One persistent topic in most of my writings, has been the allusion to Dieter Rams’s principles of Design (all 10 of them). This year, even considering the immense trials humanity is going through, it’s interesting to look back on some of the product solutions I worked on a decade ago, and consider how well (or not) they withstood the test of time, but most importantly, how they fared against principles of Design such as Longevity (Long Lasting Solutions) and to a certain extent, Innovation. Currently, the extent to which reality has changed, and users behaviors respectively, is unheard of. We’ve collectively been asked to shift and change our behaviors quite substantially, and that of course has shifted how we behave towards products, and consequently, also how our expectations towards products have also evolved. The goal for this article and reflection is primarily to assess how the Design Thinking Process accounts for Long Lasting solutions, that are effective, honest, pertinent, innovative and how those solutions navigate the uncertainty of future scenarios, which may include Economic downturns, massive Ecological issues, Social uprisings, and the list goes on. As we’re now realizing, life as we know it, can shift dramatically and substantially, and one of the questions that immediately comes to mind is: how does Design discipline in general, and the Design Thinking Process in particular account for change.
Longevity & Innovation. One of the takeaways I’ve always digested from reading Dieter Rams’s Design principles, is not only how timeless and relevant they continue to be, but how they have impacted my career and product solutions I’ve tackled. 10 years ago I was part of a massive endeavor to release not only a new fitness application, but even beyond that challenge, the genesis of a new Business Model for an Organization that had been in the market for 30 years (now celebrating 40 years). I was fortunate to join the team at a juncture in time where the Design Thinking process had uncovered a tremendous amount of information on Client Journeys (the different characters that were being outlined to sustain the tasks to be done), on cross cultural contexts, general evolution of Healthcare (with quantitative research and also understanding how innovation was playing a role in preventative care), and the list goes on. There was an array of documentation produced, all aiming to not just uncover what the solution effectively was, but how the product could potentially evolve with time. And that later part of the previous statement has always been something that resonated with me in particular.
Going through Design Thinking processes, requires from a Designer in particular, the ability to digest a variety of different sources of information, from a variety of different sources, stakeholders, clients expectations, sales driven professionals, and the list goes on, but for Designers, and to a certain extent, in partnership with their Product peers, as they organize the data, and start creating a narrative from it, the question is always: does this narrative compel users to keep coming back, as times change, as technology evolves, as habits alter, and as we’re now witnessing, as Global circumstances can dramatically change. The Design Thinking Process is indeed a collection of steps, where the Designer/Alchemist, not only triages everything that is assessed, and starts building a possible equation/formula, but where strategy also comes into play, where ambiguity and unknown factors also play a part in finessing that solution. There’s always a thirst for an MVP that can be shipped to market quickly, a solution that ideally has been tested, that soundly understands its clients, their needs, and is limber enough to accompany them on their path. However, those are typically solutions that can, at times, be shortsighted — in the pursuit of the immediate result and excellence, the Designer and his/hers co-pilots, can at times forget that in order for solutions to truly last, and be part of whatever bumpy road the user finds themselves in, they have to be flexible, scalable, expandable. Succinctly, they have to account for how realities change, because if life, nature has taught us anything throughout History, is that dogmas are shattered, and realities are in constant flux. This demand for agility, scalability, expandability, forces Innovation to be a main driving force when conducting Design Thinking processes. For solutions to outlast peaks and low points, and truly be a user’s sidekick, factors such as credibility, customization, personalization, performance, reliability, functionality, accessibility, all elements that are well within the realm of what the Product Experience is all about. When considering how a solution is devised, it’s fundamental that we understand the NOW, but just as equally important, the NEXT and the other NEXT, as narratives are open ended, and it’s up to Designers and their teams to account how users change, how realities change, how all the factors that impact the creation of a solution, also impact the experience of those using it (therefore accounting for issues like offline experiences, accessibility driven solutions, demographic evolution, integration of new technologies, deprecation of stagnant models, to name but a few, all should play their role).