How bad ideas make for better solutions
Most of my ideas are rejected.
I’ve done this job for while now (you can tell by the gray beard and hangdog expression). Originally training as a graphic designer. I have designed for print, brands, exhibitions and latterly UX for web and mobile. I now manage design and development teams in the UK and beyond.
We designers can be an obstinate lot. Often thinking that because of our job title we know what is right. After all, we’re the ones with the talent and ideas. Right? We know how things should look, feel and work.
But do we? Really?
Sometimes we rely on our experience and find ourselves falling into patterns. We know what has worked in the past and presume it will work again. But preconceived ideas can be dangerous or lead to a one-size-fits-all approach. There are, of course, many designers recognised for a particular approach. But design style and effective solutions are not the same things.
Design is more about process than inspiration. And it’s the same whether designing products, user experiences or brand communications.
In simple terms it works like this.
1. Understand the problem you are solving.
2. Identify the audience (or user group).
3. Begin with design experiments.
Design experiments help us explore theories using sketches, wireframes and mood boards. This initial thinking is done quickly and tested often with the project team and client. We reject many ideas. First thoughts are often wrong and testing them helps us to understand why.
We develop our chosen ideas further using more polished prototypes. These are then evaluated by a small segment of the target audience. After considering their feedback, we make refinements and test again.
In his book ‘The Lean Start-up’ Eric Reis calls this ‘validated thinking’. It ensures you are heading in the right direction. And, if not, it makes it much easier to change direction (or ‘pivot’) before you spend too much time and budget.
This way of working draws parallels with not just Lean. But Agile development and Design Thinking too.
Tim Brown of global design firm IDEO said “Instead of thinking about what to build, build in order to think. It’s only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses.”
So let’s rejoice in rejection! It’s an important part of reaching the right solution.