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On March 31, 2015, Spring Studio's Linda Miller and Bruce Randall presented a quick Design Thinking workshop at the Transit+Design event, held by SPUR. SPUR is a leading civic planning organization, based in the Bay Area, well respected for their independent and holistic approach to urban issues.
The goal of the Transit+Design event was to provide a space to learn about research and design tools that can help transit professionals create a great transit user experience.
Bruce and Linda led the hourlong talk and exercises with the goal of introducing Design Thinking tools and processes as a means for devising elegant solutions for some of the city's thorniest challenges. This presentation provides a useful snapshot of the Design Thinking methodologies, along with a couple of quick exercises to engage a beginner audience.
Slide 2: The Design Thinking methodologies we are going to discuss this afternoon are not just about making things beautiful and are not just for designers. Design Thinking is about problem solving. Design Thinking offers a set of processes and tools that can be used by any group of people to solve almost any type of problem.
Today we’ll share some key Design Thinking principles and tools that you can use to create elegant, effective solutions in your organizations and disciplines.
Slide 3: What is Design Thinking? Let’s look at an example. In the early 1980’s personal computers were a new idea. Their capabilities were limited and one had to learn text-based command prompts to use them at all.
IBM was the 800 pound gorilla in the space, devoting enormous energy to making these machines more valuable by adding capabilities - making them do more things.
Apple took a different approach. They focused on making computers more approachable. They borrowed the mouse from Xerox PARC to make input easier. They even added a smiley face to the home screen. This didn’t make the computer faster or capable of doing more things, but it made users feel less intimidated and more willing to use one. IBM focused on making a better machine. Apple focused on creating a better experience for people.
Slide 4: We are going to look at 4 key steps in the Design Thinking process.
Customer insight Clarify the problem Explore solutions Validate the experience
Slide 5: The steps in this process keep in mind two central themes.
First, keep the user at the center of your thinking.
Slide 6: Second, always look deeper. Don’t stop at your first insight, idea or solution.
Slide 7: Design Thinking is rooted in solving problems by focusing on users and their experience. Research ensures that you solve the right problem. It helps you address your users’ core needs and priorities.
Slide 8: You have to start with an active interest in deeply understanding what your customers want and why…what makes them tick in the context of the product or service you are designing.
The best tool available to gain this insight is user research. Watching people. Interviewing people. Surveying people. Striving to understand what people do and why.
Slide 9: Exercise 1: The goal of this activity is to introduce you to interviewing someone to gain insights. Obviously with only a few minutes we can only go so deep. However, even a few minutes can tell a compelling story.
Everybody get a partner and introduce yourselves to one another. Then choose an A and a B. Person A, you are going to spend the next 90 seconds interviewing person B about their commute. Ask them how they get from their home to work, school or where ever they go each day.
Try to look beyond what they do, but also why they do it. What motivates them? What do they want? What would delight them? What annoys them?
Once you’re done with the first interview, switch roles and start again.
Slide 10: Think about what you learned from this brief interview.
Real research involves more than one person and takes more than two minutes, but this exercise highlights a key building block. You interview people to explore their emotions, goals, expectations and motivation, both stated and inferred.
Once you’ve completed your research, analyze it for themes and patterns. In our research today we talked about a transit commute experience. Let’s discuss some themes.
Slide 11: Design thinking offers another approach to slicing the data and a way to retain some of the personal information that often gets lost in the reporting process. This is called a persona.
A persona is a composite of themes, needs, opportunities your customers share reformed back into a representative person. By framing the data in a human-centric way, you can communicate a lot of rich data in a way that is easy for others to understand. The persona puts a human face on your findings, making it more actionable when you start looking for a solution and easier for other people to understand and empathize with the information.
Slide 12: Another useful Design Thinking tool is the Journey Map. It complements the Persona, creating a snapshot of how the person interacts with your service from beginning to end.
The Journey Map is very helpful if you’re trying to create a seamless experience. It shows you where the seams are.
A good example of a company using Journey Maps is Virgin America. From booking through landing and beyond they’ve made the experience consistent, easy and relatively painless. What’s more, they’ve found spots where they can inject surprise and delight, such as their entertaining safety video.
The journey map is the canvas showing where you can inject changes to the service, create or communicate value. it includes the information you probably include in the reports you create today, but in a visual form that may help people identify with and remember and it shows teh end-to-end experience.
Slide 14: Choosing the right problem to solve makes a huge difference.
A team of engineers were once asked to solve the problem of elevators taking too long (or at least being perceived as taking too long.) One team spent a lot of money and effort creating a system that let you enter your floor in the lobby. It was confusing for many and still ended up feeling like a long wait, despite shaving some time.
A second team installed mirrors around the waiting area. Complaints evaporated.
One group interpreted the problem literally (the wait was too long) and failed. The second group looked deeper at an emotional level (the wait was boring) and succeeded.
Slide 15: Choosing the right problem to solve makes a huge difference.
As you frame the problem, ask yourself “What else could it be?”
You usually have to zoom out, to get the big picture, then zoom back in a few times, keeping an eye on your users’ needs to find the frame that will drive finding a better solution.
Slide 16: At last you know your customers and have a clear sense of what you want to solve. You’re ready to focus on finding possible solutions.
Most likely, you already have some ideas. You might have had an idea going in, the research may have inspired a few more, and generating ideas while framing the problem is inevitable. Make sure you record each of them, as you really do want to get to a place where you have several good ideas for solving the problem.
Slide 17: Even with these ideas, allow yourself a little time to explore and focus on finding solutions. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Just like you zoom in and out to find alternate frames, you do the same to try to find a solution. Start broad and get as many ideas down as you can. You don’t want to start narrowing until you’ve exhausted the possibilities.
Challenge yourself to find at least three ways you can viably solve any problem. This helps you look beyond the obvious and are likely to get to a better idea.
Slide 18: Exercise 2: Let’s say that the problem you’re trying to solve is making the morning commute more delightful. As a group let’s take the next 3 minutes to come up with ideas. Remember, we’re looking for all kinds of wild ideas that might solve this problem
(After 3 minutes) Moving forward, you might explore each of these ideas in further depth, possibly combining some until you feel like you have a feasible approach. Sometimes an idea grabs you even when it appears untenable at first. Don’t immediately dismiss these ideas. Instead, unpack them to find out what is so appealing. See if you can find another way to accomplish the same result.
You’ll likely have a couple of possible contenders. How do you decide which to advance? Go back to the problem you framed and assess whether your solution fully addresses it.
Slide 20: Once you’ve landed on the idea or two that bests addresses the framed problem, it’s time to test that idea with real users.
There are lots of ways to do this with varying degrees of effort.
Slide 21: An early test can be as basic as storyboarding the scenario of your idea and seeing how it might play out. This can be done quickly and inexpensively, and also forces you to think through the idea in greater detail.
Slide 22: If it’s a a service you’re concepting, you might act it out with trusted colleagues. In our case one person could role play a commuter, another the ticket machine and a third could be the bus itself.
Slide 23: If it’s a physical solution, you might sketch your idea or build a low-fidelity prototype. Show the prototype to customers and get their feedback.
Try to get feedback as early in the process as possible and as often as you can get away with. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to look at early stage concepts and help shape the outcome.
Capture and assess learnings, looking for themes and asking yourself key questions. Did the idea work for the users? Is the frame still valid? What needs to change to improve the idea? Do we need to start over?
Slide 24: The urban transportation industry, and the myriad people working within it, face some overwhelming challenges. It’s easy to get frustrated amidst the budget wrangling, bureaucracy and politics. Design Thinking provides a method for cutting through these hassles by enabling everyone involved to focus on customers. It provides common goals and inclusive methodology for achieving them.
Design in Transit: Moving Forward
DESIGN IN TRANSIT:
March 31, 2015
Process and techniques
used to solve problems…
…almost any kind of problem.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my
life depended on the solution, I would spend
the first 55 minutes determining the proper
question to ask, for once I know the proper
question, I could solve the problem in less
than five minutes.”
We know that each of you face thorny challenges. Solving them
can improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of
Your opportunity is to transform these challenges into delight.
• Cover Slide: “Caltrain – 4th and King” by Sergio Ruiz. Usage permitted by SPUR.
• Slide 5: “Powell Station Mezzanine” by Sergio Ruiz. Usage permitted by SPUR.
• Slide 6: “BART platform” by Aaron Anderer is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
• Slide 8: “Rush Hour” by Charbel Akhras is licensed under CC CC BY-ND 2.0.
• Slides 9 & 10: “19th Street BART - Oakland” by Sergio Ruiz. Usage permitted by SPUR.
• Slide 14: “Elevator Aboard the Celebrity Equinox” by Joe Ross is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Modified.
• Slide 15: “Seamless Train” by Dave Fayram is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Modified.
• Slide 17: “Visions of BART” by John Morgan is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Modified.
• Slide 18: “Night commuters; turnstyle exit, Castro Valley BART Station” by rafael-castillo is licensed under CC BY 2.0
• Slides 22 & 23: CC @MaryWharmby
• Slide 24: “el cerrito del norte” by Robert Couse-Baker is licensed under CC BY 2.0
• Slides 25 & 26: “Untitled” by Davide Ragusa is licensed under Public Domain CC0 1.0