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Auteurs : Ilham BELKADY, Aura RODRIGUEZ (étudiants Master CEN (Rencontres crossmedias 2016)

Is it a paradox? Wanting to be creative using a restrictive method?

It is no secret that creativity is essential to the UX design process. In general, the objective is to mediate between the user and a digital device. When the goal is to create the most effective and innovative solutions, we wonder if the use of a particular method can help fuel creative results, or if the restrictions of a methodology will drown the generation of new ideas.  

Giving one definition of creativity that suits all areas of study and human expression is complicated. The most commonly used terms are linked to the arts, and in earlier definitions creativity was viewed almost as a divine product of the genius of a particular individual, which gave the term a mythical feeling (Kaufman,2009).

For the purpose of this publication we consider creativity as a human trait that reflects in thinking, problem solving and the development of new products. We use the definition proposed by Wang (2009), a process of creating a new relation between two or more objects that generates a new and meaningful solution or product.

One of the most important elements of the concept of creativity is the generation of ideas. But even more, according to Aznar (2011), an idea becomes nothing if it is not followed by a long work of evaluation, and encouraged by a methodological approach.

If we examine creativity from a psychological perspective, we can find that some authors believe that the ability to create is present in all individuals and that the creative process is not the result of the inspiration of a person, but something that can be willingly generated at any given time, which means that it can be taught and developed (Lamblin, 2012).

Creativity plays a major role in the UX design process; this comes as no surprise considering that creativity could be considered as the core of the UX. Creativity can be found in several, if not all of the stages of UX design. The methods used during the development of the product/service will have an influence on the way creativity is enhanced.

According to Marisa Mayer (2006), CEO of Yahoo and former Vice president for User experience in Google, “innovation is born from the interaction between constraint and vision” because it is easier to create when you have a delimited path, or methodology as a base. She also speaks about the positive results you get when you put your prototype to regular testing as a way to enhance the generation of further ideas.

UX Designers have been developing several methods to enhance creativity in their design process. One of them is The Lean UX method developed by Jeff Gothelf, who led the agency The Ladders in New York. Inspired by the Lean Startup, a methodology created by Eric Ries, author of the book “Lean Start-up” (2012), this method is based on iterative validation of the concept directly with end-users in the very beginning of any project and all the way long.  As does the Lean Startup methodology, The Lean UX focuses on constant measurement and interaction via rapid prototyping, putting to service user feedback to improve the product. According to Jeff Gothelf, the method focuses less on the « output », the interface or new functionality to be designed, this is what the client is usually expecting from the process; instead, Jeff Gothelf insists on measuring a positive change in end-user behavior, this is what he calls the “outcome”. The “outcome” is about answering this question : what effect the product has on our users ?

Antony Viviano, a New York-based UX Designer, wrote The lean UX Manifesto (2014) after discussing the subject with several Lean UX practitioners. The Manifesto states 6 principles considered as the basis of Lean UX methodology:

  1. Collaborative design
  2. Early customer validation
  3. Measuring KPIs
  4. Solving user problems
  5. Applying appropriate tools
  6. Nimble design

Creativity is generated through each of these principles:

  1. Teamwork is an excellent way to generate ideas, share and create in a collaborative mind set. But “teamwork doesn’t just happen” explains Steve Berczuk (2013) in an article about the relationship between teamwork and creativity. The key to its success is collaboration. There are several ways to establish collaboration in your team. Humor for instance facilitate teamwork. Trust is also important among the group. Finally, space adjustment has a great impact on the productivity of your team.
  2. & 3. Constant measurement and collecting user feedback is not directly linked to creativity, but it helps you take a step backward and evaluate the work you’ve done so far, this practice gives room to the generation of new ideas. Why constant measurement ? Because there is a gap between creating an idea and putting the idea into practice. As mentioned earlier, while referring to Aznar, an idea becomes nothing if it is not followed by a long work of evaluation.
  1. Solving problems is one of the objectives involved in a creative process. In fact a project usually comes from an issue or a question that has not been answered yet. If you don’t know the problem, you can’t design a product. Therefore, solving a problem is the core of a design process. Creativity is then generated through the quest of a solution.
  2. Because each project requires a different approach, perhaps a different methodology, using the right tools is essential to enhance creativity. The tool you use has to make sense to your project, and it’s also linked to the problem you are trying to solve. Thus asking the “what” and the “why” is a good start in your design process.
  1. A Nimble attitude in the design thinking makes it easier for users, production team members and stakeholders to be involved in the process. For instance, showing your work progress before it’s finished in order to gather feedback, is very rewarding for the project. Being creative is also about staying critical and adapting to new challenges.


As we review the effects of a methodology on the UX design process, we realized that there is no reason to believe that creativity and method cannot coexist. The “constant testing” approach proposed by the Lean UX method leaves a lot of room for the generation of new ideas. In fact, in light of the proliferation of digital products in everyday life, the use of methods to enhance creative UX solutions has never been more important. After all, it is perhaps the UX design team the one responsible to come up with the most creative solutions possible to keep the relation Human-machine smooth and effective. As the principle behind the UX is the generation of an experience and interface effective and “easy” for the users, and as we witness the growing dependency between man and technology, we can’t help but wonder who will adapt to whom in the end?

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  • Berczuk, S. 2013. Teamwork and Creativity : making them work together. Techwell
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  • Wang, Y. 2009.  On Cognitive Foundations of Creativity and the Cognitive Process of Creation.
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