In a recent talk about product vision design, Alissa Briggs, Director of Design at Autodesk, describes a successful vision-oriented research process as “meeting with customers and dreaming with them.” UX research is often viewed as the science that informs the art of design, but when developing a product vision design, it is important to approach research as both science and art. Dreaming with customers requires empathy, flexibility and the willingness to explore ideas organically, in the moment. 

 

Going off-script is critical for creating a new vision

The boundaries often created by reviewing wireframes and prototypes with users can limit the possibilities that could be central for creating a new vision. Typical UX research methodology includes understanding the needs and expectations of users, but how do you discover the opportunities that may lie beyond users’ expectations, beyond their current experience? 

 

Have people participate in creating the vision - internally and externally. As we shape the vision, we can connect it back to that engagement and the bigger meaning behind it.  - Alissa Briggs, Director of Design at Autodesk

 

 

Use the best tools to inspire feedback that is right for the moment

Frequent engagement with users and stakeholders for clarity and feedback will help to refine the vision concepts and design. The level of fidelity that is used to present the vision shapes the way people will respond to a concept or idea. 

 

There is definitely a hazard of getting feedback that isn’t right for that moment in time. If it’s too detailed, it closes the door for ideas because people think it is already done.  - Keela Robison, VP of Product Innovation at Netflix

 

When considering whether to use storyboards, wireframes or high-fidelity prototypes to validate the vision design, we should ask ourselves what type of feedback is right for this moment. What can we show that will communicate just enough for people to understand what it is, how it can fit in their lives and offer meaningful feedback? 

There is no formula for the best research methodology for product vision design, but by approaching vision research as both art and science; constantly evolving and focused on empathy, conducted with the mind of a beginner instead of an expert, we can begin the hard work of dreaming up a new product vision. 

To hear the full discussion between Keela Robison and Alissa Briggs as they discuss product vision design as part of our Product Vision Design Discussion Series, check out our podcast or watch the video now. If you would like to chat with us about research for your next product vision design project, contact us at hello@proximitylab.com.

 

This 1 hour session explores the leading edge product vision design work from Adobe that leverages machine intelligence in ways that shapes new market opportunities and is influencing Adobe’s business strategy. Our discussion spans near term and longer term initiatives at Adobe with a focus on leveraging AI and machine learning into design tools for creative pros. This event features the perspectives from designers, researchers and scientists at Adobe.

Key Topics 

Listen to the podcast now.

What's Next

This event is the second session in a discussion series that explores the topic from the perspectives of design leaders, product strategists and product designers. If you have suggestions for topics, speakers, or questions please send them to hello@proximitylab.com.

It’s a few weeks into a project. Everyone has taken their seats and logged into the web conference. The key bullet on the agenda reads: Review first iteration of product visual designs. You’ve even built a prototype to show participants the proposed end-to-end experience. But a few clicks into the walk-through, the meeting grinds to a halt. A key stakeholder has questions. Others chime in. Instead of showcasing your work, you find yourself bouncing between mock-ups, requirements documents, and pitch decks. Your hopes of forging consensus around the customer experience have faded.

 

Getting consensus from stakeholders requires successful storytelling and communication of the big picture

We’ve all been in meetings like this. Frequent working sessions, well-documented business requirements, and extensive design iterations prove insufficient to establish consensus. The reality is that stakeholders and team members are often on different pages, and there are plenty of opportunities for misunderstandings and confusion when dealing with complex products, time-constrained activities, and geographically distributed teams. Executives may not be able to attend key meetings. Stakeholders can get lost in a sea of PDFs, Sketch files, and Google Docs. Not everyone pays attention to the latest Slack post. And some team members struggle with technically complex documents and detailed process flows. What if you could synthesize all of the complexities into one simple visual that conveyed the story clearly to stakeholders?

One approach: Thumbflows

If you work in a creative firm or are part of an in-house design team, you understand the importance of getting clarity and consensus from stakeholders early in the project. However, it can be challenging to find the right way to communicate the story to a diverse team with different needs and backgrounds. Over the past few years, our product design team has found a surprising level of success addressing this problem by using a hybrid kind of design deliverable we call a thumbflow. It’s an artifact uniquely suited for communicating complex product experiences and getting everyone on the same page. Our UX design work for clients like Adobe, Citrix, and Oracle has given us an opportunity to explore, iterate, and test several variations—each tuned for a slightly different set of needs.

A basic thumbflow that showcases flow, some design elements and the user interaction

A thumbflow tells a story of how customers interact with products and each other. It draws from a number of design artifacts and document types you’re already familiar with and is presented in an approachable and easy-to-consume format. Much like a flow diagram, it showcases a sequence of events and interactions, but it avoids the temptation to illustrate all possible scenarios and keeps the amount of technical detail appropriate for consumption by less technical team members. Like a wireframe, it includes a high-level, abstracted view of the product interfaces, but instead of representing all content and interface elements, only a thumbnail version of the screens are shown. This forces the designer to consider only the aspects of each screen that are essential to high-level storytelling and ensures that the document remains glanceable. Similar to journey maps and personas, it touches on who the user is, what they are doing, and why. It does this in a way that focuses exclusively on user actions and the relevant product screens, features, and workflows that exist to support their needs and activities.

Highly flexible, thumbflows can demonstrate interactions with multiple users

Other powerful attributes of thumbflows include:

A complex thumbflow that showcases an extended user experience, including switching devices

As for business benefits, thumbflows:

An example of a thumbflow that incorporates Jira tickets to ensure engineering is also in the loop

Getting Started

Today is a perfect time to experiment with thumbflows. If a project is underway, you’ll have plenty of design artifacts to draw from. If it’s just starting up, think about incorporating thumbflows from the outset. You might want to begin with a simple one, or just jump right in with a more complex version if the situation warrants it. As the product evolves, so will your thumbflows. And the next project? The thumbflows will probably look very different. No matter what you come up with, we’d love to hear from you about your experience. Contact us at hello@proximitylab.com.

This 45-minute session explores the importance of investing in vision-oriented product design and examine how it can help drive value and alignment across the organization and how it relates to product strategy, road map development, and release-focused design and implementation. This event features the perspectives from product leaders from Autodesk and Netflix. 

Key Topics

Listen to the podcast now.

What's Next

This event is the first in a discussion series that will explore the topic from the perspectives of design leaders, product strategists and product designers. If you have suggestions for topics, speakers, or questions please send them to hello@proximitylab.com.

 

Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer at Adobe, shares insights from his critically acclaimed book "The Messy Middle" as part of our Design Conversation Series. Watch the full podcast to hear the discussion about the book and other guidance and inspiration to product leaders and those tackling bold creative endeavors.

Key Topics

Listen to the podcast now.

What's Next

This event is the first in the Design Conversation Discussion series. If you have suggestions for topics, speakers, or questions please send them to hello@proximitylab.com.

How AI is Transforming Product Design

Artificial intelligence (AI) represents a broad range of technologies and capabilities that will continue to radically change the way we interact with digital content. As design professionals seeking to better understand the impact of AI on product design and creativity, we spoke with and surveyed product and design tool experts, designers and knowledge workers. We combined this with our own experience helping companies research, envision and build AI-powered experiences to develop this report.

Key Takeaways

Next Steps 

We hope you enjoy the report and invite you to share your responses, ideas and insights with us. If you'd like to explore ways we can help your product team with research, product strategy and UX design, we'd love to talk with you.