yourself and the team on three areas of discipline:
1) UX design. This means thinking in function of the user and doing utility tests based on user experience. Fully evaluate the usefulness, desirability, accessibility and user-friendliness of your design.
2) Technical design. A few questions that can arise out of this discipline are: How can a technical design offer an innovative advantage? Which technology can be used or combined to give an added value?
3) Strategic design. A strategic design means thinking out a plan and making strategic business decisions. This is the financial and economical part of design.

Next, having a brainstorming session is extremely important to the design process since it will help you think together about ideas and develop them. Remember that each person’s idea should be considered and taken serious. There are no bad ideas, however some ideas need further development before they are viable. The intention of a brainstorming session is to jointly determine one or several ideas that appeal the most to the members of the group and work them out together. In this way, new insights will arise, or even completely new ideas may come up in the process. This is the core functionality of a brainstorming session, since it is important to build on each other’s ideas. Make sure to come prepared to a brainstorming session. Researching the topic at hand will help your team decide on an idea more easily. This will, in turn, speed up the process of ideation and the evaluation of ideas. After brainstorming, it might be possible that all team members conclude that the idea can never become viable. In that case it is back to the drawing board.

 
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Another tip is to create an inspiring environment since it offers great value to your innovation process. If people are relaxed, they gain insights much faster and they might benefit from an increased inventiveness. The best ideas arise in a pub, is a well know thought that holds a lot of truth. Therefore, make sure there are no inhibitions within the group and let everyone’s vote count. Hierarchy, criticism and judgment do not belong to an innovative process. Always ensure a pleasant atmosphere. According to scientific research, familiar music, visual tranquility and a pleasant scent ensure a remarkable improvement in the ability to associate.

In an inspiring environment it is easier to think outside the box so dare to think outside of it!  The craziest ideas can be formed into something viable by introducing different perspectives. So, let your imagination run free and others will pick it up. What might have been a joke at first could later turn out to be a solution to a problem.  

One last tip: kill the post-its! Usually, every brainstorming session uses post-its. However, just a few written words on a paper does not provide a clear view on design. Even a simple mind mapper such as Xmind is already much richer experience. Moreover, mind mappers usually let you add media to your design map. It is a great idea to try to include images, videos, sketches and diagrams to clarify and present your ideas. It does not have to be all digital; a sheet of paper of a white board is just as good when it includes illustrations, photos and drawings.

 
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Tools

There are lots of tools and methods available to make the process of design easier. One of the most used is FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis). This is a technique to help you identify problems of a design and to provide solutions while designing them before actually building a prototype or going to production. This method provides support to prevent extra work on prototyping and triggers deep diving into a subject

Another effective method is the Mash-up. The Mash-up is a great way to think of totally new insights and completely out-of-the-box ideas. The trick is to state a problem and look for an idea association in a totally different area. Afterwards, combining the results will show a vastly different approach and might trigger viable solutions.

Lastly, the opposite thinking method can help you approach a certain problem or challenge in a totally different way by deriving solutions for the opposite of the problem. Afterwards, you can reserve the solution and have them match the initial problem statement.

All these tools and methods are tools to break through reciprocal thinking patterns and to stimulate the freedom of your imagination, so your design process runs even more smoothly.

Interested?

Still feeling lost about your design process or want more information about how Ordina can help you? Don’t hesitate to contact us!