Design Thinking: Getting Started

There is a process, whatever it may be, that a designer uses. I tend to map out my process on the side of my drawings or for larger projects where there will be many steps and many places to search for information. For example the diagram for this website is below with more explanation underneath:


So lets break this diagram down. We will be focusing on the portion that is called the General Framework as this is most of the design process. The links will provide more information and visual examples. I highly suggest looking at these too to get the full picture. Designing is not a sprint, but a marathon. The more you know and the more you practice, the more experience you will have and hopefully improve.

First we need a little bit of site analysis, what is the place? Not just physically, but how do you interact in it and what is the experience that people can have in a space. What are the interesting qualities that might help design for that place? Begin defining the site in the context of the prompt, what is there, what can it bring to the project, the project to the site, what are your initial gut reactions that lead to a potential design?

After Pre-Design, this begins to have more defined spaces in response to the program needs and the proportion of each space is now developed. This is called schematic design. All of these concepts so far have been a part of generating ideas. This process of ideation is often found at the crossing of previous interests or hobbies and current needs or project parameters. By combining what is known and needed there are often exciting results. The parts of the process all connect to each other and rely on knowing the traits of things such as materials, or the program, or any number of topics. This characteristic collection of knowledge or a known lack of knowledge become the core for discovering new possibilities and support ideation.

So after trying to develop an idea, look back on what you know, have, and need based on the project criteria, the project at hand. This reflective method should always include how and why the project should be. These representations show the project to others and the mindset or desires you have for the project. Doing something once is not always the best course. Doing and making a project more than once is iterating. By having multiple options or ideas a project can become stronger or build on itself. Having more than one option is fantastic, but how do you choose and evaluate iterations, between different options, or can you combine them? Sometimes choosing only one is best as well; a Frankenstein project is no good.

Choosing is difficult, but there is a method. Combine this with Choosing by Advantages to help make well supported decisions. Then, at some point, take everything so far and begin to represent your ideas using drawing techniques and a systematic process of drawing, modeling and iterating to continue to develop your idea. What is the strong or advantageous parts of the ideas? Which have more or less? What is the context for each being better? Look at the ideas as a sum of their parts and not individual characteristics. An idea that is perfect in one aspect may not be the best overall choice.

Always remember that the space and environment in which you design is as important as the method or process you employ. Where and how do you design?