Which Comes First: Design or Research?
Since I’m into design (I’m a Design Consultant after all), I was pretty interested in PingMag’s interview with Ken Okuyama. While he’s mostly into product design (he’s behind the lovely design of the Enzo Ferrari), and I’m more into information and experience design, there’s always something I can learn from other design fields.
What stood out to me the most was how he typically starts his design process:
I put everything in my brain down on paper, stick all of it on the wall and judge objectively the best possible solution for the problem. Then I start the research after. Not before. Once you know, you cannot go back to “your ignorant yourself.” But the ignorant yourself is the best creative partner you have.
Where I work at PebbleRoad, we normally do it the other way round – keep an open mind and do the research first to find and understand the problem, before embarking on the design.
Coming up with a solution is often the most straightforward part of the design process. That isn’t to say that creating the solution is easy, or doesn’t require a deep knowledge and honed skill set. It’s just to say that when you have a set of requirements and a well defined problem, you know where you stand and where you have to get to. It’s mostly straightforward. Much harder is the implicit problem of figuring out exactly what the problem is in the first place. If the problem is vague or ill-defined, the design solution will be too.
So far this has worked well for us, and it makes sense too, since we don’t really want to design something for the wrong problem.
But Okuyama has a valid point about “your ignorant yourself” being the “best creative partner”. Is that the key to the really groundbreaking and mind-blowing designs?
Something to think about, and something I’ll definitely try out in my next project. But that would never work if we forget his qualifying statement, which I deliberately left out from the quote above:
You also need the courage to adjust your original idea once it’s proven to fail.