Pair Design Rule #4: Warm-up with Post-It art

October 21, 2014 Pam Dineva

A pair design warm-up will make you feel like the lime and the coconut.

This is co-written by Kim Dowd and Pam Dineva, a design pair of happy joy. We worked together 40 hours a week for six months and want to share our methods.
Why pairing is good: One project. Two minds. Three times as fast. Really, two minds attacking a problem unlocks a continuous cycle of ideation, critique and testing. It is much faster than working alone. But it has its perils too….
Why pairing is hard: Pairing is like a full body interval training workout for your brain, exercising creativity, patience, exploration, and curiosity. So… your design pair may have PHD in ethnographic research methods… and your skills are elsewhere. Two designers, especially with different backgrounds who choose to constantly communicate, solve, and think can be exhausting. There are techniques and methods to propel you through it.

Start with a pair design warm-up: Create a silly drawing together. Find that fuzzy safe space where you feel like the lime and the coconut working together. Don’t think design review from yesterday. Don’t think stakeholder meeting tomorrow. Don’t think about your eternal debate on how to pronounce ‘neue.’ Clearly some of us took French in high school and some took German. A warm up will help you level your pairing muscles. Two brains, one problem regardless of background.

What you’ll need: One post it note. 2 sharpies. 5 minutes.


Think post it notes and implied rules: Pair 1 draws a shape, say a blue circle. Pair 2 draws a different shape, say a red squiggle. Pair one draws a blue squiggle. You’ll find that certain unwritten rules start to evolve. You won’t speak but all of sudden all the red squiggles are inside blue circles, and the blue circles are off 3 scales. The rules will slowly morph as the post it note fills and you and your pair will be tacitly agreeing on all of them. MIND MELD complete. Now, hold hands and prance into the sunset.

You are done when you feel like you are done or you have sufficiently mind melded.

Why it works: Squiggles are so much easier to play with than client-facing wireframes. It’s a trust-fall exercise and sun salutation all in one. Trust will help you let go of things: the whiteboard marker, the mouse, the client meeting, the dev pairing.

Now, go forth and squiggle!


More in the pair design series:

Why Pair Design

Pair Design Rule #1: Wear One Hat at a Time

Pair Design Rule #2: Yes, And

Pair Design Rule #3: Accept your pair’s exotic habits


About the Author


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