Towards visionary design

What does it take to make breakthrough, game-changing visionary designs that transform human attitudes/behaviors or entire markets? Well in a word, a LOT :-) I don’t have the answers. But my previous post on design readings scratches a bit at this complex surface of design potential. Below are some key insights I’ve gathered in my recent readings and 10 yrs of pro experience…

• To achieve radical insights you need both observation of actual human behaviors in their context AND imagination of what could be (with a healthy dose of empathy). It’s an alchemical blend of analysis > interpretation > synthesis that takes more than a hint of personal ingenuity and clever thinking.

• You must apply a critical lens of examining the activity, the experience, the emotional value, and the fundamental purpose / meaning your endeavor is striving for. In essence, why is this design needed? Why does it matter? Why do you matter?

• You’ve got to tap into some customer invisibles:

>> unmet expectations: What are they expecting to get done, at a basic pragmatic level of performance and utility? How can you go beyond that?

>> tacit knowledge: I love how the new iPad ad mentions “you already know how to use it”. What knowledge/experience/abilities do your users already tacitly possess and employ and how can you leverage that? Metaphors, models, skills from pre-existing domains and situations, etc.

>> latent aspirations: What are your customers / users really striving for? What do they believe in and cherish? What do they dream of??

No doubt uncovering these invisibles takes some subterfuge and nuancing of traditional usability methods. Perhaps the answers are not in the people themselves but in their context, culture, trends, etc…


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