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Chapter Five. Developing the Design > Conceptualizing and Brainstorming

Conceptualizing and Brainstorming

The first step of the design process is to conceptualize. When I talk about conceptualizing, I'm not referring to an open-ended creative exercise removed from practicalities. Don't get me wrong—there are many opportunities to be creative in the design of a speech-recognition system. But that creativity must come in service to the real purpose of the design, which is to accomplish specific business goals and communicate specific messages. Conceptualizing is the process of translating those goals and messages into actual system content.

Sometimes the best way to begin to conceptualize a particular problem (or to get through designer's block) is to start brainstorming, either alone or with colleagues. This can be a fairly organized and productive activity, during which many ideas may be generated and recorded in a wide-ranging discussion. Brainstorming requires that a person (or persons) start generating ideas, even absurd ones—as long as they're related to solving the problem at hand. There's no limit to what can—or should—be considered during the brainstorming process. The goal is to collect as many good ideas as possible about as many aspects of the system as possible. No criticism of the ideas is allowed until after the initial brainstorming is completed. After this stage it's time to winnow down the ideas, categorize them, and rank them. A number of books on the market are available to help learn various techniques of brainstorming and how to facilitate good brainstorming sessions.[1]

[1] Suggested reading for brainstorming: Michael Michalko, Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1994).


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