Design a portfolio of concepts to solve the most important needs of your target audience.
The field of design (as practiced by designers, architects and engineers) solves knotty problems better than other methods because it starts at the end.
Define success. Discover need. Then you’re ready to design the solutions that solve the problem.
Don’t attempt to design the right solution. There is no “right”, there’s only directionally valuable. If you make the mistake of trying for “right” you’ll invariably go wrong, because it’s impossible to launch the right solution.
So test early ideas on the backs of napkins. Learn from the lowest level of effort possible. A funny thing reveals itself. Lower resolution actually works better. If you present a fully formed idea, you get critique of that idea. If you present a squishy set of possible features, you get a partner to help you think it through and build it better.
Sometimes – though surprisingly rarely, you’ll have to chuck an idea out entirely. More commonly you’ll find that what you thought was a new business is really only a feature, and that feature you were working on, with a bit more vision and ambition, could become its own platform.
The team iterates several versions of each of the selected concepts to produce testable prototypes. Despite the straight line depiction of the 4D method, design iteration cycles through successive improvements. A cyclical depiction conveys the nature of design iteration through these activities.
Selected concepts are detailed for the key internal and external elements of the value chain. We produce low-resolution prototypes (think back-of-napkin sketches) for each concept, along with a user storyline sufficient to preview with a small audience of target users, as well as internal client core team and specialist experts.
User & Expert Input
The team conducts individual or small group walk-throughs of each prototype. This can be done in-person or in some instances by video conference. Both unstructured comments and structured critique are captured and prioritized for concept iteration and further detailing in prototype.
A fully articulated concept story is produced for field testing. These three “presentations” are developed for a target audience of end users. Our preference is to capture complex or multi-faceted solutions as video productions if broader, more consistent or more visual depiction is considered important to the field test requirements. These mock-ups are inspired by Apple’s early efforts to depict the future they sought to build, such as this vision for a “knowledge navigator” that pre-dated Siri by a quarter century, not to mention Google and countless other technologies that were only hints of possibility in 1987.
Field Test Planning
We work closely as a combined team to develop a field test for the final concepts. Essential elements include markets, target audience, format of test, criteria to test, means to test, and methods to capture input for future concept iteration and final launch refinement.