Design is a set of tools
I hear people talk about the tools of design all the time. They mean a collection of practices, behaviors, frameworks, artifacts and mindsets that lend transformational capabilities to a company — perhaps most importantly, by putting the customer at the center of a business’ mission, strategy, initiatives and KPIs.
But design is also literally a set of tools. Tools that can be used to envision and construct that vision. Tools that can be sharpened, practiced and wielded with precision and impact.
Design is a Projector
Design is capable of showing us emotional, visual stories that connect people to ideas. Whether those people are your business partners or customers. Design’s ability to show the way — in rich, nuanced detail — is unmatched by any other function.
Design is a knife
Design is a decision-framework. A way to prioritize what we’ll do and what we’ll choose not to do — based on what we learn from our customers: particularly their attitudes and behaviors. We learn these things through prototypes, which are infinitely cheaper to build and change than the final, coded experiences. With discipline, designers can quickly learn and share those learnings as recommendations which shape (and specifically reduce) roadmaps.
Design is a stud-finder
Design can uncover dependencies, structural imperatives, and un-met expectations of your customers. Probing research, service design explorations and workshops all make clear the customer experience we aim to create — and the need to orchestrate our processes, assets and people to deliver key moments in a customer’s journey. We can show what’s hidden. And deliver confidence in the form of transparency.
Design is a compass
Design can reveal the direction through clear customer needs and expectations. Emotional opportunities to delight (over-deliver on low expectations) and to relieve (identify what’s broken). Design can get way ahead, then illuminate the path forward for others. Design can zoom to a high, high altitude to share the whole journey and help teams align on the direction we’re all headed and why.
Design is a crowbar
Design can provide significant strategic leverage to move businesses forward. And it can create space where there was none, to do the work that needs to be done. To pry into the unsaid issues through persistent research and relentless curiosity. To strip back assumptions and reveal root cause. To allow light to be shed on opaque processes and decisions. To probe behavior with prototypes and provocations.
Design is a lathe
Design refines blocky concepts with elegance and grace. Through reduction, design adds form to function. To both simplify and beautify.
Design is a microscope
Design affords us the opportunity to zoom way, way in, and inspect micro-interactions with the same intensity that we consider the strategy and the journey. A journey is made up of a million micro-interactions. Each can build or erode confidence. Each can deliver or fail to deliver value. The critical eye is as important as the global vision. It takes both to exceed the expectations of our customers.
Design is a measuring tape
Design can define success — and measure results. It can define the scale with which we’ll measure. And it can uncover new things worth measuring.
What kind of tools do you equate with design?