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Design Studio Workshops: Ideation, Problem-Solving, and the MVP

By Carlos M. Rodriguez posted 07-25-2023 17:42

Design Studio Workshops: Ideation, Problem-Solving, and the MVP

Design Studio Workshops: Ideation, Problem-Solving, and the MVP

Read time: 4 minutes

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

Helen Keller

What Is a Design Studio?

A design studio is a UX workshop combining divergent and convergent thinking in an ideation process, focusing on finding solutions to a problem, and providing the platform to aid prototyping efforts. It combines brainstorming, setting priorities, and adjusting solution demands in a fast, energetic, and collaborative environment. Several refer to design studios as design sprints, UX workshops, etc.

Design studios include diverse perspectives, provoke ideation in a short time, and thus can be included in Agile design environments, facilitating team direction.

In my practice, I use the following “innovation flow” chart to guide me in the design studio process (see Figure 1).

Description of the innovation flow process followed in a Design Studio Workshop.

Figure 1: Description of the innovation flow process followed in a Design Studio Workshop.

How to set up a Design Studio Workshop?

In my experience, there are essential steps and preconditions to have an effective design studio workshop.

First, be clear about the design studio’s objectives and your expectations (deliverables). Even though you will engage the participants in an ideation process, organizing the discussion content in several paths (themes) in advance is critical. These themes are dimensions of the overall issue that you attempt to understand. For each of these themes, you may have several topics (sub-themes) that allow you to fragment the participants’ thinking in the divergent stage.

Second, identify the appropriate stakeholders needed in the design studio. These could be the product manager, innovation manager, marketing manager, and all other employees with a stake in the process.

Third, design specific templates and hands-on material for the design studio. Generally, I create these templates for each dimension I want to explore. These templates could be profiles, flowcharts, perfect match tools, deep tools, path to excellence, matrix designs, cause-effect Ishikawa diagrams, Walt Disney chart, etc. Figure 2 shows some examples of manual charts and templates.

Examples of diagrams and manual charts used in Design Studio Workshops.

Figure 2: Examples of diagrams and manual charts used in Design Studio Workshops.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

The six thinking hats method (Edward de Bono, 1985) is helpful during the divergent and convergence stages. This technique assigns to the group members one of six metaphorical hats representing different modes of thinking. Participants “play” their roles as they focus on discussing each idea. The following Figure 3 illustrates the setting to apply this technique.

Figure 3: Assignment of roles and characters following Edward di Bono’s six hats technique.

Figure 3: Assignment of roles and characters following Edward di Bono’s six hats technique.

During the convergence stage, some teams may become blocked. SCAMPER (Bob Eberie, 1971) is a lateral ideation technique that utilizes a set of directed, idea-spurring questions as stimuli that act as sparkers, idea-spurring, and provocations.

SCAMPER is based on the notion that much of what is new is a modification of something already existing. Bob Eberie developed it. SCAMPER is an acronym with each letter standing for an action verb: S – Substitute, C – Combine, A – Adapt, M – Modify, Magnify, Minify, P – Put to another use, E – Eliminate, and R – Reverse or rearrange.

It helps us ask seven questions to develop ideas for improving existing products and services or making new ones. A learning tool that fosters awareness, drive, fluency, flexibility, and originality. SCAMPER follows the sequencing shown in Figure 4.

Description of the SCAMPER creative process.

Figure 4: Description of the SCAMPER creative process. Once the team understands the problem or impasse, a selection of action verbs is chosen to serve as filters during the next brainstorming session.

Fourth, your role as facilitator is critical. It involves managing the creative and ideations process and the organization, scheduled times, and completeness of all activities included in the design studio. The facilitator sets the amount of time available for Ideation and brainstorming (divergence process) and sketching and prototyping (convergence process) and makes sure all participants are involved, post their sketches, work on the strengths of team members’ ideas, and provide constructive critique leading to several proposals and a final group concept. The facilitator’s role is vital in encouraging the involvement and participation of team members and synthesizing the results of all the design exercises defined for the design studio.

Finally, design studios generate a large amount of qualitative data depending on the objectives established for the workshop. There are several excellent qualitative data analysis software available for such analysis. A few of these are MAXQDA, NVIVO, ATLAS.TI, QDA Miner, and TAGUETLE in open source. Be sure to select the platform that fits your experience and data analysis approach better.

Once the design studio is completed and qualitative information analyzed and interpreted, the next step is to produce a high fidelity (Minimum Viable Product, MVP) to be tested.

About the Author

Carlos Rodriguez

Carlos M Rodriguez is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Quantitative Methods and Director of the Center for the Study of Innovation Management, CSIM in the College of Business, Delaware State University, USA. His publications have appeared in the Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business to Business Marketing, Journal of International Marketing, International Marketing Review, Management Decision, International Journal of Business and Social Sciences, Journal of Business and Leadership, and Journal of Higher Education Research & Development among others and several conference proceedings. Currently, he serves in the editorial board of several journals. His research interests are in the areas of entrepreneurship and strategic capabilities, luxury branding and experiences, product design and new product development teams, and relationship marketing. He recently published the book entitled Product Design and Innovation: Analytics for Decision Making centered in the design techniques and methodologies vital to the product design process. He is engaged in several international educational, research, and academic projects, as well, as, international professional activities.

Further Reading

Acker, M. (2021), The art & science of facilitation: How to lead effective collaboration with agile teams, TeamCatapult Publishing.

De Bono, E. (1970), Lateral thinking: Creativity step by step, Harper & Row, New York.

Hamilton, P. (2016), Workshop book, the: How to design and lead successful workshops, Pearson Business.

Knapp, J., Zeratsky, J. and Kowitz, B. (2016), Sprint, Simon & Schuster, New York.

Sullivan, B. (2015), The design studio method: Creative problem solving with UX sketching, Routledge, New York.

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