Good design thinking means taking into account all of the areas involved in the process of making, delivering, and experiencing a product. I like to work just as closely with the engineering team as I do with the design team when working on a solution. Understanding the how its made can engage the design process to drive efficiency in areas that weren’t apparent.
During my time at CafePress the VP of Merchandising approached me with a problem: the best selling clock on the site was loosing sales month over month. After researching user reviews and feedback the problem seemed to be simple: the products design was out dated. Re-designing the product was going to be a lengthy and costly process. This lead me to think on other areas that we could optimize to make the time and financial investment be truly advantageous. I thus visited the factory and interviewed the factory line workers, observing them at work and timing their process through every step of production (even counting the steps they needed to take to get the job done). Our team talked to our manufacturers throughout the process to understand material options, limitations and budget while analyzing data on the clock's scrap rate. We found that the thinness of the metal of the clock's hands made it very easy for a worker to bend them when putting the clock together. Meaning that either they’d have to start over, or didn’t notice the slight bend and the customer would receive a clock which wouldn’t work properly. Wanting to make sure all areas of the experience were covered we went on to analyze the websites market place. We noticed that homeware products with photography in an environment performed better than those on a white background. Our team then set out to re-design the clock, with specs that solved the production problems I'd observed. I then hired and oversaw the photoshoot of the product in multiple environments (for further testing). The results across the board were almost instantaneous. There is a difference between fixing an issue and actually solving a problem. A designer must take every part of the equation into account when presenting a solution.
I truly believe that design teams are actually elite problem solving tactical commandos. Be it as a team leader, an advisor or a team member: my role is to set them up for success by understanding their strengths and tactics and helping create situations where they will be the most successful at achieving their goals. I am a strong proponent of empowering design teams to access the data and resources needed to achieve efficiency and growth. This also means engaging the design team on how to leverage user testing and research, at both micro and macro levels, through out the product design process.
Helping designers grow and gain the skill sets they need is something I take very personally. This is why I've been involved in Ringling College's mentoring program for several years. I also Mentor at 500 Startups where I focus on UI UX practices to help them accelerate their design process. I take my mentoree's success very seriously and have built lasting relationships through out the years thanks to this experience.