Jon Kolko on How to Make Design Strategy More Implementation Friendly

In Chapter 14 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, design educator Jon Kolko answers "How Do You Make Strategic Thinking More Implementation Friendly?"  Kolko references user experience or UX managers and how they work to make design thinking actionable or tractable.  He notes heuristics, gross principles, and best practices do not work, putting emphasis on the financial or quantitative metrics instead. 

Jon Kolko is the founder and director of the Austin Center for Design.  He has authored multiple books on design, including "Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving."  Previously he has held senior roles at venture accelerator Thinktiv and frog design and was a professor of Interactive and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  Kolko earned his Masters in Human Computer Interaction (MHI) and BFA in Design from Carnegie Mellon University.


Erik Michielsen: How do you make strategic thinking more implementation-friendly?

Jon Kolko: That’s a good question. And it’s like the first question that anybody who’s sort of in a UX management role will ask when they learn design thinking or design strategy or any of these fancy buzz words is how do you make it actionable and tractable. And I think the answer has a lot to do with the way that you tie it directly to the wants and needs of the different stakeholders. And so, gross generalizations don’t work, heuristics don work, best practices don’t work. The things a designer does have to be buried in the minutia of details related to the stakeholders in order to get traction and buy-in. Typically, that means understanding numbers and finances and goals and metrics. And it's a lot of the stuff the designers typically sneer at and go like, “That’s not my wheelhouse. I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable,” but that’s how you take a design strategy and you create something that’s implementable,  and tractable. Equivalent in softwares, you can write abstractions, different requirements or wire frames but if you want it to be tractable then go write some code, erase all the little metaphors and middlemen and get to the heart of the thing you're trying to do and the same is true to service. So any time that you're designing, any time that your designing the design artifacts or abstractions, and they're super, super effective, those artifacts, but getting to the core of the thing is the way that you can make it tractable.