Iterative Holistic Communication

by Luke Wroblewski March 6, 2006

Based on some of the comments I got regarding Design Communicates, I thought it might be useful define things in the context of a typical product development process.

Most companies utilize designers and design deliverables during or after the generation of specific product requirements (often captured in a Product Requirements Document). These requirements are intended to serve as a blueprint for getting a product built. At this point in the process, any amount of strategic change is costly: it adds project churn and is likely to increase completion time. The design and development teams are in rapid implementation mode, as a product needs to get out the door.

Prior to the development of product requirements, however, a set of higher-level requirements is often created to define the problem or the customer need a product will address. These are documented within Business Requirements Documents (BRD), Marketing Requirements Documents (MRD), business plans, and more. It’s at this stage of strategic planning that designers and design deliverables can help immensely. Yet very few companies have designers dedicated to working during this process.

Strategic planning requires iterative holistic thinking and effective communication. These are all strengths of design:

  • Iterative: Design relies on a “build to think” process dependent on trial and error. –A Difference of Design
  • Iterative: Any “solved problem” that involves human beings solves a problem whose parameters must change through time. –Designers Shaping Things
  • Iterative: Increasing the amount of design thinking inside organizations helps you get to clarity faster, helps your organization understand where you're taking it, helps you figure out whether you're on the right track, and enables you to adapt quickly to change. - Strategy by Design
  • Holistic: In order to accomplish broad, deep, and long-term success an organization requires one or more generalist integrators. –Design Vision Part 2
  • Holistic: That's design vision to me: being able to unify the diverse aspects of products into a cohesive message. Today's products are massively complex. That's why they often come out significantly less than ideal. –Design Vision Part 3
  • Holistic: Interface Design it's a craft that takes its wisdom from science, its inspiration from art and the design disciplines, its possibilities and limitations from software technology and corporate culture, and its directions - ideally - from the users. –Why Learn Interface Design?
  • Communication: The design of interactive products requires effective communication with end users. Each product (via its interface design) needs to “tell” users what features it offers (its utility), how to use those features (its usability), and why they should care (its desirability). -Design is communication. Use it as such.
  • Communication: Vision does no one any good if it cannot be communicated. –Design Vision Part 9
  • Communication: Before any idea can become brilliant, it must first be heard. Writing induces clarity. Clarity induces action. -Getting Unstuck