Although the designing is a creative process and should be organic and involve emotions, without a structured framework to work with, it may never reach a solution. Through years of experience I have developed my design process steps which guide me to ensure that solutions meet the client’s needs and are achievable, not just aspirations.
Step One: Take the brief.
- This simply means find out, in as much detail as possible, what the client wants. If this step has flaws each subsequent step may compound the flaws, possibly resulting in a finished product that is not fit for purpose.
- I insist on taking the brief face-to-face and in the location where the finished product will live. I find it much easier to understand a client’s needs if I can see the relative importance of their requirements on their face and if they can show me what they are thinking by demonstrating in situ.
- I keep asking questions and, if necessary, change the way I am asking the questions until I am satisfied that I fully understand the brief. This first step is the essential interaction with the client and signs them up to be part of the process to design their solution.
Step Two: Analyse the Brief.
- This is basically a check list of the conditions that the finished product must meet to satisfy the brief. The main two are functionality (what it must do) and aesthetics (what it should look like). It also includes any ideas the client has about materials and finish.
- In this stage I also consider the “Time/Cost/Quality triangle”. These are three forces which should be balanced in equilibrium at the start of the project. If one is changed the others will be affected. For example:
- If you want it quickly, the quality may suffer. You may have to accept different materials or finishes which, in turn, may affect the cost;
- If you want the highest possible quality, it may cost more and take longer;
- If you want to cut the cost, you may have to accept cheaper materials or a less stunning finish.
In order to produce a realistic design, I need to understand the client’s relative priorities for these three factors.
Step Three: Investigation and Research.
- This is where I gather information for the project. Sources include my own ideas, photographs I have taken, books, magazines, previous projects and the Internet. I will sketch, photograph, and print off numerous possible ideas for solutions to the brief.
- At this point I also decide if I want to take the project. I am unlikely to make something I am not fully committed to.
Step Four: Ideas, Solutions and Outline Costs and Time.
- This is where I add more detail to the research and narrow the ideas down to two or three solutions.
- I prepare more detailed sketches, outlining the merits and faults of each solution. I consider appropriate materials, fittings and finishes.
- I work up rough costing and estimates of when I could start and how long it would take.
- I clearly state my preferred solution and why.
- I then present these back to the client and develop the idea through further discussion as necessary, then allow them time to consider the possibilities.
Step Five: Decision, Working Drawings and a Formal Quote.
- If the client wishes to proceed with one of the solutions, I will produce a more detailed drawing, often a pictorial representation of the solution in situ. This can include some CAD or photographic work.
- I also produce a formal quote which includes the detail of what I will deliver, how and when I will work, what it will cost and when I expect payment.
- If the quote is accepted we have a contract and the delivery process begins.
In a later post I will outline the steps of my delivery process.