Redesigning Almost Anything
Since you can’t eavesdrop on Foundry office conversations these days, I will tell you a not-so-secret secret. At Foundry we love to debate. Our debates are much more laid back than the controversial “tabs versus spaces;” our debates often revolve around which way our front office door should open (because every time we leave we pull the handle instead of how it actually opens with a push) or which gray is our favorite to use for a UI’s background.
So, when I stumbled upon IDEO’s 24 More Things We Want to Redesign blog post, it got me thinking: What might Foundry want to redesign? I created a slack channel and asked for either brilliant redesign ideas or what I fondly refer to as “design gripes.”
There was a wide range of responses, from physical products like cereal packaging (seriously -- why a bag and a box?) to the entire 1950’s decade itself (told you, we’re unusual.) You might be wondering how an agency that specializes in custom software would redesign a decade or cereal packaging. I would argue that the design process, and the tools, wouldn’t change much. We would start the same way we start any project: with getting to know the users and their goals.
If we were in one of our workshops, you would have a stack of Post-its and a Sharpie to fill the walls with your thoughts on each of the empathy mapping questions. So let's run with the workshop scenario and unpack the cereal box example.
Who is our user? Well, we might have some statistics around the millennial as the top purchaser of cereal and that they are 27- 35 and 40% female and 60% male.
What are their goals? The primary goal is probably to find a quick breakfast, however, our workshop facilitator likely won't let us stop there. Maybe they have a bit of 90’s nostalgia for cereal and eat it while they watch a TV show to de-stress, or maybe they just want something sweet to eat after dinner when their kids go to bed.
What do they see? For this one, we could really fill up a poster with stickies:
- The TV
- The breakfast nook
- The maze on the back of the box
- Kids in bed while they sneak a last snack
- Lots of packaging waste
- Cereal that goes stale
- A box that doesn’t fit well into cabinets
What do they hear? That's right, keep post-it-ing!
- The screech of a stool that has to be dragged out in order to get the cereal box out of the only cabinet where it will fit.
- The crinkle of the plastic packaging
What do they say/do? Last round.
- I love cereal.
- How come there aren’t toys in these boxes anymore?!
- A bag inside a box and it still went stale!
Business Priorities or "Constraints," if you will
During this part of the workshop, we need to get a bit grounded in either the business problems or the pain points we have been tasked to solve, and prioritize which are the most important. After talking through the many things the client would want to do, we might pull out some dot stickers and let the stakeholders vote for what they believe are their most important business needs. In the case of cereal packaging, those might be things such as:
- More environmental packaging
- More engaging packaging
- New pantry-friendly shape
Whiteboarding and Prototyping
With our users and business goals in mind, we can now let our creativity reign. This is the point in the process where we get to think divergently and come up with all kinds of ideas that come to mind. When working through ideas, we embrace the “yes, and” philosophy, encouraging participants to add onto ideas rather than shut anything down. Who knows, maybe an idea starts out a little crazy but by the end of “yes, and” is actually pretty exciting! This stage’s divergent thinking allows everyone to relax a little and throw out ideas. Or half ideas. Because you never know when you might be onto something with that half of an idea.
Eventually one idea will garner enough excitement that we know it's time to push it forward, polish it up, and see if we can make something of it. Although it may feel like the end, after cleaning up the idea, we may go back to the whiteboard or it might just work -- that's the fun part about design!
From Software to Cereal Packaging
At the end of the day, design is design and the process is often the same; get to know how the thing is really used (not just how you want it to be used), address any constraints, divergently think about potential solutions (the wilder the better), and then converge on the best idea.