In product design, the ‘client’ is faced with the challenge to communicate his or her idea to the product developer or designer. The idea may still be vague or defined only in part. How do you communicate or describe an idea that even to you is not completely clear. Typically the idea is communicated through a design brief; a written text; often ‘presented’ and accompanied by images and/or illustrations, drawing, and if possible examples of similar products or objects.
IN the same way that good product design goes beyond the mere artifact, and considers the user, the context of use as well as production, portfolio and revenue constraints (see the Product Design Canvas), a good brief goes beyond a mere description of the wished for product. It also describes the context of use, the objectives or tasks to be performed, the person who will be using the product etc. In short, it captures the emotional and non-tangible aspects of the product idea, and aims to communicate this in an engaging, rich and tangible way.
A known way for communicating in an engaging, rich and tangible manner are movies. Depending on the skill of the director, movies manage to capture emotions, situations and feelings with an effectiveness far beyond any other medium. Take for example advertisements, which are created to not only show you the product, but also its use and especially to communicate the emotions involved in using the product.
If movies are an effective way of communicating beyond the mere tangible and functional, do movies make a good ‘boodboard’ to inspire design? What do they communicate and how do they stimulate creativity, compared to conventional briefs and moodboards?
We sort of had a first stab at validating this idea, by means of a workshop at a design conference. The aim of the workshop was an initial evaluation of the possibility to use video moodboards as inspiration for design. At the time we were preparing a workshop for graphical designers and we were looking for a creative method to offer a gender specific brief. One method we considered was the use of video moodboards as input for graphical design. We tested this method in workshop at a design conference during which we compared designing based on a brief supported by a video moodboards versus designing based on a brief supported by a conventional moodbaord. Workshop participants were split into two groups. Both groups receives a written brief, but each member of the first group received in addition a 3 minute video moodboard, while the second group received a conventional moodboard with images and photos.
The participants were tasked to design an advertisement poster for a specific product or situation. We used the following three situations; coffee, switzerland and commuting. For each situation we created video moodboards. To ensure focus on emotions and expression, these video moodboards were created in a minimalistic fashion; with a mime artist acting in black against a dark background. The table below shows the video moodboards as well as the conventional moodboard.
Results were evaluated qualitatively. After the design assignment, all participants showed the result, described how they came to it and explained what from their video or moodboard inspired them. It indicated that with respect to inspiration, it revealed that video moodboards inspire designers differently compared to conventional moodboards. With the video the focus was more on a gesture, an movement or an expression. The medium was different therefore the information communicated was different. Instead of static images of objects, the movies show recognizable gestures and movements of a human person. With the moldboard inspiration came from a shape, a texture or an object. Moreover, participants working from the video moodboard were more conscious of the actor; they commented on how the description of the person differs from the actor. Such contrast were not picked up from the conventional moodboard, even if also these contained clear contrasts.
Reflecting on our own experience, we concluded that the process differs completely preparing a video or a conventional moodboard, This did not came as a surprise; the process of creating a video by nature is more intensive and time consuming. Even if the target was the same, i.e. to ‘express coffee’, the act of directing an actor is different from composing images and pictures. Focus is on movement details, on timings, on small gestures in context of the overall picture. The medium forces you to spend more time and be more precise. This makes for not only a different, but also a richer communication. We also realized that a video moodboard may not be suitable for everybody. Similar to the fact that some excel in writing while other excel in sketching, some will excel in directing and are capable to direct the actor and create the in tended expression and communicate the product idea.
Our conclusion was that a video moodboard may be a strong means of capturing and communicating a product idea. Given the time it takes to record and prepare (e.g. find the right actor) it may be suitable especially for the more complex or expressive challenging products. You probably would not use it to drive the design of a new egg timer, but maybe for the next Coffee machine, or for the interior and organization of a bus station.