At the end of the last post, I indicated that this one would focus on pressure testing a new concept with others. Mea culpa. We’re not there yet. I’m new to blogging – and, I feel as I’d imagine any Food Network chef feels when taping his/her first show. It’s awkward talking while doing. And, it’s awkward blogging while building. I aspire to be as good as this duo is. One day.

Last we left off, I had a problem statement, but not a concept. For rapid ideation, I turn to gamestorming.  

As a facilitator, I’ve long believed in the power of affinity mapping to coalesce large sets of qualitative and quantitative information. I’ve used it to great success in the context of team builds and design workshops. My favorite way to use it is in the context of ideation. 

Basic affinity mapping premise: a team (or individual) brainstorms, writes ideas on post-it notes, and then pares down until groupings of ideas reveal themes.   

To take this a step further, I like to combine multiple prompts - thus revealing more about what 'could be.' I picked up my favorite combo of prompts via an "Innovation Games" workshop at General Assembly (c/o instructor @BenSykes). 

•    What must this product do?
•    What must this product absolutely, positively not do?
•    If users had been using this product continuously for 10 years, what will it have done for them?

The combination of answers to these three prompts gets you from [blank page] to concept quite quickly. 

Next, I'll tell you what gamestorming revealed. And, where we go from here. 

Defining the Problem

In a 1:1 at this year's O'Reilly Design Conference, Tony Fadell* explained to Tim O'Reilly that Nest had a very practical nascence. It solved a prevailing frustration - Tony wanted to be able to remotely set the thermostat in his home so as to not lose money on energy he wasn't using. This example of answering a frustration with a well designed solution has seen other products to great success - the iPod (take your music wherever you go!), the Palm Pilot (check my emails when I'm away from my desk!). 

Takeaway: for the designer interested in building something new, solve something that pains you.

For Project EnRG purposes, I took a look at my life and thought - what's causing me the most stress? And, how can I solve for it? 

To explain what worries me, please endure my stream of consciousness download:

[Worry 1] did you know that, according to the CDC, 1 in 8 women will experience postpartum depression (PPD)? The symptoms of PPD can be debilitating and overwhelmingly pervasive. How can I avoid it? Risk factor #1 = stress. Okay. How can I mitigate stress? We'll come back to that.

[Worry 2] did you know that lots of people have lots of opinions on how to nourish a baby in the first year of life? I went with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to nurse. I'd like to be able to continue this now that I'm back to work. How can I keep supply up? Risk factor for low milk supply = stress. Stress, you say? There's a theme here.

There's many an article offering the panacea for stress. They all, pretty much, come to the same conclusion: eat a healthy diet to nourish your body, drink water, stop to smell the roses and take a walk.

Left to my own devices - I don't always make the best choices (see picture). 

I admit,  today's lunch was worse than most. I live in SF - land of food delivery. A quarter of my diet is supplied by Sprig (I LOVE YOU SPRIG!). However, that just solves for a piece of the problem. What about breakfast, dinners? Budget consciousness? Food planning for my family? What about input about nutrients I may not have considered (or even heard about) that could help me even more? 

Today's lunch: instant noodles. 

Today's lunch: instant noodles. 

A problem statement emerges:

I want a low-effort app that considers my needs as a postpartum mom and connects me with services, products and advice that will help sustain me and my family. 

And, just like that, Project EnRG was born.

Next up: Is this a problem that anyone else cares about? Let's ask.

*The sit down between Fadell & O'Reilly is here and worth a view. 

Getting started

Working as a designer in a consulting firm is great. It's grueling, enlightening - it's the 'wild, wild west' of design imho. The sky's the limit in terms of the type of design projects we might pitch to clients at any given time - interactive? sure. 3D print? absolutely. infographic? you got it. The list goes on. 

In my 4+ years I've worked on projects with clients that I'm tremendously proud of. And, I'd love to share them with you. But I can't. Because the data is theirs - and the 'special sauce' that got them the data is ours. 

So, in the interest of having an open dialogue about the design process given these constraints, I'm picking up a side project and planning to build something new [in my infinite spare time as a new mom]. It's my hope that writing about the process will provide opportunities to discuss each stage of the design process - and, perhaps, uncover new opportunities for designing better. 

The project for now is named Project EnRG (a little nod to my new son). Check this space for updates and to watch something get made. 

Next up: When the possibilities are endless, limit the possibilities. Picking something to design for.