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Methodical - Design: Why, How and What

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Methodical - Design: Why, How and What
By Akar Sumset • Issue #10 • View online
I’m extremely enjoying writing this newsletter. And the more readers I have the more motivated I get. So, I’d appreciate if you share or forward this newsletter if you enjoy it too.
This issue will mark the end of Definition & Design step in our 5 D’s of Product Development and Design process. 

Definition & Design: The Reason Why We Exist (Recap)
Destination and Discovery mostly describes the problem. We only scratch the surface of the actual solution during the late stages of Discovery. Problem definition and early testing are extremely crucial to define and design the right product. However, they are by no means a step by step guide that we can follow to define and design products.
Why? That’s because those stages focus on user feedback and company goals to define problems. And we all know that users (and companies, too) do not know what PRODUCT they want. They only know what RESULTS they want. It is our job to build the product to provide them with the results they want. That is why we the product people exist. 
What does Design mean?
First, I should admit that I am unhappy about the name I chose for this step. I preferred Design because it was the most common word used for what we’ll cover in this step. However, it’s a misnomer. It belittles the extent of the expertise needed to actually design. But, let’s forget about that for now and focus on the task at hand. I promise, I’ll make it right in the next iteration to this newsletter.
So, what does mean Design in 5 D’s of Product Design and Development? It means designing the whole sensory elements of the product. Everything a user sees, hears, touches - and in the not so distant future smells and tastes. It includes, color, motion, sound, layout, navigation, vibration of the phone… all of it.
What is the purpose of Design?
Don’t let how I described Design fool you. Yes, it consists of everything sensory but it’s purpose isn’t limited with senses. Humans, especially in the modern era, make sense of the world around themselves almost entirely through their physical senses. Those physical senses not only shape our physical perception but also shapes our mental perception, too.

Differentiation
We all know people judge the book by its cover. It’s inevitable. We (or should I say our brains since most of the decisions are made unconsciously) make 35.000 decisions per day as it’s widely cited. (I couldn’t find a reliable source to cite this number but using the 200 decisions we make about food per day, 35.000 doesn’t seem that outrageous to me.) This is why we have to judge the book by the cover. Otherwise, we couldn’t get anything done. So, yes, the cover matters. We the product people do not want to accept this fact. We, mostly, believe that “if we build it they will come” but that’s hardly the case. 

Supporting the Brand
Sensory design gives a product its identity and its soul. That makes Design one of the most important tools for establishing brand identity. Brand identity is an aggregate of all concrete (logo, typography, product features, pricing, name, color, slogan packaging etc.) and abstract (brand archetype, company culture, attitude, tone, communication style, story etc.) elements of our brand. And as you can see, Design touches a very large part of brand.

Dramatically Improving Usability
As we discussed in the previous issue there is an illusion that if we work very hard during Destination and Discovery steps then the Definiton & Design will be self evident. Well, not so much. Why? Because those steps mostly help us define the problem. The actual solution takes place during Definition & Design. Those are the steps we actually craft the product. The flows, layout, hierarchy, copywriting, error messages… everything determining the actual usage is shaped during Definition and Design. 
Do all the ideation, research, testing you want. If the people defining and designing the product  aren’t addressing the findings of previous steps then you won’t have a usable product. That’s the power Definers & Designers possess.
How to approach Design?
Have an absolute command of the prior work aka Destination, Discovery and Definition. How? Write a paragraph including:
    1. How this particular product/feature etc. benefits user.
    2. Why the business needs this particular thing.
    3. Your initial hypothesis to meet the needs.
    4. Questions you need answers to.

So, all we have now questions and hypothesis. What we need is answers. How?
    1. Go talk to people who can answer your questions if you aren’t able to find answers yourself.
    2. Prepare tests to validate your hypothesis. Since we are in the Design step, those tests will mostly be some kind of prototypes.
    3. Get your answers directly. Show your ideas and get feedbacks directly. First, do it internally, then externally. Don’t let colleagues randomly give feedback. Prepare, simple, fun critique sessions first. Get prepared to rationalize your decisions.
    4. Boil down the whole feedback you got. Decide what goes in and what’s left out as a team based on your principles.

And we’re done… Not so fast. Remember it’s not your designs what users experience it’s the final outcome of Development what they experience. 
    1. Make developers fall in love with you, worship you, buy you beers and lunch everyday because of the way you hand off your design.
    2. Don’t leave it there. Be the Design Quality Assurer. Go ask developers to show you what they have built. Ask them for feedback. They anticipate a lot if they are experienced. And remember they test your design by coding it. So, if there are any flaws, they’ll be first to spot.
    3. Don’t let go off the small details. They are not details. They make the design, as Charles Eames puts it.
Last but not least: Remember that the best solutions are not achieved by being a %100 consistent but achieved by being good enough to know where to gracefully break the consistency.
Generic Articles
How to Actually Design
Have an awesome Sunday!
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Akar, continuously brainstorming
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Akar Sumset

Hey product person! Can't choose what to read? Can't trust what you learn? Methods (frameworks, guides, principles...) are the solution if you know when and why to use them. Unlike other newsletters, Methodical shares content in a structured way so that you know when to use what.

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