This challenge was taken on and documented by our design team:
Sean Connolly, Christine Pivovar, Jeremy Murray, and Chris Cantrell
In our day-to-day roles as product designers, we’re tasked with creating artifacts that our developers can turn into working software that solves a specific business problem for our clients. And this is magical — it’s why we love our jobs! But it doesn’t always give us the opportunity to explore the latest styles and innovative technologies in the wider digital world.
So we decided to give ourselves a creative challenge: What could we come up with given a single day to design an imaginary app for a future-thinking use case?
We split up into two teams of two designers. Each chose a specific prompt to respond to and selected from a list of style elements to use in our designs. We had one day to brainstorm and produce a clickable, animated prototype. It didn’t have to be realistic, but it had to showcase how we were exercising and pushing our design muscles to become better overall designers.
Team A: Christine & Chris
Imagine an app that allows you to choose from a few set of criteria for your new office building. By choosing the building’s purpose, the number of people, and style of architecture, it will autogenerate a design for your next office. Exterior and interior. (Think high design architecture.)
Our stylistic selections included glassmorphism; big, bold type; and multi-color gradients.
As seasoned product designers, we were unable to take off our problem-solving hats completely. As we brainstormed for our prompt, we discovered that amid the current proliferation of chat-based AI tools, there’s still some difficulty and trial-and-error required to write the perfect prompt to get exactly the output you’re looking for.
We decided to marry this unmet need with the fun, aspirational experience of “designing your own car” on an auto website. We would give the user a few simple choices for their architectural vision, and then our tool would generate an exterior and interior concept for them to use. For example: location, size, purpose, architectural style, interior finishes and color palette.
Aesthetically, we wanted to present something that felt more special than your typical form fields and pickers. Because architecture is so grounded and tangible, we incorporated a print-design kind of style, with big bold type and overlapping images, made to feel more like a magazine spread than a selection menu. Using Figma animations, we explored several different types of scrolling menus, context-switching experiences and micro-interactions.
We explored workflows that would let a user make their aesthetic choices while seeing what their options were, in a platform that would feel both easy and delightful to use.
Team B: Jeremy & Sean
Imagine a web app for managing electricity usage visualizing your charging or electrical power history. Our stylistic selections included dark mode; bold color; 3D Renderings.
We began this process by looking at current tech, then thinking what one, two and three steps beyond current possibility could look like. While there are always new and cutting edge technologies, we discovered the tech reached a limit when it came to total universal control and micro-monitoring solutions.
Beyond simply a dashboard, we wanted to craft a concept that would be insightful, detailed and ultimately useful. The goal would be that this software could help a user build situational workflows for home, business and office electrical use. We brainstormed a number of ideas. These included using multiple integrations to make the workflows more powerful; leveraging a smart breaker box to group electrical uses by priority; and assigning back-up power priority to certain critical groups like refrigerators and HVAC to retain power in the event of an emergency.
We also wanted to consider the potential to manage electrical sources such as electrical draw (the grid and photovoltaic panels) and storage sources (backup batteries and electric vehicles).
Ultimately our intention was a fun, intuitive and simple platform that would allow any home flexibility and scalability to understand their power usage. We also wanted to give space to build out complex workflows to manage their electrical usage through many different scenarios, from inclement weather and travel to everyday life.
Despite the challenge of designing something that was not meant to be real, we were able to innovate and envision a future product that could revolutionize the way we manage electricity usage. We felt proud of our outcome of a simple platform that anyone could use, providing flexibility and scalability in understanding power usage.
It was harder than we expected to design something that was meant to not be real! So much of our experience is geared toward navigating the practical and technical restraints of day-to-day products that trying to get outside that mindset was a challenge in itself. But that kind of divergent thinking is what you need when you’re trying to truly innovate or envision future products that don’t exist yet.
The other constraint we had was time, and in this case it provided the kind of tension we needed to produce better work. As the time to demo drew nearer, each team had to make decisions and hone all the different experiments we tried in order to create a full beginning-middle-end narrative. This ultimately helped us create a simpler and more unified concept, which are always goals to strive for in any design project.
Overall, this design challenge allowed us to step outside of our day-to-day roles and explore new and innovative ideas without the constraints of practicality. By challenging ourselves to design an imaginary app for a future-thinking use case, we were able to push our creativity and exercise our design muscles.
Despite the initial challenge of designing something that wasn't meant to be real, both teams were able to produce impressive outcomes that showcased our ability to think beyond the constraints of current technology and envision a future product that could revolutionize the way we work and live.