The Design Management Journal publishes a new article of me in 2016 on the fidelity of visuals (download here). ‘The what?’ you may think. The fidelity is the degree to which a visualization corresponds to the real world. A sketch at the back of a napkin has a low fidelity and a full blown render of a concept car has a high fidelity. Whereas low fidelity requires some imagination to understand what is meant, high fidelity visuals leave nothing unclear; it looks as if the concept car will drive away.

In my studies I discovered that the fidelity of visualizations strongly shapes innovation processes. Some visuals ignite new ideas, some ensure commitment and some perfectly serve to wrap up a long discussion. Visuals have high impact, which may come as no surprise to you. But the fidility has also high impact, which is something not many people are aware of. For example, to get commitment in the early stages of a project, showing a concept car like visual often is contraproductive, contrary to what most people beleive (and do)!

Consequently, the fidelity someone chooses shouldn’t be taken too light heartedly. Instead, one should ask two questions. The first is what kind of process are we in? Are we trying to understand the problem or solving the problem? And the second question is: is it an internal affair or are external stakeholders involved as well? In the article I discuss four kind of visuals that should be used. Straightforward, almost as a recipe for innovation! The names are dreived from interveiws I did, as they capture well what is meant:

  • ‘Every detail counts’
  • ‘A little sketch will do’
  • ‘The essence of an idea’
  • ‘Even better than the real thing’

Categorization of represenataions

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