Uniquely me & Uniquely product
If you’ve ever hung out with a designer/product developer or spent any time with one then you may have heard them talk about a great problem. “Oh, that is a great problem!” They might say; Well, what exactly is a great problem? Let’s your discovery begins with the way we developed SLYK Project from “problem” to “success”
Adrian Maile lives in London with his wife Hilary and his four daughters. He has a whopping 9 grand children to boot (yes, you heard correctly “NINE”). To say his house is hectic could be an understatement. With each new addition to his family, in time, came the addition of a new smart device. Be it an iPhone, a tablet, or some other gadget; and each of these devices has one real requirement. They need to be charged in order to function. Now let’s just take a minute and appreciate just how many devices Adrian and his family member have to charge at once. If each of them only has one device that’s 15 devices Adrian needs to charge. Yes “FIFTEEN”
In this day and age as well, let’s be honest, most of Adrian’s family are also going to have iPads, iPhones, maybe a Nintendo and other entertainment devices. A great problem is that who even has 15 power outlets/plugs available in their whole home? Adrian certainly didn’t. Couple this with an increased risk of someone inadvertently leaving a charging cable behind by mistake, or the ensuing arguments caused by one person or another “just borrowing” someone else’s charging cable “because they really needed it” – You can see that it really starts to become a pain point for the Maile family.
Now, this is a great problem to discover (Discovery Phase). It comes from a real need. It’s clear in what the problem is, and what the pain points are. It is also clear who benefits and a successful solution is very measurable. This is the discovery phase of a project. Normally we get to this point through investigation using tools such as questionnaires, user’s observations, and interviews. In this case, Adrian is very observant and has a good understanding of the problem and was able to effectively communicate this. Remember, not all clients are as good as Adrian so don’t be complacent with this phase.
The next phase in the process involves stepping away from the customer. This phase is described as the “Define” phase. It’s important once you as a product developer and a solution finder have gathered all of the relevant information for the developer to go away and start to investigate/deep dive into the data. The product developer is looking for themes that are present across multiple scenarios, or situations. Even themes that are described by multiple users. They’re looking to gain insights and identify opportunities that will shape their development and give it direction. The problem can also be condensed down into a very simple brief. This is important because you need to be able to understand the core element of the problem in order to find a solution for it. But you also need the brief to measure your future solutions against. The measure being: does this solve the problem? In Adrian’s case, the brief would be:
“To create a solution for charging multiple devices at once using only a single plug socket.”
It’s clear, it’s simple, you can communicate it to others and they wouldn’t need any additional explanation and it is defined based on the customers own requirements. It’s unambiguous, measurable and boils down to the very core of the problem. This is the first step of the creative process. In addition to the brief, you will also start to create a specification. This is the most stringent outline of specific requirements of a design. It’s a lot less sexy than the brief and can be difficult to get right. Too specific and it becomes restrictive and inhibits creativity, too loose and your development loses focus and fails to deliver. Our advice is to create a detailed specification with the understanding that everything is negotiable. By that we mean if the specification says, must have LED charge indicators and through the development cycle you find that users look at the phone screen to find charge level and not the LED’s then you should have the freedom to either ignore or remove this as a requirement because there is a justifiable and demonstrable reason to not have LED charge indicators in your design.
Once you have a clear definition of the problem, you’ve identified several apparent themes and you start to have an understanding of the direction you need to go forward in you then begin the Development phase. This is where you start to bring everything you have learned thus far into a design solution. Product Designers/Developers have a whole plethora of tools at their disposal for this phase including brainstorming, sketching, ideation, prototyping, 3D printing, card modeling, and experimentation. Really this is where the work is done.
Having expanded on the core problem during the define phase, then refining it back down into a brief, we now enter into a new “blue sky” thinking phase, expanding the scope all the way back out from the feasible, to outright lunacy concepts. At this stage, everything should be on the table. The whole point of the development phase is to explore every avenue or every potential idea that comes to you as a designer/developer. This is not the time for negativity or even reality. This is the phase where you explore ideas that could solve the problem, not ideas that will solve the problem.
From this creative soup of ideas and solutions, front runners will emerge. Ideas that captivate you, or ideas that stand out; but it is important to measure them against the original brief. Does this idea allow me to charge multiple devices at once? Yes! Does it only use one single plug socket? Yes! Great then it’s a good start. Additionally, you will then start to measure solutions against the specification. Does it start to meet the additional criteria that I have set out for myself? This begins the process of going from many concepts back down towards one final solution. This brings us squarely into our Build phase. This is where the real detail design comes into play as we start to design for manufacture. Design-for-Manufacturing (DFM) is the term we use to describe the process of designing and developing the detail design of a product to suit the manufacturing processes required to produce it. This can be as simple as adding drafted faces (sloped) to plastic parts to allow them to easily be removed from a mold, all the way up to more complex requirements such as tuning tolerances to meet the tolerances of the manufacturing process/supplier so that the design of the product functions as you need it to. This phase may look like the last 10% of the project but it’s typically where 90% of the work goes in.
The build phase also includes going to market. Taking your idea and selling it to consumers. This phase includes setting up shipping and distribution, warehousing and packaging. It can be complex and to people new to the product development cycle can be the most difficult part of the process to achieve without help.
All of these phases, Discovery, Define, Develop and Build are all things that we here at Detekt have a wealth of experience. It can be tough to go it alone but we can make that journey a lot simpler. This is how we helped Adrian Maile achieve his goal of charging his families devices. Adrian founded the company SLYK (pronounced “sleek”) in 2015 and this year debuts his Charging station. Capable of docking charging up to six iPhones at once, also space for two additional devices to be charged via USB-A ports, and all from one power socket.
Adrian approached us here at Detekt because he had a problem and a product vision. Through going through the Double diamond product development process we have successfully created what we believe to be a fantastic product that Adrian is looking to launch to market this year.