Adopting the Simulation Mindset in Design

Design Process
May 27, 2015

One of the key activities in Design Thinking is doing design. Hence the irony that Design Thinking actually involves design doing. Not exactly in what designers do, but brainstorming solutions, prototyping them, learning and validating, iterating and improving. Rinse and repeat.

I like to use the analogy of simulating and experimenting during Chemistry lab to describe the Design activity in our workshops. For example the experiment of splitting “H” and “O” from H2O. I could never get my test tube with the Hydrogen to pop in my first go. I would need to try the process a few times before I get it right.

I found it therefore interesting when Ken Rosen explains (perhaps oversimplifying) how the differences of the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 could have been better determined through a simulation mindset.

Start a simulation mindset for major strategic decisions. Determine the minimum viable model you can use to represent your situation. Use that model to create a game, discussion, or workshop. Play.

That is Design Thinking at its best. Applied holistically to simulate scenarios of the hardest problems through the eyes of your stakeholders. Use a sketch, lego blocks, a game, full-size spatial mockups, anything that will give you a “quick and dirty” way to get real quick. With a little effort, you can learn so much about the wicked problems you are trying to solve.

Designing for the New Economy

3D Printed Toy Car

Wouter Scheublin, in cooperation with the Dutch research institute TNO, designed this wonderfully minimal pull back car made through 3D printing.

Wouter leveraged on some of the strengths and advantages of the 3D printing process, in this case laser sintering, to design the car and the pull back mechanism all in one go,

Every part, including the gears, axles, wheels and pull back spring all come out from the printer as a complete assembly. The only assembly required is the 4 rubber bands tires and perhaps packaging.

I applaud Wouter’s amazing experimentation and sublime Industrial Design. This product really got me excited. However I was quite surprised to note that this car is on sale on his website at Euros €180, and obviously made to order.

I wonder if a designer is experimenting in such advanced manufacturing processes should he not also experiment with an advanced business model as well? Why not sell the 3D file at perhaps €10-20 and possibly make a whole lot more money, and at the same time save on shipping costs and effort?

With 3D Printing cafes exploding all around us, I think selling the 3D file of your design is the way of the future.

Via: Website

Next to the Skin Technology Showcase: The Process

As you may know from our last post, we worked with ETPL (the technology transfer arm of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore) to develop 10 wearable prototypes for the Next to the Skin Technology Showcase.

What was notable in this program was not just the 10 meaningful wearable solutions, it was also how design was integrated as a strategic activity in the formation of the program, the way it was run, and the value the program offered the business.


We kicked off this Design Led Innovation program with a 3-day Design Thinking Boot Camp where teams of investors, designers, engineers, scientists, technologists and commercialization people got together to create a shared vision of what the future of Wearables could be.

A_STAR Workshop Observation Card

We also got the scientists out of their lab and into the field to observe or speak to humans doing what they do best. We gave the participants one of our Design Thinking Tools, the Observation Card, and showed them how to be amateur ethnographers for a week.


Through this ethnographic activity, we manage to get the scientists and technologists in our teams to shift their thinking from one that is technology driven, to one that is user centered and focused on how their customers would experience the benefits of their technology.


After that, it was a design implementation activity where we worked with the core team, the scientists, and external industry experts to fine-tune the design of the 10 wearable propositions. It was a fully iterative process filled with mad scurrying and sleepless nights. Luckily we had Apples and chips to keep us sane!

Anyways, this short video pretty much documents the process of how we did it. Do have a look and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below?

Can’t see the video above? Check it out here on YouTube.

Stay tuned to our website for the full case study where we will be showcasing the complete project and the deliverables soon.

Paul Rand on Art and Aesthetics

If you can’t see the video click here.

What a great snippet of a 1996 film by Preston McLanahan. I really like how Paul Rand bridges the gap between art, aesthetics, form, content and ultimately design.

Aesthetics is the study of the interaction and fusion between form and content. —Paul Rand

Via: @johnmaeda

How Creativity Works

If you cannot see this video, click on: How creativity works – The sense making sessions.

It’s not hard to come up with something new. It’s hard to come up with something new that people want.

I think that is kind of the separation point between having lots of ideas or creating lots of stuff, and just having maybe one thing that really resonates with people that they have that Ah-Ha moment when they see it.

~ James Carnes, Global Creative Director, Senior Vice President of Design at Adidas.

What a great discussion! I particularly like how it was not the usual boring discussion on creativity, for example techniques on coming up with great ideas, but a more controlled application of creativity that is validated with customer insights.

Do enjoy this video with a cup of coffee and look out for a bunch of other really great quotes by James such as:

There is an expectation of the event itself (i.e. brainstorming workshops) will inspire greatness…actually it is the hard work (i.e. user research) before, the uncovering of things that have not been uncovered. Again it might be the obvious things, things that we have been ignoring, or really deep insights…

The big breakthrough moments aren’t things that just happen, they are actually things that have been building up.

If you listen to consumers and what they say, and you are a slave to what they tell you…you will never get beyond what they are not saying…

Indeed, as James says, the act of creativity is piecing together these unrelated moments into something amazing. This is why I do what I do. When this moment happens I can feel my adrenaline running through my veins. How about you?

Hat tip: Alberto Bissacco

Design Methods for Everyone

Design Process
Jan 24, 2014

I have always enjoyed discussing Design Methods and frequently use Damien Newman’s Squiggle as a means to visually describe the Design or Design Thinking process.

But how do you describe the feeling when you are knee deep in the process? How do you sort yourself out when you are struggling with a concept? This quote I stumbled upon does the job perfectly:

Confusion, chaos, and sudden despair, are to be expected in designing. They are signs that your intuitions are becoming active and well informed – but are being frustrated by your persistence in sticking to the thoughts with which you began.

The right step is to stop designing for a time and to re-plan the design process.

Persist in re-planning until you have described a new process that brings back your enthusiasm to continue.

It looks like what you feel as the way forward is now being held back by what you know. Logic fights with intuition.

This quote and a bunch of other gems can be found in an essay called Design Methods for Everyone by John Chris Jones. It is a great read on how to plan, approach and do design. Perfect for the beginner and refreshing for the expert.

Enjoy and don’t forget to save the essay for a future read!

Moving from Customer Journeys to Customer Engagement

Design Process
Jan 16, 2014

I’m sure we are all familiar with customer journey maps or experience maps. It is a great tool to visually map out the different touch-points a customer experiences when he engages a service or product.

The main premise of an experience map is that it is often a reflective and reactive activity. We observe and interview customers on hindsight and then we layout our findings. From there we get to see what our customers like or dislike about our products or services.

But being designers and design thinkers we will want to see how we can manipulate these touch-points so that we can create customer engagement. Don’t we?

The traditional definition of customer engagement is described by Sheldon and McDowell, stands for AIDAS:

A – Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer.

I – Interest: raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).

D – Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.

A – Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.

S – Satisfaction: satisfy the customer so they become a repeat customer and give referrals to a product.

My friend Maurice McGinley takes this a step further by stringing AIDAS into a different kind of Customer Journey Map and sub-clusters the elements of engagement into three broad categories: Immediacy, Persuasion, and Relevance.


The important thing with this is that it takes the passive nature of customer journey maps and turns it into a pro-active activity we can better manage the touch-points by connecting it up with a reference point. That reference point is time.

For example if you are a designer focusing on aesthetics, you will realize that you have about a second to attract and create interest with your design. At this time you can see (above) that it is important for your customer to intuitively “get” what your solution is all about. Therefore in your drive towards creating better customer engagement you cannot just concern yourself with beauty, this manifestation of beauty has to also communicate what your solution is all about at first go.

After this step, design is actually less about aesthetics, but more about a comprehensive solution where you have less that 15 minutes to convince your customer that there is relevance of your solution (product, process and system) to their needs and objectives.

There are a lot more nuggets you can extract from this, so do head over here for more details.


Beyond Design : Explorations Towards a New Practice of Design


I thought you might like to know that I’ve been invited by my friends at the Shih Chien University Industrial Design Department to conduct a workshop to explore the future of the Design Practice and the Practice of Design.

Participants will understand and explore the changing roles of design and designers as a result of evolving industry trends and consumer needs. Central to our workshop discussions will be the function of Design Leadership and Design Research. I also think it will also be an interesting take on the application and evolution of Design Thinking from a Designers point of view. Have designers found a comfort zone with Design Thinking? Can designers better facilitate meaningful conversations? I’m really looking forward to this discussion!

Beyond Design is a 5-day workshop that will run in 2 phases. Phase 1 is from the 14 to 15 November 2013, and Phase 2 will run on the 8 to 10th of January 2014. Unfortunately it is by invite only, but I’ll see if the findings can be published soon.

A Guide to Experience Maps

Design Process
Aug 13, 2013

adaptive path guide to experience mapping

Adaptive Path has designed a nice little mini-site to share and showcase their guide to Experience Mapping. Very generous of them and too good not to share with you.

experience map process

They have a really nice process of turning the entire Experience Map into a story. Which it should be. A story of a better life.

Hat tip to @timleberecht for the link.

The Definition of a Customer Touch-point

Design Process
Aug 07, 2013

This has to be one of the best definitions of the term “customer touchpoint or touch point” I’ve seen:

The marketer’s erogenous zone. An interaction between a business and a customer.

Executives who walk a mile in customers’ shoes before racing to “improve” relationships with big ideas tend to be more sensitive to crucial touch points.

Meant as “tongue in cheek”, but a very accurate description for an overused and often misunderstood term.