The Product Designer’s Concept Car

How Optimizely Uses Concept Cars to Drive Product Vision

Katie Rinkevich
Oct 26, 2015 · 4 min read

“The creative process, like a good story, needs to start with a great leap of lightness, and that is only attainable through the suspension of disbelief.” — Frank Chimero, The Shape of Design

My team and I often use concept cars to find, test and kickoff our next big idea to inform product strategy. We borrow the term from the auto industry where it is used to describe fantastical prototypes of far-future technologies and designs. These cars are often non-functional and used to gauge customer interest before spending time and resources on mass-production. In the technology industry, where success rates are volatile, we’ve found creating wildly futuristic concept cars for software products just as useful. If your team is asking high-level questions like, “What is our product vision?” or “What should we build next?” or “What is our next big bet?”, then a concept car can help you.

direction through process.

A great concept car is not a roadmap; it is a fantastical far-future vision that inspires people and provokes action to turn the dream into reality.

Often, we have a general idea of where we want to go and are familiar with our customers’ problems, but everything doesn’t quite line up. We may have a thousand great ideas but be uncertain about how they converge into one holistic vision. Going through the process of fleshing out and validating those ideas helps orient our team. The ideal end result of this process is to know which direction the road should lead, not to have the road paved.

love the data. form a hypothesis.

make it. point at it. iterate.

Wireframe from our first concept car in 2014

show and tell.

Designing concept cars has been incredibly useful for us. Suspending technical challenges and imagining a new future world teaches us about our customers and their problems. By designing concept cars, we inspire our team to build the future today.

Design @ Optimizely

Stories about design and product development from…

Design @ Optimizely

Stories about design and product development from Optimizely’s Design team.

Katie Rinkevich

Written by

Product Design @Optimizely

Design @ Optimizely

Stories about design and product development from Optimizely’s Design team.