Learn from Tony Stark: The Art of Iteration

Yash Mestry
Engineering Team
Read Time
6 min read
Published On
January 31, 2023

Anthony Edward "Tony" Stark was a billionaire industrialist, a founding member of the Avengers, and the former CEO of Stark Industries. But before saving the world from multi-dimensional threats, he was simply an engineer and a brilliant project manager. Every time Tony Stark built a new Iron Man suit, he improved on the mistakes and design flaws of the previous ones. In design, iteration is a simple process, but it can be tricky sometimes to get it right, so let's learn the art of iteration from the best product manager and part-time superhero, Iron Man.

Image Source: Marvel

Iteration is crucial for the design process since it fosters thinking and learning. An essential component of the process is looking into various ways to develop and improve an idea over time. Working on iterations offers the chance to increase learning and frequently results in unexpected fresh insights and diversity of results.

Iterative process from Planning to Implementation
Image Source: Wishdesk

Stage 1: Planning

Any project starts with thorough planning following the set requirements. To define the requirements, user feedback needs to be collected and analyzed. You create a prototype after conducting user research to identify a user need and produce ideas to address it, much like how Tony Stark designed the first arc reactor and the Mark 1 armor when trapped in a cave.

Mark 1 Iron Man suit
Image Source: Marvel

The prototype goes through testing to check if it truly satisfies the need; For Tony, it helped him escape from captivity. The design is then modified based on what you discover through testing. Once you are confident that you have the best product possible for release to the market, you make a new prototype and start the process all over again. This iterative approach is called rapid prototyping or spiral prototyping.

Throughout the movies, you can see Tony Stark following this iterative approach to perfect his design over time.

Stage 2: Requirements

You must determine the software or hardware needs for this portion because you are only working on one part, or iteration, of the project. Be specific about who will use the system and how they will utilize it. Find out what the product's goal or task is, especially if you are working from a project control list. Specify what constitutes a successful result for this new software segment. After saving himself from captivity, Tony realizes his need to make the suit is not only to fight but also to protect himself, and keep himself alive. The Mark 1 was clunky, heavy, and very difficult to put on. The requirements were to make the suit more portable, lightweight, yet strong. This is where Tony designs the Mark 2 and is something he keeps iterating on throughout the movies. It leads to him making a total of 85 design iterations to make the flawless suit design we see in Avengers: Endgame that handles most of the requirements.

Iterations of Iron Man suits
Image Source: Bossen29

Similarly, software development is one of the important phases, and in iterative development, this phase is repeated iteratively as the full specification of the software is divided into smaller requirement chunks and developed. This iteration requirement is gathered and carefully studied to work further in the particular iteration. This requirement can be a new requirement or an extension to the already built one.

Stage 3: Design and Analysis

The design phase must be put into action after the iteration requirements have been acquired. Out of various options, an effective design is chosen to fulfill the demand. This is one of the most important stages since the appropriate design may deliver the best results with less strain on the client's budget. This design may be entirely original or an expansion of the existing specification.

Although the design of the Iron Man suit changes over time, its foundations remain the same. This stage also helps you understand any early mistakes and rectify them before you move into the next phase.

Blueprint of Iron Man Mark 7 Prototype to illustrate Design and Analysis Phase
Image Source: Nick Gonzales

Stage 4: Testing

No one is better at testing design than Tony Stark. It is very safe to say that Tony’s favorite phase of the iterative approach is the testing phase.

When the design is complete, the product must be tested to find and address any flaws. Similar to the previous stage, your software partner completes this one. Nevertheless, we have provided some testing advice that may be helpful to you.

You need excellent communication between you, the developers, and testers to finish the testing step in each iteration as quickly and effectively as possible. Regular calls are also necessary to guarantee that there are no misunderstandings. They are necessary in addition to emails and SMS. Additionally, routine and consistent feedback is essential. Continuous testing of his equipment helps Tony understand his mistakes and design flaws and hence helps him with the next phase of the iterative process.

Testing demonstrated in Iron Man movie
Image Source: Gfycat

Stage 5: Evaluation

At this stage, you will eventually assess the entire project once all of your steps have been followed for each iteration. The client will receive the project from you and evaluate it for effectiveness and reliability. You will have your first successful iterative design ready and then, just like Tony Stark built more and more suits with improvements, you will start the process all over again to iterate on your current design to make it better.

Image Source: Comic Vine

So, to summarize, the benefits of an iterative design are:

  1. It provides robust user feedback: One of the major benefits of iterative design is that, by its nature, it involves a lot of user testing. All this testing amounts to what is essentially a huge resource of user feedback that can be used to improve your website’s design, usability, and, ultimately, your overall customer experience. User testing and feedback can help you understand which elements of your site are working and which aren’t. It can also help you find the root cause of problems you may know to exist but not why they do. For example, if Tony hadn't been stuck in the snow or been in captivity, he wouldn't have added a tracker and heater to Spider-Man’s suit.
  2. It can identify issues early: Prototyping, testing, and refining iteratively are extremely effective at identifying potential problems early on in the design process as opposed to later. By doing this, you might be able to avoid a costly and time-consuming redesign in the future.
  3. Usability is measurably improved: Your experience will become more usable as it is tested and refined more often if you use the iterative design process. According to studies, an iterative design improves usability across a range of metrics, including overall user satisfaction, the number of usability issues, and the time required to complete work scenarios. This can be seen across Tony’s designs; with every improvement, Tony's designs are more practical, portable, easy to use, and still carry out all the same functionalities. Take the instance where Tony’s first suit wasn't space compatible and almost killed him, but his suit in Infinity War was designed to be functional in space too.
  4. It is effective and economical: Given the testing and ongoing refinement, iterative design may appear costly and time-consuming. But in two crucial areas, it performs better. Iterative design, on the other hand, allows you to produce papers that describe and lay out the design in less time than utilizing a standard waterfall methodology. As an alternative, you develop as you go, devoting more effort to the overall design and development of the product. Effective problem-solving and maintenance are also benefits of iterative design. Since you make adjustments and upgrades along the way, you can avoid having to revamp your website. Instead, an iterative design allows you to track changes that need to be made as they happen.

An effective tool to have in your design toolbox is iterative design. You can continuously enhance your website or app if you treat it like a dynamic, ongoing project rather than a static one.

Iterative design's fundamental cycle of prototyping, testing, and refining has the following advantages:

  • Testing provides you with a priceless database of user feedback that you can utilize to enhance your website and figure out what works for you.
  • It aids in identifying issues before they go out of hand.
  • It raises crucial metrics of usability.
  • It is more effective than the standard waterfall method.

And that’s why, just like Tony Stark, we love to iterate design 3000.

Image Source: Comic Vine