“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Creativity: Allowing beautiful accidents to unfold … AKA Serendipity

When I think about what makes design so special I often get stuck, but today it was loudly pronounced to me as a process of purposeful accidents leading to serendipity.

Today, while I was working on the visual design for a desktop application, I was “happy” with the design. Then by accident I hit the wrong layer in Fireworks and removed an element I had not planned to remove. The result? Well, I LOVED IT without that element and the design got pulled together after that on so many levels, I can’t really believe I ever went any other direction before this.

This event actually happened twice today while working on a comp design for my internal client so he can review it. Will he notice the difference in this case? Probably not. But for me, this subtle change makes the entire design hold together.

Related to this, one of my peers, an industrial designer, and I were speaking about a recent meeting with a vendor we are using to do some exploratory design work for us. It was the first time I had the chance to be at a review like this, and the total experience was great. I was really jazzed about what I saw, and after the weekend when I was able to reconnect with the industrial designer, I expressed my delight at our meeting.

His response surprised me. He was quite upset about it. What he said was, “They crafted the story too early in their process and this limited the breadth of their explorations.” It took me a while of back and forth to really internalize what he was trying to say. Ya see, as an interaction designer, we spend soooo much time trying to tell the story before we start the design process (research and what not) that I was taken aback by his comment and I tried to counter it. But in the end I really think I understand his point. …

… The ability to sketch, to explore, to think unboundedly, without judgement is a key driver of what is the design process. Without this element, we are really only engineering solutions to fit the story and we can’t ever take advantage of our greatest tool — the accident.

So I encourage you all to try to create moments early in your design process where moments of serendipity can occur. Even when crafting a story (our main job as interaction & interface designers), there are lots of accidental pleasures we can take advantage of. Creating moments that allow you and your team to be open to those accidents is key.

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