Studios are in vogue for many reasons. While a creative design studio crafts rich user experiences, a collaborative one promotes design thinking and sparks inspiration for a product or service design. At another level, a studio garage may engage in prototype creation and testing. Innovation studios are increasingly used for technology incubation or finding effective use cases for disruptive technologies. For example, banks and financial se¬rvice institutions may want to introduce next-gen digital or touch payment modes or leverage a chatbot for superior customer experience. An airline may want to create an out of the world experience for its customers through a swanky lounge area in the terminal. Retailers may look to test evolving technologies such as VR/AR to create a wholistic online and physical shopping experience. And in a typical studio garage, a manufacturer may want to design a product, prototype it or use 3D printing for a faster launch. A studio thus becomes the center of a ripple of an innovation wave, methods, and new ways of working.
A 4P design innovation studio framework can guide an enterprise to assess if it requires a digital studio and if it does, then how to go about setting it up and deriving maximum returns from it.
The First “P”: Purpose
The purpose of a studio is determined by the objective it is expected to achieve and KPIs measuring its success. A design studio framework that combines design thinking, lean UX, and agile principles can enable a clear insight into the purpose of a studio. A design thinking approach can work if problem definition, ideation, collaboration, and cultural transformation are the key objectives. A lean UX approach supports envisioning, prototype creation, project inception, and showcase center goals of an enterprise. On the other hand, an agile approach works best for engineering transformation, tooling demos, tech feasibility studies, and MVP (minimum viable product) creation. Clarity of the type of projects that a studio can execute is important to direct the right problems to the studio. Purpose determines the typical engagement duration as well. The first P “purpose” drives the other three “P”s.
The Second “P”: Place
The second “P” or the place of a design studio framework defines the location, architecture, components, and tools required to build the studio. A design studio that can house three to four pod teams needs around 8,000 to 10,000 square feet and an agile garage 3,000 to 4,000 sq. feet of space. Space considerations should factor:
Hospitality: Space to welcome customers; a refreshing room for teams to unwind; display areas.
Workspaces: Project team areas; meeting and conference rooms; standing desks; usability lab; break-out areas for collaboration and white boarding.
Studio Location: Is driven by the purpose, budget, and availability of talent. A studio demonstrating the application of the latest technologies should be closer to a tech hub. A studio can be co-located within an existing facility along with other functions or separately housing only the studio team. While the former enables cultural transformation, the latter provides space and time for ninja teams to flourish undisturbed with great throughput.
The Third “P”: Process
Based on the purpose of the studio right weightage can be attributed to a typical 4D framework (Discover, Define, Develop, and Deploy) to arrive at a standard process. Digital design being relatively new can adopt best practices from traditional design fields such as product design and architectural design. An enterprise in the services or banking or insurance industry with problem statements related to direct human interactions can adopt a human-centric design approach with a long discovery cycle as the right process. But, for an enterprise in the entertainment industry or an aggregator, the discovery phase can be very short, and the defining phase can be longer to create user testing options. At times, a studio can have two methods for two different purposes. But, more than two standard processes for a studio can adversely impact team building, training, and agility.
The Fourth “P”: People
Hiring, retaining, and nurturing the right talent is one of the major challenges in setting up a studio. Skills and team structure must be carefully planned for achieving the purpose. The success of the studio will hinge on its leader, whose creativity, credentials and vision will play a key role in attracting creative talent. An ideal leader is an established designer with experience in leading businesses.
A typical design pod team, which is usually the core project team, consists of an interaction designer, creative designer, and creative technologist. But they also need support from design thinking facilitators, motion and sonic designers, and technology specialists who make up the rest of the studio team. A project roster highlighting interesting projects can help attract expert talent and develop a high-performance attitude.
A strategic partner can guide an enterprise to set up a studio after considering its objectives carefully, charting a roadmap, and establishing KPIs to measure its success. If you are keen to set up a studio, reach out to us.
About the author(s)
Sajan Jacob is a transformational digital leader with more than two decades of experience in leadership positions. He is responsible for business development and go to market strategy for TCS’ Interactive solutions in the UK & EU and contributes to its global strategy and talent acquisition. He is an expert in interactive marketing, digital transformation, and building digital business. A multidisciplinary leader, Sajan is equally comfortable with creative and engineering teams. He thrives in abstract environments by bridging business and IT. He has operated in both major and emerging markets—leading business units in the geography, managing distributed teams and partner relationships. By virtue of his experience in large multi-year digital transformation initiatives, Sajan is trusted as a digital advisor by the world’s largest global brands. He has an educational background in electronics engineering and business administration.