Collaborative Parallel Design
Collaborative Parallel Design is a participatory design process that allows a cross functional team to generate and refine many ideas quickly. It is a process inspired by evolution, and genetic algorithms.
After reading the article "Shortening the Human-Computer Interface Design Cycle: A Parallel Design Process Based on the Genetic Algorithm," by John McGrew, I was inspired to apply the technique on a project. However, in doing so, I made a few of adjustments that proved valuable.
- Cross functional team: The process was originally targeted at designers only. In the spirit of Agile development, and Lean UX, I changed this to include non-designers; both from the project team, as well as external stakeholders.
- Removed heuristic evaluation: Since participants were not all designers, the concept of heuristic design evaluations may be foreign to most of them. Instead, I trusted that poor ideas would naturally fall away, and good ones would amplify as part of the iterative process.
- Shortened the process: The original process took two days to complete. While not an excessive amount of time, in the fast paced business of software development, it can be difficult to justify two full days of an entire team to one design exercise. I cut it down to 4-6 hours - less than a full work day.
Rules of the Game
At the most basic level, the parallel design process breaks down into these steps:
- Design independently.
- Present all designs.
- Evaluate the designs.
- Repeat, taking at least one idea from another participant.