Better ways of working: creative product design

As designers, we are tasked with applying our imaginations to work creatively for our clients. You won’t find any cookie-cutter solutions here at Emergn, but rather a team of designers eager to transport people to places they couldn’t go on their own through innovative product design.

That’s certainly easier said than done. All designers face challenges that span the entire design process. Emergn’s work-based education approach, based on the principles of Value, Flow and Quality (VFQ), helps us work smarter and deliver value to our customers in a variety of ways no matter what challenges we face.

That challenge might be an unclear core problem to solve, a client wanting to see the whole experience before launching a product, or not enough feedback from end users. No matter the challenge, we find smart and creative ways to overcome it.

Launching a product only when it’s 100% ready due to the desire to see the whole detailed experience can be an especially tricky challenge for product designers. We turn to several VFQ approaches, techniques, and principles to help:

  1. We aim to deliver value early and often so that we can learn faster, by showing concepts to stakeholders and potential users which allows us to improve faster, too.
  2. We work collaboratively with different roles to experiment and share creative solutions so that we can understand what might work and what doesn’t sooner rather than later.
  3. We create mockups and functional prototypes with increasing levels of fidelity to make sure user needs are accounted for. These visuals help stakeholders steer projects in the right direction by providing more opportunities to ensure the product is aligned with the value proposition.

Understanding the root problem to solve

When starting a new project, we often need to help our clients understand what the critical problem we’re solving is, and the best way to approach it. In this discovery phase, after mapping the problem landscape and extracting insights, we sometimes introduce clients to an experience concept validation process. This consists of a combination of user research, prototyping, and concept testing – in a design sprint format – that tests our assumptions and hypotheses and informs our decisions and actions moving forward.

For example, while helping energy giant bp identify ways to improve its offerings to business customers, after reviewing the company’s business strategy and going through the discovery phase, we tested assumptions around paying for fuel at the pump. Using these insights, we brought together different stakeholders and embarked on a design sprint to let the best idea shine, followed by prototyping and validating a potential solution.

Focus on feedback

Customer centricity is at the heart of every conversation we have when designing or delivering solutions. Our clients often say they are customer-centric, or they put customers at the heart of everything they do. But what does that really mean, and how does it factor into our work at Emergn?

To have the greatest chance of success in the market, we must discover, design and build the right thing – and feedback is how we determine if we are doing just that. To truly be customer-centric, feedback from users and customers must be baked into the design process. We think of user research, testing, and feedback as an ongoing relationship, not a one-off.

My colleague, product manager Sergejs Zikovs, advises teams that are developing a product to step out of their own bubble and speak with clients, their customers, and the potential users of their product on a regular basis. By owning that relationship and having those conversations first-hand, you can confidently create products they truly love.

All these facets of our design process ensure we are well on our way to delivering value.  By showing something tangible to the customer early on, we can ensure we are moving in the right direction towards delivering value. From there, we work collaboratively with developers to get to work on building, ensuring we’re able to deliver on our vision.

For more on how we use better ways of working to build and release products confidently, read the next blog post in this series.