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Design Studio Methodolgy—Take One.

When I was brought on board here at Maestro a few months back I was tasked with helping craft our overall UX strategy and process. We went for some quick wins right away, introducing sketching and wireframing into our existing process. The response was positive and the extra effort showed through in the end products. Once we got those things in place it was time to go bigger. We began trying out a few user research processes and ethnographic studies of users, but the one thing that had the largest impact was when we decided to try out the Design Studio methodology (

At a very high level, Design Studio is a collaborative, iterative design process. The idea is to bring together all members of the project team from business development to leadership to the development team and have everyone collaborate to solve a specific design problem. This occurs through an iterative process of sketching, presenting and critiquing. The idea is that each member of the project team has a unique perspective that can be brought to the table when helping craft a solution to the problem at hand.

Here at Maestro the leadership team recently presented our core beliefs. It was a list of eight statements that we hold true as a company and strive to demonstrate in our overall culture both internally with each other and externally with our clients. One of these beliefs is ““None of us is as good as all of us.”“: That sounds nice, doesn’t it? It certainly looks great, nicely typeset on a screen during a presentation. I can tell you that here at Maestro those are much more than just words on a screen. It was incredible to see the way in which everyone on the project team came together to solve the problem presented to them in our initial Design Studio session. When we first started the session there was a sort of nervous anticipation. People weren’t sure what to expect. Once I explained the process, people only got more nervous…

“I can’t draw!”

“You want me to do how many sketches!?”

“5 minutes!”

As soon as we got into the process however, those nerves melted away. People became much more comfortable. Not everyone created the required number of sketches in the allotted time, and you’re not going to find any of our sketches hanging in a museum, but the goal was achieved. We generated dozens of ideas and we did it very quickly. As we continued to iterate, those ideas evolved and new, better ideas came to life. In the end we came up with a very elegant solution that none of us ever could have conceived in the beginning. Along the way we generated other great ideas that may not have been applicable to the current problem but will be very valuable in future projects.

The moral of the story is this, embrace the collective power of your entire team. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone a bit. It’s uncomfortable at first, but in the end, when you see the fruits of your labors, you’ll find that it was worth the brief discomfort. None of us is as good as all of us. Make the effort to put that statement into practice and you’ll learn that those are much more than just words on a screen.

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