Data & Design  |  Doug van der Molen  |  February 27, 2013

Design Thinking in a Big Way (continued)

At ClearStory Data, our product is designed to put information and insight quickly into the hands of a diverse set of end-users who are often widely dispersed across an organization. We want timely and insightful analysis to be an everyday activity for everyone within the organization. In order to achieve this goal, we are investing heavily in designing the user experience of our product.

In this continuation of Sunday’s blog post, I’d like to share two more critical principles that are helping us achieve the goal of great product design at ClearStory Data.


Guy in high heels3. Everyone is a Designer

There is a common misunderstanding that a designer’s job is to mysteriously come up with the perfect design without any collaboration with other people across the organization. The fact is, most of the best designed experiences come from different groups of people working together. Sometimes, the job of a designer is to get people from across the organization together and encourage them to work together and think about possible solutions to a problem. Including diverse opinions and different perspectives in the design process will likely yield better results than if one or two people who work in isolation try to figure it out themselves. This is especially true for big data products. Technology in this area is moving at an incredible pace and to truly utilize these advances and create innovative products, teams of people from many different aspects of organizations need to work together to craft the best possible user experience that fully leverages this new technology.

I saw a good example of this at Google where I was the design lead for Google Analytics. Our vision was to create an innovative, yet easy to use advanced segmentation solution. Since the technical components were new, it was critical that my design team and the engineers worked together to come up with the best solution. As designers, we needed to know what the technical limits were. For the engineers on the team, it was important that they understood how their technical contributions affected the usefulness of the end product. The result of this close collaboration was a much easier and more elegant user experience for advanced segmentation that leveraged an innovative technical foundation.

At ClearStory, design innovation means involving many different people during the process of feature development. As a team, we work across engineering, product management and design functions collaboratively, to define what we are trying to solve. Our assumptions are testing against direct feedback and input from early access customers. Then, with the problem well-defined, we iteratively review different options and debate different approaches to delivering on the product vision. Features are refined, designed and coded, often in iterative cycles until the product is fully developed. The role of a designer at ClearStory Data is to lead the team through this process, represent the voice of the customer experience and orchestrate the best ideas discussed into a complete and expertly designed product.


Guy in high heels4. Make Beauty a Priority

There are markets where beauty is treated as an afterthought. Often, the more technical a product, the easier it is to overlook the need for beauty. However, companies that embrace beauty, particularly in technical markets, often build a connection with customers that is visceral. Customers crave their products. Dieter Rams, one of the world’s most iconic designers, provided us with a great example of this at Braun. One of Rams’ lasting design principles is: “Good Design is Aesthetic.” Just look at his portfolio of products and you’ll see what he described in his own words as, “the aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being.”

If mass adoption of big data applications is important, then these products have to have a certain level of aesthetics or beauty blended into their function. So what are the elements of beauty? In our space, it could be using a very elegant color palette, or using typography in a meaningful way. It could be an application that actually embraces open space rather than simply shoving in more buttons and controls. It could even be a highly intuitive interaction, or a particular way a problem gets solved. It certainly will be a combination of some of these elements and many more.

There are many opportunities to make technologically advanced products beautiful but it has to be a priority for organizations. Beauty becomes a priority when organizations put a premium on ensuring that what people experience in a product is something they will not only get value out of but also enjoy.

At ClearStory Data, our approach to big data is to make solving complex big data problems accessible, while ensuring our product’s overall performance and function are never sacrificed. Beauty is a huge part of that. The more addictive the experience, the more organizations will naturally embrace a data-driven culture. Embracing data will yield a constant flow of intriguing insights that businesses are craving.


Utilizing these four principles, we are excited to share our thoughts on how ClearStory Data’s solution helps organizations evolve to a data-driven culture. Join us at Strata today to discuss how design and technology embrace one another to deliver the big data products of the new data landscape.

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