Movies that inspire Design Thinking

Hello, movie buff. I know what you typed on Google search- “must see movies for designers“. Glad you found this article. I am not a designer, but I read everything about design. Movies that inspire Design Thinking

The Pursuit of Happyness

Walk that walk and go forward all the time. Don’t just talk that talk, walk it and go forward. Also, the walk didn’t have to be long strides; baby steps are counted too. Go forward.

That’s Chris Gardner (Will Smith) for Y’all. Chris is a perfect example of a person who walked past overwhelming obstacles, punching them right in the face. The Pursuit of Happyness is one among the must see movies for designers. One of the major learning is that you just can’t allow people to discourage you from doing something just because they already walked that path and faced failure. Sure you must learn from failures, but not from others. Do your own mistakes and learn from them.

In the movie, Chris was determined that even if all the hell broke loose, he was going to be the kind of father he had always missed. Despite all the setbacks life gave him, Chris wore his courage on his sleeves. Even when most people hung up on him, he used to dial a minimum of 200 phones in a day. You will hardly see that kind of conviction these days, which is why most of us flourish under mediocrity.

Applying design thinking principles to it, does that mean you’ll have to make 200 designs a day? And most of the designs will be rejected.

YES! If that’s the price of perfection, do it. Design thinking is not something to hold on to because it’s ‘trending’ these days. Design thinking will never come to people who are not emotional or who lack empathy. Design thinking will never come to people who whine at the mention of usability testing, who twitch at the thought of making new improvements.

Design Thinking is a process. Each of the team members needs to determine what kind of product they are trying to build and what problem of the world they are trying to solve. You got to keep the fire burning. And even when adverse situations arise, never diverge from your goal. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve; so that if plan A fails, you have a backup Plan B.

Never stop searching for Happiness. The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls.

The Karate Kid

The famous movie from 1980’s might have given you serious karate goals but there is more than you can learn from the movie. I would recommend it again as one of the must see movies for designers. Infact, not just for designer, I would say it’s for everyone. But for the purposes of this blog, let’s apply them to user experience design.

Daniel comes to Mr. Miyagi to learn karate so that he can fight off bullies. Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach him on one condition- he demands that Daniel will follow his instructions and will never question his methods. Aware of Mr. Miyagi’s accomplishments as veteran karate champion, Daniel accepts this without any complaints. But when he starts to train, he is repeatedly asked to do menial tasks such as “painting a fence” and “waxing the car”.

Daniel’s dreams are shattered as he had dreamed of learning how to punch, kick, block and defend himself. He starts feeling restless, he starts feeling that the old hag is using him to do his household work.

Confused but determined, Daniel painted the fence — without raising any objection, but one day when his patience dies, and he confronts Mr. Miyagi.

Mr. Miyagi then illustrates the importance of these movements of painting the fence and waxing the car as they were actually the same motions used in karate. Daniel was learning the craft all along — initially through a petty ritual — but with daily practice, the ritual melted away into unconscious practice. Towards the end of the movie, he goes on to win the tournament leaving us to ponder over many powerful life lessons.

If you follow Scrum practices like daily stand-ups, retrospectives, story estimations, backlog refinement, it might feel overwhelming and meaningless when you start. But when you start following it every day without being judgmental about its effectiveness, it begins to absorb itself into your team’s unconscious mind. You’ll finally reach a point where these processes will become a habit and you no longer have to put deliberate efforts. They’ll be just intuitive reactions to work or even unexpected blows from stakeholders.

However, it takes time to reach this stage of enlightenment. If you are a leader, you ought to imbibe qualities of Mr. Miyagi. You must understand that teams should stick together, fight together, face differences together, fizzle together and finally win together. Walk through every iteration, every compromise, and every argument together. Teams that follow this process emerge from the textual definitions of ‘Agile teams’. If you intend to be a master in your art, you must start with “painting the fence”.

The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

There are some movies which make you cry. Some make you jump in your bed and some you can watch while snuggling with your cat(and eventually doze off).

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, is one such movie where you don’t need a bottle of rum to enjoy. The fun in watching Captain Jack Sparrow play that thuggish pirate is worthy of not just sickles and knuts, but galleons. A hundred thousand galleons, I say.

And even when he is drunk when he said this dialogue, this makes complete sense-

Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.

Apply that to user experience design. If a project starts by taking off with a specific platform (Android/iOS/Web) in mind without defining the user experience, then it’s ‘just a keel and a hull and sails’.

This iPhone app will change the way users buy on e-commerce websites” or “We want it to built on XYZ technology for ABC platform.” This is what your ‘ship’ needs. But that’s not the ‘ship’ your user wants.

How about “We want to make people’s life easy by offering a 3-step check-out form”. This is ‘freedom’. Now your ship is set to sail. The hardest task is to create something simple. Because you have to look at your limitations and turn them into benefits. Start with user’s needs and then move to functional specifications.

Alice in Wonderland

Even Lewis Carroll, who wrote the classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, could not have thought that this story would have a hidden insight for designers. In the movie ‘Alice in Wonderland’, she dodges her engagement party after spotting an unusual rabbit in the garden. She drops down a big hole in the tree trunk, only to arrive at a room which is the entrance to the wonderland.

Alice realizes that she is too small to reach the table which has the key to the door. So she eats the enchanted cake marked “EAT ME.” This makes her grow taller than the size of the room. So she grabs the key and drinks the magical beverage labeled “DRINK ME” which makes her shrink to the size of the door.

The shrinking and growing for different purposes have no impact on her, but it did help her in achieving her cause. The same goes for building web/mobile products. It’s the same thing as building a responsive application. You got to aim for the pixel perfect design so that changing sizes is never a problem. Images, fonts, icons, colors- everything should blend with user’s choice of device & resolution- mobile, desktop or tablet.

Think it’s pretty impossible? Count ’em. Alice did too.

Six impossible things. Count them, Alice! One: There’s a potion that can make you shrink. Two: And a cake that can make you grow. Three: Animals can talk. Four: Cats can disappear. Five: There’s a place called Wonderland. Six: I can slay the Jabberwocky.

Moral of the story? Flexibility in size can help you win any battle. You can do the impossible (which is just your perception of things which are possible), you can even make the cat disappear (problems/pain points! *pun intended*). How? By slaying the fire-breathing dragon Jabberwocky, i.e. by keeping aside the unempathetic human in you and designing a user-centered platform.

Harry Potter and The Order of Phoenix

The magical world of Harry Potter is full of charms and curses. One of the interesting parts is the magical ways in which they commute. Particularly in the movie Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, there are some observations which are synonymous to user satisfaction. To enter the ministry of magic, they have multiple options.

If you’re in London, you can use the telephone booth, dial a number and it will take you to the Ministry of Magic. Officials of MOM can directly apparate in and out of ministry. You can use flu powder, too. Lastly, there are the toilets where you just have to put your feet and it will flush you into the ministry. Also, the elevator inside the ministry can take you sideways, and longways, and backways, and frontways, and any other ways which you can’t even think of. Similarly, the staircase of Hogwarts keeps moving. Tremendous flexibility.

That’s what we should aim for. In the real world, you can create magic with flexibility. Allow the user to enter through multiple channels; give social media plugins to access your application. Make user-onboarding fun and intuitive. Your design should walk the innovation you talk about. Your users should reach where they intend to go with a “swoosh”. Inflexibility is the cause of every ‘uninstall now’. Technology is supposed to drive us faster, not slow us down.

Have any other movies in mind which inspire design thinking? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

This blog was originally published at UXPlanet.

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