Design thinking is shaping up to be a hot topic at the InfoComm show this year. Not only is design the focus of the popular new TIDE conferences, but AVIXA is also premiering a brand new three-day training course called Design Thinking for AV. All this may leave some wondering what exactly design thinking is and why so many of our AV industry colleagues are eager to adopt it.
To shed some light on this trend, I spoke with Lisa Perrine, an experience designer and CEO of Cibola Systems, who is the creator and one of three co-facilitators leading the new course at InfoComm 2018.
Q: In a nutshell, what is design thinking?
A: Design thinking is both a point of view and a way of approaching a project or issue. It helps you take something challenging and break it down into bits to create innovative and valuable solutions. There are five disciplines in design thinking – empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. I think of it as an iterative process rather than a consecutive process. For example, you might test as you define your point of view, and use empathy when you’re prototyping. Although it might be somewhat new to the AV industry, design thinking has been in use for a very long time and is not a new concept. It’s a process that many of us learned in design school, but the firm IDEO put it on the map a few years ago by naming it design thinking.
Lisa Perrine, Experience Designer and CEO of Cibola Systems
Q: Why would an AV professional want to learn design thinking?
A: Sometimes in the AV industry, we reapply the same solutions over and over again. Design thinking gives you a path to create something a lot more exciting for yourself and more valuable for your clients. Design thinking does not happen in a bubble, it is a co-creation process that includes end users. Client participation is a critical part of the process. By the way, when clients participate in the process, they feel more ownership of the final outcome.
If you’re interested in doing design/build work, you have to know how to design. Adding this skillset is an opportunity to differentiate yourself and your firm which creates brand value. Thinking about your team, giving them the opportunity to learn design thinking gives them a chance to do something exciting and satisfying on a regular basis. When I talked to senior executives in the industry about this course, they wanted to know how their people could apply what they learn to their current jobs. To address that, we designed the course to cover what barriers people might encounter in applying design thinking at their company, so participants are prepared to introduce these concepts into their organizations. It’s important that they know how to share this new expertise with other people.
Q: What’s your background? How did you gain expertise in design thinking?
A: I came into the industry by accident. I started studying design, and went to work in a product design studio while I was still in college. They had me draw, build models and mockups, and generally do whatever needed to be done. My first AV-related project was designing and building a digital video studio that produced MTV content. It got me hooked on the technology and what it could do. That’s what sparked my lifelong interest in how people use media to communicate.
Q: You are facilitating this course with Kevin Yamazaki, CEO of Sidebench, and Nathan Bohl, Senior Director of Milestone’s Chief Division. What does the team of three instructors bring to the course?
A: We all use design thinking in different industry roles, which ultimately cover the three points of view that create an exceptional experience – space, technology, and content. Working at Milestone, Nathan uses design thinking for product development. He’s also an advocate for design thinking both inside and outside his organization. Kevin approaches the topic from the software and content point of view. At his firm, they go through the design thinking process with every client. And at Cibola, as a design/build integrator, physical space is a vital component of the experiences we design. For us, the design thinking process is actually incorporated in our contracts as a consulting deliverable.
Q: Who should take this course?
A: This is a perfect course for curious, hands-on learners. Design thinking works best in teams that include people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. One of the tenets of design thinking is radical collaboration, so we’re excited to have a broad spectrum of AV professionals in the course.
Q: Why are design and creative skills important in the AV industry now?
A: Change is happening faster than some people realize. The “Amazon effect” is leading to more commoditization in our industry. As products are commoditized, you can succeed by differentiating more on services. You can take these skills and become a subject matter expert in a niche area. Creative skills will also become more important if programming and other technical tasks are automated in the future.
Q: What is the most exciting AV project you have worked on?
A: It’s hard to choose from thousands of projects over the years. The Condé Nast headquarters in New York is a favorite. We helped them figure out how all their magazines could collaborate in one place when they had never done business that way before. Another project that comes to mind is the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. The client was really involved, and we did a huge amount of prototyping with a beautiful end result. We engaged photographers as part of the team, to figure out how to their photography should be reproduced in different digital mediums.
Q: What do you love about the AV industry?
A: I’m not a technology first person. I love when we find intuitive, fun and engaging technology that changes the way people work. Workplace and customer experience fascinate me – I love helping people do their best work.
Q: What advice do you have those starting their careers in the AV industry?
A: Find an organization that will let you try a lot of things, give you new opportunities, support your professional development, and get to understand you. I think that’s the make or break for people to stay in the industry. Some of the work is exciting for one person but not another, so you need to find what you like. At Cibola, we enjoy working with interns. We had an AVIXA intern recently, and we encouraged him try a lot of different job roles. Like many of our people, he came in thinking he wanted to do something different than what he ended up actually enjoying. For a young person just starting out, that discovery is priceless.