The Design Process is designing with a systematic approach empowered with ideas. Every project is a new game with the same rules, applied differently. We intend to explain the basic operational understanding of the Design Process that may be applied to any discipline. Deep understanding of these seven stages empowers to find solutions to most complex problems helping the designers as those who coordinate with the design teams.
The Design Process is primarily concerned with solving problems. The process where an idea unravels to become a product in an organised, timely fashion, evolving through each step, keeping the original purpose and vision intact.
The Design Process is not always clearly stated and has no comfort zones, it oscillates. As soon as you master one series of steps, a new project brings in new challenges, forcing to rethink and start with a whole new series within the process.
However, the basics remain the same and you eventually learn how to play with them. Map out the process, the choices and steps to take at the beginning based on the requirement of the project.
We say it's — All Work, All Play. Can you solve the problem? Are you following all the steps or did you deduce? can you beat the clock? can you make it more fun? how much did you learn today? and did you learn to move on?
Yes, move on because deadlines are important.
Call it creative procrastination. If it fits between the deadlines, go ahead and add to your knowledge anything that you find on your way to designing a perfect product but if it doesn't fit your vision and you don't have time. Move on.
Over and above if we have to fit Design Process into a definitive definition — The Design Process is designing with a systematic approach empowered with ideas.
The basic stages of Design Process regardless of the discipline
Before we begin with the Design Process consider "documentation" - Some processes explain the benefits of documentation at the end but since the Design Process is a controlled continuous curation of multiple interactions which requires systematic documentation.
As system-thinkers start documenting from the very beginning of the project. Play around and make it look good. Good documentation inspires many to come and helps you with the presentations rolling at all stages.
Keep all data from the beginning organised and add as many pictures. Pictures aren’t a magic wand but they make documentation more appealing and also make it easy to navigate through the process.
It really helps!
Inspiration is the energy behind creativity — driving it — not leading it.
Inspiration is an energy that drives people to be creative and infuses creation with life. The inspiration takes form based on the needs of the project. Seeking Inspiration, Starts with research, new stimulations, new challenges and a new approach to old problems. At this stage dig everything there is to know-Research.
Begin with the client and understand the project, product and people you will be surrounding yourself with. Hear out everything that the client has to say, ask valid questions, then ask more questions and create a human-level understanding over each other's point of view. Set a real-time expectation bar and instead of showing up after weeks, keep in touch often and send out important information about the growth and plans on the project.
It's all for the people in the end. Seek inspiration in their needs, demands and behavioural patterns. By understanding people who are likely to use the product, you can get a clearer perspective on the solutions that your design should provide.
Team opinions are important and so do the opinions of project managers and decision-makers, fuel your research with design discussions to serve the purpose.
We do it with post-its. The objective of this exercise is to immerse completely in the project and welcome ideas with an open mind. This defines relevance, value, impact, purpose, role and contribution from everyone involved.
Identifying the solution to a problem is another step in moving ahead with the Design Process. Identify the plans for overcoming obstacles. The problem can be simple or complex, and the solution can be practical or whimsical — or even both at once.
Each problem has its own set of constraints, while some are more fixed than others — they can be either inherent or imposed.
To work within the constraints and recognise all intentional and unintentional consequences consider all the function, form, materials, budget, time, production, accessibility and environment impact of the end product. Constraints are helpful as they create support and challenge the designer to use solutions that may have otherwise had never been considered.
Once the design constraints are identified the conceptualization begins, the next step is to come up with as many creative solutions with the needs and vision of the project. The more ideas are the better.
The stage of conceptualization clarifies inner workings of an idea so that it can be played with and reworked on, rearranged or changed without altering the core of the concept. Create the visual vocabulary of your work through mood-boards, colour-palettes and other visual representations.
Concepts are a push to do something other than the obvious. Create an aesthetic language by brainstorming, sketch, whiteboard and marker, mixed media techniques, software or use anything that solves the purpose to create a wholly formed concept from the parts that have been assembled until now and fill in the gaps left by partial information. The Gestalt perception can be applied to fill in those gaps and create a systematic, logical ground for the concept.
This is a stage where you collaborate with the client and present possible potential solutions to avoid surprises later and come to common deliverables.
Exploration and Refinement
In the stage of exploration and refinement, the brainstorming process segues into a more focused and solution-oriented state. This is a task of testing a concept's viability before committing to the specifics.
It’s possible to explore at different phases of a project, from the most abstract idea to the tiny details of the final product. Keep it all documented to be refined post conceptualisation. Ideas are not something to get attached with, keep spaces for changes to come.
While examining the capabilities of the design - try substituting one idea with another. Play with all principles of design with line, shape, texture and forms and work on the functionality of your design, look at colour trend reports - follow them or go radically against them. Consider ergonomics issues and wasteful practices. It's very important to also consider a design's life cycle in terms of environmental impact and enhance recycling, reuse and repair.
When you explore and refine go to extremes and switch things around - work against symmetry or rearrange the asymmetrical, Convert the angular design to curved or increase the length of what is short. Whatever you can change, change. Do not shy away from re-thinking or re-creating at this stage. These small changes make a bigger contribution while you prototype.
This stage is a transition from explorations to defining a concept. It's going back to constraints of the design and keeping a reality check on the context of the needs. Does the design do what it's supposed to do? Does it fulfil the most basic requirement of functionality?
Examine the design by all the things that could go wrong. Usability is about the experience of design. How easy is it to use? How does it become a part of the user's life over time?
It's important to also address any new problems that may have surfaced and find a satisfactory solution to the same. This is where you give attention to detail and check for creativity, proficiency, usability, reliability, functionality, accessibility and sustainability
Design is as good as its communication and is presented to different audiences with diverse needs and expectations.
The language of design communication changes as does the audience - Team, Client, fellow Designers, Corporations, Production staff, The Manufacturers, other Associates, End-user, Publicity and Salespeople.
Each element in the presentation must have a point-to-point relationship between conceptual thinking and reality. Explain to the client the reasoning backing up the idea. Listen as much as you speak. The ideas evolved in the design world need to be articulated through the project and explaining the issues and solutions in hand. The aim is to inform and inform well in a timely, concise and organized manner.
Listen to comments and critiques carefully. Feedback both negative and positive is valuable information.
Prototyping and Production
At this stage, as much as a designer delivers, it's time to absorb from the knowledge and expertise of the production team. Prototyping is useful to test the fidelity of functionality. Consider the important features to emphasise such as functionality, usability, aesthetics and current needs and trend.
A prototype/sample clears the way for the final production and stamps materials, structural elements, detailing, colors, final budget points and a sustainable future. Careful planning in early stages pays off, amends at this stage are made quickly. A product must be tested and tested again to avoid unexpected puzzle. Designers and the team should be ready to respond quickly, efficiently and to client's and user's satisfaction.
A great Design Process needs to serve the overall design strategies in play and constantly adjust. Every project is a learning experience for another one to come. Set realistic timelines and expectations and ensure you have enough time to get the task completed.
Research - as we say it again. Time spent researching is never time wasted. Get detailed insights about the research strategies in our posts - who came first Design or Design Research part 1 and part 2.
Keep it light it's All work, All Play.