If you haven’t heard already the CORE Discovery Kit launched in November of 2019. I have the team at The Futur to thank for their collaboration and guidance. Ben Burns and Chris Do have helped guide this and mold it to be the best it can be for our community.
The new kit is an update to the original CORE Strategy kit released several years ago. It adds new exercises and a Brief Template. But the most important part is the conceptual framework that allows for you to masterfully translate Strategy into Design.
The Core of CORE
These are the 8 parts that make up the core of the new kit.
- Alignment Exercise (New): What does the team want to get out of it?
- Brand Exercise: What is the essence of the business, team or person?
- Customer Profiles: Who are you providing value for?
- Goals Prioritization: What actions do you need to take to build a business?
- Attribute Clustering: (New) Choose 3 set’s of Brand Attributes for the Brief.
- Data Matching (New) Generate ideas for the execution of the project.
- Impact Narrative (New) User stories prioritizing the products impact.
- The Brief Template (New) Translating strategy into instructions for Design.
Before I Start
The CORE Manifesto sheds some light on the foundation for the framework. In most companies Designers don’t have strategic roles. The strategists are for the most part from other disciplines. That is changing but for now let’s assume that is the norm. Therefore the first bullet in the manifesto starts the new narrative. “The Designer as Strategic Leader.”
Now that you stepped into the role of “Strategic Leader” (If you can make that jump.) you’ll have to facilitate the collaboration. Vs. just being the scope patrol and delivering exactly what was in the brief. The second bullet point in the manifesto opens up a new portal in the relationship with a client. Where you are co-creating, listening to each other, flowing together and producing impactful work. Innovation comes from collaboration.
So you see. CORE Discovery is what creates that relationship on teams. And the fact that is lead by Designers takes things to a new level. As if we drive both the strategy and the design of solving problems for people and the planet we become stewards for change. We go from fancy stylist to future world builders. Are you getting what I am dropping here?
And Now The Main Event
Ok, and now what you have been waiting for. Here are the 8 exercises for CORE Discovery broken down into; “What need does it solve? What is the goal of it? And what are the outcomes?
1. Alignment Exercise (New)
Need: People love it when they are included. In a meeting, in a plan, on a team. This exercise uses the same process as the Brand Attributes Exercise to understand the top 3 things each person wants to get out of the work session.
Goal: The goal is simple, to understand the outcomes that people want out of your time together. And to acknowledge that we heard them. Common things that people express is that they “want to get clarity” from the process. Another common interest is that they want the team to be “on the same page.”
Outcomes: The outcome is that each person was heard. At the the end of the exercise we prioritize “only one thing” that if they got from the session would make them happy — I repeat the top 6–7 (Depending on team size) that the team said and I ensure that I deliver that to them by the end of the session. If I didn’t deliver it I tell them that I will try on the next session or offline after the session.
2. Brand Exercise
Need: The first and most important container that drives strategy is an understanding of who we are. The company, the startup, the non-profit or the mom and pop upstart. They all want to know who they are. Call it a Mission Statement or Brand Statement. What they do, for who they do it, how they do it, how it feels and how it impacts the world is the foundation of any journey.
Goal: The goal of this exercise is to work together to come up with a Brand Statement. This statement gives you the key attributes that will help guide you in the Design process that will follow. The goal is alignment and clarity of vision.
Outcomes: To quote the CMO of a 100 million dollar manufacturing company in Southern California; “We just paid $300,000 to do our Mission Statement. You just did a better job with our team in 60 min.” Of course I said — “Damn, you are not paying us enough.” But my point is that when you include the entire team in the creation of a concise brand statement — not only are they now invested in their own vision but the work is much higher in fidelity that if you went away and did it on your own. At the end you will have a brand statement that serves as the blueprint to create the right solution.
3. Customer Profiles
Need: You don’t need to be a marketing or UX genius to know that the foundation for delivering value with any product or service is to understand customer needs. But you will be surprised how many companies or organizations are not clear on who their customers are. They know their product and they might even have customer data but seldom is the entire team clear, aligned and prioritized around customer needs.
Goal: The goal of this exercise is to define 3–4 customer profiles and prioritize their needs and goals. Using the customer knowledge of those in the room and also including actual data from the companies own research.
Outcomes: The customer profiles you deliver have something that is invaluable for an organization. Agreement. Your job as a facilitator is to confirm that the profiles and priorities you came up with together are good enough to move forward to create the product, service design, brand identity, promotional video, app design or whatever you are creating for yourself or your customer. At the end of this exercise you will have 3 profiles with 3 top needs and solutions for each.
PS. Failure to do this on any project will create chaos, mis-alignment, wasted effort and overall lack of results.
4. Goals Prioritization
Need: People need to know what they need to do next. What to focus on. Where to expend their effort. More so, people (I personally hate this) hate to waste their time doing something that is going to get changed or thrown away later. We all want to know what the priorities are.
Goal: More important than just wasting time is actually being effective. Continuously being ineffective is what gets executives, designers and agencies fired. So the goal of this exercise is to define the Revenue (Monetization), Awareness (Marketing) and Efficiency (Operational) priorities. You don’t have to have an MBA to do these. All you need is to ask the right questions. And listen. Read the room to get the truth about what people are really thinking is important.
Outcomes: Laser sharp focus. That is one of the outcomes. You will have a top 3 priorities in each category. More so you will have a list of “To-do’s” for the entire team. All “Stack Ranked” in a systemized way by the people who are going to be executing it. This takes organizations many meetings and much in-fighting to get to this. In CORE this happens in one session.
5. Attribute Clustering (New)
Need: So after you are done with defining the Brand Attributes what do you do with them? That is a question I’ve gotten over and over. How do you translate them? Great question. What I’ve always done is select a few of them for each of the design directions I am planning on presenting. Over the last year I experimented on how to select these. Because at the end you can’t design to every single attribute.
Goal: The goal of this exercise is to make the further refinement and translation of Attributes into tangible design — clearer and systematic. To select 1 main attributes and 3 supporting attributes. The overarching system used in this exercise is story structure. How a character shows up in the story, how they make people feel and what impact they have on them.
Outcomes: At the end of this exercise you will have 3 set’s of Attributes mapped to a system that allows you to design any experience. And I don’t mean apps or software. I mean experiences from the beginning to the end. And then repeat. It gives you a framework for delivering value in a dynamic and living way. Not just to create static art or static experiences. A living brand.
6. Data Matching (New)
Need: What are the solutions that come out of the CORE framework? Meaning aside from what the client requested (A website, a video, an identity, etc) what would solve their business problems? This is sometimes tricky. Designers don’t feel knowledgable enough or powerful enough to pull out solutions from their own set of experiences.
Goal: The goal of this exercise is to take the top 3 needs of a Customer and match them with the priorities of the business. This is the what I call “The Weave.” In weaving together the narrative of what the business needs to grow with the needs of the customer and brainstorming solutions that are a “Win, Win” for both you get what I call “High Fidelity.” Where the solutions you design match both the customer and the business so well that your client thinks you are a genius.
Outcomes: The outcome is a series of solutions that push the boundaries of creativity. That proverbial “box” that so many companies look to break out from. This is ultimately a space that produces a lot of solution ideas. But because the options are generated in the intersection of customer needs and company goals the solutions are far more plausible as effective options.
PS. The next exercise allows you to put some of these ideas into action.
7. Impact Narrative
Need: How do you put the solutions you brainstormed into action? The answer is that you have to put them into the context of time. In user experience we use “Customer Journeys” to accomplish this. The narrative of these journeys is what creates impact. If you are able to take a user through this adventure the outcome should be happy customers.
Goal: The goal of this exercise is to map these journeys for 3–4 of your customers parallel vertically vs. horizontally. The purpose for this is so that you can see the interconnections between each of the solutions in each customer journey. To see how these customers are inter-related or at a minimum how you can leverage your own customers to provide additional value to them by having them interact in community.
Outcomes: You will have a clear narrative of the experience you are creating. You will also have a view of it that allows for you to see how your customers can interact and overlap. This starts the creation of culture and community. It gives you a “view from above.” It gives you clarity and a roadmap.
8. The Brief
Need: To make the jump from doing it all. Doing it alone. From solo freelancer to the facilitator of opportunities for your clients — you have to brief others as to the design directions to take. This is where you become a director. A director needs a brief. A playbook. Instructions to give those who are helping you. Whether they were in the sessions or not.
Goal: The goal of the brief is to inform the 2-3 design directions that you are going to be putting together for the client. It’s also the place that you get to “plan the design.” The conceptual framework that you use to guide you comes forward here. I am going to share the conceptual framework I use to translate. A conceptual framework is akin to a philosophy. There are 5 questions that I ask in this framework. Starting with “What is the highest impact, lowest effort solution that I have to create to move the business goals of this company or idea?” I also use the question; “What is the single most energized motif that that came up during our CORE sessions and conversations with the team?”
Outcomes: The brief provides 3 distinct design directions based on a selection of attributes, ideas gleaned from data matching and the impact narrative. It serves as a place to synthesize you’re thinking and direct the momentum of the project. It’s a powerful tool. It’s the agreement that is formed after the CORE sessions. You get the brief signed by the client. It’s the gate to the next phase. Design. Starting with Stylescapes.
Thank you for looking at this update. I hope you enjoyed it. For more information on the CORE Framework visit: COREisMagic.com
Jose is a graphic Designer who renounced