Iteration multiplication – for the love of the sketch
We’re getting towards the end of a pretty big project that has involved working with a large complex organisation (one of the largest and most complex here in Australia) which means we were in reflective mode on both our approach to the project and the outputs we’ve been creating.
One of the key ‘outputs’ was to map the complex relationships supporting a key service of our client. The map is designed to be a way-finding, decision-making, impact-assessing representation of how stuff is supposed to work and the routes goals and outcomes travel.
Sometimes it’s interesting to look back and track the progress of a map and we thought we’d share what we’d done and why so here’s the journey of iterations of the map we’ve been working on.
First iteration, with the client design team to try and make some sense of the anecdotes:
Next iteration, taken from the insights, inputs and literature that is known:
Then, the iteration developed with the users and stakeholders:
Until you can pull all the pertinent elements together on whiteboard:
And then finally, pulling it all together:
And the client sees it in this form and says: “Yes, I love it” – hopefully (and in this case they did!).
The process affirmed our approach, which includes:
- Keeping it messy. Don’t get the diagram looking too good, too early – it means if it’s wrong, or there’s a better way to present it people have already imprinted a particular look and it’s very hard to shift them.
- Support scribbling. We deliberately leave the work rough and scribbled on when we engage users and stakeholders. That way they feel they can scribble on it too. Just like a good prototype – it invites improvement.
- Visualise don’t process map. It never ceases to amaze us how powerful putting something in a visual form is. Yes, yes “picture’s worth a thousand…” and all that, but when you go to a client site and they’ve had literally years worth of documents and powerpoints full of text and process maps but still don’t get their world and you have a conversation with them, using a pen, and clumsily sketching connections just watch them (some of them) take the pen and go for it!
- Prototype the map, don’t craft it. Producing something that is knowingly wrong (what we like to call a ‘sacrificial prototype’ (nod to IDEO for that term)) can be just as powerful as getting it right.
- Be realistic about feedback. Don’t be overawed by the apparent awesomeness of a great looking diagram – sometimes a positive response can just mean the viewer may not have actually taken it in, but it definitely looks like ‘something’ to them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But like the juicy salif, if it looks great but doesn’t perform the function it says it does, well then it’s just a good looking piece of design. And design must lead to function because, in this case, function is implementation.