Let’s Get Physical
You have zeroed in on the problem you want to solve. You have an idea for how you are going to solve it. It’s during this stage that many people contract a debilitating case of idea paralysis. Symptoms include: persistent self-doubt, chronic staring at blank screens, and rampant paper scrapping. What’s the antidote to this ailment? Move from the abstract to the physical, and do it fast.
Focal founder, Martin Keen, maintains his forward momentum by taking out his notebook and favorite blue carbon pencil and sketching. During the sketching process, his one objective is to get his idea on to paper. Sketches do not need to be works of art. He just needs to create a 2-dimensional representation of his idea so he has a rough visual roadmap of the product he wants to make.
From there, Martin and the team at Focal Upright conduct formal focus groups to test specific hypotheses about the product. According to Eric Ries, founder of the (industry essential!) Lean Startup method, product development should be guided by questioning: “One of the most important hypotheses always includes: What will the customer care about? How will they define [our product’s] quality?
“Sometimes you can have a great idea, make an incredible sketch but it doesn’t function well,” Martin explains. “As soon as I can, I want to get to the function, the actual use of the product, even if it’s just a rough prototype.”
How do you build a physical prototype? By getting resourceful.
“I use everything: Bondo, fiberglass, concrete, foam… I’ve taught myself to weld aluminum and steel. I’ve used carbon fiber, you name it; whatever makes the most sense to get a 3-dimensional product as quickly as possible,” Martin says.
Once he has his prototype, Martin solicits feedback from as many people as possible. Watching people engage with a prototype, even if it’s rather rough, can show Martin if he is on to something big. How do you know when you are ready to move forward in the design process? You don’t. You are designing for others, so you have to stay attuned to your audience. When you do, you’ll be ready for Step 3.