Fast and Real

by August 11, 2010

In a recent conversation about design tools and process, I tried to articulate what gives me the most confidence when making product design decisions. Basically, when trying to figure out a design I strive for two approaches: real and fast.


Real refers to using realistic data and environments to design. Get your hands on as much actual data as you can. The more real data you consider while designing, the better you'll be able to define the right product experience.

Real data is not Lorem Ipsum. That just fills space and results in layouts based on "wishful thinking" instead of reality. Designing without real content/data is art at best. Decoration at worst.

Real data also gets you to a scalable designs.

The other part of real is environment: realistic context. Get into the actual code your product will run in as fast as possible. Look at your designs on the actual device you are targeting. Get out to where your product will actually be used.

Don't spend too much time polishing deliverables far removed from pixels or real components. Working far from real environments separates your solutions from the actual experience, constraints, and opportunities of your medium.


The sooner you can see things live (real) and interact with them, the sooner you can make the right design decisions. Go as high fidelity with real data as fast as possible to see if things make sense.

Additional Notes

  • Big companies have a problem getting to real and fast as they usually have too many layers between getting something to play with and the ideas behind it.
  • I bought Getting Real by 37signals years ago but never had a chance to read it. Yet for some reason, I think the book may espouse similar ideas.