Monday, May 21, 2012

Innovation Begins with Real People

If you are trying to innovate and are looking for new ideas and insights for new products or services, nothing proves more useful and fruitful than getting out of the office and out from behind the computer, then immersing yourself in the World outside. Where real people live and work. Go to where your customers and potential users are.

The art of seeing and observing people with an open mind and especially recording those observation with good ethnographic techniques, such as video, diaries and in person interviews. Makes you more aware of existing pain points, that can be fixed and improved upon. It can also fuel new ideas for things that can be introduced and created to improve peoples lives and make your services and products better and easier to use. Techniques such as participant observations where you try for yourself what others have to go through, will give you incredible first hand experience of what people do and how they do it. Living with a customer for a day or watching them use your service or product without prompting can be incredibly insightful, about what is lacking, and where improvements can be made. The data and information your gather can fuel many insightful innovations.


This you cannot gain from sitting at a computer and just assuming what people do in the outside World, where noise and distraction can occur. You cannot even always believe what people say they do, you sometimes are best seeing them do it and then trying it for yourself. Then you can better empathize and really begin to use design to solve and build something with a clear purpose for improvement. Designers are incredibly adept at solving problems and coming up with innovative solutions, sadly though their focus is not always finely tuned to the exact problem they are solving or they are tasked with the wrong problem to solve by their clients. Getting them out of the office and educating your clients that can hide behind their data from focus groups gets you closer to problems and ideas that really need fixing, inventing or improving.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Core of the Brand

Too often the style guide is confused as being a brand guide in design projects. The style guide document says that the logo is yellow and the suggested color palette along with that is black and the font Helvetica, that doesn't mean that the brand is the summation of all these design elements. The brand is not about the right combination of these elements. To often the company focuses on seeing beautiful design work and expect that it will fit their definition of cool, versus their rivals. The designers themselves can also be to blame about what a website or interactive experience can be. They sit down and produce portfolio worthy concepts that look amazing and really make those brand elements shine. 

However, underneath all of that is the true brand of the company. The story that the company tells itself and it's consumers or customers of it's content. They should all be focused on making all decisions on building and supporting those messages. Once you pull back the curtain and see the client and their brand at its core then you can begin to make design decisions that help support those ideals. Until then you are only working on a fraction of the overall brand value you should be thinking about. Yes the logo is important and the style sheets valuable, but they do not get to the heart of the message and the direction things should move in. The visual aesthetic can be thought of as the language of the company the brand though is the message and meaning they support.

The great thing is once you get to the brand core then decisions become surprisingly easier. What should our website experience be? Look at the brand. What user experiences should we work on in mobile? Look at the brand. I think the concept is clear. The brand can be the driving force behind many decisions and help design teams focus their ideas and attention to the right ideas. The client is also about to understand an idea and it's true value if they to are reminded of their brand value and messaging.