Choosenick. Notes and observations on service design, as well as other interesting things/thinking. By Nick Marsh.



Archive of January 2012


The role of conversation in designing

I was saying to Johanna the other day that I wanted to do a talk on the role of talking/conversation in designing. She's put me in touch with Matthew Solle from London IA and hopefully we'll do an event/seminar/workshop/dojo/powwow or something.

I'm especially interested where verbalising is similar to drawing as a way of figuring stuff out, in the open, away from your pure imagination.

I think its interesting because I do a lot of talking when I'm working. And, although its an over generalisation, I think that almost all my good ideas have come from conversations / moments when I'm talking.

Weirdly, for something that seems so important to designing good stuff, I haven't really heard anyone talk/write about it. I'd like to explore this as a series of prompts and get a discussion going. I've written some stuff here, and then as I said I'll hopefully do an event soon. Things I'd like to explore/understand is:

How to have good conversations during creative group discussions. These are like little talking ballets. You know when its going well, and people know when to cut in, when not to. When to ask questions, when to plough ahead. When to allow silence. Etc. And when it doesn't work its a nightmare. We've all been there when someone says 'let me finish!' or something, and everyone's kind of annoyed.

How to be good at kind of half describing unfinished stuff. This is when you are informally presenting ideas (sometimes within the above activity) and you are kind of describing your design idea loosely, hoping that other people will fill in the blanks. Kind of the verbal version of Bill Buxton's wobbly lines (the only google search I get for those wobbly lines is an old comment thread on this post from my days of service designing).

How to be good at knowing when talking about your design will help you make a decision. This is even more vague, but I was thinking about how sometimes you have to get someone over and say, 'can I tell you what I'm working on?', and then you tell them, and then, well, that's it. During the process of verbalising it you answer a question that's been in your mind. Kind of the same as sketching an idea to answer a question. Some people would call this 'bouncing ideas off you'. Maybe.

How to effectively combine drawing and talking. This is something we do a lot at Sidekick. In a jokey way we call it 'sketchy fun time' and it involves sitting down with paper, pens, coffee and doing a kind of half individual, half group based drawing activity. Done well, you draw ideas and then talk about them in a loose way at the same time, and the talking prompts other people to draw different stuff, and the drawing prompts more talking.

Is this all too vague? I'm sure there is lots more. The problem is that conversation during design activity is always so ephemeral. Everything else gets recorded, from the most humble sketch up to the most detailed specification document, even formal presentations are documented, but the talking bit is not.

There's a PhD in this for sure, but in the meantime I think a bit of open space style facilitation between some thoughtful people who design things and enjoy conversation would be good. Who's in?!
January 25th, 2012 / Tags: design, thinking, practice / Trackback / Comments