Designing for a connected world

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Jokkolabs Banjul to give a talk about Branding & Innovation, in the context of a Summit on Entrepreneurship in The Gambia.

Branding is one of my favorite topics. Having worked 8 years in Beauty Product Innovation for Chloé in Paris and Marc Jacobs in New York, and now building my own company in Tech, it’s a topic that has been part of my daily life for a while now and that I’ve experienced under various facets.

But when I was working on the presentation, I realized I was going away from branding and started to focus on the product.

Indeed as a Tech start up, the most important interaction with your brand is how your product answer users’ problems and needs, so that is why instead of branding, I started talking about:

Design

A key point to keep in mind is that tech has radically accelerated the design system.

There are 4 main axis to consider when designing for a connected world.

Where
Who
How
What

I’ll go in detail for each of them, but to start with, pay attention to the colors on the graph below.

Tentacular design in a connected world @Copyright Edmée de Bodinat 2022

On the horizontal axis, you will find the ecosystem.

Tentacular design in a connected world, focus on Ecosystem @Copyright Edmée de Bodinat 2022

On the vertical, the product itself.

Tentacular design in a connected world, focus on Product @Copyright Edmée de Bodinat 2022

Where?

Let’s define a little more the context as it drives a lot of decision, we will focus on speed of changes and increased consumer expectations.

The world out there is changing really fast.
The graph below reprends the time spent on the various social media platform between 2020 and 2021: seems mindblowing that French users would spend 2x the time they spend on Facebook on Tik Tok, in France!

And that can feel very overwhelming.

However what it can open is opportunity. Indeed, do you know what the peak in users for Yuka in december 2021 is due to… A viral TikTok video in the US!

That’s to say that seeing the changes as an opportunity is a better approach, as it will empower. Careful not to try to take on everything at once.

How?

Successful digital innovation have taught us the importance of the Design Thinking process.

As mentioned, branding comes with a package. It includes perception, brand association, brand equity… and those raise a lot of questions.

@Copyright Edmée de Bodinat 2022

But when you’re innovating, you want to leave all those questions for a later stage. Instead, the list of questions that you want to ask yourself is a lot more straightforward.

@Copyright Edmée de Bodinat 2022

And Design Thinking is hard! I don’t think anyone has illustrated better than Tom Fishburn the many ways it can go wrong:

Tom Fishburn’s Design Thinking & the theater of innovation

Who?

The user is the start point of Design Thinking, and should always always be your focus.

The first and most important question in your Design Thinking Process is your user.

@Copyright Edmée de Bodinat 2022

This question is going to become the red tread of all your Design work. Seriously.

Your red tread @Copyright Edmée de Bodinat 2022

In B2C, this one will be quite straightforward. Make your users talk, often. Understand who they are, what they like, what they read, where they read it… No shortage of question here. Build your user persona, go back to it, narrow it down, understand how it changes with the changes around.

In B2B2C, it’s slightly more challenging.

Take my case: my Client are schools and my Users are Students. My Users don’t pay for but use the product. My Client don’t use but pay for the platform. And the one that usually has something to say are my Clients. It’s not like I can discard it entirely, but I try to take it with a grain of salt, and come back as often as possible to my users: are the suggestions actually answering my Users’ problems? How urgent are they?

What?

Iterate fast, and iterate a lot. MVP, POC and PMF, the three steps to Product Design.

Wanna know one of the harshest comment I got when selling my product? Try to make your product a little less minimum and a little more viable. 🤯

Yes, my MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, was literally that. It lacked the ease and flow of the Tech products we’re using everyday.

Caryn Marooney went through this expectation during a conference on Trends and tactics from the front-lines of product-led growth with the CPO of Notion and Caryn, part of one of their investor’s team. She pointed out how fast consumer’s expectations are evolving, and that you cannot afford to have an “ugly” design anymore or you might not be taken seriously.

Words by Caryn Marooney, General Partner at Coatue Management

Put a heavyweight on design if you want to be taken seriously, but don’t expect your product to be perfect at first. The reccuring advice in the start up world still holds some truth: if your product seems to perfect, you’re launching too late.

The key steps to follow still hold true:

  • MVP Minimum viable product (time varies greatly depending on your focus, your availability and your team!)
  • POC Proof of Concept: when you’re getting actual clients, showing there is a market for your product
  • PMF Product market fit: growing at scale because your product correctly answer user’s problem

This is our initial wireframing. Still so much to learn from it.

Wireframing @Copyright Prepera 2022

Those are my learnings. Follow design thinking. Understand your users. Learn fast. Test often. Start again.

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