Vision Before Refinement

All projects start with a vision — even if it’s just a hunch — about a future state of the world that’s different from the current state. As a designer, one of your responsibilities is to help clarify and express this vision as something tangible.

I often read about teams starting by creating a first version of the product meant to test assumptions, which they then iterate on it as they get feedback from users. But how does the team know which are the truly important assumptions to test if they don’t know what they’re ultimately working towards?

I sense every project starts with these hunches of what it’ll be — but the people driving them often skip the step of clarifying and articulating what the vision is. Visioning can be fuzzy stuff — hard to do for teams who what tangible results as soon as possible.

Clarifying the vision upfront will lead them to ask hard questions, such as “why does the world need another x”? Peruse any of the major app stores: While there are a few excellent products out there, the majority of stuff is either not very good or redundant. Articulating the vision can help you see your product more clearly vis-a-vis the market, and focus the team on the key features that will differentiate it. What’s the point of refining something that’s not worth building in the first place?