Some problems are simple – they have self-evident solutions, and all that’s needed is time and materials. But sometimes, the obvious answer isn’t the right one – or there simply is no obvious answer.
A good design practice can make all the difference in the world. We use a flexible model that balances complexity, time, and iteration based on the needs and parameters of a given problem.
The first stage of design is to understand a problem, its context, and the opportunities. This process combines investigation, research, observation, and empathy. Depending on the problem, the results by themselves can be a valuable tool for business leaders, and can be used to make better decisions.
The second stage of design is the generation and validation of insights, principles, and solutions. This is an iterative and creative process which uses brainstorming, workshops, and rapid prototyping. Solutions to a problem are developed in concert with the requirements, enabling innovation through iterative discovery, synthesis, and refinement.
The third stage of design is to express one or more solutions through implementation. Quotient develops high-fidelity prototypes that bring solutions to life, using the best tools available. Composition, interaction, and motion, are refined until the results are smooth, coherent, and beautiful.
Each problem has unique needs, opportunities, and challenges.
We use a modular system of tools and methods which can be assembled to create an effective design program for any problem.
Illustrate past experiences from memory in physical sketches.
Recall personal history and sketch memorable or important moments which are related to the design topic. Instead of taking photos, trace your daily routine/experiences and sketch them in detail on paper.
Elicit information directly from the users.
Spend some time building up a relationship with the user. Ask open-ended questions to share freely. Prepare no questions, but allow user to guide and start telling stories related to the context. During a workshop, participants can interview each other to create profiles.
Activity, Environment, Interaction, Object, User: A framework to look at the bigger and complete picture.
Through photo taking, make observations of the target users using AEIOU framework. Hold discussions guided by the framework.
Collect in-depth information using 100 photos.
Take 100 photos regarding a vaguely defined topic, open to wide interpretation. Prepare a variety of 100 photos, print them, and allow users to sort and rank them.
Needs, wants, barriers, and limitations
Uncover each of the above and group them accordingly in hierarchy.
Annotate photos collected from Observe and categorize them in four segments. From interviews, analyze the mental models of users according to their needs, wants, barriers and limitations. If possible, sort them further in their four segments.
Make sense out of the AEIOU framework by constructing the five models.
Activity, Environment, Interaction, Object, User. Sketch these models on large pieces of paper to study the dynamics among the models.
Designing backwards, starting from a solution. Useful for tight design spaces which are already saturated with plenty of solutions.
Present a variety of design solutions which are published and discuss their pros and cons. If possible, try the solutions first-hand and evaluate experiences.
Motivations and challenges
Useful when the topic requires users to accept something new.
Study the photos, sketches and interview notes, mine the motivations and challenges faced by the users. Make sensed within these two broad groups and group the insights into sub-categories.
Asking the right question so as to direct the right solution.
With all analysis clearly displayed, formulate questions which suggest a design opportunity/direction, starting each questions with, "What if...". Try to keep questions general by thought-provoking.
Philosophy and vision
To case a vision far into the future, assuming all things are possible.
Imagine you are the inventor of an invention which is the most amazing to date. What do you think could have been the philosophy and vision behind it? Now you are an inventor of objects for the future, what will be your philosophy and vision? Write down users' aspirations for the future, expecting for the unexpected.
Some individual time to generate ideas and build on one another's thought process.
Give out drawing boards to every individual and sit them in a circle. Encourage everyone to sketch an idea on the center of the board. Once done, pass your board to the person on your right and work on that idea or simply sketch a new one.
Random word match
Allowing the chemistry of words and human imagination to generate some unexpected ideas. Useful for topics which are not trying to solve any problems.
Write down as many words as possible which are directly or indirectly related to the topic. Randomly pick 2 to 3 words, string them together and make meaning through ideas.
Why and why not
Repeated questioning to ensure idea is thoroughly justified.
Asking a series of "why" questions from different perspectives can help us think deeply about an idea. After deconstructing the idea using "why" questions, rebuild the idea using "why not" solutions.
Mapping out all touchpoints and flow of information in a complex interaction. Useful for service or system design.
By sketching a blueprint of all interactions which take place on a large piece of paper, we can study the situation by looking for loopholes or opportunities for value adding to the idea.
Refining the idea by going through a possible scenario from beginning to end.
Drawing a storyboard/comic strip of the scenario helps to ensure that the idea is applicable throughout the process flow from need to use. It may reveal events whereby we need to remove, add, or change features of the original idea.
Consulting users to check usefulness of ideas.
It is never too early to involve users in the design process. Even with a rough idea, the users, being experts in their own field, may be able to provide insights to propel the idea forward. This stage is timely to check if the users find the concepts useful and if they can imagine themselves using them in the future.
Rough prototype to demonstrate idea and simulate the use scenario
Using ready materials and other craft materials, make quick mock-ups to illustrate the concept. Aesthetics is not entirely important at this stage, but try to make the prototype representative enough to test and prove certain parts of the concepts. Make several prototype to allow users to make comparisons. Bring it out for testing with target users.
Fast and easy to create digital interfaces for testing.
Using digital sketch tools, we can build hard-coded interfaces to allow users to get a taste of the designed experience. At this stage, investing into detailed software programming might involve too much effort and time.
Rich, functional implementation of signature interactions and experiences.
Using rapid prototyping tools like Touch Designer or OpenFrameworks, we can create functional software demonstrations which are interactive and flexible, allowing users and designers to experience signature moments firsthand. This can reveal incorrect assumptions before it's too late, or also uncover valuable insights which may not have been previously considered.
Portions developed and adapted by Cheong Yian Ling.
Certain tools used in the toolbox were adapted from the following sources:
100 photos – RSA workshop
AEIOU – Doblin
Five Models – Professor Naohito Okude
Idea critic – Future Lab
Claystorming – Professor Naohito Okude
Idea 360 – Source Unknown
Philosophy and vision - Prof Naohito Okude
Random word match – Atelier HOKO
What if – IDEA
Blueprints – This is Services Design Thinking by Marc Stickdown and Jakob Schneider (2012)
Why and why not – IDEO
Hyperlink prototype – Prototyping: A practitioner's Guide by Todd Azki Warfel (2009)