How SCADpro is elevating product management through design
We are talking about some of the lessons from integrating art, design, and business needs that have been learned by SCADpro—the Savannah College of Art and Design’s in-house design, research, and innovation studio—which is generating innovative designs and products for the world’s most influential brands, including Google, Amazon, and Apple.
Joining us is Paul Stonick, the Vice President of SCADpro. Prior to SCAD, Paul spent 25 years in the corporate world leading world-class digital and user experience design teams, primarily in e-commerce, most notably with The Home Depot and Barclays.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:54] How do you view the intersection of art, design, and business?
“Good design is good business,” quoting Thomas Watson from IBM. I like to view design as value. For a design team to show value, they have to be able to speak the language of business to their stakeholders.
The work we do at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and SCADpro, our in-house design, research, and innovation studio, is the intersection of design and business. We don’t consider ourselves to be an art school but a creative university. Everything we do has some sort of business component woven into it.
[4:25] Can you share some examples from SCADpro of how organizations have found value by approaching innovation from an art and design perspective?
The Chick-fil-A drive thru was a SCADpro project. Several years ago they came to use wanting to rethink the outdoor dining experience. We designed the iPad experience, the flow, the orchestration, the uniforms, etc. We execute through a framework called Design Thinking. It’s a creative problem-solving tool, a human-centered approach to solving problems. Design doesn’t even have to be part of the output. For Chick-fil-A, the output was structure, process, and organization. That’s value because it’s a return-on-investment for Chick-fil-A.
Another partner is Deloitte, which we helped tackle some of the most complex issues facing public-sector organizations.
Recently we created a holiday campaign for the jeweler David Yurman.
We’re providing value in all different ways. For these three examples, we had students coming together from 100 different majors and minors, 120 countries, and all 50 states. We provide a global perspective and diverse thinking. Our secret sauce is unconstrained thinking, pushing the envelope, and going to places you usually don’t go to find the answer. That’s what innovation is—creating magic moments for the customer. Innovation is not about taking it to the press or to the board because then you’re serving the wrong customer.
[8:29] How do you apply Design Thinking?
While we encourage our SCAD students to be creative and think big, we strive to never forget the needs of the client. Our process starts with understanding the wants, needs, frustrations, and behaviors of the user to make sure we’re building the right product. It’s much more expensive to build the wrong thing than to build the right thing. The beauty of Design Thinking is it marries creativity and critical thinking skills. It requires us to generate a lot of ideas, so students become comfortable with failure. It forces you to try out many ideas early on and not get invested in one because generally your first idea is never the best. The process harnesses creativity through inquiry.
We have three offerings: a 48-hour design challenge, a 10-week partnership, and an executive experience in which we’re teaching other companies how to be creative again.
We did a partnership to redesign the Atlanta Police Department’s patrol cars. The students dug into the history of the police department and met with officers to understand what they were looking for in these patrol cars. You can see that in the execution. A phoenix rising from the ashes represents Atlanta and six stripes on the side of the car represent the six zones and the motion of the phoenix. This creates an emotional connection because the cars became take-home vehicles for the patrol officers.
Design Thinking starts with empathy. Once you have empathy, you start building the right think and putting yourself in the right shoes. The power of Design Thinking is it’s inclusive and it creates empowerment. You can solve anything through design. Design Thinking is like a Trojan horse that you can use to really create change and take design to a strategic level.
[11:26] Tell us about the steps in a design challenge or partnership.
For the patrol car project, 24 students came up with 24 options in 48 hours. It was a lot of pizza and not a whole lot of sleep, but it was a lot of fun. We presented the ideas to the mayor of Atlanta and the Chief of Police, and now it has gone to market.
A 10-week partnership starts with a kickoff with the brand partner. Generally they come visit us and spend time with students. We ask questions and do a literature review to understand the problem we’re trying to solve. Over 10 weeks, we do research, define the problem, test, prototype, and validate what we’re building. We check in with the partner about one quarter of the way through the project. At the midpoint, we meet with the brand partner to make sure we’re solving the right problem. We give a final presentation, which is the delivery of the problem we are trying to solve.
What makes us unique at SCADpro is the brand partners evolve with us all the way through the journey. This is not student work they’re getting. We deliver agency-level work. At the end, we deliver all the IP to the brand partner to use.
[14:03] Tell us more about prototyping.
Prototypes can be physical or digital depending on what we’re solving for. We have made physical prototypes of furniture for Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and prototypes of redesigned UX and UI for NASA’s ice-measuring satellites. We have customers test the product and provide feedback to make sure we’re building the right thing.
[21:31] Do you follow the approach to Design Thinking in Jake Knapp’s book or do you have a different take on Design Thinking?
It’s pretty close to the recipe Jake is following. Bringing together people from different backgrounds is key at SCADpro and in the corporate world. While running Design Thinking at Home Depot, to solve problems we brought the right people together, including engineering, product, marketing, and legal. This allowed us to make sure we were solving the right problem the right way. When you involve leaders from the beginning, you’re going to have more buy-in. The UX team started to teach others and that put us at the center of the design process. At Home Depot, we taught other parts of the organization like finance how to use the Design Thinking framework to solve problems. We showed that we can solve anything. Design Thinking became a secret weapon.
[24:24] How do you deal with people who think they aren’t creative?
To quote a friend of mine, “Everybody is creative. Most people just forgot.” I’ve had people who say they can’t draw. That’s okay. You don’t need to draw because design doesn’t have to be part of the output and stick figures are fine. Design Thinking is more about a human-centered approach to problem solving. We teach people how to be creative again. It’s about opening your mind and understanding the problem-solving process.
Action Guide: Put the information Paul shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn more about SCADpro
- Connect with Paul on LinkedIn
- Check out the book Paul contributed to, Calling All Nations about INXS
“Innovation is rarely authorized in large organizations, so when you fight bureaucracy, bureaucracy fights back. Corporate intrapreneurs, or ‘punks’ must be the catalyst, and change can’t happen without us.” – Paul Stonick
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