INSIGHTS

The Art of Research in Vision Design

Kim Torres
March 22, 2021

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? 

  • Focus on developing an understanding of users’ unconscious needs. These are the things they don’t expect because they don’t know what’s possible. By forming a holistic understanding of the user’s ecosystem through probing questions about how they spend their time, experiences that bring them joy, what they find frustrating, we can begin to dream with them about new possibilities. We should also ask who we should be talking to, outside of our target personas, in an effort to expand our perspective and understanding. 
  • Set aside the constraints of product road maps and current technology. We need to bring the same approach of empathy and flexibility to our research with internal stakeholders. It’s challenging for people to look at themes and to envision possibilities beyond what the product has traditionally solved. Workshops and discussions with internal stakeholders to identify opportunities, clarify vision and balance business drivers are key to defining the vision. 

 

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

 

  • Conduct market research to help identify new technologies and trends to be considered in the product vision. What can we learn about the greater culture, current trends and potential risks? We want to understand the range of problems addressed and solutions offered in a particular space. Some may be more specific and niche, others more wide ranging. Understanding and evaluating how other products frame the problem, communicate their own unique value and solve for this can really help a team expand their sense of what's possible and how their own solution might evolve over time.  Review and understand the models and conventions that users may have already been exposed to so product teams can make informed decisions about whether to leverage existing workflows and methods or introduce something new. Are there untapped markets to consider? Who are the leaders and why are they winning? Identifying opportunities and then grounding them in specific business drivers will help develop the vision and define what will really deliver value and what will be your differentiator. 

 

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.

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? 

  • Focus on developing an understanding of users’ unconscious needs. These are the things they don’t expect because they don’t know what’s possible. By forming a holistic understanding of the user’s ecosystem through probing questions about how they spend their time, experiences that bring them joy, what they find frustrating, we can begin to dream with them about new possibilities. We should also ask who we should be talking to, outside of our target personas, in an effort to expand our perspective and understanding. 
  • Set aside the constraints of product road maps and current technology. We need to bring the same approach of empathy and flexibility to our research with internal stakeholders. It’s challenging for people to look at themes and to envision possibilities beyond what the product has traditionally solved. Workshops and discussions with internal stakeholders to identify opportunities, clarify vision and balance business drivers are key to defining the vision. 

 

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

 

  • Conduct market research to help identify new technologies and trends to be considered in the product vision. What can we learn about the greater culture, current trends and potential risks? We want to understand the range of problems addressed and solutions offered in a particular space. Some may be more specific and niche, others more wide ranging. Understanding and evaluating how other products frame the problem, communicate their own unique value and solve for this can really help a team expand their sense of what's possible and how their own solution might evolve over time.  Review and understand the models and conventions that users may have already been exposed to so product teams can make informed decisions about whether to leverage existing workflows and methods or introduce something new. Are there untapped markets to consider? Who are the leaders and why are they winning? Identifying opportunities and then grounding them in specific business drivers will help develop the vision and define what will really deliver value and what will be your differentiator. 

 

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.

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