Authentic Design Founder on Building With Design Swarms (Part 3)

While the design swarms process represents a new way of thinking about building products, its foundation lies in proven methods for getting results. In other words, the platform’s orientation focuses on solving problems head-on with clear actions.

However, the biggest difference lies in the path that ultimately drives the result. For example, most design chains are linear in regards to the number of steps or inputs that inform the final result. In addition, the teams responsible for these projects do not represent the needs of the entire organization. Conversely, it’s a small subset of product people who don’t have empathy for all users.

As a result, you end up shutting off opportunities for surprising breakthroughs or improvisation. This is where design swarms bring a new level of creativity and increase the capacity for unexpected solutions. Most importantly, large crowds can tackle problems from a much broader perspective.

In addition, this approach to design represents a new way to think about “minimal viable products” or MVPs.

Before you even create a product, I think it’s important to create a “minimal viable experience” or MVX. Instead of a physical product, you have an illustration-first experience that uses storyboards and pictures to communicate a solution. As a result, you’re able to test design concepts without any code or physical products.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how this all works in practice. In my experience, design swarms make a difference in a number of verticals in solving unique problems. For example, large-scale businesses use the process to determine new ways of solving ambiguous problems. In addition, non-profit organizations use the process to figure out new ways of making an impact on their chosen mission.

One powerful example involves combating the opioid epidemic. Specifically, one of the biggest challenges is the amount of time that it takes for addiction to set in. As a result, one person dies every 11 minutes from an opioid overdose. To attempt solving this issue, I worked with a group at The Ohio State University that focused on figuring out ways to prevent addiction.

Through our analysis, we made an unexpected discovery about accidental overdoses. Specifically, children with parents who were prescribed fentanyl for medical reasons were finding excess pills in their parents’ medicine cabinet. By going through design swarms, this example represents the kinds of breakthroughs that can happen when you think differently about solving problems.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2





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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.

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