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Ethics of Experience Design

Experience Design Processes

Design is something that has been with humanity since before we walked upright – as mentioned previously, everything around us is designed in some right. But only as design became its own occupation during the industrial revolution (Heskett, 2006) did we start paying attention to the process of design.

In the 70s and 80s the term Design Thinking was coined to describe the way a designer's mind works as they design (Kimbell, 2011) and with it came many models describing the idealised design process.

The most popular model by far is the Double Diamond, invented by the Design Council (Black, 2008) and later improved upon by Hyper Island alumnus Dan Nessler (Nessler, 2016). The Double Diamond consists of four phases, split into two sets of divergent- and convergent thinking: Discover and Define, Develop and Deliver. The first set explores the problem space, the second explores solutions and delivers the correct one to the client.

But the design field is not alone in self-observation and creating methodologies. Concurrent with the rise of Design Thinking, the last 15 years saw the maturing of software development, which brought its own idealised processes. Most notable is the agile development process, popularised by the Agile Manifesto (Agile Alliance, 2019), which promotes collaboration, short development cycles and changing requirements on the fly.

Lastly, the Lean Startup methodology (Ries, 2011) has agile-like aims for businesses: gett to market as soon as possible with a minimum viable product (MVP), and continuously improve that MVP using a "build – measure – learn" cycle. Jeff Gothelf's Lean UX (2013) applied these principles to the field of experience design.

These models all attempt to solve the same problem: they aim to bring structure to the hard-to-oversee creative journey from idea to a design – be that a product, service, or system. They each approach the problem from a different angle:

  • Design Thinking: Deliver a user-desirable design by having empathy
  • Agile: Deliver a technically feasible design and make changes along the way
  • Lean UX: Deliver a business-viable design and improve it based on testing

At the intersection of desirability, feasibility and viability lies the Innovation Sweet Spot (IDEO, 2018). It is here that you want to source your idea(s) and vision from. But as Kristann Orton puts it:

But to wait until that vision is completely built to test for desirability, feasibility and viability is foolhardy. Tests for all three characteristics need to be built during implementation so that adjustments can be made to keep you on the right course

In order to come up with an idea that satisfies all three requirements, parts of all methodologies can be adapted into one process. This is the Lean Process Model, first conceived by Dave Landis (2014). For this essay I have created my own adaptation of the model.

The design process starts in the concrete problem space. We employ Design Thinking to explore the problem, move it into the abstract, and ideate possible solutions. Once we are on the verge of a concrete solution, we can start testing it in experiments and revise it to come to a new solution.

To make things real we move into the second phase, aimed at efficiently delivering the solution in the best possible way. We build the product, measure its success, and learn what changes to start building, completing the loop. If we learn that the solution isn't working on a fundamental level, we can Pivot back into the design thinking process once more.

While not applicable to this project, a real design project would split the Build phase itself up into smaller, agile iterations.

Lastly, I have added the divergent- and convergent modes from the Double Diamond as a backdrop to the model, to show the breadth of ideas going on at any point in the process.

Next, I will detail how this model was used in practice.

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The Process in Practice