Riffing on Design

How awesome guitar riffs can inspire great brand experiences for digital products

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Things don’t always go to plan on projects. It comes with the territory when working in an adaptive, lean and nimble way.

But how do you get precious hindsight before you’ve started a project?

We use a simple technique to map potential risks or failures at a project kickoff to set the team up for success. And it involves a little time travel.

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Now more than ever, as we create the next generation of products and services that are lasting longer, reaching wider and impacting more lives — we need to break out of our bubble of culturally homogeneous product teams.

As practitioners, it’s our duty to bring together teams that better represent the people we are designing for. We need to create better grassroots access to jobs that are currently privileged opportunities available to the few.

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Quality customer research is the foundation to creating things people want to use — and potentially love to use. But it’s really easy to mess up this kind of research. Especially the customer interview.

If you really want to waste your customers’ time as well as your own, here are 5 things you can try during interviews...

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The evolution of the humble sketch.

Like the products we make, our tools and processes are constantly being iterated at Made by Many. One of those is the continuing evolution of ‘the sketch’.

The value of sketches is they simply and effectively get to the heart of a proposition or service idea. We use them often as a first step in talking to real users in the early stages of a project vision...

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“You two look like Ant and Dec.” A small finger prods at me through the air. “You… are Ant.”

Knocked off balance I look to my colleague for reassurance, only to be greeted with a nervous smile. Deep breath. Smile. Don’t take the bait. I move my focus to his best friend whose eyes are darting around the room, looking at everything but the paper prototype on the table in front of him.

“Adventure time!” he barks at random and energetically jumps to his feet. A loud thunk emits from his shoes as they hit the floor. With a squeaky grinding of metal on plastic wheel, he effortlessly glides across the room in the opposite direction.

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In 2011, I was part of a small team that re-designed BBC Weather online. My role involved visual and interaction design. Along with designing core pages to the service, a large part of my work involved bringing back and modernising the classic BBC Weather icon set.

In 2013 I was interviewed by Yuki Fujiwara as part of her thesis on Visualisation of the weather. We spoke about the challenges of designing at scale, iconographic design and the role of online weather vs traditional TV forecasts.

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We were 6 weeks into a project. We’d got under the skin of our clients business and had ran a bunch of depth interviews along with insights driven prototyping with their customers. Divergent concepts had been pitted against one another and lots had been thrown out along the way. We emerged on the other side with a proposition and initial designs that customers responded well to. We had a thing!

We had been making sure we were designing the right thing
Now was the time to design the thing right.

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Becoming a more empathic and user-centered designer is about gaining a better understanding of people. And that starts with listening.

I’m not just talking about listening in a design research environment either. But at every opportunity — with clients, users and colleagues.
Especially with colleagues.

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Over the years, I’ve been challenged with designing several icon sets for totally new and established brands. Whenever I start concepting and designing a new icon set, there are a few lenses I use to approach creating on-brand iconographic systems.

I’ve found these constraints and rules have helped me create consistency across large scale icon sets, that feel an integral part of the product and brand.

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The other week, I was working towards a very tight deadline for a project at Made by Many. I usually relish these types of challenges — the chance to get my head into a new business, learning lots, unearthing problems and making stuff quickly. But this particular project presented a set of pretty meaty problems. It was complex and filled with edge cases.

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On moving my website to Squarespace

I’ve had my website (very gratefully) hosted by my brother Gareth since I first registered adammorrisdesign.com in 2007. It’s always served as my portfolio site — from when I was a fresh faced design student through to it’s present form. But out of the blue I received an email from Gareth a month or so ago. The gist of which was…

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As Leah often likes to recall, I probably had the idea of printing a newspaper as a part of our wedding day before we even had a date or venue sorted. And it’s true. I’ve been itching to use the excellent Newspaper Club for some time. Being a designer by day, my natural habitat is made up of pixels and screens. For purely selfish reasons this was a great excuse for me to get my hands inky with the printing process again.

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Interview: New challenges for designers in a participatory world

Late last year, I was interviewed by communication design student Thomas Wagner from the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany. The questions were focussed on our work at Made by Many for his thesis on Participatory design and the role of designers when creating digital products and services.

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Open collaboration with external development partners

I don’t know about you, but I’m spoiled. I get to work with incredibly talented product developers in small multidisciplinary teams at Made by Many. Over time, we’ve developed a specific way of working together which is fast, collaborative and efficient. We’re in each others pockets throughout the process and it’s a blast.

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How to Adobe-ify your keyboard shortcuts in Keynote

Keynote is one of the best design tools out there. We have been using it at Made by Many for a while now. From prototyping and testing hypotheses all the way through to designing entire websites. Yes, really. It is unparalleled for it’s speed and ease of use.

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