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7 Things I Learned from DesignThinkers (and Designers)

Fri, 18 Dec 2015 16:54:59 +0000 / by Natalie Ho


It was my first time attending the DesignThinkers Conference in Toronto last month. It was a conference organized by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD) that welcomed 2,000 delegates and 50 speakers over the span of two days. Chris introduced the DesignThinkers Conference to me as he’s been a longtime admirer of Design Thinking and as for myself, a longtime admirer of design.

I had no idea what to expect.

Within the life insurance and reinsurance world, we may think we don’t often work with designers. But if we step back and take a closer look, designers play a vital role in many of our areas of business today. Whether the contribution of a designer is to beautify our experience through graphic design, interior design and web design or to enhance our user experience through product design and innovation, we are all in touch with design and the practice of design thinking every day.

From my two days with hundreds of RGDs, I’ve come to appreciate and respect the cognitive activities that designers apply during the process of design (hence – Design Thinking). In more traditional industries such as life insurance and reinsurance, I think we can benefit greatly from the methodology of Design Thinking and integrating designers as members of our teams.

Here are my key takeaways in which some are purely conceptual, and some are 100% tactical. 

Beauty + Magic

Create something beautiful and magical. You may think this only applies to the world of design, but in my opinion (and that of keynote speaker, James Victore), whether you’re creating a piece of art, a piece of software, or simply that report filled with data and numbers, there is always room for beauty and magic. It is up to us to make our masterpiece go beyond the extra mile. This is one area that I will be taking back to my team especially in the role of marketing and brand management.

One Thing at a Time

We’ve all been there. Trying to cram absolutely every single ‘feature’ or ‘must have’ into a single value offering. Having gone through a few website re-designs and just embarking our next one, this talk given by Felipe Memoria, Founding Partner of Work & Co. was very timely. He inspired me to re-think our web design strategy – to simplify the elements and focus on the end user - experiencing ‘one thing at a time”. Felipe’s example of Virgin America’s website redesign project, which his team worked on, was a very successful one which employed a ‘brute force’ design methodology. This allowed his team to continuously iterate the end product that ultimately simplifies and improves the user experience, consuming each element, one step at a time.

Assumptions and What Ifs

In order to innovate and create new products/services, we must make assumptions and ask the “what if” questions. Roopa Unnikrishnan who has over a decade of experience in seeding and driving innovation in Fortune 500 companies, shared five behaviours of innovators who take ideas to market. I was particularly drawn to asking the “what ifs” element. I hear way too many times, “that will never work” or “that can’t be done”. But “what if” we repositioned our views and asked “what if we did it this way instead” or “what if the situation was the opposite” – I truly believe this is when innovation and new ideas are sparked.

Eliminate “The Deck”

As much as I enjoy a great PowerPoint presentation, I have a major love/hate relationship with them. On any given week, our team is tasked to create multiple slide decks. The design and creative process is quite enjoyable but more often than not, I find them unnecessary. In all the sessions that I sat through, I saw many great applications of the ‘slide deck’, they told a great story with attractive visual elements and not many words. Slide decks should facilitate conversations, convey concepts and bold ideas rather than filled with paragraphs and lines of words that are hard to read and digest. 

The next time you create your slide deck – ask yourself– do I really need it? And if I do – what message am I trying to convey and what do I want the recipient to do with it?

Implementing a 1 – 10 Scale

Find yourself debating with a colleague endlessly? Having a hard time making a decision around a client or internal project? Or are you having difficulty compromising with your peer? Ever implemented a “How Much Do I Care” scale? Next time you find yourself at a crossroad or no longer have the energy to fight the never ending battle, quantify just how much you care from a scale of 1 – 10. When opposing parties share their ‘number’, it can help you decide which battles are worth picking and which battles are not. A great piece of advice I learned from Cap Watkins, VP of Design at BuzzFeed.

Bring in a Designer’s Perspective

Another takeaway from sitting through Cap’s session was building a winning team by integrating a designer’s perspective into the mix. He spoke a lot about design-driven organizations and how they have become successful by incorporating designers on staff to work with both business leads, engineers, and developers which unites the company’s distinct products under a holistic and cohesive vision. Many times, design comes into the equation too late in the game in order to maximize client experience. We don’t employ any designers today at LOGiQ3, but this is definitely an area of interest as we continue to grow our service and product offerings.

Be Mindful

Meditation is reserved for yogis and the spiritualistic, am I right? WRONG! I attended an inspiring session given by Sascha Lewis, Co-Founder & CEO of Flavorpill Media who shared his journey of finding balance in both his work and personal life through the daily practice of meditation. With this supercharged world that we live in, it is extremely difficult to find time to ‘unplug’. We rely so heavily on being occupied that, sitting still, even for a few minutes is a daunting task. It is scientifically proven that the meditation and finding presence can improve the brain – this in turn can improve productivity, creativity and overall quality of life. I’ve since began my mediation practice, in my attempt to bring myself, my brain, and my work to a healthier and happier state!

How do you feel about the concept of design? What about work environment> Have you made the leap to incorporate or hire designers at the forefront of your work? I’d love to hear from you and your experience!

I thoroughly enjoyed DesignThinkers 2015. I’m far from a designer, but have taken some steps to integrate the practice of design and design-thinking into my work. I plan to share this experience with more colleagues next year so that they can also be inspired to welcome design thinking and designers.

Topics: Marketing

Natalie Ho

Written by Natalie Ho

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