Lessons Learned: Creative Founder

Before taking this class I had seen a couple projects that came from the previous year of creative founder students. I was really impressed with the quality of the projects that came from them and was surprised to see that the end products were rendered in such a high fidelity. I didn’t really know anything about business or the process of taking a concept from a napkin sketch to a fleshed out shippable product or business. My experience with designing products has been almost strictly abstract so far and I knew this class would be a great opportunity to fill in this gap in my knowledge and create something tangible and feasible. Being someone interested in making independent games, knowing the details of starting and sustaining a business seemed like something that would become a lot more relevant to me.

Over the course of the semester I worked with a team of 4 designers and learned about some new tools and frameworks for business and design such as the business model canvas. I really loved the book Value Proposition Design and the way it broke down so much of the design process within the context of starting a business. I definitely see myself returning to this book (which is saying a lot for me, being someone who doesn’t read nearly enough) and I’ve already recommended it to others.

I really appreciate the exercises and frameworks introduced for team communication. I really hate the idea of only being measured by one’s work or deliverables (not to downplay the importance of the work itself). Humans are irrational, emotional beings whose lives are made of a lot of moving parts and I greatly appreciate and am motivated by any excuse to remember and acknowledge that.

Working in this class, one of the most frustrating things for me was having to put intuition aside and only move in directions we can immediately validate or discover through primary research. Being the stubborn art-person that I am I tend to place a lot of weight in intuition and follow whatever path is most personally fascinating or novel and whole-heartedly believe there’s value there. For the first time though, feasibility was a lot more important and I couldn’t afford to take certain risks on my team’s behalf. Unlike a lot of my projects, this class put me in a realistic situation where I have to find a balance between creative intuition and feasible solutions. I think having to make that decision has been an important aspect of this class for me.

We pivoted a lot, which is something I don’t usually have the chance to do in projects. The longest projects until now have been about 1 month. It was really nice having enough time to actually experience this even if it can be frustrating to try designing a product when it’s constantly changing. One of my biggest frustrations was not being able to stick to one product and have time to refine it to a high fidelity. In the end our biggest critique was that we “didn’t have a product”. I’m not sure if this just means we should have worked harder, should have split our resources differently, or just pivoted too much, but I’m glad I got to go through this process long enough to get that kind of crushing feedback.

When I go into the world I hope to be making games. And with the rise in independent games in the last few years, I’ve learned that making a game often means starting a business as well. Though I’m no expert by any means, something that before was completely foreign to me is now so much more familiar and clear and that makes the idea of launching a game, starting a studio, or working with a company and understanding their needs much more real to me. I’ve been able to become much more comfortable and confident pitching my ideas both to my team and to investors and I now have a much better understanding of what it takes to design a business.