Overcoming Mediocrity

Gradient_Blue Danielle Zsifkovits

Overcoming Mediocrity

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  • Danielle Zsifkovits
    Danielle Zsifkovits Service Designer, designaffairs

This blog post addresses designers’ reasoning for introducing additional research and the big picture view, even though the client already established a concrete product vision and requirements.

Picture the following scenario:

You (the client) hire a design company for a project, with the aim to create a certain product to extend your company’s portfolio. Being the pro-active client that you are, you already carried out research regarding the future product, considered user feedback, technical requirements and even outlined your vision for the product. Now, all the design company has to do, is provide a design concept for the product (whether it is an app, a software or a dishwasher). So, what do you need additional research for or this “big picture view”?

Product Development Process
Product Development Process

Let’s review this scenario:

As a client, your main goal is to create a compelling product (which usually involves a service, activity or experience of some sort) that sets you apart from your competition in the best possible way. In order to “set you apart from the rest”, you hired the design company for their expertise in creating a product, which also results in introducing a new view to the product. A new view that the product needs in order to be competitive, engaging and to fulfill the concept of innovation. So, to supply the design expertise and view, and to support you in your mission to develop such an exceptional product, we designers need to understand the product and its circumstances (i.e. stakeholders, environment, experiences, services, usability, etc.) – an understanding that is created in the first step by reviewing your research material and asking the questions:

  • What are we dealing with?
  • Which activities and services does the product offer?
  • Who is the product for & who is affected by the product?
  • How is the product working right now and how is it supposed to work in the future?
  • Why is the product needed?
  • If the most crucial problems were identified and if they are addressed by the new concept of the product?
  • As well as further product, problem and solution specific questions

By asking these questions, designers uncover inconsistencies, contradictions or simply unaddressed aspects about the product vision, in the early stages of the project (instead of the testing stage of the project, where adjustments are tougher to implement).  In the second step, these inconsistencies, contradictions and unaddressed aspects are being researched and evaluated to develop an inclusive design concept beyond the aspect of “look & feel”. Hence, by understanding what was being researched, what still needs to be investigated and what these results and insights mean for the concept of the future product (in forms of embodiment, service, experience, usability, etc.), we can deliver a product that promotes innovation, engagement, competitiveness and benefits for all involved stakeholders. Consequently, we are beginning to overcome mediocrity.

So, what can the big picture view do for you?


Knowing the “whats”, “whos”, “hows”, “whys” and “ifs” is a good foundation to develop a product.

Yet, as mentioned in the blog post “Introducing the big picture”, knowing the entanglements/interrelations of these stakeholders, interactions, experiences, problems, etc.  – in short, the ecosystem in which the product is embedded in – is even more crucial as it points out the limitations, possibilities, consequences, as well as the responsibilities that shape the product. Since this ecosystem/big picture view is established  in the early stages of the project, less iteration cycles and adaptions will be needed in later stages of the project, which opposes the current product development process when hiring a design company for development work in the sense of “look & feel”. Hence, what may appear to you as designers adding extra work to the project by proposing further research, is actually the designers’ approach to give you the innovation you were seeking, and further to provide you with a product, experience or service you will actually benefit from as a company (i.e. beating your competition, gaining more customers, employee satisfaction, etc.).


All clients should have a vision of the product they want to create and build this vision upon solid research. Design companies, like designaffairs, can support you in your mission to achieve your vision, beyond the selection of colors, materials, buttons, interactions and technology. By using the design expertise wisely and introducing the design view and approach (i.e. research and big picture view) early on in projects, you can take your future product from mediocrity to exceptionality, without risking multiple unplanned iteration cycles for adjustments or big unplanned adjustments at the end of your project.

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