*This article focuses on Design Studio workshops, not to be confused with a Design Studio agency (but both equally important!).
A Design Studio helps us visually articulate how our product features and ideas will look and behave.
Collaborative sketching exercise (not drawing!), made for cross-functional teams, which:
Before you start there’s a few house cleaning items to get sorted.
This workshop will be held remotely and requires the following hardware/software to work. If anyone on your team is unable to meet these requirements, have them contact the studio host to see if they can resolve the issue before the session begins.
Spoiler Alert: We’ll be putting our mobile devices away and getting our hands on some primitive tools during this session. Prepare yourself for some separation anxiety.
If time allows, please look over these materials ahead of our upcoming session to refresh yourself with the content.
This contains your assumptions, problem statement and hypotheses.
This is informed by your insights driven research and structured in the following way;
We have observed that [product/service/organization] isn’t meeting [these goals/needs], which is causing [this adverse effect]. How might we improve so that our [product/service/team/organization] is more successful based on [these measurable criteria]?
Your hypotheses is prioritized by what’s the most important (ROI for your business) and or riskiest one (Could detrimentally affect your business if not resolved quickly and or executed properly.)
Within your group you're going to have a facilitator, scribe, and general team contributors. Typically your facilitator is the lead designer and or head researcher. You scribe is generally a volunteer from the team.
*Keep in mind a scribe will have to do two jobs, contribute and chronicle, so make sure he or she is aware of this.
Members of the design studio are ready to begin, but before they do they’re required to follow a few rules both for their and the team’s benefit.
(Working alone together)
The first thing you’ll need to do is go back to our business problem statement, broad hypotheses, personas, reference materials, old ideas, etc., and begin to brainstorm a list of ideas/concepts/drivers that will fuel solution sketches. Give everyone 10 minutes to review these materials and take notes on the MURAL board.
Gather the building blocks for your solution sketches.
Ideas can take the form of just about anything, including words, drawings, or found imagery.
Instruct your team to go to the MURAL board and start adding their ideas.
Set the timer for 10 minutes, giving them a 1 minute warning as time winds down.
At this point you will have gathered a list of ideas in various forms that will directly inform the next step “Solution Sketching”
Before we get started this is a good time to ease everyone’s fears. The fear of “I can’t draw.” Here’s the thing, any interface that exists today can be drawn with three simple shapes: A square, circle, and triangle. Ground your team in this idea.
Now that everyone has their ideas flowing, they’re going to convert those ideas into solutions using an exercise called “6-Up’s”. Everyone should pull out their printed 6-Up template and arm themselves with a black felt-tip pen. You will give them 1 minute per block to quickly sketch a product concept that solves for the first hypotheses you’ve chosen and or prioritized.
Now that the team has gone through the prep work and understands the necessary output you’ll want to instruct them to get started. Using the printed 6-Up template and their black felt-tip pen, the team is going to set the timer for a total of 6 minutes, one minute per box.
For the next five minutes you’re going to go around and grab screenshots of everyone’s 6-Up sketches and post them to the MURAL board before you move on. Once their sketches have been handed off feel free to give them a two minute break and have everyone meet back again for the next exercise.
Using MURAL, you’re now going to start from the top and each person in the room is going to take just a few minutes to walk the rest of the team through their sketches.
Time-box each person to 3 minutes max. Your Scribe will be taking notes as each person is presenting their sketches and we’ll be adding these to the board as “highlights” to review before our next step.
Now that you have all of the solution sketches on the board, you’ll take 10 minutes together (but alone) to review each other's sketches and place small dots (dot voting), using the anonymous MURAL voting feature, on the areas of the sketch that you like, find interesting or are more curious about. This is a silent exercise. You’ll talk about the sketches next.
Allow the Scribe to continue posting notes to the MURAL board while the team takes a short break.
(The Art of Stealing)
Before we jump into our next (and final) round of sketching, let’s take a few minutes to review what we’ve heard so far from our critiques and or vote tallies. We’ll be using this feedback and or votes to inform our next sketch.
Everyone goes to the MURAL board to review the notes the Scribe has posted. The team can take their own personal notes to gather their “plan” for the next round of sketching. This should take no more than 5 minutes.
Taking everything you’ve done up to this point, each team member is going to spend a total of 10 minutes sketching one singular solution. This sketch will be more detailed and build upon what they’ve already started. This is not the time to introduce new ideas.
Using another blank 6-Up template and your black felt-tip pen, start sketching your refined solution sketch in a storyboard format, using separate boxes to show each step of your proposed solution.
For the next few minutes you’re going to go around and grab screenshots of everyone’s final sketches and post them to the MURAL board for a final review and voting session. Once each team member’s sketch has been handed off feel free to take a 2 minute break, with everyone meeting backup to wrap-up
You’re going to time-box each person to 2 minutes max. Your Scribe will be taking notes as each person is presenting their sketches for reference later. This should take no longer than 10 minutes.
Start thinking about the 3 solutions/parts of solutions that you want to vote for. You’re all going to use the “round stickies” in the MURAL voting session as our votes. Instruct the team when you’ve started the “Voting Session” in MURAL. Voting should take no longer than 3 minutes from start to finish.
Let’s take a look at the votes and see what the results were.
What have we accomplished?
When he's not building, mentoring, and growing from the ground up, a world-class distributed experience design team, you can find him in that number in his adopted hometown of New Orleans.
A true believer in research and process-driven design that's working towards creating a major digital transformation at O'Reilly from his home office in San Diego.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Jeff Gothelf, author of the book Lean UX. His teachings, especially those on Design Studios, are instrumental in informing the way we conduct Design Studios here at O'Reilly Media.
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