Almost every Friday morning for the past few months Maya – our Creative Director – and I have been going over to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) with markers. Then we spend a couple hours drawing on the walls.
You may be asking yourself, “Has Pixo staff taken to defacing the property of others while on the clock?” The quick answer is yes, the longer (totally justifiable) answer is below.
At Pixo we are always working to improve our processes by trying out new ideas, and recently we’ve been having a lot of success with one technique in particular. Inspired by Gabby Hon’s talk at Prototype Camp 2013, “Co-Designing with the Client,” we’ve been co-designing!
This approach isn’t right for all projects, but we happened to have just the right one. MTD recently decided to implement a new intranet with our help. It is a cornerstone of their internal communication, allowing employees to message each other, manage reporting, and facilitate payroll requests — among other things. We began the project with a traditional research phase, interviewing employees to hear how they used the intranet and learning about ways to improve important utilities. We explored the need to balance administrative requirements with employee desires, while giving the whole thing a fresh new look that is easy to use.
We were fortunate enough to have an excellent partner in crime for the project. Ryan Blackman is MTD’s in-house developer. He has a strong understanding of the organization and is a compassionate advocate for the users. Additionally, Ryan is going to be building whatever we design, so he has a strong incentive to make sure that every aspect of the design makes sense for implementation.
At the beginning of each session we review an informal research brief and then the fun begins! Standing in front of the white board we draw, erase, draw again, and quickly iterate through ideas. Ryan immediately vetoes things that won’t work and fills in any knowledge gaps as they arise (sometimes that means calling in someone from the next office). We’ve been able to rapidly iron out snags and fill in details, quickly moving towards a cohesive design. Additionally, the design sessions are energizing, and, frankly, just plain fun. After each session we go back to Pixo with photos of our drawings in hand. Then we pull all our ideas into a wireframe that serves as a record of all our design decisions.
And the best part? We are delivering a design that we are proud of, the developer is on board with, and it’s totally under-budget.