SCAMPER method and McDonald’s

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Design is all about problem solving in a visual manner, and you don't have to be an artist to become a successful graphic designer. However, you need to be creative.

Linderman (1975:9) defines creativity as a “special way of learning, thinking and perceiving your own lifestyle” and is, according to some sources, the process of recognizing a real or imaginary* problem and solving it with a new or unusual idea, concept or realization.

*  I have some issues with the notion of imaginary problems in the creativity process. In every topic I have studied where design (and problem solving) is in the core, all problems you should solve should be real world problems – and not imaginary. You could argue that “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” – a quote from Henry Ford can apply here, but as a designer you should never ask people what they want, but what they are trying to achieve or solve. 

One should always start the creative process by looking at the problem from a variety of viewpoints. Good design depends on many factors – the execution of the idea (how well it is produced); the presentation (how is it communicated to the audience); composition (is the layout visually striking?), etc. These factors work together to express a message and communicate an idea or concept.

There are many ways of developing ideas. In another blog post, Creativity and ideation techniques, I’ve listed a few.  SCAMPER is yet another, developed by Alex Osborn. Osborn was a pioneer teacher of creativity and he identified the nine principle ways of manipulating a subject, which were later arranged into the SCAMPER method by Bob Eberle.

The SCAMPER method:

  • Substitute something: what can I substitute or change in my product, problem or process? This can apply to the product as a whole or only parts of it.
  • Combine it with something else, where you combine two or more product, problem, or process (or parts of hereof) to achieve a different product, problem, or process to enhance synergy.
  • Adapt something to it
  • Modify or Magnify it, where you modify or put more or less emphasis on in my product, problem, or process
  • Put to other uses or looking at new ways to use the product or service. A modification of the product may help you reach other users or markets.
  • Eliminate something or  simplify in my product, design, or service
  • Reverse or Rearrange it

The story of McDonald’s (yes, the famous fast-food chain) success can be related to the SCAMPER method.  McDonald’s Corporation is an American fast-food company, founded in 1940 as a restaurant operated by Richard and Maurice McDonalds in California, USA.  Their business model allows them to produce huge quantities of food at low prices which was hard to compete with.

If one applies the SCAMPER method to the McDonald’s concept, it can be translated like so:

Substitute something

  • McDonald’s introduced self-service counters (you order by the counter)
  • Substituting the potato chips with french fries
  • Changing from BBQ to hamburgers only
  • Changed the name from McDonald’s BBQ to McDonald’s

Combine it with something else

  • Combining restaurant and car and created the drive-in/ drive-through restaurant: the notion of eating restaurant food at home without having the trouble of ever leaving your car. I’ve later learned that this was due to soldiers from nearby were forbidden to get out of their cars in army fatigues. A drive-through restaurant solved this issue.
  • Combining children’s toys with food, aka Happy Meal, making the restaurant more appealing for families
  • Combining healthy ingredients with fast-food cooking techniques to reach a bigger audience

Adapt something to it

  • McDonald’s menu varies in different countries due to cultural differences in eating habits
  • McDonald’s introduced their healty line of fast-food (salads, burgers of fish or poultry, carrots or sweet potato fries instead of french fries
  • New technology is adapted in the business: apps and touch screens for orders – no more waiting in line. Number system for delivery of finished meals

Modify or Magnify it

  • The process of cooking any meal is time consuming. McDonald’s changed this process by pre-cooking the food and kept it warm under heat lamps. This modification allowed them to serve food much faster than any other restaurant.
  • They changed the original large menu to a small one with only 9 items
  • By opening up for franchising, the number of McDonald’s restaurants increased significantly
  • They introduced the menu concept of breakfast in their restaurant

Put to other uses

  • McDonald’s is also a restaurant where you can throw a birthday party
  • The companies revenues also come from the rent, royalties, and fees paid by the franchisees

Eliminate something

  • Then they could do without waiters (eliminated something).
  • They also served their food wrapped in paper or in paper containers, which eliminated the need for kitchen remedies such as plates, classes and cutlery and also the people that should collect and clean them.

Reverse or Rearrange it

  • McDonald’s introduced “healthy” fast-food, McChicken and McFish
  • McDonald’s challenged the concept of restaurant eating by having the customer pay before they eat
  • Make customers clean up after them selves

Sources

McDonald’s website

Interactiondesign.org. This is a really good article, and if you sign up for their newsletter, you can download a pdf with the SCAMPER method described. And if you are interested in UX/IX, this is also a good place to be. They have student discount on memberships.

Creative Minds article about SCAMPER

 

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