Small Businesses charity

Co-Design is the Best Option

Nobody knows what they want from a business quite like it’s own customers do – yet, the business stakeholder will constantly make the mistake of hiring consultants to design elements of their business for them and leaving the customers out of the equation.

Often designers will create a concept by themselves and the result is not what the stakeholders were expecting or what the customers were requiring. These designers would attend a meeting to acquire a brief from their client and then create the solution individually, sometimes off-site.  There is no surprise then that the result is completely different to what the stakeholders had in mind in the first place. The designer may not understand exactly what problems need to be solved with the new design concept, or how it will be received by the audience. Even after a lot of backward and forward, the design concept is the best it can be, the designer is pleased with the result, but it doesn’t really meet the stakeholders’ objectives or customer needs.

Co-design effectively looks to eliminate this problem, by involving the designer, business stakeholders, and the customers equally.  This makes sense, given that it’s for the stakeholders and customers at the end of the day, and they would feel a sense of empowerment being involved.  However, there are a number of other benefits to the co-design concept. For one thing, involving the stakeholders and customers could result in more innovative concepts, given they are usually not designers and are removed from the design industry itself. They wouldn’t necessarily be aware of design trends or ‘go-to procedures’ used by designers. Stakeholders and customers know what they need, and are prepared to ask the hard questions to get there.

The first consideration of the process is who exactly will be involved in the design process. There needs to be some consistency from the stakeholders’ perspective, even though different departments or representatives may be involved at different times. It is a better idea to have a couple consistent individuals from the organization to take ownership of the project and then bring in others as and when needed. This allows ownership of the task from an internal perspective.  A planning meeting at the start would solidify the purpose and objectives of the design concept, as well as determine whether there are any constraints and how these can be overcome. In terms of customer involvement, making sure you have actual representatives who will use the designed solution is key.

In order to facilitate this process, designers obviously cannot expect that stakeholders and customers would automatically just provide all the information they require in the right format, straight away. All great designs start off with ideas. Give the participants a piece of blank paper and encourage them to make a college that will help them gain awareness of their own attitudes, habits, and experiences. Let them compose and paste together combinations of words, images, icons, or symbols, to explore and convey associations, feelings, and illicit memories, ideas or/and visions, and then share them with you. Prototypes and scenarios will help them critique their existing ideas and create new ones. They can explore possible futures and steps by working backward from a scenario or range of scenarios. The point of paper prototyping aspects of a service helps to make emerging ideas tangible and shareable at a human scale. Even Lego is a great tool to help tell the story of an ideal experience. This is where stakeholders and customers can start to get an idea of their ideas coming to life.

The most effective co-design creates more effective solutions than if they were created by designers alone. Participants should include the stakeholders, their customers and they are all provided with the tools to assist in the creation of a solution that would meet their objectives.  Co-design is really the best way to empower stakeholders and customers in their own design project and for designers to ensure that they produce something that meets everyone’s needs, both explicit and implicit.



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