TRICK 1: Work backward
At interactive agency R/GA, Spalter used to create a product’s press release before his team started working on the product. The aim: Make sure the client and R/GA had the same goal. "I wrote it up as a Mad Libs, and they’d fill in the blanks," he says. "It helps nail down what’s important."
TRICK 2: Sketch your user
At Foursquare, Spalter asked designers and engineers to "draw a person who they’d want using Foursquare, along with a nickname and one-sentence description." They hung the drawings on the design-studio walls. Envisioning the user, he says, "helps people to focus."
TRICK 3: Map success
For another Foursquare exercise, Spalter gathered folks around a Monopoly board. "We remapped each position on the board to correspond with a different scenario—say, your first check-in at a restaurant," he says. "Someone would roll the dice, move the piece, and everyone would have to sketch what they wanted users to see once they checked in at that location." The result: "a simplified post-check-in screen that felt more gamelike."
[Photos by Axel Dupeux]