“I wanted Hello Grief to feel warm and friendly, like a scrapbook or a family album. Instead of designing around pain, I designed around love and care and happy memories – things everyone can relate to and feel good about”
Sheer brilliance is one expression. Rare are the times in life when you meet sheer brilliance. The Rapid Moon team got such a rare chance of connecting with and knowing Wren Lanier, Principal at Neo Innovation Inc.
Wren is a brilliant combination of beauty and brains. We had a great conversation with Wren, which led to this interview.
RM: Your work is incredible! What excites you about working with startups?
WL: You are very kind! I love working with startups because it always feels like so many things are possible. They lack the institutional baggage that can slow down decision-making, so they tend to move fast and try new things very quickly. I find that exciting.
RM: You have worked in environments which were focused on operations, analytics and ROI and you led the design thought.
What did it take from you to establish a design culture in such an environment? How critical is the culture of a business to create futuristic user centric design?
WL: Establishing a design culture is hard when it’s not baked into the business from the beginning. In many startups, design is viewed as an afterthought or a “nice to have” compared to the “necessary” work of shipping code and features. It takes a long time to establish trust and a working relationship that will shift that mindset.
- join the process as early as possible, and
- work collaboratively with the developers and product owners. If they’ve already started coding the feature before we talk about design, the chance of shipping something with a good user experience is very low.
Conversation and collaboration are my most valuable design tools.
RM: How critical is lean design methodology in your view? Does it help you, work with startups under tight budgets?
WL: I’m a huge fan of lean design methodology, but a lot of small startups think Lean Design = Cheap Design. The purpose of Lean is to test assumptions and eliminate bad ideas as early and cheaply as possible. Over time, it should make a business more efficient and eliminate a lot of waste, but it’s not a magic wand that will design your whole application in under 12 hours.
RM: How critical is Rapid Prototyping? Do you advise your clients to use tools like Rapid Moon to build quick prototypes and reduce the overall project cost?
WL: I love rapid prototypes, especially for communicating design ideas to the rest of the team. I’ve been guilty of standing in a meeting, holding up a JPG mockup and breezily trying to explain what it will do, which is pretty much the worst way to present interactive designs.
RM: Your project Hello Grief is an incredible thought. The design makes one cheerful and happy! How did you think of it?
WL: Comfort Zone Camp, the non-profit that led the creation of Hello Grief, wanted to build a site for people who are dealing with loss that didn’t use black & white beach scenes or faded roses or any of the tired visual tropes we often associate with grief. I thought it was such a great idea for a project.
Instead of designing around pain, I designed around love and care and happy memories – things everyone can relate to and feel good about.
RM: What goes on in your mind when you start designing the next gen products? Is there a unique design thinking methodology/ process that you use/ follow?
WL: I think my process is pretty typical: I sketch, I make notes in the margins, I play with sample interactions that I think are cool. Then I decide I hate everything I’ve designed, scrap it and start over!
Eliminate choices. Move features around. Less is usually more, but you won’t know until you get your designs in front of people and learn what they think.