Helping a Berlin based machine learning startup go from vague product idea to high-fidelity prototype in two weeks.

Ideaverse — an app for teams to collaborate on art direction, whether to set the desired aesthetic on a new product, or the look and feel of a new movie, or as a visual inspiration tool.

The dream

"What if creatives could, instead of using computers, collaborate with computers to produce their work?" The central premise of Creative AI is that artificial intelligence will allow everyone to become a designer, or creative.

Instead of having to become an Adobe Creative Suite wizzard, one could create any kind of creative work — posters, banners, music, logos, videos, 3D, by simply communicating the art direction to the machine, and having the machine generate the work, and then the two of you iterating on the work until it's just how you want it.

Sound like sci-fi? Well, it's not far off.

The deliverable at the end of the two weeks was a high-fidelity clickable prototype, that clearly illustrated the product vision (used to update investors on the direction the team is taking) and give a clear roadmap for v1 (to guide developers on their build).

Back to reality

While a quantum leap in human computer interaction is a worthy pursuit, we had a new company that had to deliver its first product on its maiden MVP launch, and we needed this fast.

Remote design sprint

My first order of business was to facilitate a remote design sprint, to bring all ideas to the table, to explore all possibilities, and then narrow in on a particular feature set, and creative direction.

More on how I run remote design sprints.

Running a design workshop with colleagues from Berlin, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Vienna, and myself in Australia.

During this design sprint we went broad, capturing as many ideas as possible. Then, we narrowed down to one particular idea through a mix of sketching, voting, and discussion. My role here is to facilitate this workshop, to introduce each task, help people when they're stuck, and make sure we're making good progress.

A collection of user personas helped us keep in mind our target users. We wanted to come up with a solution that speaks to all of them.

Before the design sprint I prepared the persona posters. These are a sort of workshop prop which help keep the user close in our mind as we're narrowing in on a solution.

I'm not a big fan of the typical verbose and elaborate user personas because they put too much emphasis on demographics, and add more noise than value to the design process. The task at hand is almost always a more important factor than who is performing that task. But after seeing Mailchimp's simple and eye-catching user personas, I decided to give these a try. I still believe that the job at hand is more important than demographics, but keeping these visual props nearby did encourage us to anchor our decisions to the perceived needs of our target audience.

Design Sprint Day 1: strategy, and inspiration exercises. Defining the playing field, and the requirements. Exploring what existing solutions are out there already, and handpicking the ideas that we want to be influenced by when it comes to ideating on our solution.
Design Sprint Day 2: ideation, lots and lots of ideation. We explored over a dozen different ideas, voted on what we liked, and came to a consensus on what single idea we want to pursue.

We used Mural.co as the digital whiteboard for the distributed design sprint. Here we captured all our sketches, voted on the ideas we liked and discussed our product direction. At the end of the two days of workshops we agreed on a feature set, and a rough vision for the new product. My task was now to take that vision, and bring it to life.

A universe of ideas

After two long days of design workshops we narrowed down on one product direction we wanted to pursue — a moodboard creation / idea exploration tool. And we chose a unique user experience, one based on the metaphor of a universe of ideas.

This is where I thrive. Taking unformed, early inklings of ideas, tapping into a sense of what the team wants, and conceptualising a crystal clear vision of that product.
Explore an infinite universe of ideas.
Collect inspiration to form your creative vision.
Fine-tune your creative vision.
Git for creatives: an advanced feature to collaborate with team mates, and step back to an earlier iteration of the creative vision.
Clicking through the prototype. Exploring ideas, tweaking the creative direction, and exploring different features of the MVP.

We blocked out two weeks of time to get this work done. The first week being about team collaboration and workshop facilitation, and in the second week I brought the idea to life with mockups and a clickable prototype. At the end of those two weeks the team had a vision for their product. It helped reassure investors, clarify requirements for developers, and motivate the team — it lit a fire under our belly to get this product out into the world.

Damir is a one-of-a-kind excellent designer with a real sense for product: An unbeatable match, making it very satisfying to have been able to work together.
Roelof Pieters CEO at creative.ai

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