Understanding a Project

Every now and then I have ideas for projects that I’d like to start. For a long time I would just let these ideas wander in my grey matter without writing them or exploring them further.

Nowadays I am making an effort to start documenting and dissecting these ideas. I don’t have that much free time to tackle all the ideas that come up to my mind, so this is also a way to leave them in a stage in which I can evaluate if the idea is worth investing time in or leave the idea in a stage where I can pick it up later.

What I do is mostly based on design sprint’s understand phase and Nicole Fenton’s Tiny Content Framework. I basically create a document (yes, not that fancy!) that tries to answer the following questions:

  • How did the idea come about?
  • What should be the purpose of the project? What problem is it solving?
  • What is the value proposition? Why will people use it?
  • What other projects exist with a similar problem, or a different problem but a similar approach? What are the key characteristics of how they work that should be considered?
  • What approach/perspective does this project bring that is different from the ones you know?
  • What is the code name of the project ? Because code names are cool!
  • How can the project be iterated upon while using existing platforms and technologies? How can I prototype it with as little code as possible?
  • Any drawings that can further illustrate what the project is about ?

“Instinct, whether on the ground or in the kitchen, is not a
destination but a path. The word instinct comes from a combination of
in meaning ‘toward,’ and stinguere meaning ‘to prick.’ It doesn’t mean
knowing anything, but pricking your way toward the answer.” – Tamar
Adler in An Everlasting

From all these questions my favorite one is “How did the idea come about?” because it is the question that nails the hunch regarding the project. The hunch is usually what bugs me day and night, what comes and goes in sparks, the unfiltered thoughts, and core assumptions that help lead the way to every other question. And it is wonderful to just take it all out in a document and see them in a raw format. All the other questions help peel away the clutter from the hunch, figure out what matters and not, do some reality checks regarding what is novel and insteresting or not, develop some strategies, etc.

I think Ambrosio was mostly built out of a hunch without thinking too much about the other questions and we are sort of figuring them out along the way. For newer ideas/projects I’m making an effort to have the bigger picture earlier as well as prototyping as soon as possible and I’m liking how they are turning out.