“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Today, you will learn how to fly. How to spread your wings, soar deep inside your mind and discover realms you didn’t know existed. So to help you better understand how designers generate enormously large number of ideas let us use one of Gemklip’s recent project. Gemklip was approached by a travel bag manufacturing firm who were looking for a good looking duffle bag with wheels. Now your first instinct would normally be to just attach a trolley to a bag, give it a nice form and be done with it. So go ahead and do that. Then immediately trash it. Now think back to our previous post and emphasis that was placed on defining the problem at hand. So what you need to do now is take a step back, broaden your mind and try to figure out what the real problem is. After a hearty discussion among the team, the final objective of the project was set as ‘To design something that would make travelling a more comfortable and happy experience.’ There, you’re done with the first and probably the most important phase of design thinking. Now comes the fun part.
For the second phase, the concept exploration phase, the doors of the studio were flung open and in walked a bunch of thinkers with varied backgrounds and skill-set. A single large white sheet of paper was rolled across the table and everyone was handed a marker. After ensuring everyone understood the problem, the exploration began. It started out by identifying all experiences that travelers go through on their journeys. Everything was mapped out on the paper in little exploding clouds and bubbles. Every thinkable scenario was covered, from modes of travels like buses, trains, cars and airplanes to the purpose of travel like family vacation, business visit and wanderlust. Each of those cases were pondered upon and everyone started to pour their heart out and shared stories of their journeys. People related to these stories and soon all kinds of problems associated with those experiences started to surface. This ideation tool is called Mind Mapping, where many branches and sub-branches emerge associated to one particular problem or objective. Do ensure that you let your mind flow freely and jot down every relevant thought. Always keep a couple of points handy to instigate people when they are running out of stuff to write down. At the end of this process, you will be able to see a large mind map that is representation of all the design opportunities that you now have.
You’re now equipped with enough knowledge concerning the problem and must be already bubbling with ideas. Now is the optimum time to hand everyone a pile of papers and ask them unleash their creativity by coming up with as many solutions to the identified problems as possible. In this ideation session, nothing is held back. There is absolutely no judgement, so one can go crazy with their ideas. Think back to the J.M. Barrie quote at the beginning of the post. So don’t let the existing technology and way of thinking inhibit you. Challenge the existing and believe that if you can think it, you can do it. So be obsessive about creativity and sketch your heart out. The walls of the studio were soon filled with idea sketches. People started with simple, obvious, straightforward ideas, but once they crossed a threshold, they went crazy and that’s when brilliant ideas emerged. There will come a time in this process when people will get stuck, and a pattern of similar ideas will begin to emerge, all trying to solve a single specific problem. That is when you need intervene and break the chain by introducing interesting tools like role playing and time span analysis which enables everyone to look at the problem from an entirely different perspective.
Once the walls are filled with enormously large number of ideas, take a walk along it and observe all ideas. Now is the time take a closer look and try to understand the possibilities that each of these ideas possess. People can jump in and pitch their ideas which they feel are interesting. You can also add to ideas of others and point out how a particular concept can be used differently. Even now, do not be judgmental or discouraging. Make suggestions on how something can be improved upon instead of pointing out why it won’t work. Use ‘and’ not ‘but’. Once you have absorbed all of it in, segregate them based on set criteria. Club together all the ideas that you feel are similar to come up with one concept that incorporates all. Then from the lot chose the ones you feel have great potential and will be able to make a positive impact at a scale. The chosen ones are further developed and converted into neat sketches. Thus a design proposal is formed which enables people to immediately understand the ideas and concepts developed. The images below will show you the design proposal that was formed at the end of this session by Gemklip Designers.
You can find more on the concept exploration activity we conducted here and and check out youtube video that summarizes it all here. The next stage is where one needs to get really critical. The detailing of concepts,technical specification,engineering validation, prototyping and testing are done keeping in mind the products manufacturability and usage. More on the design thinking used in the next phases and beyond will be covered in our next post.