I was in London last month, working with the design team at Primo Toys, inventing and prototyping ideas for new products. Now I’m back in San Francisco, getting over jetlag, and reflecting a little on Extraordinary Facility’s practice.
I’m deeply suspicious of design studios that offer slickly-packaged, one-size-fits-all methodologies and processes. The relationships I have with my clients and collaborators are all unique in their own way. Each relationship has its own weather, made of things like pace, rhythm, conversational style, tolerance of risk and so on, and the weather is always changeable. As a result, I place more value on being flexible and adaptive, and less on adhering to any particular process. I’m constantly tweaking and tailoring my approach to suit the task at hand, the people I’m with, and the situation we’re in.
That said, I think it’s important to set out some working principles. Doing so does a couple of things – it gives people a sense of what the studio stands for, how it sees the world, and it establishes a stable footing for Getting Things Done, giving everyone the confidence to improvise and adapt to any number of weather conditions. So, here are a few notes toward some. It’s just a start – there’ll be more to come.
Making is thinking
A lot of Extraordinary Facility’s work involves a combination of concept development and rapid prototyping. I find that the best results emerge when the two processes interweave and evolve together, balancing and strengthening each other. The thinking you do with your head is different to the thinking you do with your hands, and together, they add up to more than the sum of their parts.
This one’s inspired by the mighty Seymour Papert, and his description of the best kind of learning experiences. I think it applies to Extraordinary Facility’s working process too. Maintaining a balance of rigor and playfulness – being focused and asking tough questions, but leaving room for leaps of imagination – often helps foster more inventive thinking.
Explain, Elucidate, Enchant
I stole this one from Maria Popova’s fantastic taxonomy of writing, and try to make sure I follow it at every stage of a project – from the first brief to the final outcome. Good design explains itself well. It’s clear, legible and honest. Great design explains and elucidates – helping us see connections between seemingly separate ideas and experiences. The very best design explains, elucidates and enchants. It gives us new ways to look at and understand the world, expanding our sense of possibility.
More of this sort of thing!
Again, this is just a start – there’ll be more as the studio grows and evolves. I’m looking forward to sharing more tales from behind the scenes – in the meantime, if you’d like to know more, do get in touch!