1. Identify Needs
Typically a project starts with a brief: a set of tangible requirements tied to an objective. Unfortunately, often, this information is incomplete. That’s when my alarm bells ring. Without sufficient foundational knowledge, building a successful product or campaign becomes a shot in a dark. My team and I ask questions to get at the root of what is needed and why. Through discussion with stakeholders, objectives or project needs may even change as new information is discovered! This serves as further evidence for why this step is so valuable.
2. Seek Inspiration
Ideas often come when I least expect them: during discussions of project requirements (or technical limitations!), while on a run in Central Park, or when viewing recent work in an unrelated industry. Any and all ideas are quickly jotted down. Words. Sketches. Diagrams. Etc. At this point, any idea is valid! I encourage my teammates to share ideas and not limit where their minds will take them. Later we can evaluate ideas for feasibility, now, it’s about letting creativity flow without limitation.
3. Evaluate Ideas
Ideas are analyzed through two lenses: that of the objectives; and, that of the user. If a solution doesn’t meet the mark because it overlooks the objective, it is refined or set aside. Similarly, if a solution doesn’t take into account the user/customer/etc, we know we aren’t there yet. Discounting the user’s mindset and motivations is a miss. After all, the solution does not live in a vacuum! A successful solution is dependent on the user (with their inherent habits and motivations) reacting to the solution in a favorable way to meet the objectives. My double major in Psychology along with my experience in customer relationship marketing has taught me this. Essentially, we ask: which of our solutions attacks our objective head on with consideration for user thought, behavior and motivations?
4. Execute Design
It’s time for the rubber to meet the road. Solutions are executed digitally (or otherwise) and become tangible. What was once just a thought and an accompanying sketch becomes real on screen. The road, however, is not always a linear one. This phase may involve several iterations to refine the solution. There may be bumps in the road, technological barriers that need to be addressed, or ideas that don’t quite pan out in pixels. Nevertheless, this phase is about making the solution tangible and real for review by stakeholders.
5. Fine-Tune Solution
Stakeholders provide feedback that is then discussed and incorporated. Like early in the process, lots of discussions are had between design and stakeholders to refine the solution. Technology teams aren’t off the hook either. I like to engage with technology throughout my process to ensure seamless execution and informed design solutions.
6. Technical Development
Back-end and front-end all come to fruition. Close collaboration among teams is paramount. I work closely with technology teams to ensure a design’s intentions are fulfilled and issues are addressed. Technology and design are much stronger together. Technology can push design and visa versa. But, through it all, communication is key. I am adamant about reviewing and testing designs before they go live to ensure the highest quality final product.
7. Deliver & Evaluate
Our solution is put out into the world for users/customers/etc to interact with and respond to. Engagement data is tracked to help evaluate project success. Of course, any issues are addressed (if there are any—there shouldn’t be!). Most important to this phase, however, is learning. In essence, our process has come full circle. What can the results of this project teach us? What did we get wrong? What did we get right? Are there other projects that could benefit from these learnings? The opportunity to learn from my work is exciting.