2 of July2009
Some time ago I ran across a BusinessWeek article about Apple’s design process:
Every week, the teams have two meetings. One in which to brainstorm, to forget about constraints and think freely. As Lopp put it: to “go crazy”. Then they also hold a production meeting, an entirely separate but equally regular meeting which is the other’s antithesis. Here, the designers and engineers are required to nail everything down, to work out how this crazy idea might actually work.
This really struck me as quite profound. I’ve participated in brainstorming sessions, creative sessions, (or whatever else you want to call them) where the goal of the meeting was to come up with creative ways to solve problems and restrictions. The most successful of these meetings followed something similar to Apple’s process.
Why is this?
There seems to be something intensely paralyzing about trying to find creative solutions while at the same time trying to remember all of the constraints of the tiny square you’ve painted around yourself. Trying to find solutions that solve all of the problems while staying inside of the constraints of the box is an unproductive ritual of self-guessing. You end up shooting yourself down on every idea you come up with. “This won’t work. That won’t either…”
A lesson to be learned from authors
Authors write a rough draft. They just kind of vomit everything out, and then write and write until they run dry. Then they go back and refine parts that need refining. Many authors will do 9 or 10 rewrites until the finished book ends up being very different from the original draft. The rough draft gets their ideas out on paper. They can improve it. They can show it to others who can critique it.
Just like writers have “writer’s block” so do designers. I find the best remedy to this (after sketching and doing the normal research) is to simply open up photoshop and start pushing pixels. Overwhelmingly, after 10 minutes or so of this, I can see a solution and am excited to finish the piece.
Summary & Conclusion
Have 1 meeting where anything goes. Everybody’s idea is appreciated. There are no dumb ideas. This is a meeting for trying to find ways an idea could work.
Have a 2nd half or separate meeting where you shoot holes in those ideas. You then usually end up with the really good ones.
A word of caution before I end. There is such a thing as getting input from too many people. With most brilliant ideas, many people don’t recognize them as such. There will often be opposition. Show it to the right people you trust. Not too many. Design by committee is useless. Now go forth and be brilliant.