Metamorphosis

These three design studio exercises are intended to elicit tangible attributes for designing product whilst keeping multiple people’s opinions heard and considered.

Credit to Chris Marotta from my time at ustwo for a lot of this. We worked on multiple projects together that made use of some or all parts. The photo examples below are from the Growing Up NYC.

Requirements

  1. An existing or in-process brand, product.
  2. Yourself and hopefully another designer as moderators.
  3. A group of participants (preferably stakeholders).
  4. A (roughly) shared view of aforementioned brand amongst said group of participants.

Method

Three design studio exercises that last about 20 minutes each. Try to do them sequentially and in the same session.

1. Metamorphosis

Have every participant spend 2 minutes writing on sticky notes ‘if this brand were X, it would be Y’ for each of the following:

  • Furniture
  • Animal
  • Brand
  • Food & drink
  • Kids toy
  • Location
  • Personality
  • Transport
  • Texture

The sticky notes can go up as they are created, or at the end of the 20 minutes. It depends on whether you want to encourage idea-riffing or encourage originality, respectively.

Sticky notes arranged on a wall
The results should look a little like this, minus the blue tape. Some of the attributes are 'hand made' (texture), 'reclining' (furniture), and 'diverse' (location).

2. Organising attributes

Spend a minute as a group observing and clarifying the results of the above. As moderators, take fresh sticky notes and cluster similar ideas into high-level themes. Confirm with participants and then make it real by naming each theme.

An example: sticky notes take from different categories such as ‘warm’, ‘dependable’, ‘wise’, and ‘role-model’ might be themed as ‘Guiding Light’.

Person putting sticky notes on a wall
Chris moving the Metamorphosis attributes into themes.

3. Creating brand attributes

For each of your new themes, and openly as a group, list attributes under the following areas:

  • Symbol
  • Typography
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • Colour
  • Motion
  • Graphic forms
  • Sound
  • Language

Attributes from the Metamorphosis exercises can be recycled.

Stop when you feel attribute additions slowing or becoming worse in quality. Use this as your cutting off point—play back the group-created attributes to the participants to seal the deal.

Sticky notes arranged on a wall
One of our themes (Comforting) and its respective attributes under the defined areas.

Next steps

What you do after the above exercises varies for the desired output. For most visually-orientated outputs (brand identity, visual design) the next steps is often beginning moodboards informed by the brand attributes, separated by area.