I had a group meeting today, as is often the case. We met for almost three hours. During this time, we produced no tangible results. No models of the system, no scenario storyboard, no interface sketches.

About two hours in, one of my group members asked what we were doing because it didn’t seem like we were accomplishing much. I instantly disagreed.

What we had accomplished was a revised concept direction based on a string of verbal arguments through which we contemplated various approaches and potential outcomes.

Since my group member didn’t see it that way, I wondered if we should have been visualizing the discussion. We are often encouraged to visualize as soon as possible, and as much as possible in communicating our ideas.

One definite change that CMU has instilled in me is the importance of visualizing ideas for common understanding. It has proven to be very useful and fun.

Do we really need to visualize everything?

I also like open discussion that involves no visualization. Verbal communication allows for a free exchange of ideas more quickly than writing down everyone’s ideas. It has a place in the creative process even though there are no tangible results.

The tangible results may come later. Through argument groups can come to an understanding that they can then further define visually to ensure the picture in each mind’s eye is similar. But there may be periods of strict verbalization before visualization occurs.

I’m guessing that not all leaps will be clearly documented. Perhaps even the designers will not recall how they got to a particular conclusion or direction.

This has happened a number times for me personally, and also with my groups. In moving forward, decisions are made that move you in a direction that at some point are hard to explain. That doesn’t mean you feel like you’re in the wrong place. On the contrary, you feel like you’re positively going forward, but there are no breadcrumbs.

Is this lack of a rigorous process? Should all steps be documented? Is that possible? Necessary for explaining what designers do?