This article will take you from not knowing how important design and drafting is in creating your product or service to being intentional and maybe even good at it. You can't expect one or two articles to make you an expert, but learning a few of the elements will put you on the path to getting 2-5x better at it.
Before we get down and dirty, we need to make a quick differentiation between designing and drafting. Design primarily focuses on the intentions of what you want to create, the 'why' or purpose of creating it.
When we talk about drafting, we're talking about how your product or service is going to show up in reality for your customers, partners, and employees. Drafting focuses on which way that shows up in the spatial and temporal world, as in the shape of the thing and how long it lasts.
There are a few major things to think about when figuring out what it is that you want to make and sell:
- the general outline of what you want to sell
- the dimensions - is it a big or small thing
- the estimates - how much time and effort it takes to make and sell it
- the blueprint - the shape of what it is
- and the model - a somewhat accurate representation of what you're going to sell.
The general outline of your product is what it will look like to the eye. In building construction they also call this the facade. This includes everything from the shape of the sneakers you're offering, the logo you use on your promotional materials, and the look and feel of your website. On the sales page, how big is the picture of the item you're selling? Is the material thick to make it bigger than other things like it and durable, or is it thin making its profile slimmer? Does
If you're creating or delivering a service, how long will it take? How often does the client interact with the service as you're building it for them? What information do you need from them, and when's the last time they can change their mind? These are the outlines and boundaries of your service. They say what you're going to do, and just as importantly, what you're not going to do.
Dimensions scale your drawing or image up or down, or wide and narrow. If you're making sneakers, you have to make them in multiple sizes. If you're making t-shirts, you need to scale them for 4t sizes, X-large and with a women's cut.
Are you a full-service firm, or are you doing just a little bit of the work for someone? How does this work take up your day?
Estimates move your attention from the concrete considerations of dimensions to more abstract things like budgets. How many are you going to make? Per month? How long will it take to make? How long will it take to make 15?
Working with estimates help you think about how easily you can build the product or implement the service over a specified period of time. They will help you make decisions to make some things more prominent, and throw other non-essential elements away.
It's helpful to figure out your time, attention, money, and space budgets before you begin the blueprinting process so you don't include what you can't include in the blueprints. A lot of this figuring out requires you talk to other stakeholders to make sure you're not doing too much with not enough! If and when your estimates are in line with how the organization wants to proceed, you can move on with the next step in the drafting phase:
The blueprint is different from the facade. A lot of times we see drawings or renderings of products from the outside. This gives us little to know information about what's going on inside to give the outside its shape. This is true for everything from drawings of backpacks to buildings. The blueprint, by contrast, shows us the size and shape of materials on the inside.
The blueprint shows how you arrange the pieces inside to make the outside happen. It's a document that helps you talk to everyone about what you're making, from your customers to your suppliers. This is where the blueprint becomes important. It's a guide about what materials to order, how much, and even when they have to be at the site (think building) or the machines (think car parts).
The model takes the drafting process one step further and brings what you're creating into reality, at a much smaller scale. It's a prototype or a sample of what you're making that you can use to experience the look/feel of your product.
In construction, this may take the form of a diorama (of course bigger than the shoe boxes you used in 6th grade). In the service world, your model may take the form of a customer journey map that shows how a customer goes from knowing nothing about your company to becoming a valued repeat customer.
Drafting in Summary
So there we have it, the outline, dimensions, estimates, blueprint and model. When you're inventing something new, it helps to think of these things in this order. That's more of a rule-of-thumb than a law of the universe. In practice, we go iteratively through each stage, which means we come up with some things, then we fill in the blanks when we get to the next stage.
The more consistent you are about thinking through these steps in this order, the easier your whole process becomes as you don't have to go back and clean up or fill in.
Making things up as you go along is a recipe for disaster. These five elements of the drafting phase also help you avoid problems in the future in two ways. First, you'll be able to figure out how things do or do not fit together, instead of trying to re-fit or retro-fit things later. Second, like a seamstress taking measurements before tailoring a dress or suit, once you understand the fit, you can optimize how each thing works and gets made based on that fit.
These five steps help you think realistically about what you're going to do, what you have been doing, and how well you have been doing it.
These five steps are just one phase of a larger process of innovation and creation. The Imagine Create Execute Program Workbook shows you the other phases you'll need to take anything from idea to implementation with ease.