Get a defining thought before you design

There is a danger in jumping to design too early in the process. It can mask the fact that you may not have nailed the defining thought. This is a tricky. Because design can be a great tool. And it’s easy to rationalize jumping to design as quickly as you can.

The “we’re iterating” excuse

There is real value in iterating - quickly bringing an idea to life and then evolving it as you learn. It is a smart way to work in today’s world. But if you haven’t reached consensus on a defining thought, iterating on the expression of that thought can be frustrating. You’ll head down multiple paths. Each will be as viable as the next. It will be hard to know if you’re headed in the right direction. Because every direction looks pretty good. Why? Because without that defining thought solidly established, it becomes near impossible to identify the best path.

The “we just need to prototype it” excuse

You say you need to see it in a prototype or mock up. You say then you’ll know. Truthfully, you know when you have established a defining thought. There is an energy that emanates from it. It creates vivid images in the collective imagination of the team. There is no need to prototype or mock it up in order to determine if it’s right. You know it’s right. Sure, the prototype or mock up can help refine the direction. But if you’re relying on it to set the direction, it will be costly and frustrating.

Get the defining thought right

A defining thought is inspiring and energizing. You should be able to easily articulate it in a way that creates genuine excitement. If you have a hard time finding the words to describe why you believe it’s special, then take note. And then take the time to hone the language. Get it to the point where you create a simple statement that causes goosebumps. A handful of words that makes your heart skip a beat.

Find the defining thought that does that, then get ready to be amazed by where design will take it.