Projects | 03-Aug-2017

The Innovation Series: Design

Our innovation function focuses on two elements, design and engineering.
Innovation requires the ability to be creative, but creativity without focus is just art. Instead, we require a creative process that focuses our energy on solving a particular issue or challenging the modus operandi. To do this we draw on design principles. There is a lot to be said about the innovation practices at companies like IDEO, Frog and Sonos. Thinkers like Edward de Bono spent much of their lives considering creativity and the ability to think laterally. 
Design is where much the creativity lives. It is a process of divergent thinking and coming up with creative solutions. 
It’s also the ability to break down complex problems, or blue sky thinking goals into smaller components. The goal of design is always refinement. What does not need to exist here? What is not serving a meaningful purpose?
A designer's take on it…
The words creative’ and design’ perhaps a bit like innovation’ have become a bit of an issue. Buzz words, overused, wrongly used, thrown around and said without really meaning anything. Separating the wheat from the chaff can take patience. You will know genuine creativity and good design when it happens like some kind of black magic, your experience will be so seamless, engaging, immersive, and/or helpful that you probably won’t even notice it to begin with. It’s only when you find yourself telling someone down the pub about it, sharing it, keep going back to it, that you realise that this has made a lasting impression on your life somehow.  
It goes without saying that good design looks great, but real design runs much deeper than the superficial surface appeal when done right it informs every part of the process. Good design is convincing because it is right for that particular application. Trends will always come and go, a cookie cutter design will eventually fail if it didn’t fail to start with. Good design is not a trend, it is a method of which only meaningful, solid outputs can happen.
So how do we approach creative design? Right now, this is how we break it down:
Is anything truly original?
Building on existing experiences and designs, using them to elevate, push, evolve, inform new ideas is as old as time itself how else would we have got to where we are? However, the skill is where a team doesn’t just replicate an idea, but has such a deep appreciation and understanding of design, that they take it apart, constantly analyse what it was that speaks to the current context, extract and push whatever that is to evolve it into a completely new situation.
This means that as times change, things evolve. If you can curate be inspired by but not recreate what is existing, rearrange, undo, understand the essence and nurture that idea until it grows and flourishes, then you can design.
Refine the questions. 
This one is a biggie a huge proportion of time in design is problem-solving, on every scale. It all has an impact, from the tiniest detail to the biggest questions. It extends beyond the work itself to people, not just a direct team but the wider company, stakeholders, users and the client. Good communication is essential.
The whole design process is essentially about breaking a big problem down using first principles until left with smaller components. Refining those components and solving them at a granular level is key. 
The big questions have to be asked, no one wants any elephants hanging around, however challenging that gets, it is important to enjoy and find value in the process rather than racing to reach a conclusion. It’s amazing what you can discover when you stop grasping for the easy way out or that finish line. An enjoyable process produces better work. Every situation, client and user is unique, fresh perspectives are critical in creating more robust solutions.
Team work
Remit to express oneself.
Design does not happen in a vacuum. We are here to make each other and the work better. Egos are left at the door it is important that everyone feels valued inputting on design decision making, not just creative’ people. Great work comes from cross pollination, collaboration and communication. 
Trust and respect are the cornerstones of good team work, sounds obvious, but everyone needs to get’ that and it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep that afloat. Never leave anyone behind. Create a support structure from those values which don’t stifle the process or block communication, and you have a recipe for success and not just in the work context, but as an approach to the every day, somewhere everyone can share not just ideas, but thoughts, approaches, experiences and sometimes, even jokes.
Passion, drive, mindset
An unrelenting pursuit for progress.
We strive to create systems that empower teams with an appetite for inspiration, new experiences, learning opportunities, not just in one discipline but across multiple facets of life. Teams that share that and feed it back into the team is what we strive for.
In conclusion: curiosity + observation + play + learn + share = great design.