A quick way to ramp up on a stale project

Picture this…

You’re the lead designer working on a complex project in a maturing company. You and the team are heads down exploring and iterating on different designs in search of the ideal solution. All of a sudden, an ugly customer bug rears its head. Everyone shifts context to rally behind getting the customer back in good standing.

As you dive deeper, you discover that the bug is merely a symptom of a larger issue that really warrants spending time thoroughly designing a solution. The team decides this is a worthy cause, it gets bumped up in priority and the other items on the product roadmap get bumped out accordingly.

Fast forward a few weeks or maybe even a few months. Finally you’re able to return to that original project, however time has passed and the insights from the research you conducted are no longer fresh in your mind.

Getting up to speed on a stale project can be time consuming and over the years I’ve developed a trick to help me deal with such situations.

Granted, it doesn’t work for everyone but if you’re a visual person like me I’ve found it helpful. I also want to caveat that this is not meant to replace any sort of product or design spec, it’s purely for your own edification.

Pop open Quicktime (or use your phone — doesn’t matter!), start a recording, and do a quick 5–10 minute presentation of the project and the state it’s in. Talk about the motivation behind the project, what problems you’re seeking to solve, walk through any designs you’ve created and the thought you have put into them. Talk about dead ends encountered in design and any hurdles you’ve encountered. Anything you think might be relevant to future you.

When the project heats back up, pop open the video and hit the play button :)