The Role of Storytelling in Innovation

Research isn’t enough.  You can observe your customer all day.  You can run dozens of focus groups.  You can conduct countless surveys.  But does having all of that information at your disposal really help you create a product that will make your customers instantly fall in love with it?

Not if the product doesn’t help them tell “their story.”

Storytelling is fundamental to human existence. Before we could write, we told stories (both as individuals and as cultures).  In fact, much of our tradition and known history was handed down from generation to generation through storytelling.

An engaging story has the power to transfix us, to move us, to allow us to see things from an entirely new point of view.

Stories also enable us to find common ground with people that are different from us. Continue reading

Design in 5D: Design Thinking in Action

Sami Nerenburg has a great post over at Core77 called Dimensions of Design.

Nerenburg argues that design is much more than graphic or industrial design.  Certainly, the rest of the world is discovering the value of thinking like a designer.  Arnold Wasserman said at his lecture a couple of weeks ago at Carnegie Mellon that ‘design is too important to be left to the designers.’ Continue reading

Failing to Succeed? The Fail Fast, Fail Cheap Deception.

When innovation professionals talk about ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ they’re really just trying to get your attention. Or, at least, I hope they are. I’ve heard the phrase used in the context of companies reaching failure quickly, before they burn too much money. I’ve also heard it used to rush products to market before they’re done, to get a quicker response–sometimes creating unnecessary failure.

Most often, in the field of product and service innovation, I hear it used to describe an iterative process of development.

If ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ sounds counterintuitive that’s because it’s not really about failing. It’s more about having a culture that gives permission to experiment–the ability to try ideas before really committing. Continue reading

Pittsburgh Art Institute and Bright Innovation

Team A

Bright Innovation designers were invited to the  Art Institute of Pittsburgh.  Brought in by Justin Adleff, who is teaching a first year design studio, Bright designers taught the class on how to create fast prototypes to test out product ideas. The task was to design a light emitting device for a particular user. Each group identified the needs of their particular user and brainstormed ways they could incorporate these needs into their device.  Bright gave each group a set of pose-able blocks to test out size and location of buttons and handles.

Coming Up Next: Videos of the group presentations. See who they were designing for and what did their prototypes look like!

Team C

Team B

Day 1: Pittsburg Design Competition – Design a Martini Glass

Pittsburgh Glass Center, Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka and Pittsburgh Magazine are sponsoring a design competition….Design a new martini glass!  The deadline is this Friday at 4pm.  The Bright Innovation design team has taken up the challenge!  We will spend the week and go through our design process (fast-paced) and deliver 3 concepts by Friday. Each day we’ll take you through a step of our process so you can see first hand how go from ‘inspiration to innovation’ in 1 week.  Here are the results from today…

Day 1: Project Kick-off :  Research  + Brainstorming

Research – Before we put a pen to paper, we always want to research our topic.  Before the Project Kick-off, two team members did some research at the Sunnyledge Inn’s Martini Bar.  We talked with the bartender and watched his  martini making process and style (video of this research to come…).

Brainstorming – After reviewing the research, we began to generate ideas.  We did some benchmarking to see what current martini glass designs are in the market already. We discussed materials that would keep the martini chilled and drew out ideas inspired from classic and timeless products.


Stay Tuned! Tomorrow we’ll  begin to narrow down our ideas and begin to refine our concepts.





Bright Tools Workshop: Be Your Customer

On April 28th, Bright Innovation held a second Bright Tools Workshop, Be Your Customer.  This  interactive workshop  taught some of the user research tools that we use in product development.   Tom Kubilius, president of Bright, led the class and discussed the importance of observational techniques and empathy scenarios and how they  enable you to gain insight into your customers’ world by helping you experience problems that they might encounter with a product.

In the video snippet from the workshop , see how the attendees were asked to perform a few tasks on a CD alarm clock. However, by giving them dark blurred glasses and bulky work gloves; an artificial scenario was created so they could experience these tasks as an elderly person with limiting abilities like poor eye sight and dulled sense of touch.

Workshop Recap: Prototyping for Pennies

Yesterday Bright Innovation hosted a workshop, Prototyping for Pennies. This workshop deals with issues around creating cheap yet informative prototypes. These prototypes are based on mental models, or personas, that are based on generalizations about real-people who we have interviewed and observed when we conduct user research.  As we design objects and services we think about how we would meet the needs and lifestyle of our personas.

This user-centered component, like personas,  is discussed briefly in Prototyping for Pennies as topic to help participants collaborate and zero in on a design solution. Bright Innovation is  designing future workshops specifically around conducting user-centered research. Using design and research tools to disseminate observations into useful product ideas is an important part of the design process and is the focus in future sessions. An upcoming user-centered workshops will be empathy training called, “Be Your Customer.”

In this case study from the March 3rd, Prototyping for Pennies session, we had a small-group, but a diverse group. The workshop attendees included: consultants, business professionals, Bright clients, design professors and students. We hosted the event in our design studio classroom.

Very worthwhile. Great tool for driving the design process and initiating conversation. – Bright Tools Attendee

Prototype from Group 2

Prototype from Group 1

The workshop was a great success, and we are looking forward our next workshop on April 28th!