Out with the old, in with the new

Yesterday Steve and I presented some rough concepts to a client. Nothing new there, but the client’s reaction to them made me reflect on the difference between my old way of working (pre-Meld) and my new methods of creating work here at Meld Studios.

I used to be a graphic designer and used to produce work – as do most graphic designers – to a written brief created by the client. The usual process goes a little something like this:

  1. Client gives brief to designer
  2. Designer comes up with 3 concepts based on brief
  3. Designer presents 3 concepts to client
  4. Client asks for a combination of concepts 1 and 3.

Yesterday we presented just one concept, not three, and the client was very impressed that we got so close to what they wanted so quickly. The thing is, it was what we did before the presentation that made this possible, and it’s something that we do a lot here at Meld. The process goes a little something like this:

  1. Client discusses project with Meld
  2. Meld holds a creative workshop with all stakeholders
  3. Meld synthesises ideas from workshop
  4. Meld generates, refines and discards multiple concepts
  5. Meld presents single concept to client
  6. Client says “yep, pretty close, good work”.

Photo: Jono Yang

For me, Number 2 is the difference. Workshopping ideas with all client stakeholders early in the project means that we have a much more thorough idea of the problem space before embarking on concepting. Compare this to only receiving a written brief from a client (usually from a single stakeholder), where there’s no room for nuance or differences of opinion. This means that your concepts will be based on just one point of view and are bound to fail when presented to a larger group of stakeholders.

Now that we’ve presented these concepts we can embark on customer testing knowing that the client has a high degree of confidence in the prototypes. This is another key difference between my old way of working and my new way: the fact that we test our ideas with customers, but this deserves a post all of its own.

  • Dhyana Scarano

    January 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm Reply

    I’d love to see a follow-up post about the format and process of the creative workshops. Are they like a loosely structured brainstorming session? Or a more structured set of steps designed to get to a certain goal?

    What kind of questions do you ask the stakeholders?

    • Kimberley

      January 16, 2012 at 10:32 am Reply

      Hi Dhyana. Thanks for your interest. Our workshops take many different forms depending on the type of client and the project. We usually have a defined set of steps that we want to get through, but with enough flexibility to handle the fact that groups of 10 or more people are bound to go ‘off piste’ quite a bit!

      I’ll elaborate more in a longer post but, for now, we usually go through these steps:

      1. Introductions (good to work out who should be in each group when you do activities later. You don’t want all the execs to be in one group, for example)
      2. Warm up exercise. Depending on time allowed. Our workshops involve lots of sketching, so it’s good to get participants comfortable with this.
      3. Sketching in groups of 3-4. Groups are given a specific task and have 5-10 minutes to sketch their ideas.
      4. Group discussion. Each group chooses a spokesperson who presents the ideas to the larger group.
      5. Repeat as necessary.
      6. Wrap up.

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