The Design Process: Structure & Magic
Design Highlights and Trends
By Juliane Trummer, SVP Strategy & Design
The Design Process: Structure and Magic
At Mormedi we apply a process—the Mormedi Strategic Design Methodology—that optimally combines analytical and creative methodologies and “moments” – you might also call it the perfect mix of magic and structure. What do we mean by this?
Let’s start with structure
By nature, as strategic designers we deal with complexity. Each project places us into a context of often contradicting point of views, inputs, and drivers such as client business goals, stakeholders’ interests, shifting market dynamics, competitor threats, new technologies, demographic shifts, customer needs, and lifestyle and design trends, etc. All of these inputs provide plenty of information, but the challenge is to organize and distil this qualitative and quantitative information into useful outputs that can provide guidance for the project. This is where analytical thinking and structure comes in. Through the Mormedi Strategic Design Methodology, we can make sense of complexity, providing clarity and strategic guidance.
How about the Magic?
Magic and structure seem to be opposites, but interestingly a sound structure will allow the magic to flow more freely. What do we mean by magic? Clearly, magic is the more creative side of strategic design: thinking in ways that allow us to find breakthrough solutions to tricky problems; challenging existing limitations and orthodoxies; and establishing and testing new hypotheses.
How do we do this? By providing the environment, the stimulus, inputs, and tools that foment creative thinking, which can be applied to everything we do, from creating a customer journey map to a novel business model, or to the design of a next-generation electric motorbike. In “creative mode” we do things that might seem a little unusual—like prototyping with Lego, coming up with ideas that challenge the possible, using music or meditation—and we feel comfortable doing so, because the structure is giving us the stability that enables us to move freely inside of a defined opportunity space.
So how does this manifest in our work dynamic? Based on our experience, it is quite clear which moments in a project need structure and which need magic…. or a bit of both. Most of our clients tend to work in environments that emphasize left-brain, analytical thinking; in fact, this is how most of us have been brought up and educated. However, we believe there is an enormous potential bringing the power of both sides of the brain to the innovation process. To do this well is the challenge of working in the innovation context nowadays. In essence, one could say that a successful innovation process depends on the quality of the structural frameworks and the quality of the creative collaboration dynamics which, optimally combined, facilitate problem solving. There is also a big part that has to do with our ability to achieve cultural change that will determine the success of a project. It is important to engage with client teams, speak their language, and create an agile and collaborative work culture that is adapted to their needs… while also gently nudging them a little out of their comfort zone in order to achieve different and more relevant results. Of course, while our clients are sector and content experts, we are the strategic design experts trained to guide them through this unchartered territory. So, what does this look like in terms of process?
PHASE 1: DISCOVER
Early Project Framing
The discovery phase is all about structure: understanding, empathizing, and framing. It is essential to both a successful project process and result, since it involves defining the strategic frameworks that serve as a compass throughout the entire project, for example: opportunity maps, future roadmaps, diagnostic maps, client segmentation and user typology analysis, design guidelines or KPIs, to name a few. We arrive at these through analytical activities that help us to clarify project objectives and client stakeholder interests and that also enable us to get an in depth understanding of the project challenge through the business, consumer, and technology lenses.
Business: The Viability Lens
Ultimately, our clients come to us because they need to innovate in a highly competitive market, so this means we must understand and empathise with their business concerns right from the beginning. Our value-add is not limited to redesigning user experiences, but extends to conceptualizing and prototyping new business models that sustain this experience delivery.
Consumer: The Desirability Lens
Although most companies speak of customer-centricity, many still have not found a way to successfully integrate it into the innovation process. We ensure that the customer voice is present at key points of the process: identifying their expectations and needs, co-creating and validating concepts, running pilots and measuring satisfaction. In addition, our knowledge about lifestyle and design trends across different industry sectors adds big-picture perspective to our fieldwork findings.
PHASE 2: CREATE
As the name of this phase suggests, this is where the magic happens. Basically, this is when we start to conceptualize solutions, scenarios, and hypotheses based on the learnings from phase 1. The emphasis is on creation, but still the structure helps us to make the process directed and purposeful and ensure that results are not random but have a solid grounding.
Prototype and Validate
In this phase we prototype our concepts and test them for viability, desirability and profitability, which involves a healthy mix of both analytical and creative focus. From the analytical point of view, we apply parameters defined in phase 1 to validate the success of our ideas, while making them tangible and easy to understand requires applying magic in terms of storytelling, visualizations, prototypes, and co-creation sessions.
Based on the feedback gathered from the prototyping, we circle back into analytical mode to iterate and refine the concepts. The creation phase is an agile process and, depending on the nature of the project, several iterations might be needed to reach the optimal result.
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