Design Thinking — Step 3: Extraordinary design

This is the third, in a three-part series on the “how” of Design Thinking.

In the second of this three-part series, Strategy informed us we need bridge. A bridge so beautiful it will make you weep. So let’s get started.
Picture a large bridge spanning a body of water. Go ahead. Close your eyes. Sit back and really picture it. I’ll wait right here.

Let me guess. It looks a bit like the Mackinac Bridge or maybe the Golden Gate Bridge. Maybe you’ve changed up the color. Maybe you’ve modernized it a bit.

That’s a great start. But the bridge our client needs might not look like the first thing that came to mind. Existing bridges don’t solve the challenges recognized in research, nor do they follow the tactical strategies that we’ve arrived at. So now what?

It’s back to the drawing board. Literally.

Good thing we’ve got some processes in place to help. As creatives, we’re all a bit gun shy about the word “process.” To soften the blow, there is a quote we’re fond of around here. “Structure breeds flexibility.” It took me a while to come around to that way of thinking, but the story of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” helped me get there. You know that cacophony of instruments that happens at the end? No? Go listen to it. I’ll wait right here.
Got it? Great.

In order to get the orchestra to make that sound happen, the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, put the kind of structure that breeds flexibility in place.

“What I did there was to write … the lowest possible note for each of the instruments in the orchestra. At the end of the twenty-four bars, I wrote the highest note … Then I put a squiggly line right through the twenty-four bars …”

Brilliant! That squiggly line – that’s the design process.

The orchestra looked at him as if he was completely mad, but they created something beautiful. I’m sure Kacha can relate. I know I can.

To be quite frank, the process of making something beautiful can be rather ugly. Draw, sketch, scribble. Get what’s in your head on to paper. Take the concepts that work, push them a bit further. Revise. Take a walk.

Collaborate. Compare your sketches with the strategy documents and the creative brief. Evaluate how they line up. Is it solving the problem? Does it make you weep (tears of joy, not tears of frustration)? If not, meet with strategy. Make it better. Find new inspiration, and then breathe new life into it. Call in the photographers, the illustrators. Lay out the type. Make it better. Eat Thai lunch. Come back. Revise. And repeat until its perfect.
What appears to be wild chipping is, in actuality, artful crafting honed through years of practice and a deep level of artistic understanding. All the while keeping true to the strategic vision.

Every design decision we make has a reason, and every element has a purpose. Keep that in mind next time you arbitrarily ask a designer to make something blue. Or build you a bridge.

Wait! What about that that bridge?
Glad you asked. Based on research, strategy and budget, the designers turned it into a tunnel.