A common step throughout my design process and work is to gather as much data as possible. Ask a lot of questions, collaborate, define the problem and objectives, gather user insight and behaviour (Want an actionable plan of this? Use the lean UX design canvas) and then before reaching a visual solution create an inventory of design patterns, visual inspiration and collate all my notes etc. and then expand from there. I like notes, lots of them. To use my skills as a designer to join disparate bits of data into information. And to leverage this information to guide/form the solution. It sounds all organised and shit, but in all honesty the process is quite fluid and scrappy.
A great tool that I’ve been using lately to help me with this phase is Milanote (this is not a sponsored plug). I’ve just found it really useful and wanted to share it with this community. The fluidness of the tool helps me quickly write notes, gather moodboards, collect various bits of data and information that I can collate and reference quickly. I used to create a lot of documents in indesign. But I like the scrappiness and fluidness of this tool – it feels more collaborative for client feedback and updates. And it almost feels like a digital notebook, which allows me to reference different bits of data and quickly translate and dump my thoughts. Here are some example use cases for milanote:
Great for developing for a scrap board of ideas- gathering quotes, setting up to do lists and deeper references for a project.
Great for visualising user insight and raw data for quick references.
Easy moodboard creations that allow collaborative feedback from clients/stakeholders.
The idea is in the beginning you want to go for volume. It is the divergent phase of the design process. Gather junk so you can find that gem within. You want volume and not finesse.
1. Volume means lots of little ideas with nothing being polished. Disparate pieces of data that can aid a project. Come up with a lot of different ideas that can solve the problem from different angles. Images, text, video, design patterns, data, copywriting, user insight etc.
2. Finesse is when you go deep on an idea/solution and refine the shit out of it. Iterate to find the most effective and feasible solution. That’s when you take that volume and finesse it to a solution.
Build those boards and clusters of data, visuals, design patterns and anything that can aid the project. It’s easy to open up sketch, photoshop, figma, XD and go to town with the first concept that you come up with. But if you take a holistic view first and spend a little time to explore different options, directions and consider all the variables. You can move away from your base assumptions or your usual patterns of play to stretch yourself creatively but also be more empathetic and considered with your approach.
So try giving Milanote a spin and see if it can aid you with your workflow and design process. Use it for client liaison and collaboration. Use it when you need a tool for complex and scrappy note taking.
Remember design is a process. A process to reach business objectives and to provide value and delight to users. Work that impacts people. There more you start thinking holistically about your work, the more valuable your output will be.