Pratt COMD – Business & Design (notes)

Victor Lombardi
Feel free to contact me with questions or comments…

  • email: victor (at) victorlombardi.com
  • AIM: vittoriolombardi
  • mobile: 347.249.9470

Learning Objectives: This class helps you understand the fundamentals of business to improve your effectiveness as a designer. You will learn: 1) how companies work; 2) how to see design challenges from your clients’ perspective, and discuss your work in business language, 3) how decisions are made and how to infulence those decisions to sell your work; and 4) how to combine your creative skills with analytical skills to create more robust designs. You will learn these skills by creating your own simulated business.

The basics:

  • If we’re doing it right, the class should be fun. If you’re not having fun, tell me! We’ll try to change something.
  • Come to class. Really. We like you, and it’s more fun when there’s a bunch of us to hang out and talk.
  • If you can’t come to class, the usual Pratt policies apply. Personally I don’t care much whether you had a good excuse or not. I just care about your learning. So if you missed a class what really matters is making an effort to find out what happened in class from me or another student.
  • All assignments must be submitted by email unless otherwise noted. If you’re having technical problems let me know.

Class 14 (date):

In class:

Homework:


Class 13 (date):

In class:

  • Review and critique final design comps as a group
  • Celebrate?

Homework:

  1. None! Class is over! Happy holidays.

Class 12 (date):

In class:

  • Review and critique design comps as a group
  • Decide what final changes to make to the comp

Homework:

  1. Refine your comp to arrive at a final version

Class 11 (date):

In class:

  • Review and critique design directions as a group
  • Select one direction and start to develop it

Homework:

  1. Create one gorgeous and powerfully-effective comp from the one design direction

Class 10 (date):

In class:

  • Discuss how to think about moving from the proposal to creating three design directions
  • Spend time in class working through this process to consider what your directions might be
  • Individually review your proposals from last week and discuss any initial design ideas

Homework:

  1. Assuming your proposal was accepted, start the client work by creating three directions
  2. Each direction should have a name and show a visual idea as well as a written description of why and how the visual idea addresses the client’s goal.
  3. Directions are called that because each should go in a different creative direction. Three variations on one design are not three directions.
  4. Make the directions as detailed as you can. Given that you only have one week and you need to do three directions, you can only go so far –- so sketches or wireframes are just fine. If you have time to go further, you’ll have an easier time next week doing the comp.
  5. I won’t be grading the stylistic quality of the directions. I will be grading based on how well you created a design that shows an understanding of the business client’s goals. For example, if you create something that looks great but emphasizes differentiation when the business is all about low price, it won’t grade well. If you represent the business goal well, it will grade well whether or not it looks good.

Class 9 (date):
Learning objectives: From a designer’s point of view, understand how a business should be marketed to its target audience.

In class:

  • Review real-world project proposals [Acme 1] [Acme 2] [Ford]
  • Discuss what our clients (the businesses we created) need next in terms of marketing and advertising, what audience is most important to speak to, what message needs to be sent to that audience, and what format is the best medium to carry that message.

Homework:

  1. Write and design a proposal for an advertisement or marketing material, illustrating your insight into how to sell to the customer in a way that expresses the unique competitive advantage of the business. The proposal should include these sections:
    • About this document
    • A summary of the client’s situation
    • What you propose doing to help the business
    • What benefits the business will receive
    • A schedule of how long the work will take and an outline of the process you will follow
    • How much you will charge
    • Your credentials (similar work, qualifications, testimonials, referrals, etc.)
    • Your contact information
  2. You can propose one of the following formats:
    • Two-page magazine advertisement
    • Direct mail print piece
    • Website (you’ll design just the home page)
    • Email newsletter
  3. The proposal doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be good.
  4. If you would like to propose a different format, let me know what you have in mind.

Class 8 (date):

Learning objectives: Step out of the business owner’s shoes and back into your designer’s shoes to understand how to design for that business

In class:

  • Review elevator speeches
  • See a Tangible Futures presentation
  • Discuss “tangible futures” as a way of marketing truly new products/services/businesses

Homework:

  1. None this week

Class 7 (date):

Learning objectives: Learn how to synthesize a collection of business ideas and communicate quickly

In class:

  • Read through samples and discuss what makes a good elevator speech
  • Try composing a few elevator speeches together for your businesses or a familiar company like Starbucks

Homework:

  1. Write a 60 second elevator speech.
  2. Start by identifying your audience: are you riding up the elevator with a bank loan officer, a rich relative, a venture capitalist… ? Make sure the tone of your writing is right for the person you’re pitching.
  3. Your speech must include:
    • the name of the business
    • how the business makes money
    • who the customers/consumers are
    • your generic strategy
    • a request
  4. You can optionally include:
    • a hook
    • an explanation of your product or service
    • who is running the company
    • competitive or complimentary companies
    • how you run the business
    • comparisons to similar types of businesses

Class x (date): Mid-Term Evaluations / Elevator Speechs
Learning objectives: Consider your strengths and discuss how to build on them; receive feedback on your performance; give instructor feedback on his performance. Learn about elevator speeches.

In class:

  • One-to-one meetings with instructor to discuss our performance using the plus/delta technique. Please offer at least one thing the instructor has done well (a “plus”) and one thing he can improve (a “delta”)
  • Read through elevator speech tutorials and examples and discuss them.

Homework:

  1. No student homework
  2. Instructor will modify class based on feedback

Class 6 (date): Refining Your Business Plan

Learning objectives: Be able to change your plan based on research findings; incorporate more business fundamentals, e.g. scale, velocity, technology leverage, disruption

In class:

  • Review research findings
  • Discuss how to revise the business plan based on the research findings and new business knowledge

Homework:

  1. Revise your business plan
  2. Format it so it’s beautiful
  3. Proofread and spell check it. I suggest having someone else read it to help catch mistakes.
  4. Email the finished document as a PDF file to me (victor (at) victorlombardi.com)

Class 5 (date): Doing Research

Learning objectives: Learn how to do actual research to validate business ideas

In class:

  • Watch the IDEO Shopping Cart video and discuss the process they used (e.g. secondary research, personal discussion, primary (field) research, brainstorming, voting, refocus, rough prototypes, combined prototype, test)
  • Discuss research and prototyping techniques
  • Review and refine our research plans

Homework:

  1. Do research according to your plan.
  2. For each type of research you plan on doing (Market, Competitive, Product, Customer) add a “Findings” section and summarize what you learned. Note that everyone has to do customer research, speaking with at least five potential customers of your business.
  3. Add a “Conclusion” section to summarize what you plan to do next now that you’ve learned from the research.
  4. Here’s my example: Word version | Text version

Class 4 (date): Creating Financial Forecasts and Research Plans

Learning objectives: Learn how to decide what kind of research is relevant to your business idea and plan it

In class:

  • Discuss research methods and look at an example research plan
  • Play the classmate investment game
  • Review research plans

Homework:

  • Continue homework from last week
  • Look at my example (Word version) (text version) where I expanded the financial and research sections.
  • Here’s a PDF of the file I’ll use to do my Customer and Product Research. I plan to show it to some technies in PowerPoint format to see how they would build it. I’ll also show it to potential customers (just the screens) to see how they would use it.

Class 3 (date): Creating Financial Forecasts and Research Plans

Learning objectives: Display your knowledge of business fundamentals; learn how to decide what kind of research is relevant to your business idea and plan it

In class:

  • Test on business fundamentals
  • Review business plan drafts
  • Use creative techniques to expand business options

Homework:

  1. Reading
  2. Optional Reading
  3. Refine Your Financial Plans
    • Using the plan you started last week, add more detailed financial information. List all your costs, then for each cost write down dollar figures that are as realistic as possible.
  4. Refine Your Research Plans
    Write down what you plan to do the following week to increase confidence that your business will be successful. To accomplish this, ask yourself, Could I provide an investor a good answer to the questions below? If you can’t (which is normal at this stage), your research plan should address one or more of the following:
    • Market Research, which answers the questions, “Are there enough customers for my business? What do they have in common that will allow me to market to them in a consistent way?
    • Customer Research, which answers the questions, “Do consumers understand how the product or service works? Will it be useful, usable, and/or desirable?
    • Competitive Research, which answers the questions, “What competitors are already offering (or could very soon offer) the same product or service? How do they do it? How will I make my company more attractive than the competition?
    • Product Research, which answers the questions, “What type of products, services, or materials do I need to create my product/service? Are they readily available? Are they within my budget? How will the product be manufactured?
  5. Email me your updated business plan before the next class

Class X (date): Start Designing Your Business

Learning objectives:

In class:

  • Talk about product development concepts (platforms, systems, razors/blades, etc.)
  • Talk about scaling a business beyond features and products/services to opportunities, as well as strategic delivery points

Homework:

  1. Start designing your business
    • Email the finished template to me before the next class

Class 2 (date): Learning Business Fundamentals

Learning objectives: Learn business fundamentals and the relationship between costs, revenues, profit, and customer satisfaction

In class:

Homework:

  1. Play Disaffected! until you understand how the game works.
    • Take a screen shot when you’re done and email it to me.
    • Consider what is the single biggest lesson you’ve learned from it. How does that change how you will design your business?
  2. Read
  3. Explore design-related businesses:Springwise business ideas, Reed, The Deck, Jewelboxing
    http://www.noisebetweenstations.com/personal/weblogs/images//2006/09/BusinessExample-Delaborate.txt

Class X (date): The Modern Corporation and You

In class:

  • Watch excerpts from the film The Corporation and talk about our own ethics and values with regard to the business world
  • Consider the theme of scale: how can business decisions improve a company, industry, or country but harm individuals? How can destructive events appear less destructive if stretched over time?
  • Ethical questions are rarely easy or objective. Where kinds of companies would you not work for and why? Pharmaceuticals? Defense? Tobacco? Liquor? Oil?

Class 1 (date): Introduction to Business Ideas

In class:

Homework:

  1. Play The Lemonade Game
    • Try to make as much money as you can while achieving high customer satisfaction and popularity scores.
    • Take a screen shot when you’re done and email it to me.
    • If you make a lot of money, great, but you won’t be graded on this. I want us to simply understand how different decisions about making lemonade results in different business performance.
  2. Read
  3. Start pondering what kind of business you would like to start

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