The Highlights: Using Creative Design for Innovation

Our April Swerve event was led by Sunny Su, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Paradigm Innovation. Sunny talked about letting go of assumptions around our customers and product, and using creative design to innovate, while being intentional and systematic.

Sunny Su Swerve

Sunny is an award-winning industrial/product designer and executive design director whose work has brought success and scale to both the early ventures and large enterprises. Paradigm is headquartered in Raleigh, NC where they reimagine how we live, work, & play—one brand at a time.

Paradigm has a presence in 12 cities worldwide with a mission to establish partnerships and an ecosystem. “I believe that talent shouldn’t be limited by location and we can bring great minds from all over the place to connect over cool projects everywhere,” says Sunny.

Sunny believes that with the use of design thinking and innovation, businesses can be more intentional and systematic with the work they’re doing. He developed the Design Thought Model which breaks down the design process down into three stages:

  1. Identify: discover, analyze the situation, examine the market, learn from design precedents, discovering new outlets for innovation, and defining solutions for building success and reducing risk.
  2. Ideate: thinking, brainstorming, sketching and shaping. Quick development of prototypes and refining the prototypes form a functional, streamlined and uniquely designed product.
  3. Implement: creating a plan for use. Continuing to develop and refine the product as it’s produced and used. Ensuring the design is sustainable and can grow as brands, missions, and values shift. Designing for the future.

The design process serves as a risk management process. Sunny described this process as if you were wandering into a dark room, trying to reach a certain area (your target). Every piece of information you gather by working through the design process, such as better understanding who you’re designing for or what kind of value you’ll be providing, lights a candle in the room to help you reach your target.

During Sunny’s talk, we focused primarily on Identify, the first step of the design process, and applying it to user experience research. UX researcher is an important step for designers and equally important to business growth.  

When you have a new idea, it’s really exciting. You’re ready to build it and think everyone will love it – but that idea was built from your understanding and experiences. Sometimes that reality isn’t the same for everyone else. “You’re not designing for yourself, you’re designing for other people,” Sunny says.

We often make assumptions about our customers and new ideas and doing that is risky. When you make assumptions without understanding those risks, you could be jumping head first into shallow waters.

Sunny shared five common mistakes from making assumptions:

  • Incorrectly framing the scope of the project (focusing on too much or too little)
  • Neglecting to source criticism as well as positive feedback
  • Unintentionally leading interviewees to approve or disapprove of a particular idea or concept
  • Reacting to feedback, rather than analyzing it and creating strategic solutions
  • Neglecting to create personas to help identify potential stakeholders and customers

The UX research model is broken up into four phases: frame, understand, challenge, and reflect. The process starts by identifying a problem you’re trying to solve. Does the solution you offer satisfy your customer’s needs? It’s important to talk to your stakeholders, customers and users to get their  feedback to better understand how your concept will affect them.

With  that feedback, you the analyze the data to spot any patterns or trends that will help you improve your concept. The user experience process is thorough and pushes you to remove assumptions and enhance effectiveness.

At the end of the day, all businesses are composed of people creating for people. It’s important to keep that front of mind when trying to innovate. Sunny provided great tools to help work through these processes, by looking at the details but also keeping the long-term in mind and keeping your business human centric.

If you have questions about how to overcome your business challenges or grow to become more profitable, visit to schedule a free strategy call with Sunny. Check out the tools provided or

Want to join our next Swerve meetup? Check out what we have going on.

Did you miss the Swerve recap from last month? Jason Drass, from Bull & Beard, talked about using direct email marketing to build new relationships.


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