June 08, 2012

Interview topic 4: negotiating between strategy (design ideals) and reality

The outcomes of projects are often compromises between strategic intentions (or design ideals) and practical realities. For example, an institution might aim to reduce the number of different IT systems in use. That is the strategic aim. In reality people might have real or imagined reasons to use different systems. If we undertake a project that needs to involve these people, we might need to find a compromise between the strategic aim and the practical reality.

Can you think of cases where your projects have encountered a conflict between strategic aims and practical reality? What was the result? What were the negative and positive effects? How does this work out over time? How does the strategy, its detail or its significance, get altered? What methods do you use to negotiate between strategy and practice?

June 04, 2012

Interview topic 3: finding and developing design ideas

A successful design project creates a product based upon one or more significant and distinctive "design ideas". For example, the Dyson vacuum cleaner uses an innovative mechanism to ensure constant suction. The Apple iPad combines a large touch screen with light weight to give a new haptic and visual user experience. Events are also defined by their design idea. Speed dating uses an unusual format and rules to create a different interpersonal experience and opportunities.

What distinctive design ideas have you used in your projects? How did they help to achieve the project brief - creating new possibilities for people?

At what point in the project did you find your idea? Was it complete right away, or did it take time to refine? How did you arrive at these design ideas? What strategies, tools and techniques did you employ to find/create them? Did you develop your ideas as a sketch, diagram, narrative, or some other form? Did your idea cause other ideas to emerge and form around it? Did it seem a certain winner right away, or did your confidence in it build over time? Where there other competing ideas that were discarded? How did you reject or choose ideas? Will your idea be of use elsewhere?

Will your experience of developing a design idea be of use in other aspects of what you do?

Interview topic 2: developing a brief

The "brief" defines and directs the project, outlining the difference that the project is expected to make. It might specify, in more or less detail: aims, indicators and measures of success, limitations, risks, deadlines, resources, budgets, users, partners - whatever is necessary to give the project the definition and direction that it needs.

  1. In some cases projects are commissioned with a brief that is clear, complete and uncontested.
  2. Sometimes, during a project, the brief is found to be problematic and in need of revisions. This additional work might be easily undertaken. At other times the brief might be contested by the various project participants. This could lead to conflict and disruption. It might add productively to the development of the project.
  3. In other cases we undertake a project knowing that the brief will need to be developed as we proceed.
  4. And sometimes we are personally responsible for developing a brief from scratch to initiate a new project.

Have you worked on projects where the brief is incomplete, unclear and/or contested? Or have you developed a brief to initiate a new project? How did this proceed? In what ways was it negative and positive? At what point (if at all) did you settle on a well defined brief? What strategies, tools and techniques did you use to get a better defined brief?

Will your experience of developing a brief be of use in other aspects of what you do?