How to solve problems like a designer

This is the first Apple computer mouse. It came with Apple’s ten thousand dollar Lisa computer, and it was designed by a product design consulting firm that would eventually become known as IDEO. The assignment was straightforward: they had to take the computer mouse — a 400-dollar device at the time — and bring it down to
under 35 bucks, make it mass-producible, and reliable. And above all, it needed to be simple. [Apple commercial] “We control these so, by pointing to these images on the screen with this unique item called a mouse.” Fast forward about thirty years, and IDEO
doesn’t really create products anymore. They’ve transitioned to designing networks and experiences — things like Los Angeles’ voting system, and the Red Cross’s method for finding donors — even entire schools. So what does making a computer mouse have to do with creating a school system from scratch? It turns out, quite a lot. [Tim Brown] “The world we live in is one where, really, the complex things are the things that are mostly broken.” “Not the simple things.” “We have lots of great products, lots of beautiful products.” “Lots of products we can use everyday, everything from furniture to tableware, to consumer electronics.” “— and they’re mostly pretty good, right?” “Yes, there’s opportunity to do better, and
to do more, but I’m interested in things that” “don’t work very well, and the things that
you can impact society with.” “And they’re mostly the more complex things.” Back in 1971, a designer named Victor Papanek wrote a book called, “Design For The Real World”. The premise was pretty simple: creators could take some of the same design strategies from the creation of industrial products and use them to tackle problems like pollution, overcrowding, and food shortages. By 2001, IDEO had done just that, pivoting
from products to real world experiences. But the design steps? Tim Brown says they stay just about the same. “The first piece is observing the world
in order to ask an interesting question, right?” “I mean, you could observe the world in lots of different ways — when we talk about human-centered design,” “we’re really talking about observing the way humans live their lives and asking” “interesting questions about, ‘Hey, why does somebody do this? And not that?’ “Why is somebody struggling with this problem?” “Why is it hard for somebody to open that, why are they struggling to open up that jam jar lid?” “Maybe I could redesign the jam jar, or
maybe I could give them a tool to help them, right?” “So why is this happening?” So, the first step is looking at the world and coming up with good question.” For making a mouse, that means watching how people use computers, observing what they want, and what they don’t. For designing a school, that meant spending a month in Peru, meeting with students, parents, teachers, investors, and government and business leaders to address needs like academic planning, modular classroom space, accessible technology and affordable tuition. “The next step is taking all the insights
that you have from those questions, and starting to imagine ideas—” “Like here’s what I could do, here’s what I might imagine doing better, or differently.” ” So, that’s what we often call ideation or ideamaking.” Then comes the fun part. You test it out. “Right at the beginning of the process might be a really simple cardboard model, or a quick sketch.” “Or if it’s digital, it might be a quick digital simulation, or something, and you try out on people.” Sometimes those drafts can be pretty rough — the first prototype for the mouse was a roll-on deodorant stick and a butter dish
from a Palo Alto Walgreens. “And you test it. If that doesn’t work okay, so I need to rethink my idea and I do it again.” “And this is where the iteration comes in:
you learn from the prototype, you realize what’s not working.” “Or maybe it’s a crummy idea and you have to go back and find a new idea again.” “And you go through that loop over and over again: asking the question, having ideas,” “prototyping, learning and until you get to something that truly meets somebody’s needs, or a set of people’s needs.” “Now the last bit of the process… which arguably happens in that iteration also, is the storytelling piece.” Because always you’re trying to explain to people why your idea is interesting.” [Apple commercial: “A computer for the rest of us.” “I think what you need to design a complex system is not one brain — you need lots of brains.” “You need lots of brains with different perspectives different creative contributions, working together” “to get to an outcome that is that
is literally rich enough, and sophisticated enough” “to be able to behave like a system, instead of being like an object.”

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