I love Fall. And not just because “pumpkin spice” is my favorite flavor everything. Fall feels like a time of transition and growth. Change is in the air, and it is up to us to make sure that change is healthy and productive.

As for me, I am transitioning from a sick human to a healthy and productive one. Since the month of September found me so under the weather, I am officially extending Space for Play birthday month to October, with special events and discounts for all! You can find out more about this on our Facebook Page.

Now let’s move on to the next part of our System Intervention via Design Thinking series – and a perfect entry to a productive Fall: Make Something!

Image from: http://themakerspace.co.za/need-make/

Image from: http://themakerspace.co.za/need-make/

Step 3: Make Something
Now that you’ve gone through the ideation phase (brainstorming and doing research to come up with your core idea) it’s time to start making something.

Iterative design is amazing. Not only the process, which is fun and powerful and educational in it’s own right, but the very foundational concept is incredibly empowering and uplifting It means that nothing is broken – not the government, not our myriad unhelpful systems, not your (or my) life. We just haven’t arrived at the final, best possible, iteration yet and we can all have a part in getting us there.

The important thing about iterative design is that you make something, test it to see what works and what doesn’t, and then make a new better version. Then test that version, make another better version and so on until your project feels like it is going to work the way you need it to (or it is close enough and you’ve run out of time). This is a far more effective way to come up with a good prototype than trying to figure out how to make something perfect the first time around. This might seem counterintuitive until you realize that the odds of you coming up with the perfect thing straight from your brain to a finished product on the first try are astronomically teensy. Iterative design is a very efficient way to work through what is working, what isn’t working and get something that is going to solve your problem quickly. Bonuses include not getting stuck in your own brain muck and allowing for unpredictable opportunities for other factors – people, the environment, etc – to offer additional design direction and make your project even more spectacular.

To get started take a look at the ideas you’ve generated and figure out which you want to start with. The ideas you start with may not be anywhere near where you wind up but its best not to get your mind too entrenched in that. Just pick what looks like it will be effective and what you are especially interested in trying and go for it. If this doesn’t work out, you should have a bunch of back up concepts to work with from your brainstorming phase. Choose one of your ideas or a combination of a couple of things you’ve come up with. You also need to remember your constraints, so make sure they are written down and have them available to you while you’re working on your idea. You can use note cards for this or get fancier and make a really big poster with the constraints described or pictured or any way that will help you remember them. Put this poster on the wall of your work space so that you always have these in sight for yourself and your collaborators.

Now that you have your idea and your constraints at your fingertips, it is time to get making. Remember that the goal is to create something that can be tested. Your prototype might involve a physical model of some kind, a script to act out, a storyboard, a bare bones digital artifact or any number of things but whatever form it takes must allow for testing your idea. Recall that in iterative design you want to make something and test it to see if it works and then make it better. Your first test will be with your internal team and then with close friends and family. But at some point you’re going to want to test with your target audience. So keeping that in mind you want to make the cheapest fastest version of your solution that can be tested. In game design we make paper prototypes – even if our final product is going to be a digital game. Making paper models is fast and flexible and allows us to test ideas quickly. If you’re doing performance art you want to have a rough version that you can show a small audience before you reveal it to the world. If you are doing a program to give flyers to the hungry you would make the flyers and show them to people who are able to give good feedback and you would also make something that represents the process of deploying the flyers – a flowchart, storyboard, a video of someone distributing the flyers – whatever makes sense to you.

Next time we’ll talk about testing and how to do it well and effectively and how to take the lessons you learned from testing and turn them into actionable ways to improve your design solution.