Rapid Visualization

The Ultimate Guide To Rapid Visualization Of Ideas

Six Must-Have Secrets To Make Your Ideas Visible

Rapid Visualization refers to the first stage in the rapid prototyping process. Quickly showing ideas is considered the artist’s skill—yet it is a core creative skill—used by engineers, entrepreneurs and strategic thinkers.

The process of quickly mocking-up the future state of a system, be it a website or application, business process or workflow, is the foundation of a successful prototype or visual model of what the idea should accomplish.

Being able to show what you mean is what ignites the “WOW factor” and engages your team. Quickly visualizing ideas and showing prototypes to clients and stakeholders is the key for true collaboration.

Doing this rapidly and iteratively generates feedback early and often in the process, improving the final design and reducing the need for changes during development.

Historically there have been many examples of how the visualizing of ideas is a key tool for Right Brain learners to make faster decisions and engage on higher participation level.

From drawing images in the sand in prehistoric times to Walt Disney building a whole empire based on showing his ideas in storyboards. In more recent years, graphic facilitation, the art of documenting live discussion, has become more and more mainstream.

Putting ideas on a napkin has not become only a stereotypical slogan it is now a standard business process.

Combined, this speaks to a growing need to express ideas visually and simply.

Eliminating the myth that complex design apps and devices will make ideas better is not often the easiest path. Amongst designers there is an insider joke to always blame the tools— this is questionable—because complicated tools do not inherently inspire exceptional creativity. Just give crayons to a 4-year old, the child instantly puts crayons to excellent use.

The battle of the thrones is a struggle between the right brain, which needs to explore ideas from an extreme visual cognitive perspective and the left brain, which prefers seeing data well organized in 7pt font preferably in xl sheets.

A single pointed approach synthesizes diverse learning preferences from idea to final product. To achieve this, requires flexibility in approach, representation and communication. This makes it clear that there are different processing patterns for different stages of developing and externalizing ideas.

From Lo-Fi To Hi Fi

Low-fidelity (Lo-Fi) prototyping is characterized by a quick and easy translation of high-level design concepts into tangible and testable artifacts. Lo-Fi is also know as low-tech, as the means required for such an implementation consist, most of the time, of a mixture of paper, cardboard, post-it notes, and acetone sheets. A clear advantage of Lo-Fi prototyping is extremely low cost, speed, and the fact that non-programmers and non-designers can actively be part of the idea-crystallization process.

At the other extreme, high-fidelity (Hi-Fi) prototypes are characterized by a high-tech representation of the design concepts, resulting in partial to complete functionality. High-tech, however, implies higher costs, both temporal and financial, and necessitates good programming skills to implement the prototype. The main advantage of Hi-Fi, high-tech prototyping is that users can truly interact with the system, as opposed to the sometimes awkward, facilitator-driven simulations found in Lo-Fi prototyping. Obviously, there is a continuum from low to high-fidelity prototyping that usually stretches out from early to late design.

Low fidelity prototyping of ideas and workflow processes is an iterative; customer focused approach, rather than one where the Great Designer comes up with something directly from his/her brain.

Here’s a couple of the main advantages:

  • Get better and more honest feedback
  • It’s great for A/B testing
  • Make the cost of mistakes cheap, not expensive
  • Refine the page flow, not the pages
  • Figure out the interaction design rather than the visual design

Following are the six principles, which clarify and define how to approach Lo-Fi prototyping:

1. Define The Root Of Your inspiration

Clarifying the purpose of your prototype or modeled workflow is very simple but a lot of Project Managers and Creatives take this for granted, which will end up in them getting lost in the process, without a clear end goal.

Giving your inspiration expression with simple tools and applications provides you with a ‘beginners mind’ mindset. Quickly seeing what to keep and what to discard. “Does this actually work?” is the constant question. Using your root inspiration is the fusing element to execute and build a successful model of your idea.

Your purpose will guide you on whether you are doing it right and further prevent the prototype from becoming too complicated and elaborate with no use, during the production. Knowing your prototype’s purpose will help you define project scope and evaluate the level of difficulty in the execution.

2. Identify Requirements For Your Idea To Stand Out From Other Ideas

As with most design projects, scope and fidelity determines a prototype’s cost and development time. At this stage, you must be able to identify how big and how a realistic a prototype must be in order to serve its purpose (see item number 1).

You can determine a prototype’s level of fidelity by looking in the following several different dimensions:

  • Scope: What screens work best with the prototype required?
  • Aesthetics: Are we prototyping with full-color and elaborate structure or quick, sketchy mockups would suffice?
  • Interaction: Do buttons and other controls need realistic mouse-over states? On tap, will we just reload the page or do we need animated transitions?
  • Content: Should we have a brand-approved copy at this point or can we paste dummy data in our designs?

Agreeing on your prototype’s scope and fidelity early is key to avoid stakeholder/client let down and last-minute stress.

This will serve as the guide or blueprint of your prototype. When things get rough or you get lost on what to do, this is where you look to for direction and bigger picture.

3. Manage The Growth Of Your Ideas

One of the uses of a rapid Lo-Fi prototyping model is to assess how different variables impact the overall design quality. You may find that there would be lots of available variables or options to try out. If so, be careful about trying to combine them all in one board. For more complex models, it can be a good idea to break them into separate builds that separate complex systems from one another. Later on you can combine them to more closely simulate the final product.

The whole point of the rapid prototyping approach is to learn fast. Simple elements that are strung together are usually better for this than highly integrated, complex ones.

The prototype, after all, will mimic the actual product and you won’t want it to be very complicated, do you?

The key in making easy, fast design is simplicity. The mock-up or prototype need not be elaborate and complicated, just feasible enough to look closely at variables and move forward to the final desired outcome.

4. User Experience Design

At its heart, UX design is about effectively addressing the needs and circumstances of your users, to produce an interface that is comfortable and even joyful to use. As if that wasn’t enough to tackle, your users’ needs are always changing, as people continually evolve their expectations and technologies.

Since rapid prototyping is the mock-up stage, you will surely never get the perfect desired product nor see the actual picture of the final outcome. It’s not something to worry about since that is the whole point of prototyping anyway: to mimic the final product without necessarily using the same high-cost materials required to make it happen.

At this point, your concern should be on what is available now that can do a good enough job. You may want to use as many off-the-shelf parts as possible since it is faster, less costly and gives you flexibility to change out parts as needed. This is where your improvisation skills will be put to test.

You will often find that what you started with does not work and you need to make quick changes. That is why it is very important to choose items with lots of variety and short lead-times for quick-turn studies and fast modifications. And don’t be afraid to use something available even if it seems ridiculous.

5. Defining The Critical Path

Apply Gestalt principles in your design to meet principles of Consistency, Learnability, Simplicity and other user expectations.

The gestalt laws are used in user interface design. The laws of similarity and proximity can, for example, be used as guides for placing radio buttons. They may also be used in designing computers and software for more intuitive human use. Examples include the design and layout of a desktop’s shortcuts in rows and columns. Gestalt psychology also has applications in computer vision for trying to make computers “see” the same things as humans do.

Aside from learning new skills and harnessing your creativity and handiness, this is the fastest technique, which will also enable you to tweak when you invariably learn that your first design wasn’t optimal enough.

The Lo-Fi approach balances the look and feel of your idea with the laws of what is possible.

Keeping the end in mind and asking 3 principle questions provides consistent new viewpoints of the emerging prototype.

What is it?

So what? Why do we think this matters?

Now what? What is the next step in the creative process?

These questions are the most honest and rigorous X-ray of your idea. At any given time in the process you are embarking on, you should be able to answer these 3 questions. They are your real success principles to make your idea truly outstanding.