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3 Winning Mindsets for Beginning a Product Design | HEROIC™ Design #1

Updated: Mar 4

Hi Everyone,

I'm finally lifting my head up from writing, and starting to think about videos for my channel. My goal is to help people learn how to design remarkable new products, avoid the pitfalls, and have a bit of an adventure in the process.

The videos will be 5 to 10 minutes long. I’ll cover all aspects of designing new products: deciding what to design, creating requirements, breaking the problem down, brainstorming, making great decisions, reducing risk – all of it.

So, I thought I’d give you an idea of what these videos could look like, and ask you for ideas about what I should cover.

I decided to start with how you should begin the design process.

Beginnings are always difficult and delicate. The blank page can be intimidating. And when you pick your direction and start moving, if you are pointed in the wrong direction, you immediately start moving away from your goal. And then you get some momentum, and it’s difficult to change course.

So, how do you begin a product design?

With the right mindset. And some courage, because the answers are often in difficult places. Let's dive in.

The starting point and ending point of your design is your users. There are three ways to think about your users.

I always start with the idea that your user is not you. You might be lucky. Maybe you are part of a user community, and you represent that community perfectly. That’s unlikely, especially if you want to design a lot of products.

Your user is also not everyone. At the beginning, we’re all pulled toward having a big audience. Why wouldn’t you want to have a big audience and be very successful?

Because, unfortunately, there’s a trade-off. You can make a small change in a bigger number of people’s lives, or a big change in a smaller number of people’s lives.

Water, air, all of the commodities out there are generic products for typical people. Sometimes the only interesting thing is the packaging. So, our choice has to be somewhere in the middle, between everyone and one person. But closer to one person than everyone.

I like to call that a community – it has right ring to it. It’s big enough to support your idea, but small enough to be coherent and unified in belief and action. A community is more likely to talk about a remarkable design.

A community is also more likely to push you toward the exciting edges, rather than the mediocre middle.

As designers, we tend to leap in. We barely know who it’s for. We barely know what it’s for. We might even state the design problem as a solution: “I need a specific thing,” instead of “Someone has a specific problem.”

When we leap in, we can also put the boundaries of the design in the wrong place.

This is a Thermomix. It's basically a Magic Bullet and an Instant Pot and maybe 20 other things, all in one. The Thermomix designers pushed their System Boundary way out, so that almost everything you need in a kitchen, is inside the System Boundary. And it’s maybe perfect for a small European kitchen.

So, there’s two parts to this mindset.

If you leap to a solution, it’s probably the wrong one, and you miss out on the joy of discovery and creation. If you get the boundaries of the problem wrong, you’re going to miss solving part of the problem, or solve too many problems.

Part of being a generous designer is to hold back on solving the problem, until you know what it is, and its boundaries. Until we truly know the user and the problem, it’s best to empty our minds of solutions. 

The third thing to keep in mind, is that creative work has an enemy. Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance.

It’s not out there, it’s in here. It wants to prevent us from creating and gifting our designs to people who need them. It says it’s doing us a favor, by protecting us from failing. But it just stops us from creating, and diverts us toward consumption.

However, when Resistance points out what we fear doing most, it often shows us what we must do. And then, we can be courageous, and create anyway.

You can beat Resistance by creating like a pro, and developing a creative practice. That’s where and when you design, and the process you use.

So, when the attacks come, we can control our response to them. And the best response is to double-down on doing the work.

I’ll close with the idea that design is two journeys.

The first is to create the most generous solution you can, and solve your user’s problem.

I believe in using a very rigorous process, to maximize creativity. It seems like a paradox, but it’s like having a beautiful workshop, with all of the tools you need, organized around you. You can bring all of your creativity to that workshop, and not be limited.

And after all of the hard work, when you’re holding your design, you will remember only the joy of creation.

The second journey is internal. We’re all at different stages of being designers and creators, with the freedom to move between the regular world and the creative world.

For all of us, these two journeys are intertwined into one adventure. And every step along the way brings us more meaning and more freedom.

 OK, if you have any comments or suggestions about this video, let me know. And if you have ideas of what I should cover in the future, let me know that too.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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