5 More Tips for Innovative Design

The response to our previous post about innovative designs was positive. Here are 5 more tips for innovative design.

Innovative Design Tip #1: Creative Exercises

In My 7 favorite creative exercises author and KLM designer Vince Bass outlines fun and practical exercises for creative design sessions. He recommends beginning with drawing 30 circles to show people that anyone can draw in a basic, pre-defined format and come up with different approaches to drawing This exercise serves as a great icebreaker and get session participants in the right frame of mind.

Another exercise is negative brainstorming, focusing on making the problem worse by dissuading customers from using the system or even how to break the system. The idea, of course, is to approach design problems from a new angle.

The $100 test involves asking participants to invest their own money in ideas, features, or designs. Where they choose to invest quickly surfaces what they deem important.

Read Bass’s article to jump-start the creative process and work toward innovative design.

Innovative Design Tip #2: Understand Friction

“Friction is bad!” Such is the mantra among designers worldwide. And, in many cases, that is true. Author Nick Babich offers a nuanced and useful explanation of friction in Frictionless Experience: How to Create Smooth User Flows.

Babich begins by defining interaction friction as anything in the UI that prevents users from achieving their goal. Cognitive friction refers to the total mental effort required to use the product. A higher cognitive load leads to higher cognitive friction.

Understanding friction is only the first step, however. It’s also important to understand the difference between negative and positive friction. Negative friction, as described above, hinders users. In contrast, positive friction adds value to the user’s experience. For example, protective friction in the form of error prevention is helpful. A second example of positive friction is the validation check in email programs that tracks text, such as a reference to an attachment, and then as asks users if they forgot to attach a file when not attachment is detected.

Babich offers seven useful tips for avoiding bad friction such as trimming unnecessary features, guiding users, and handling errors gracefully. The tips themselves are straightforward. The trick is how to implement these tips, and Babich offers several concrete solutions. This is where innovative design comes into play. By applying Babich’s solutions and thinking creatively about reducing negative friction, designers will offer a rewarding and pain-free user experience.

Innovation Design Tip #3: Shield Your Creative Team

Yoram Solomon is the first author in recent memory to compare leadership to blood cells. In Innovation Leaders as White Blood Cells, Solomon gets right to the point, “One of the most important roles of the leader of a creative team is to keep the team separated from the rest of the organization. Just like your immune system separates you from disease.”

He illustrates his point with an amusing anecdote about a time tracking system at a startup. The take-away is straightforward. Leaders who want their teams to excel in innovation design must literally stop anything that will hurt creativity and innovation. Not time sheets, status reports, or weekly meetings. If, Solomon argues, you are a true team leader you already know what your team is working on. That’s enough. Let them work and bone up on your biology. You’re going to need it to shield your team.

Innovation Design Tip #4: Design Doing

As the grandfather of design thinking, Don Norman likely needs no introduction. In this short Inc. about design doing, author Ayse Birsel outlines Norman’s design thinking principles to remind readers of the importance of doing.

Yes, design is a way of thinking and critical to success in business. This way of thinking is crucial but so is doing. How? By applying design thinking to real word business problems. Because design is about solving problems the best way to teach design thinking is to give the tea an actual problem to solve.

Naturally, buy-in throughout the organization is essential. Nothing new here, but Birsel raises an important point that we emphasize frequently here at UI UX Training; getting CEOs and junior executives to buy into design thinking is feasible because it speaks to innovation, and the c-suite loves innovation and innovative design, “It is in the middle management that it gets stuck.” Birsei is right. Persuading middle managers to devote time and resources to design thinking is no small task.

Whatever the approach to design thinking it must be transferable and scalable. Indeed, achieving these ambitious goals can go a long way toward gathering support from middle management.

Innovation Design Tip #5: Take a Walk

Hardly earth-shattering advice, but don’t take my word for it. Follow the advice of the Novel laureate Herbert Simon whom some have labeled the most important social scientist of the twentieth century. A good friend of mine was a junior colleague of Simon’s at Carnegie Mellon. Simon told her “The feet are the wheels of the mind.”

Why? Because, strange as it might sound, our brains need a cognitive break. The part of the brain that makes new connections cannot fully engage while we are actively engaging the executive brain function. Those connections emerge only when we shut off our executive function resulting in “shower” or “light bulb” moments. Essentially, we need to relieve brain strain by shutting off our executive function so that the brain can do some neurological knitting.

Take a walk, take a shower, take a break, or stare out the window. You’ll be glad you did.