Today I took part in an new kind of event, called Design Jam.
As Johanna Kollmann (one of the organizers) has already done an excellent job providing an explanation of the concept and a summary of the day on johnnyholland.org, I’ll simply advise you go ahead and read her post first if you did not attend the event.
Leisa Reichelt, one of the roaming mentors of the days, provided her own review of the day’s efforts, kindly phrased as constructive advice. I was going to simply drop a comment on her post, but since I kept rambling and did not want to hijack her post, I’m writing my own thoughts here.
I deeply agree with Leisa’s key points. Most teams assumed that “the problem to solve” was fully formed in the brief, and only worked on a solution, without really thinking what actual issue they where trying to address. The lack of clear solution product statement / elevator pitch in many presentations was just a consequence of a lack of definition of the problem.
I must add that I am worried that the rushed process such an event imposes can give newcomers a wrong idea of what a serious design process is. Today, there has been understandably very little research, and no user testing (at least I did not notice any and none was mentioned). This is not remotely close to real user-centered design.
I do believe that such events can be fantastic introductions to what UX work is, butthere is a need to make much clearer to all that this is NOT the real thing, just like Model United Nations, while a great pedagogic tool, is not an accurate representation of what takes place at the United Nations assembly.
An exemple of this is the repeated used of the word “personas” to described the fake users that were created. While they succeeded in getting the team to focus on a problem, and thus lead to a real and interesting solution, these had nothing to do with ux personas. They were simply stereotypes made up on the spot by participants. But by calling them personas anyway and repeatedly, we undermine the work done by researchers who produce real, deep, research based personas, as some will think they just made these ones up too, and that they can be discarded as simply the researcher’s opinion.
These quibbles being shared, I remain impressed by the capacity of the organizers, their passion, commitment and super human capacity to to simply “make thing happen”.
Please do let me know what you think in the comments, whether you think I have a point or that I am wildly off the mark.