Sunday, February 21, 2010

SuperUser, SuperUser!

The project that kick started my masters last year was Design is a Game in which we worked with the students at the Umea Institute of Design to develop board games. The inspiration for each game came from interviewing a company about their business process. I went to Larsen Strings and looked at how some of the best cello strings in the world are developed with the help of a few selected musicians that provide the manufacturers with unique and very critical feedback on the quality of the products.

This idea later became SuperUser - the game which asks the question "When is a product ready to be shipped to the market, based on user feedback?" Ironically, this was the same dilemma that my team and I faced during our own design process. As it turns out, iteration and user testing are holy - but only if you brace yourself for all the opinions you’re going to get! Not once did we have to deal with conflicting feedback on the quality of the game and had to make several hard decisions on how to move forward. 

Coming from a software engineering background, one of the biggest lessons I've learned was that when you are right at the very heart of creativity, there is no specifications sheet anymore. You know where you're going to start, but you can never know where you are going to end up. 

I guess this is what you can call a first draft - here I was trying to put my knowledge of statistics to work and try to calculate how easy the game was to win. I didn't really get anywhere. 

Second draft - we took tour little baby out for a spin. The testers liked the game... but that's only after we saved them the trouble of reading that whole page of instructions. Note to self: nobody ever reads the instructions.  

Why is it that I always end up at the whiteboard explaining something? The discussion that we were having here later became the theme of one of my presentations - how to dim the innovation process. Once you've generated enough ideas, how do you get them to converge towards a common artifact? Fascinating topic!
Aaaa... the spray glue.. a weapon that I got very familiar with during my crusade to stick 288 (!) playing cards like the ones below. 

Oh, they love it, they love it! 
After 2 weeks of hard work, too much junk food and 3 rounds of user testing, we met the deadline with a game that was indeed a pleasure to play :)

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