Authentic Design Founder on Building With Design Swarms (PART 2)

Using my own career as an example, practicing design takes years to master and understand. In other words, no one learns the process overnight or becomes an expert right away. As a result, it’s no surprise that design swarms have only come about in recent years through many years of practice and observation.

Simply put, it takes a long time to develop fluency with design. So, the question becomes – how do you get people involved in the process when they aren’t “rooted” in design? The answer lies in the power of crowds or large groups of people.

When operating with design swarms, the basic assumption is that large groups of people can generate solutions more effectively than smaller groups in isolation. Most importantly, people are inherently more creative when working with one another. To maximize creativity and leverage the power of crowds, the key is to move people through an experience that is interactive.

This emphasis on speed goes beyond facilitating quick interactions and timely feedback.

During my time at Microsoft, it seemed as though we had to move faster and faster every time we innovated. Furthermore, this rapid rate of change also brings new levels of ambiguity and complexity to problems. As a result, the question becomes – what is the right thing to design?

The answer is what ultimately turned into the framework for design swarms. First, we lose a ton of creative capital because the design process is largely an insular project. Furthermore, if you only rely on hyper-creative or hyper-smart people to solve problems, they tend to cancel each other out. As a result, you only get a partial picture of a given issue or related solutions.

My epiphany for how to tackle these types of issues began to take shape during the first hackathon that we hosted at Microsoft. By turning a large group of people loose and allowing them to problem-solve in an open way, it’s amazing to see what people can create. Most importantly, people operate with confidence and without constraint. Simply put, creativity flourishes in its purest form.

In the end, product design needs to meld proven creative processes and guidance from creatives with input from a large group of people. Through meaningful engagement and interactivity, anyone can contribute to designing impactful solutions.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3




Please to leave your comment

Load more comments
About the Speaker
Authentic Design Founder
Surya Vanka is the Founder of Authentic Design - a firm that utilizes the “design swarms” theory to create unique product solutions for customers. Prior to starting Authentic Design, Surya worked for more than 15 years at Microsoft in many UX leadership roles - introducing the design thinking process to the company and pioneering the company’s first-ever Hackathon event. Prior to joining Microsoft, Surya was a design professor at the University of Illinois. Surya holds a degree from The Ohio State University and currently lives in Seattle.

Recent Posts