Authentic Design Founder on Swarm Design (Part 2)

During my journey in discovering swarm design, I realized that I was democratizing a powerful creative design method. One breakthrough occurred when I visited Uluru, the sacred rock in Australia, home to the oldest civilized population on earth. Even though these people have no written language, they are incredibly creative.

How do they communicate and build upon ideas?  For example, on the Uluru rock surface – there are thousands of drawings. It’s a living canvas where knowledge and creativity are negotiable.

This reminds me of an important design thinking principle: every time you do a project, build a museum. We should embody creativity to live outside the brain and then offer it to a social context or community.

Make It A Game

The next phase was to take the creative design process and turn it into a game. I even made a huge game board for it. The question was: could this process be applied to those with no training in design?

An opportunity to test this turned up in our city. There was a women’s shelter, and the people involved there had zero design knowledge. Still, by using this approach, they got to the core of the problem of people seeking shelter.

The business thinking solution might be to build more shelters. But if you have to flee your home at 2 a.m., the human-centric problem is to make sure you authenticate yourself. There were already plenty of shelters. The creative design solution these people with true life experience came up with was Identity Haven. It allows you to store your personal ID info in the cloud.

Unleash Creative Capital

I repeated this process in different parts of the world and applied it to a wide variety of problems. We cracked a lot of difficult problems. The old standard is that creativity comes from a select few working in companies. As a result, products are available to more users than ever before. Problem-solving typically gets delegated to a small minority of people. Meanwhile, we bypass a huge stockpile of creative capital.

If we open up the playing field, we increase velocity and integrate lived knowledge into the creative design process. The result leads to the optimial product/market fit.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3

About the speaker
Surya Vanka Authentic Design, Founder Member

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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