14 Sep The Design Process
There are lots of design techniques to achieve and materialize your ideas or challenges. During my design career, I learned some different techniques and ways to start a new design and find your design challenge. Everyone has their techniques and personal ways to design, find inspiration, etc. In this post, I will show different ways to do it. This process gave me great results and I am feeling really comfortable following these techniques.
1. Framing the challenge.
2. Selecting and validating the best idea.
3. Product Design process, from the brief to the product.
Framing the challenge.
Sometimes, we won’t have a design brief to start or searching inspiration around you. In bachelor degrees, for example, we are used to having this kind of briefs delivered by teachers. Projects like, “You have to design headphones and these are the technical and designs constraints” (The Brief). But that’s not always the case.
Sometimes, you would like or you have to face projects with a huge and wide range of challenges. Let me explain an example: “You are an entrepreneur and you want to tackle or a challenge to reduce climate change.” This a huge environment where there are plenty of possible challenges to tackle. How do we start?
Think about an onion, onions have some layers before to find the heart. You have to overcome each layer to find the main part, in this case, the idea. Start classifying this big challenge in different environments where climate change causes are strongly present. Example: “1. Urban environments; 2. Fabrication Processes; 3. Landuse”. These are some examples of main areas to keep focusing your challenge. At this point, it’s important to do some researching, I know that for some people this is a tough and boring process, but it’s important to find your motivation in one of the main areas and also visualize where there are the main problems to tackle and create the major impact with your idea.
After the research, you will see the things a little bit more clear and you will get a better understanding of the environment where you are working on it. Following the starting example: “We decided to focus on the urban main area, in this area, we found that there a huge problem with waste”. This a good starting point to find your final challenge, from my perspective remains too wide and they are many challenges to tackle. We have to focus a little bit more. “After checking some countries graphs about waste materials, we found that one of the waste materials indexes came from of Construction materials.” This is the point where we have been looking for, if the area motivated us and it’s a problem which you want to tackle, we have to go for it.
Useful links to find information, graphs, or data for your research:
Be patient in this stage, it is not easy to find your challenge. It is a tough and difficult process, good things take time. You have to think that in each challenge there are different paths to follow and a wide range of possibilities and solutions. Be patient, work hard and believe in your project.
We found our challenge, a possible example could be: “How might we enable to repurpose or recycle construction waste materials in order to reduce GHG emissions?. Does it sound motivating? Does it sound interesting to tackle this problem? Are you ready for the next step?
Selecting and validating the best idea.
First of all, I have to say that this stage it is also used in the third step. In this part, I will explain techniques to help you to generate, choose and validate your best ideas. These techniques can be applied after framed your challenge or if you already have a briefing. I will explain you easy, versatile and fast techniques to improve your design process. This is not kind of linear process to follow step by step, sometimes you will have to come back and restart again some of these techniques or change your idea. As, I explained before, be patient and believe in yourself or in the team. With effort and motivation, the things happen.
Start generating some ideas to tackle the challenge. Advice: not enter deeply in each idea, it’s a first approach. An example could be: “Our idea is, create a B2B platform to resell, repurpose or recycle these materials”. You don’t have to enter deeply in the idea, at this stage you don’t know if it will be an app, a website or a Sunday marketplace.
I learned this technique from a Climate-KIC Journey coach, an inspiring industrial designer from TU Delft. A Harris Profile can be useful during each phase of the design process, but typically it is used after an idea generation phase when ideas or concepts need to be eliminated. It’s a really helpful technique at this stage, once you have some ideas or concepts and you don’t know which one to choose.
You will find helpful information about how to use it here:
Business Model Canvas & Design Value Proposition.
These tools will help you to validate your idea. As I said before it is a constantly and not linear process, you will repeat these processes more than once. Moreover, it will help you to structure and shape your idea, and see the strong and weak points and where you have to improve it.
Busines Model Canvas
What is a Business Model? A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value. The business model canvas will help you to capture the value of your idea in economic, social, cultural or other contexts.
How does it work? Below you will find a Business Model Canvas guideline questions to help you to understand each part.
- Use sticky notes on the canvas.
- Just start. No blah blah blah.
- Start anywhere and with any blog.
- Never use bullet points.
- Avoid too much detail.
In the following website, you will find more information about it. How to make it, templates, etc.
Design Value Proposition.
How will we capture these values? Using the Design Value Proposition Diagram, consisted by the Value Map and the Customer Profile.
After identifying the jobs pains and gains it is important to prioritize them following the diagram below:
For more information, templates, examples, etc.
And finally, at the end of this process is necessary to test your idea. How can we test it?
- Focus group.
- Experiment with landing web page.
- Split your idea into product A and B and test each one.
- Minimum Viable Product. More info and example here https://crew.co/how-to-build-an-online-business/mvp-minimum-viable-product-example/
- Life-scale experiments, prototyping is an example.
Summing up these entire process look like this:
Extra: Represent graphically your idea.
In these kinds of process on of the best procedures which help me the most, it is sketching or drawing the idea. If you feel stuck it, represent it. You will see a wide view of your idea and you will start to see it more clear and from another perspective. It is a fast and easy technique which will help you in your design progress. Also, it helps represent a storyboard of your idea, explain how the user or how it will be used your product or service.
Product Design process, from the brief to the product.
This process is more personal and the one which I most improved by myself. I mostly used this procedure at the university and in some jobs. It works really effective when you have a brief or a project with design requirements. For example: “We have to design on ear headphones”. You already have your challenge and a starting point. Also, you can make it your own brief with those specs and requirements that you will want to have your product. A well-written and specified brief it is basic to reach and accomplish the needs of your product. If you want to write an effective design brief check it here:
This is the first step, get knowledge from what you have around you related to the design brief challenge. Study the user, the environment, etc. You have to answer the five essential design questions:
This parts will help you about for whom are you designing (who is the target), what are their necessities, why they need your product, how you are gonna do it and where they will use your product (the environment).
FIND THE INSPIRATION.
This part is the part which I like the most. It’s the moment when you start thinking about the product, some ideas, lines or shapes. Thinking about which will be the design path to follow. Will it have a polygonal or organic shape? Questions about this setup my mind and starts to imagine what will be. At this stage, I usually make two inspirational mood boards, one with shapes and structural lines and the other one with some products related to the design brief. For example, if I have to design headphones I will make a research about other headphones and I will select those ones which inspiring me something form my design. Mood board example in http://azplore.com/portfolio_page/monsterheadphones/.
Below you have another example which I made for a footwear design.
You can download the AZPLORE Moodboard template here:
For me, as a Designer, it’s another part which I enjoy a lot. Trying to translate my ideas or what I have in my mind to a paper, starting to make it feasible. Some designers prefer modeling their ideas directly using a 3d software, in my case a prefer sketching first. I prefer use modeling tools later, once the idea it’s more clear. I usually use software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop at this stage.
A nice 3d model will help you to understand better and study your product. You can use your 3D model to sell better your product providing stonishing renders to your clients, create motion graphics videos or testing physical and dynamic forces virtually to avoid possible failures in your design at the end of the design process. These are the most used software in the industry:
Modeling Parametric Softwares: SolidWorks and Creo PTC (ProEngineer).
Modeling Vectorial Softwares: Rhinoceros.
Rendering Softwares: KeyShot and V-Ray.
Once you have a volumetric and photorealistic image of your idea its time to prototype it and test it. There are lots of techniques to prototype your project, 3D printing, foam or clay are some examples. I will make a post explaining each technique at what you will have to take into account to use them.