Design exploration: How to come up with wide-range of alternatives
Designers who explore more design alternatives produce better design result
Assumed audience: People who want to explore concepts and design in a more methodical way.
This post at a glance:
Standford study about design exploration
How design exploration can benefit us?
The process to come up with many alternatives in a reasonable time 🔒
How to utilize inspiration methodically 🔒
Q: How can I come up with different alternatives, so my team can discuss and make better decisions?
I spent my career as a Product Designer and recently moved to Product Manager. Now, I love it when the designers bring lots of alternatives to the design review session. It’s helpful. The discussion becomes more productive.
I also found this interesting study from Standford about design exploration.
Serial vs. parallel group
In 2010, researchers at Stanford University did a study with 33 novice designers. They want to know the most effective way to explore and iterate the design work. The designers were divided into two groups to create a banner for online advertising with a different process.
The first group was the serial group. Designers in this group have to make one design at a time. Then, they will receive a critique from an expert each time they have one design (they repeat this five times), then make a final revision.
The second group was the parallel group. Designers in this group have to create three designer alternatives instead of one in the beginning. Then, the expert will give a critique of those three altogether. After that, they will create two more explorations and get one more piece of feedback before making the final version.
Finally, everyone uploaded their work for a 15-day campaign. The researcher analyzed the performance based on the number of clicks.
The researchers noticed the top-performing banner were both from the parallel group. The researchers were also discussed the result with the experts and noticed he work from the parallel group was more diverse and had a higher quality.
Benefits of diverse explorations
First, when you have multiple ideas, you can compare and analyze them side-by-side. You’re motivated to explore and reach a more optimal solution.
Second, when you discuss multiple concepts, your team can say, "This one works. That one doesn't." You can compare and contrast. It results in a more productive discussion.
Finally, when you have multiple alternatives, the discussion focuses to find the best option. It’s not about judging you. You can detach yourself from your work, and engage more with the feedback.
The question: How can we make good exploration within a reasonable timeline?
I want to share a workflow I’ve established over the years. Adjust according to your context. The process looks like this: