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About a month ago we played back our first two weeks of a discovery phase to our client. The presentation was brimming with output. Diagrams, sketches, photographs, initial designs and more. Two weeks later and we were back in the same room presenting our research findings and it struck me that the deck felt light! We were looking at the same designs, only this time annotated with our learnings and insights. I had this nagging ‘does it look like we’ve made any progress?’

Of course we had. However, the two weeks—consisting of interview prep, interviews, extractions of learnings and the synthesising into insight—had been distilled into something that seemed far less than the tangible design outputs from the previous sprint.

It’s easy to get lost in the glory of creating a LOT of design work. It’s easy to pump out design work. It’s certainly even easier to spend time over-designing something. It’s harder to design just the right amount to learn, because that’s what will help correct your course and ensure you’re designing the right thing. Despite there being no tangible output, this learning (and our other learnings about the products we make, heard from our customers) is what helps drive our decisions and ultimately make products that people want.

It made me think of something our CTO Andy said a while back: “learning that an idea isn’t worth taking forward is as valuable as learning to take one forward.”

Now that is progress: not the hauls of design work that came beforehand that might not be desired by the customer.

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