Design as Strategy: Talking About Design | Chris Fredricks | Skillshare

Design as Strategy: Talking About Design

Chris Fredricks, Brand Strategy & Content Creation

Design as Strategy: Talking About Design

Chris Fredricks, Brand Strategy & Content Creation

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9 Lessons (46m)
    • 1. Design As Strategy

    • 2. Proposal Project

    • 3. Brand Strategy

    • 4. Proposal / Brand Strategy

    • 5. User Experience

    • 6. Proposal / User Experience

    • 7. Design Thinking

    • 8. Proposal / Design Thinking

    • 9. It's all Connected

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About This Class

Explaining the value of design can be hard. There are a lot of fancy terms for things good designers often do naturally: Brand Strategy, Design Thinking, User Experience (UX). Some designers dismiss this language as over-simplifying their process or diminishing the value of design, while others see them as a way to explain their work. 

There is value in knowing what these things mean. They will give you new ways to explain your existing work, and to propose work to potential clients. You’ll also find things aren’t as clear cut as they seem, and a lot of design terminology overlaps, everything is connected, and all of these concepts are of value to pretty much any kind of design project. User Experience isn’t just for screen design, brand strategy isn’t just about making logos, and design thinking isn’t just for people that love writing things on post-it notes. 

These are tools, you can pick and choose what works best for the job at hand. They help you explain your work, and we’ll use them today to help you create a template for your future client proposals.

This class is for Design Students, Designers looking to better explain their work, and those that interact with designers in a work setting or as a client. Let’s talk about design.

Meet Your Teacher

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Chris Fredricks

Brand Strategy & Content Creation

Top Teacher

Hi there! I've worked as a designer for over a decade in a bunch of different roles. I focus on building and managing brands. I've helped a variety of clients develop a brand strategy, and then apply that strategy to the design of their website, catalog, or whatever they needed to share with the world. Designing eventually led me to teaching design both online and at the the University level. In 2019, I was super pumped to join the team at InVision University, where I learn a ton every day while applying my background in design and education. 


When I'm not doing all that stuff, I create illustrations for my apparel brand, Grow Up Awesome. Everything I make is inspired by my weird family, and many pets. I live and work in Grand Rapids, Michig... See full profile

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1. Design As Strategy: [MUSIC] As a designer, I know explaining your design work can be hard. If you're like me when I was younger and more scared of the world. Talking to potential clients or potential employers about design is even harder. I'm going to show you how you can better talk about your design by connecting to the business needs of your clients. We'll go beyond talking about design fundamentals. I'll show you how you can talk about your design as designed strategy. Hi, I'm Chris. I'm a designer and an educator and I've been doing that for over a decade. I've worked as an in-house designer, a freelancer, contractor, a design professor. I currently work as a content specialist for a billion dollar tech company. Throughout my career, I've seen plenty of designers struggle that talk about their work. Even work that's good. There's stuff all good designers probably already know design fundamentals. But what really connects to clients is things that connect to their business strategy, brand strategy, user experience, design thinking. These are things that a lot of designers are already doing before they even know what they mean. I was one of those designers. But there is value in knowing what these things mean. They can help you explain your work to an audience that often doesn't know what designers actually do, your clients. With these tools, we can better explain your existing work, and help you write proposals for new work. We'll look at how these things aren't quite as clear cut as they seem, and hey all overlap. Everything is connected and they can all provide value to just about any type of design project. User experience, isn't just about screen design. Branding, isn't just for making logos. Design thinking isn't just for people that like post-it notes. Not really, you can do it without post-it notes. Let's define these tools and start creating a template for your future proposals. 2. Proposal Project: What we're talking about today, you can look at these things as design tools and you can pick and choose what tools you use given whatever project you're working on. They help you explain your work better and you can use them to help create a template for your future client proposals. You can grab the starter template and follow along, or just jot down some notes and fill in the blanks later. It'll be helpful to have a project in mind. Either one you've done recently, one you'd like to get, or a hypothetical one just for practice. I'm mostly going to talk about web projects and branding projects from that perspective because that's the type of project that I do. But you'll see how these concepts can apply to any type of design project. The goal of this project is to give you a fresh starting point for future proposals. You'll feel more confident explaining your work and your clients will better understand the value of the work that you provide them. Share your project with us early and often it doesn't have to be complete. Let us help you work through it. I'm happy to give you feedback along the way. And I want to hear those success stories too. If you create a new proposal and you share it with the client, let's hear how it goes, even if it doesn't work out. We can give you some feedback on how to tweak it and make it better for the next time. So download that project template and let's start by defining brand strategy. 3. Brand Strategy: My favorite word in design is perception. It explains how we feel about everything. Our opinions about the world are often not clear cut and how we feel about businesses and companies, is just based on our perception of them, how we feel about them. That's branding, branding is all about perception. Even if a company puts zero time and zero money into branding, they still have a brand, probably not a good one, but they have a brand. I really started understanding branding when I read this book by Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap, in it he says, "A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product, service, or company. Its a gut feeling because we're all emotional, intuitive beings despite our best efforts to be rational." He goes on to say, "A brand is not what you say it is, it's what they say it is." A company's brand is really the feelings that people have about it or their perception. Why does it matter?Because branding is something that happens, whether or not you plan it because it's just based on people's feelings. It's what people think of your business. Being intentional about what you put out into the world, what you design, influences that perception. As designers, it's our job to help clients create a clear message and keep it consistent.I break my branding process up into four steps. First, find your focus. What makes them different? Who are their customers? Who's their competition? Second, find your voice. What's the brand's personality like? How do they talk about what they do? How do they present themselves online or in print? Three, keep it consistent at a bare minimum. That's just the creation of a one-page style guide. Four, tell your story. This is how they're presenting themselves through their logo their website, whatever that's all part of their story. Over the past couple of years, I've added copy writing to the services that I provide, that's become a built-in part of any project that I do because most of them need it. Not only am I helping create the visuals for my clients, I'm actually writing the words that tell the story for my clients. You start figuring out your client's brand before you even start a project. I start by looking at their website, their social media, anything they're putting out into the world that all influences their brand. Then ask them a bunch of questions. This is usually in the first meeting before I actually write a proposal, I'm just trying to understand the complete project. You'll recognize a bunch of these questions from my branding steps that I just mentioned. Who are your customers? How do you explain what you do? How are you different than your competition? What is the main thing your customers are looking for from you? Not only does this info help you create better work for your clients, a lot of clients that haven't experienced this level of detail, will be pleasantly surprised with this first meeting. One of my recent clients in our first meeting actually said, I'm glad we're talking about strategy. The previous company that had built them a website, just did that, they built them a website. They didn't provide any visuals, they didn't provide any content. They did all of that work by themselves and the website developer completed the website with that provided information. There was no talk of strategy, there was no planning behind it. They made that website without really knowing anything about the client. The final result of that site is that it's messy, it doesn't tell a compelling story about the company and it would be confusing to most customers that were to encounter it. The website was a pretty unconvincing pitch to their customers. That's where brand strategy helps show the value of the design work that you're doing and helps make you a better designer. The goal of these questions is to really get a good idea of the struggles your clients are facing. What they're worried about, what they're excited about, and what they actually want from you. Because it's not always, necessarily what they originally asked you to do. That's a way for you to add additional services too that add value to their business and provide you with a bigger paycheck. If you've done design projects before, you know that it doesn't feel great when you're done designing something and it's not really what your client wanted. These questions help you avoid that. A lot of clients see designers as just that, someone that design something and makes it look pretty. What does it mean when we make our design part of their business strategy? This means your clients will see the value of the work you provide and the value that other designers aren't providing. That means you can charge more when your design connects with the needs of their business. Let's talk about how branding fits into our proposal writing process. 4. Proposal / Brand Strategy: Here I've created a basic proposal template to help you start creating your own proposals with strategy framing the work that you do. You aren't necessarily delivering different types of design work here and you may already do a lot of these things. My goal here is to help you think about how you talk about your work, so we'll talk about language a lot. I usually start my proposals with an overview of the project. I keep it really short, just covering basically what this project is about, what my client wants from me and what I'm giving to them, and I'm usually giving them a lot more than what they asked for because I'm including strategy, business strategy, brand strategy and a lot more than that. This template looks confusing, but next up I'll show you what it looks like in practice. But basically I will create a deliverable of some kind for your business. The processor tool, that's what I'm going to use, will result in a deliverable which will lead to the overall project deliverable. The goal of this project is to give your business type, again, a deliverable that can benefit the customers, users. We will create a specific deliverable, and here I'm talking about what sets the business apart from its competition and how it represents or benefits your design client. Everything in yellow here is a fill in the blank, and I'm giving you a little bit of guidance of what you could fill in the blank with. Here's an actual example I used with a real client. This client was starting a new law practice, so there's a lot of focus on brand even though the big deliverable in this projects is a website. I will create a focused brand identity for your law practice, that's the number one main deliverable. The exploration of your brand will result in a brand positioning statement, logo, and style guide, smaller deliverables there which will lead to the design and development of your website, and then that's the next big deliverable. Really I'm just outlining the deliverables in that first section, but I'm talking about a focus brand identity first because I want them to know that strategy is in the forefront of my mind and the process that I use to design for them. The goal of this project is to give your law practice a clear brand, big deliverable that will be easy to communicate to connect with your current and potential clients, so that's a benefit to their business. We will create a website, big deliverable, that stands out from the many doll law firm websites that we've all seen.That right there actually reflects something from the initial conversation I had with my client, she'd worked for a big law firm before, and if you look up any law firms, a lot of times their websites are a little bit gaudy, lots of golden black and they all look out-of-date often and reflects your passion and focus as an attorney. Again, from our initial conversation, I got to know why she's an attorney and what passion drives her in the work that she does, so I mentioned that in this opening of my proposal. With a brand strategy in hand, the design and authentic voice of your website will connect to the needs of your clients. Here I'm mentioning that brand strategy again because businesses find it useful, as I've mentioned, and I'm connecting that to the design and the voice of her website. Mentioning that work, a brand strategy is work, that's work that I can charge for and I'm talking about how valuable it is to the creation of your website. If you have a client who doesn't understand why we're doing this research, emphasizing that from the front that this strategy is needed in order to build a successful website in this case is really important to do here. I've honestly never had a client that pushback. I proposed brand strategy first in every project I do, which you'll see in a second, and clients are excited about that and they're willing to pay for that. There's no reason to even separate out that price, you can just include that price in the total of your project, it's non-negotiable for me, if a client doesn't want to do it, then I don't want to do the project, so it works itself out in that way. Let's go into branding language and tools. Here's some example language and tools that I use. Some example deliverables include logo identity system, so the actual logo in various formats, colors, typography, ect. Brand positioning statement, this is just a simple statement that defines the brand, most importantly the focus of the brand. Style guidelines and brand book, the format of this doesn't really matter, it could be a website, it can be a PDF. It's how the brand visual should be used in displayed, also language examples, so what does a headline on the website sound like? An example of a social media post, the focus and the voice of the brand is defined in these documents. Brand strategy is just another way of saying all of that information that you've gathered in defining that brand, so the end result of that, it still might be a brand book or style guidelines, but you can call that work you've done brand strategy. Brand audit, that's the research that you do on the existing company's brand. You could also do research on the businesses competition. Language to use, brainstorming, brand sprint, I typically just call this exploration of the brand. Research, you can call this review competition, gathered inspiration related to your industry. Anything that you're doing, studying, researching to help you further define the brand and understand the business that you're doing work for. Some language to use that's based on results. Reflect your passions and your focus, this is figured out when we're having those conversations about the brand. Define your authentic brand voice, so again, figuring out what headlines and copy look like on the website or in a social media posts, anything that's defining the language you'd use as the company, as the business. Define what makes you different from your competition, super important because that differentiates this business from the next business and helps customers decide on who they're going to go with. Connect to the needs of your customers, again, knowing what your customer wants and what is your business saying to help that customer connect with your business. Clarify your business goals, a lot of businesses don't necessarily know what their goal is from a brand perspective, so trying to figure that out for them gives them a lot of clarity when it comes to telling their story to their customers. Connect your business goals to the voice and focus of your brand, so those goals that we just talked about, connecting that to how we talk about our business to the world. Next up in my proposals I include a why me section. Here, like it says, explain why you like this type of project, how you connect to your client or their business, and briefly why you think you're the best designer for them to work with. On the right, like it says, create a list highlighting your process and what you value in your work, and two, try to connect one or two to each subject we covered today. First, I'll go through some brand focused examples. On the left is just a little blurb that I often include in my proposals, something like this, it depends on the project. For your project is the type of work I love to do, and I only write proposals for work I'm excited about doing. I may be biased, but I think I'm pretty easy to work with, here's why, just a little intro to this why me section. Then some brand focused examples. Again, these are actual things that I put my proposal, like don't know if I should say that my clients. I do say it my clients and it works, so I think it's worth giving it a shot as long as you obviously agree with how I do things, I would also recommend adjusting these to language that you would use in language that you feel comfortable with. Number 1, I start with brand strategy in mind, that will develop your brand identity and refine based on conversations in collaboration with you. This becomes our guide for design decisions and helps to ensure we create visuals and a message that is authentic to you and that will connect with your clients. Highlighted in yellow are obviously in the important parts, I'm pointing out brand strategy, it's part of the project, it's where we start. We're going to develop your brand identity, so that's a deliverable that they know they'll have. They'll have a guide for design decisions, that means not just on this project, but every project in the future, this is a guide that they'll have and they can use it for everything they do in the future and everything we create, it's going to be authentic to that business and it will connect with the clients. If that's not your client's goal, then you have a weird client. I feel like this last phrase, lets the client know that the end project is going to be what they want. If it's not, there's something wrong and we need to adjust. Number 2, I work with people I believe in, with interesting stories to tell and that are excited to talk about how they stand out. My goal is to make your customers see what makes you, you, and that authenticity is what builds trust before they even meet you. I know not every client seems that exciting. But during the first meeting, you'd to know if a client has a story if you're asking the right questions during that meeting. For example, the attorney that I mentioned earlier was leaving a large law practice to start her own law practice because she wanted to focus on helping individuals with the state planning. This told me from the start, she really cares about people and she doesn't necessarily care as much about money, which she could make a lot of money working for a large law firm. She wanted flexibility for her personal life so she could spend more time with her family, and she wanted the ability to help people the way she wanted to help them. That's a story, that's an interesting story, and that means she stands out, so my goal as a designer is not only to make her something that looks nice, but to tell that story, and I'm pointing that out here. Those are just a couple examples of how you can include some brand focused language and tools in your design proposal, and we'll add to this as we go on. 5. User Experience: Let's talk about user experience or UX. You may have also heard of UI, which stands for user interface, and the user interfaces is that, an interface with the customer or the user interacts with when they're using whatever it is you designed. You almost hear the term UX applied exclusively to digital experiences, so phone apps or websites. But UX concepts can apply to any type of project and not just graphic design projects. User experience applies to architecture, creating vehicles, urban planning, designing appliances, really anything that you make that a human interacts with. The key word is experience. Remember a little bit ago when I was talking about branding and how it's all about perception. Well, what affects our perception of something, more than experience? It's how we experience things that affects our perception. For example, what happens when you download a new app on your phone and you can't figure out how to use it within a couple of minutes? You stop using it and you probably delete it, or if you're like me, it just hangs out on your phone for a couple of months. But either way, your perception of the app is based on your experience of not being able to use it. Your inability to use the app ends up being your perception of the app and of the company that made that app. Their poor user experience becomes their brand. Let's take a look at what you might see in a typical UX process, and depending on the type of company that's performing it or the type of project. These steps can vary drastically. So these are just some of the ideas behind user experience, design and research. First, you need to define the problem and usually do that through creating a problem statement. You want to know what the problem is and you wanna make sure that everyone agrees on it. You often see new products fail, both digital and physical products because they're really solving a real problem or they're solving the wrong problem. Next C of research. So user interviews, maybe analysis for a website or an app, seeing how many people are using it when they stop using it, user information like this, like interviews to create user personas, and the goal of something like a user persona is that it helps you to develop empathy for those that will interact with what you're creating. Journey mapping is when you're looking at the path that a user is currently taking, so this often goes beyond what the user is doing, just with a website or an app for it for example. But you start thinking about what brings them to that website or the app in the first place, what action are they taking to get there, and where are they taking it, and then also if you're talking about a journey map through a website or through an app, you're thinking about like what makes this process hard for them. The main thing you're looking for there is things that work really well,and things that are pain points are difficult to complete. So you're looking for ways to improve the usability of that thing you're designing. Next is story boarding, so here you're looking for the user flow, like what path they expect, the easiest path, what makes it the most usable? Often when I'm designing a website, I will just post it, note that out. Considering how a user gets here, how they would, why they would want to use this site in the first place considering what their goal is for the website, and I'll do that with an existing website and then I will revise that posted notes storyboard. When I'm designing a path or a user flow through a new website. Wireframes are just Lo-Fi versions of your design. They can be sketched out or they could just feed grayscale digital versions of your design. The goal of a wireframe is you're trying to figure out what needs to be where you're building off past research and you're starting to plan what your digital design is going to be, so you're planning out that the best user flow, the usability that you have decided on, you're just doing it really quickly, so you can start testing that and experimenting with that before you invest the time, and for a company, a lot of money into digital design. Next up, you're going to prototype in user test, so you can test out wireframes to make sure they make sense. There's a lot in digital tools to help you do that. You can also click through drawings on paper if you want to. You're looking for ways to test that user flow and to identify pain points again before you start on the digital design. And then next is design. So this is the part that designers do, and a lot of clients think that this might be the only thing designers do. But all of those steps before all of that research, all that thought, all of that planning helps make that design process better and smoother and faster, and also helps you so you don't need to do as much redesigning after you launch a product, whether it's digital or a physical product, you hold in your hand. And then after you have a design, you test it again. So that cycle starts at the end there of design test prototype. So you're creating a prototype, you're testing it. You're designing your revising your testing it again. And you get a little mini cycle at the end there until you have a finished product that works for the user and works for your client. And that's just one example of how the user experience, research and design process could work. Again, this process is often outlined and used to explain how we designed websites or apps or digital experiences. But how does this apply to designing a physical products or just really anything else that is in a screen. So at one point, I worked for a sun care company. We needed a travel size sun care products. We had a product that was bigger than that, but you need a certain sized products in order to take it on an airplane with you. So without even really thinking about the user experience process, we used a lot of those steps, like I talked about before. A lot of designers are doing these things without even really knowing what they are thinking about them. In a lot of times, a term like user experience is just a way that designers can package these things to explain them to their clients. So using the sunscreen as an example, let's look at which of these steps could be used in the design of a physical product. Defining the problem we needed a travel size products so people can take it with them on a plane. Research, we did a bunch of it, we searched for a competitor products online and we bought a ton of them so that we can check out the sizes, the packaging, how they're labeled, and everything else about them. Journey Mapping or storyboarding. That's something we could have done, but we didn't do because we all generally know what it's like to travel on a plane and have your stuff checked before you get on that plane. And knowing that we just needed a product that was small enough to take with us on that plane. Wireframes, Yeah, basically sketching, we sketched out multiple bottle ideas. We mocked up multiple bottle ideas digitally. We did all of that before we really started locking down a final design for the travel size product. Prototypes have been around a lot longer than screen design has been around. So basically any product you've ever seen on a store shelf, a phone in general, not just the apps that are on it, those things have all been prototypes so and created a paper version or a cheap version or cardboard version so they could test it out, make sure it felt like it was the right size, makes sure it looked to the right way, make sure it was labeled the correct way before they spent a ton of money getting it manufactured and making it look like that exact final product. That's a way to test things out cheaply, and sloppily and mess up without spending a ton of money. So prototyping is done all the time in all kinds of projects. For sunscreen bottles. We basically just printed the design on a piece of paper and wrapped it around an existing bottle that you'd buy at a store that was already traveled size to make sure all the content fit and it looked good. Design and testing. Yes, we obviously designed it because we needed to produce this product and we tested it throughout that prototype process. As soon as you create a prototype that's in your hand, you're testing it. And there were multiple revisions and multiple prototypes along the way to make sure that we got that final product looking just the way we wanted it to look. So how does user experience applied to you proposing work to clients? The nice thing about this, as I've already mentioned, is this isn't just like a toolbox. So I mentioned a bunch of things that are involved in the user experience process. And you can pick and choose the ones that apply to your project because some of them might not be relevant, some of them might be easy and super valuable. Some of them might be really complex and costly as far as money or time goes. So pick the ones that work for your project and we'll see where we can fit them into our proposal. And I'll give you a couple examples. Using some of these ideas and tools is better than using none of them. Taking even just one of these tools and applying it to your project will for sure make your project more successful. 6. Proposal / User Experience: Let's look at some User Experience, language and tools that you can include in your proposal. Some example deliverables: user personas, wireframes, the actual design. Language to use based on tools, so user research, journey mapping, storyboarding related to user research, usability, user flow. Again, these are kind of all related. Pain points, something that you find out as you're doing that user research and then user testing, so that process at the end where we wireframe, and then design, and then adjust our design, and finalize that design. Then some language to use based on results. I'd like to talk about pain points because businesses know that they lose customers when customers have a hard time figuring out how to get what they need from that business. What pain points do your users experience? I want to let my client know that I'm going to define that for them and we're going to figure that out. Test the flow and usability to ensure the best User Experience. Again, focusing on users, customers and their experience. Focus user flow on the goals of your users. Again, what I said just a second ago, businesses know that if a customer can't achieve their goal, they're going to lose that customer. We're focusing how that website works, in this case, on what the user is looking for. Now back to the "Why Me" section. Here's some examples of how we can include User Experience in these points of why a business should choose us to work with. My example number one, I design with empathy in mind. Who is looking for the services you provide? What pain points might they experienced when trying to find these services? How can we make the process easier? Through conversations with you and potentially interviews with users, I have these answers before I start designing. Designing with empathy in mind, immediately, again, letting them know that I care about their customer and I want to know more about their customer. I also want to know what pain points the customers are experiencing. What makes it hard for them to choose this business over another business, for example. I'm highlighting the "we" here because I use the word a lot. The design process is a collaborative one and I want to make sure that I'm getting clients that know that they need to put a little bit into this process too. I'd make it a lot easier on them for sure. But, if they're not giving me feedback, if they're not giving me information, it makes my job almost impossible to do. Then the last part, through conversations with you and potentially interviews. If I'm working with the small business, maybe a solo one-person starting a business by themselves like this attorney I was talking about I mostly have conversations with them. If I feel like I need to interview clients to understand what they're doing, if it's a bigger project, I'll usually do that. On the smaller projects, I'm typically not going to interview clients unless I see a really specific need to do so and that's just because of budget. A lot of times small business owners know their clients pretty well and they're probably not willing to pay for you to talk to people that they already personally know. You can ask your client to give you information about their customers and a lot of times that works for a project that's a little bit smaller. Two, I won't assume the design is right, I'll test it. Before finalizing the design, we will test the flow and usability to ensure the best User Experience. Obviously here, I'm pointing out testing and I'm pointing out that a final design means a working design. When a web says it's really important that it works right, again are you losing those customers? I'm going to test not only the user flow to make sure that, that plan that we came up with early on in the process works and is doable in what I have designed and created for my customer, but also that it's an enjoyable experience and everything works correctly. Those are a couple examples of how you can include User Experience in your design proposal. 7. Design Thinking: Design thinking is probably one of the more argued about terms in the design world. At least that I had seen, some people will tell you that it oversimplifies what designers do and makes it seem like anyone can be a designer as long as they can think like a designer. Some of that is true. It does oversimplify the process that we'd take. But like all of these things, you can also look at these as a way to explain what we do as designers to people that aren't designers like your clients. You can think of design thinking as a marketing term because really what you're doing is you're taking this big, huge confusing process that is designing and you're simplifying it in a way that anyone can understand. If you've done any of the things that we've talked about so far in the brand strategy and in the user experience, research and strategy, then you've done design thinking before. If you've designed anything and thought about it, you've probably done something that could be considered an aspect of design thinking in your design practice. Because it's just what a lot of us naturally do. Tim Brown of the design firm IDEO defines it like this, design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and their requirements for business success. I personally never used the term design thinking when talking to a client and a client's never really asked me about it either. But if they did, I would just say all this stuff we're doing all this stuff we're talking about right now, the brainstorming we do, the planning we do, that's all design thinking. Because design thinking is basically just how designers define and solve problems. It's just part of the process. It's what designers do, it's what problem solvers do naturally. This is the D schools phases of design thinking and you might see some of these and think they sound familiar and you're right. One, empathize with your users. Two, define your users needs, their problem and your insights,. Three ideate, by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions. Four prototype, to start creating solutions and five, test those solutions. Design thinking really is just design in thinking. It's how design works. That sounds familiar. Empathize in define sounds a lot like defining the problem in research and user experience. Ideate is just a fancy word for brainstorming and taking that information and starting to create things out of it. Prototyping, brainstorming design ideas and starting to put it onto paper through sketches or low file digital designs. The ideation in that process becomes your final design as you design something, prototype, test, and then redesign in revised prototype and test again. That process finishes up just like the user experience process does and they're essentially the same thing said in a slightly different way. That being said, what does design thinking look like in practice? Well like I said, it is some of those things we already talked about. A big part of it is the part you see whenever you see, if you were to Google image search, design thinking, you might see a lot of post in notes and that's just brainstorming. It's as simple as that. People are using posted notes to brainstorm concepts, get really quick feedback and all of that process is a part of design thinking. That wall of posted notes that we associate with design thinking is often just people collaborating and brainstorming and coming to conclusions together in solving problems, there are a lot of design thinking tools out there that you can find that are there to help you basically brainstorm in new ways and think about things in new ways and breakthrough stuff that might slow you down when you're planning and thinking about design solutions. Design sprints. Again, that's that wall of posted notes, you can basically think of it as that structured brainstorming. Design sprints are basically a formalized way of brainstorming with a group of people quickly in making the decisions that you can apply to your business strategy. Often you brainstorm, put those posted notes on the wall and then you vote on the answers you like best and then as a team with someone in charge, you make decisions based on that brainstorming effort. One example of this is the three-hour brand sprint by Google Ventures. This is where my branding process started. I picked and chose the things that I thought worked best out of that branding sprint and I apply them to a variety of projects, both big and small. It doesn't usually take me three hours to go through that branding process with a small business client. But you can apply those same tools to a client regardless of how big they are. Sometimes I'll run an actual branding sprint if I have a bigger group. If I'm working with a smaller business, I'll often just ask the questions needed to figure out the answers that that design sprint would've provided in the first place just to shorten the process and make it more digestible to a smaller company. The type of company and the size of the company is how I decide on the approach to take when it comes to a design sprint. What is design thinking look like when you're writing your proposal? Like I said, I don't personally use the term design thinking when I'm working with clients. But that user experience process we talked about in the design thinking process that we outlined in it is very similar to that UX process. I use those things in my design proposal. You might have what you need already in your proposal when it comes to covering things that would be thought of as design thinking. Because like I said, it's just stuff that designers do already and talk about already. If you want more than that, start outlining the type of exercises you might do to dig deeper into your client's business. If you're doing a design branding sprint, that would be an example of design thinking incorporated into your proposal. 8. Proposal / Design Thinking: Let's take a look at some design thinking language and tools that you can include in your proposal now. Some example deliverables about process. Stuff we talked about like design sprints, ideation, brainstorming, creative collaboration, basically group sessions, activities. It depends how big the businesses you're working for, if they have a group of people in charge of marketing, there's a CEO, there's a sales department leader, then you'd probably want all those people in a room together to do a design sprint, like a branding design sprint. If it's a small business, you might have one or two people. You don't necessarily need to do a formal design sprint. You can have a conversation based on those things that you need to figure out in order to start creating a brand strategy for example. So language to use, tools. These are going to be repetitive to that first part but design sprints is a tool. Empathizing, not necessarily a tool but it's a big part of the process. I like to bring up the word empathy at some point in my proposals and defining the problem. Sometimes I'll call that defining the goal. Honestly, clients are approaching me because they feel like they have a problem. Either they have a website that isn't working, meaning customers aren't contacting them through it. Customers aren't buying things. That's a problem and most businesses are willing to point out that problem. So seeing that you want to define that problem in your proposal is valuable to them. Language to use based on results. So explore and define your brand through design sprint, not only does it sound cool, it shows that you're going to give them that final deliverable in the form of a defined brand. Define the problem before we start the process, again, that's something customers love to hear because they've all dealt with situations where people disagreed about what the problem was and it cost them a lot of money. They spent a lot of time in meetings trying to figure it out. So they like to see someone who's being proactive about figuring out what the problem is before they start on a project. Define the goals before we start the process. Same thing, we are defining the goals not only of the business but we're defining the goals of the users or customers, both really important to a business whose main objective typically is connecting with customers in order to make revenue. An example of including design thinking in my why me section again, number one, will start by defining your brand through design sprints, we will create a brand guide that can grow and adapt to your business needs. This will not only help this project be successful but will help any future projects by acting as a guide to your brand and business. So in this case, I was creating a logo and a brand in a website. A lot of times I have customers where I'm just creating their website, they already have a brand in place. but they've typically never formally discussed what their brand strategy is. A lot of businesses will ask a designer to create a logo for them. A lot of designers won't formally define the focus or the voice of a brand when they're designing a logo, they'll just do that thing they're asked to do, which is design the logo. The whole point of this is that there's more you can do and when you do more like a design strategist would, you can charge more. It's important to point out what that work does, meaning that it doesn't only help this project but it helps every project in the future because it provides them with that guide in things like design sprints, helps figure those things out and set those standards quickly. To finish up a proposal, I next have a project breakdown. In this case, there's two parts of the project. The first part is brand identity in logo design. Let's cover the process and deliverables. You'll see some of those keywords in some of those tools pop up again. Research interviews and input from you, again pointing out that collaboration that I need from that business and for my client, brand exploration. You've heard that phrase a lot. Creation of brand guidelines to solid deliverable, something they know can use in the future. Sketches and brand concept exploration. You're sketching logos really quickly and figuring out some concepts for their brand. Delivery of multiple brand concepts. That's usually in a digital format, so they can see what the final logo might start to look like. Then based on their feedback, I'm developing a final brand, a final logo. Then last but not least, delivery of brand files and a style guide, not just the logo but also a defined brand in explaining how that logo should be used, what that voice sounds like and how we tell their story across their website, across social media, etc. In this project, the second part was Web Design and Development, process and deliverables, very user experience focused. User research and analytics. User goals defined, always pointing out those user goals, really important. Design direction and inspiration research, wire frame, so sketches lo-fi design of layout, just in case the client doesn't know what wire frames means. Web design and revisions. The creation of the content, web development and web flow, web flow is just the tool I use to create websites. Test flow and functionality. Again, not just giving them a website that looks pretty but we're also making sure that it functions and works well before launching it. Then we launch it. Last, we train them on how to use their new website. I don't like to give someone something that is confusing and I don't like to give someone something that they don't know how to update on their own, if that's what they want to do. Last, I like to give some sort of a timeline. This can be somewhat figured out during the first meeting you have with your client and I also point out that it's tentative. This is a suggested project schedule. This is a collaborative process and will require timely feedback from you to keep things moving quickly. It's a very simple thing to point out. It doesn't sound too pushy or mean and it lets them know that they are a part of this process. They can't accept your proposal and then walk away. In this case, week one, user research and brand concept development. Week two, brand logo refinement and delivery of logo options. Week three and four, website wire-frames and design. Week five and six, website development and launch. Then the project is passed off and you get paid. That's the basic template for a project proposal that I send to my clients. You can obviously add and take away things from this and please make it your own and share that with us, so we can see what you came up with and you can help inspire other people to write better proposals for themselves. 9. It's all Connected: It's all connected. I've been talking about it from the beginning and you can see now that all of these things are related in interwoven in the design process. Branding, user experience, design thinking. You can say they're all the same thing because they overlap, but they have different focuses, and you can pick and choose which of the things that we talked about that you want to apply to a design proposal, and start learning about those things. You can propose them now and you can start applying them with your next client, and that's what I'd encourage you to do. The UX process is essentially the design thinking process. Branding is experience, so user experiences directly tied to brand strategy, and my personal branding process is a design sprint, a design thinking tool, or at the very least a tool popularized by design thinking. I don't want to get people angry, I just hate the term design thinking. People really don't like the term design thinking. Design sprints certainly existed before the term design thinking did because people were brainstorming ideas in coming up with solutions to problems since the beginning of time. Remember that it's all connected and it seems more complicated than it should, and start talking about these things and reading about these things, and include some of these concepts in your next design proposal. These things become part of your process as you start proposing new design work and talking to clients and trying them out and see what works and what doesn't work depending on the project. I've encountered a lot of designers that don't talk about this stuff with their clients, and they think about this strategy thing is like two businesee, but spoiler alert businesses like to work with people that understand business. If you're talking about design as strategy, talking about brand, talking about users and customers experiences, and then packaging that into exercises that could be described as designed thinking, you're going to give your client a lot more confidence that you know what you're doing. Not only as a designer, but at someone that understands their business or is attempting to understand how their business works. They're not going to expect you in that first meeting to understand everything about their business, but you need to show that you're interested in it, you're willing to learn it, and that you will figure out a lot of it and present new ideas, probably that they haven't even thought of yet throughout the research in the design process. The other thing is this research should be built into your design projects. You should be charging for that time. You're not just there to make things pretty, you're there to make things that work for their users and for their customers and help their business. That's why design is a part of business strategy. You can use what we covered today to start thinking about how you can use these tools to get to know their business, their customers, and to provide them with better design solutions. I think having a framework to help explain what you do and how you do it helps make being a professional designer much easier. I hope you now have a better understanding of how you can confidently talk about your design work. Not just as design, but as design strategy. Trying out these tools, the trial and error of it, is how you develop a design process that's flexible and can work in any future design project. Now go write of your proposal and share with me so I can give you some feedback. I'm Chris, you can find me at and check out my Skillshare profile page. Thanks a lot.