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Design & Technology, Strategy & Organisation June 23, 2017

Digital Design Days + Offf Milano

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On the first of June, we went to La Fabbrica in Milan to witness three days of digital design talks. It was a mix of mind-blowing showreels, life advice and some seriously breathtaking creativity. These were our key takeaways from the event.

Stage 1: Pair development and design

A lot of projects, after the strategy phase, start with concept and design. This makes sense. But the concepting and designing is mostly done by designers, sometimes in collaboration with/reviewed by a strategist. This sometimes gets then reviewed by a developer to make sure nothing too crazy is being thought up, but it’s not until the client is fully satisfied most of the development team joins the party. This is where things could be improved according to several speakers, by pairing development and design in this stage. They pointed out that by doing this, you get more creativity from a point of perspective that a designer could never bring, a stronger and more realistic concept and you create more ownership from the whole team.

Stage 2: New technique gives way to new ideas

Following the first key takeaway, we also saw a lot of experimenting in projects. Mostly webGL, these experiments nearly always started with the technique allowing more crazy and original concepts and creating less boundaries for design and concept. It sometimes works when a certain technique is the starting point, say webGL. Since all the possibilities within webGL can inspire original ideas and solutions it can really help to have development involved in an early stage.

Stage 3: Constant prototyping leads to better products

This isn’t something new, although prototyping is flourishing more than ever and the number of prototyping tools seem to double every year. Still, the benefits were mentioned by a lot of speakers. “85% of the UX problems can be solved by testing with 5 users.” was the most memorable quote. A lot of research points out that by testing your product with only 5 users, you’ll be able to tackle up to 85% of UX problems that your product has. Looking at a few of our own projects we’ve done recently, this makes a lot of sense. The same research points out the importance of iterative design which corresponds with the constant prototyping advice from a lot of the speakers; when you encounter a problem, you won’t always choose the right solution the first time.

Stage 4: Internal projects

Important for a few reasons. First of all, a lot of these are simply very cool and inspiring projects, because you don’t have to work with a lot of the boundaries you normally work with. This, also the second reason, makes people even more excited and committed than they usually are, and we saw some really impressive work that was made in just a few weeks of time even without a deadline. The last reason, and probably the most interesting for companies, is that this kind of work actually landed some very big clients, tends to get a lot of awards and lets people work on actual, innovative stuff. Investing, or even just facilitating such projects, is definitely worth it. Not just for the more experimental, digital advertising companies, but also for service design. We saw this internally when we joined the Dutch Open Hackathon with a small TamTam team this year.

Some inspiring highlights

We saw a few really inspirational highlights but there were two moments that stood out. First was the talk from Resn, and more specifically about details in design. They showed their Adidas Climazone project which has some subtle but very original design details in it, like the hover effect on the buttons and the ‘click and hold’ effect.

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The other was From Form, a Rotterdam-based studio, that showed the process of creating the complete identity for Into The Great Wide Open. Although this wasn’t very digital, it’s creativity in for example the use of mirrors in photography left the audience’s mind blown.

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