Take a step, connect dots, repeat

What Flow Free teaches us about design

Hero image
Illustration by Damien Bertels
Hero image
Illustration by Damien Bertels
Small steps, set parameters, immediate feedback, and trial and error. Each move fuels progress.
Small steps, set parameters, immediate feedback, and trial and error. Each move fuels progress.

We, as designers and creative partners, are tasked with the simplification and visualization of complex ideas for our clients. We solve problems through strategy, writing and design but there are no right answers, so how do we even begin?
 
A thought came to mind while playing Flow Free, a game that needs few instructions as you simply connect each colored dot to its partner. At first, it isn’t clear where to start. There is no indication of being “correct,” rather, it’s up to you to see that a path is blocked and to find another solution.

This seemed like a drastic simplification of our design process. Each path represents a variable of the project and we are tasked with balancing the variables presented by our clients, consumers and competition.

Each move may work individually yet not collectively, so design is a game of simple moves that course-correct over time until the final path is undeniably clear.

Step by step, it all comes together in revealing a solution.
Step by step, it all comes together in revealing a solution.

The solution may be a path you never would have taken originally, and this is the parallel I see in creativity and problem solving as it is an ever-changing feedback loop. Creativity isn’t formulaic and every designer will come up with a different solution. Each presentation is an opportunity to shape the work to be more effective not an opportunity to pass or fail.

What does this mean for a designer?

Take a step. Put your pencil to paper. Right or wrong it will guide you to the next step. Fail. Learn. Think out loud. Start over. Invite clients into the process early and often. If you’re stuck, try something new. Keep pushing even if you stumble. And get ready to do it all over again as new variables are discovered during the process.

What does this mean for a client?

Think of the project as a Flow Board. Describe the problem and ultimate goal of the project while including any important variables so all collaborators understand the complexity of the board. Then get comfortable with lower fidelity presentations that can be imperfect and adjustable.

Give us enough time to try, fail, and repeat because a big idea can extend to any number of executions. Notice how introducing new variables may affect the work and timeline. Since there are no formulas, work with us to refine until there is a single and undeniable solution.
 
Let’s collaborate.

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