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Design visualization: Envisioning the possibilites by design


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As a designer I have witnessed first hand the incredible growth of the importance of design. Innovative designs have had a profound and positive impact on our lives, and the thinking process has been repurposed by organizations such as P&G, GE, and Apple as an effective instrument towards change. I have noted through numerous successful design assignments the powerful affect an iterative visual process has on companies, allowing their leadership the ability to envision with clarity a new perspective to a challenging problem.

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Design visualization: Envisioning the possibilites by design

  1. 1. Design visualization Envisioning the possibilities by design
  2. 2. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 2 Shikatani Lacroix is a leading branding and design firm located in Toronto, Canada. The company commission assignments from all around the world, across CPG, retail and service industries, helping clients achieve success within their operating markets. It does this by enabling its clients’ brands to better connect with their consumers through a variety of core services including corporate identity and communication, brand experience design, packaging, naming and product design. About the Author Jean-Pierre Lacroix, R.G.D., President and Founder of Shikatani Lacroix Jean-Pierre (JP) Lacroix provides leadership and direction to his firm, which was founded in 1990. He has spent the last 30 years helping organizations better connect their brands with consumers in ways that impact the overall performance of their business. Mr. Lacroix was the first to coin and trademark the statement “The Blink Factor” in 1990, which is a cornerstone principle to how brands succeed in the marketplace to this day. JP has authored several papers, has been quoted in numerous branding and design articles, and in 2001 he co-authored the book “The Business of Graphic Design” which has sold over 10,000 copies. JP can be reached at and you can follow his thought leadership webinars at: Other Articles and Books Belonging Experiences...Designing Engaged Brands Business of Graphic Design
  3. 3. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 3 As a designer I have witnessed first hand the incredible growth of the importance of design. Innovative designs have had a profound and positive impact on our lives, and the thinking process has been repurposed by organizations such as P&G, GE, and Apple as an effective instrument towards change. I have noted through numerous successful design assignments the powerful affect an iterative visual process has on companies, allowing their leadership the ability to envision with clarity a new perspective to a challenging problem. This shift towards design has redefined the idiom “seeing is believing” to a new level of importance with the need for organizations to safely navigate the complexity of options. This clarity through visualization has allowed companies to develop innovative game changing new products and services that capitalize on consumers unmet needs. Although the concept of believing in an idea only after you are able to visualize it may sound old, the actual principle has demonstrated to be a powerful concept in today’s competitive marketplace. The ability to provide a quick visual and, through the advent of 3D printing, an iterative and low risk physical manifestation of the business opportunity well before commercialization is significantly affecting how innovative solutions and business models are being taken to market. The ability to visualize business potential is not only relegated to conventional design practices; we are now witnessing the design visualization of “big data.” The ability to visualize insights defined as infographics derived from complex information has become an effective tool for leaders who want better clarity from a large amount of information.
  4. 4. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 4 This ability to bring meaning and insights from diverse market data is fast becoming a best practice tool for organizations looking to capitalize on the wealth of information they are constantly accumulating. This new process has flipped the old paradigm of “a picture tells a thousand words” on its head, and has evolved to become “an image provides clarity from a million data points.” Visualization is the art of creating visions of what could be and transforming these aspirations into reality. The ultimate benefit of design visualization is the ability of organizations to align around a single big idea that is visually connected to both the cognitive and emotional side of reasoning, which are key drivers to what motivates us all. The power of visuals to inspire In 1995 I coined the phrase Blink Factor to describe the importance visuals play in how we connect with brands and services. I noted through research studies on a variety of brands that the ability of consumers to provide unaided awareness of brands was predominantly focused around the brand’s visual manifestation. Further research supported our hypothesis that more than 40 per cent of the communication we absorb is visual, 80 per cent of it is colours and shapes. Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and writer of several books and papers on visual literacy, noted “unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about seven bits of information (plus or minus two)...
  5. 5. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 5 Images, on the other hand, go directly into longterm memory where they are indelibly etched.” Ultimately, is this not what we want to achieve – an etched image in the minds of our stakeholders that motivates them to action? The strong influence of visuals in our lives has only accelerated the importance of such tools in communicating ideas. We have become a nation of visually driven consumers who are reliant on visuals to communicate. Photos perform best for likes on Facebook, more than 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute, and 37 per cent of Pinterest account holders log in a few times every week; 28 per cent said they log in a few times a month; 15 per cent log in once daily; 10 per cent log in numerous times a day. Part of what we do as designers is narrow the gap between imagination and reality in order for clients to effectively visualize a given opportunity. The growth in new software and technology has allowed designers the ability to narrow this gap between what is and what could be, within shorter timeframes. Providing a clear image of what defines success is one of the most effective approaches to ensure the result becomes a reality. Visuals are also the gateway to our hearts and can aspire, key factors that motivate change within organizations as noted by Maxwell Maltz, the highly respected cosmetic surgeon who published the groundbreaking book Psycho-Cybernetics. He outlined how images are used to change behaviour, from diet focused people to high profile sports professionals.
  6. 6. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 6 The many approaches to design visualization To demonstrate the application of “visionality” as a powerful tool for organizations wanting to bring clarity to market complexity and to understand how the principles can be applied to organizations, I have outlined different types of visualization approaches and their benefits. Image Boards If you have ever participated in an arts and craft class with children and seen them create collages that support how they view life or a story, you have witnessed the principles of creating image boards. Most new ideas or complex business problems can be solved by creating visual metaphors formulated by the compilation of diverse business ideas that capture various elements of the idea or solution. With compiled diverse images, individuals can effectively articulate a range of solutions and approaches, and leverage insights from unrelated industries. Organizations can leverage this technique when soliciting insights from a diverse group of individuals as part of a brainstorming session. I have found this tool extremely useful when participants are asked to explain why they selected their choice of images. It tends to stimulate more spin-off ideas from those who are viewing the images for the first time. I have found that not all individuals are comfortable presenting in groups but are fully at ease when presenting visual ideas.
  7. 7. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 7 Infographics Infographics use images to create meaning from complex information. Most commonly used in mapping demographics and weather patterns, the practice of visually representing large amounts of data has evolved to trend reports, annual reports and financial reports. My first Legend exposure to infographics was during major consumer research for a large segmentation study that allowed the leadership to understand the different % of time spent shopping ONLINE behaviours of their target groups. Now it is rather than retail difficult to find a magazine or publication Present that does not leverage this approach, such 11 10 19 15 24 as USA Today which dedicates a section of its front page to infographics. HOUSEHOLD GOODS/ MASS MERCHANDISE PERSONAL CARE/ COSMETICS/ MEDICATIONS BOOKS/MAGAZINES/ MEDIA CLOTHING/ FASHION ELECTRONICS/ APPLIANCES L E G E N D 0-25% 26-50% 51-75% 76-100% % % % % % 5-10 years in the future 29% 28% 46% 30% 42% Typical infographics create a visual metaphor of complex information that would otherwise be hard to comprehend, and allow the viewer to easily grasp a large quantity of data. Infographics are a useful tool for organizations to illustrate the performance of the organization and the impact of key metrics. The process allows everyone within the organization the ability to understand complex information, irrespective of their education level or ability to understand financial statements. 3D Renderings Most often used in the early stages of product or branded experience design, this sophisticated tool allows for the creation of a virtual depiction of ideas. Since the work is created through various software tools, it allows the designer and the client the ability to explore a wide range of options quickly.
  8. 8. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 8 This tool has also become very sophisticated, blurring the line between what is real and what is imagined. We have leveraged this approach when exploring new structural designs for packaging or products. In certain situations, our 3D renderings are used in place of actual photographs of products as these may not be readily available. If you want to understand how this approach applies to everyday life, you do not need to go any further than your local wireless retail provider where most of those great looking animated handsets that look real are no more than well crafted 3D models. The use of 3D renderings requires the use of special software and a well trained designer, making this approach limited to a select few within the design industry. Companies use this approach, most commonly identified as CAD designs, as part of the manufacturing process to create a direct link between the design inspiration and the manufacturing capabilities. This approach tends to occur later in the design development stage when the concept, using loose sketches, has been selected for further refinement. Virtual Journeys The majority of science-fiction movies such as Avatar, Star Wars and The Hobbit leverage the development of computer generated worlds to give the viewer the ability to see what has yet to be created by man. In our profession, designers leverage this technology to create virtual walk throughs of yetto-be-designed stores.
  9. 9. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 9 Our firm pioneered this approach in 1989 when Eastman Kodak asked our firm to develop a new retail experience that leveraged their newest emerging technologies. Since the study was being conducted in Latin America, we decided to create these virtual worlds to overcome language and perceptual barriers as some of our markets represented large percentages of the population who could not read or write. The study was a huge success and became the standard for how Eastman conducted future studies. Organizations have also created virtual shopping shelves as a means to test shopper marketing programs or to conduct shelf simulated research for package testing. These new techniques allow marketers to gain richer insights typically derived from building live test labs, at a fraction of the cost. I recently visited Explorer Research facilities which had digital projectors that could create a virtual life-sized shelf setting of any product category, or even a retailer’s actual planogram. This creates an effective environment to test ideas across myriad retailers within a very short timeframe. Rapid Prototyping The newest visualization practice is rapid prototyping, specifically the ability to create actual physical manifestations of products. When I started working in design, the term rapid prototyping did not exist. "Mockups" took days, if not weeks, to complete and were limited to simple labels or objects. Today, with the advent of digital printing and the technique of converting CAD drawings into objects through a sequential layering process, there is no limit to its application from jewelry to the newest automobile.
  10. 10. White paper | July 2013 | Design Visualization | 10 Objects that are created through 3D printing can be used anywhere throughout the development of new products, from product design and consumer testing to full-scale production. Although the technology has been around since the late 1980s, its application is only now being widely used as the printers become more affordable and their capabilities expand. The cost of this technology has become accessible not only to corporations, but also to consumers, which I believe will lead to a growth of new crowdsourced products that are customized to the individual needs of consumers. In the near future, I foresee product brainstorming sessions that allow respondents to convert their ideas into physical prototypes, which will shorten the product planning cycle significantly. Where to next The power of visualization will only grow as our hunger for new products and ideas accelerates. No longer will this realm only belong to designers as technology has proven to effectively commoditize industries. The desktop had a significant impact on our industry with the quick disappearance of typesetters, the commoditization of design production by film houses and the crowdsourcing of design solutions. The need to visualize future opportunities will accelerate through humanity’s hunger for something better and the accessibility of easy-to-use and inexpensive technology.