Creating a “Lab” environment inside our agency was a huge contributor to innovation, and allowed to us to turn emergent technologies into beautiful things that people loved using.
As a leading interactive agency it was an operational imperative that we remained on the leading edge of innovation. For us, that meant creating solutions that didn’t necessarily exist yet, turning emerging technologies into functional & commercially viable applications.
The critical problem we faced was how to quickly take a new technology (software or hardware) and integrate it into an advertising solution we could recommend our clients take to market. How would we avoid “Tech for Tech’s sake”, and create a solution that was not only entertaining to use, but also solved some real business problems?
The solution was an idea grounded in Design Thinking, and involved rapid prototyping the technologies into mock-up state, and then, well, playing with them! And by “playing” I mean trying to break them; using them as the intended audience would, testing different iterations, pushing the limits of the systems to see where they would break (to define weaknesses), re-building, testing, adjusting.
We needed a space for experiments. Somewhere our developers could explore how things worked, to pull tech apart and piece it back together into something new, or to install an LCD panel to calculate the geometry of where a user should stand for optimal performance of a gesture recognition app. We were effectively practicing Human Centered Design for interactive applications.
And thus the Lab environment was built.
Design Thinking – Innovation For Humans, By Humans
“Design Thinking” is a term attributed to infamous design firm IDEO, and is it’s cousin “Human Centered Design” (HCD) is really what we’re talking about here.
IDEO offshoot Design Kit defines HCD:
“Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving and the backbone of our work at IDEO.org. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.” – see original here.