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Workshop Technique: Design Consequences

Leisa Reichelt’s workshop technique design consequences

I was so pleased with the results I would like to share with you.

Using a Modified Workshop Setup

Leisa proposes to ask the participants to swap designs and to continue designing with their neighbour’s sketches. However, I decided to slightly simplify the setup — I asked the participants to prepare their designs without passing them on.

The reason for the modifications were:

  • Little time for preparation as the workshop took place the same day I discovered the method
  • I was unfamiliar with the technique
  • I was uncertain how well the participants would respond

The Design Challenges

For the first workshop we wanted to design a simple search dialog for text modules used in standard business letters. We had to consider some preconditions and constraints defined by other departments of the company.

The initial search yields the list of text modules filtered by such a set of four categories.

I asked the participants to design a search facility with the following capabilities:

  • Search for a text module
  • Select, remove, and reorder text modules
  • Use an additional category as a filter when performing searches

In the second workshop the design challenge was to design a support for multiple open sub-windows for an application using only modal dialogs.

I asked the participants to design an interface which enables the users to

  • Suspend a task in a currently open window and start a new one
  • To resume suspended tasks

Now for the consequences part: I explained that I wanted them to stop working after the suspending part and wait for everyone else to finish. I thought I made that point very clear.

The Results of the Workshops

The first workshop was a bit of a surprise for everyone. As I mentioned, I had little time to prepare the workshop thoroughly. Before the workshop the participants were rather sceptic of the usefulness of the approach. However, they did not object and agreed to do their sketches. After about 10 minutes we pinned the designs to a wall and started the presentation followed by a discussion.


  • The participants had to struggle to get their design right. It’s not easy, we know it. Now they know, too.
  • One of the participants was eager to communicate her design idea from the very beginning of the meeting. With this technique she had the chance to do so. She may have felt ignored otherwise.
  • The style of the resulting design discussion was extremely constructive and focussed. It is frequently the case that participants favour a certain design out of a personal preference or to satisfy personal vanity, but not in this case.
  • The modification to the technique (leaving out the consequences part) surprisingly did not reduce the value of the technique. Getting Buy-In from the participants still worked fine.


  • In the second workshop the consequences did not work at all. Some of the participants sketched the entire process, mentioning halfways, “Oh, I thought I had to do the whole thing” when I asked them to pass their designs on to the neighbour.
  • Capturing the results. I found it difficult to reconstruct lines of thought and discussion. The only sources of the designs I had to prepare based on the workshop were my notes and photos of the flip chart sketches.


This method is very useful if you need to

  • Generate a lot of design alternatives quickly
  • Detach people from “religious” and dogmatic design discussions
  • Get real feedback
  • Get buy-in and consensus even from sceptical team members
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