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Journey of a Design Process

Let’s go on an adventure. I love designing, it is something which permeates my whole living, whether it is simply choosing the color of my clothes in the morning or organizing my household. Design to me is akin to beauty, an externalization of my inner process regarding beauty and contentment with life. Martine Moeykens

This is a journey I like to call the design process. I’m going to take you through the different steps that I go through in my own design process. From the initial identification of the problem to the final outcome, I will share with you a few thoughts and ramblings about who I am, how I work, and what I’ve learned thus far as a designer.

Identify the problem. Design is directed toward human beings. To design is to solve human problems by identifying them and executing the best solution. Ivan Chermayeff And so the adventure begins. The beautiful thing about design is that it’s all about problem solving.

The first thing we must do is identify, define, and examine the “problem.� Let’s get started. What exactly is the problem and who wants it to be solved? Who does this problem involve; who is the audience? What are the parameters, if any? Are there any opportunities for continuation or further exploration after the problem has been solved? These are just a couple of the many questions I ask myself when I am presented with an assignment or project.

Research the heck out of it. Be culturally literate, because if you don’t have any understanding of the world you live in and the culture you live in, you’re not going to express anything to anybody else. Paula Scher

If there is a most important step in the design process, research is it. Gaining as much knowledge as you can about the problem at hand guarantees you the right background and knowhow to ultimately provide the best solution. My favorite research tools: Google and all the other wonders of the Internet, the public library, interviewing and talking to people, and my own personal experiences.

Brainstorm ‘til it hurts. In the design process, my gut instinct is my best critic. I just wish I would always listen to it! Bryan Tamayo For me, this is the fun part. (What am I talking about? The entire process is the fun part!) By definition, “brainstorming” means to problem solve. Essentially, this is what you’re doing

the entire time during the design process. But brainstorming is where things get messy and chaotic: an environment my design-hungry spirit can thrive in! For me, this process requires: pencil and paper, disorganized and turbulent thinking, and a lot of talking out loud to myself. I like to say “brainstorm ‘til it hurts” because after a good brainstorming sesh, I know I’ve done a sufficient job when I walk away with my brain actually hurting. Weird, but true.

Organize everything. A designer is a planner with an aesthetic sense. Bruno Munari Here’s the step where I take a break, step back for a moment, and look over my chaotic mess of ideas. But more random thoughts, the better. This is the time to revisit the problem, and take a look at the end goals. Organize the information. Then

continue to organize the organized information. Even though it seems like a large portion of my design process is chaotic and all over the place, there is a method to my madness. By nature, designers are organizers. I have found that it doesn’t necessarily matter how you research and organize your information, so long as you know what you’re talking about and you understand it. And in the end, others will understand it.

Conceptualize and execute. Math is easy; design is hard. Jefferey Veen Sure, to some people, math can seem like the hardest thing in the world to understand, but when it comes down to it, it’s really just a bunch of predetermined figures and equations. As long

as your equation is correct, you will get one clear, correct, single answer. But with design, there is no such thing. You still have to make sure you start out with the right “figures” and so-called “equations,” but the seemingly correct outcome all depends on you, the designer, and what you think is the best solution to the problem.

Edit, edit, edit! A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint Exupery This is a quote that I live by when designing. After brainstorming, concepting, sketching, and executing, you may have some beautiful

designs. But what to they look like to others? What does it look like to the intended audience? After acquiring some feedback (a vital step in producing good results), it is essential to revisit everything and decide what needs be there, and more importantly, what doesn’t need to be there. It’s always better to start with an excess amount of information and subtract the unnecessary, than to do it the other way around.

Doubt yourself. Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless. Jamie Paolinetti Every designer on this planet doubts themselves at some point. In my belief, it’s those moments of doubt and uncertainty that give designers the

most meaning, purpose, and passion. One of the biggest things I have learned as a designer (especially a young one) is that it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to have doubt. Without fail, you would never grow; you would never get anywhere. Even where there is doubt, you must always have confidence. Carry yourself with pride and assurance, even fearlessness. If you are always prepared, you will be able to handle whatever is thrown at you.

Okay, deep breath. Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Design is knowing which ones to keep. Scott Adams Somewhere in my design process, there is usually a “freaking out” period. Whether it’s about that looming deadline, uncertainty of my concept, or just plain stress that’s got me sweating bullets,

I usually have to reassure myself at some point. When this happens, all I do is take a deep breath. Mix that with a little bit of meditation and herbal tea, and I’m set. I have learned to take this anxiety and turn it into fuel. This fuel fires up my motivation and passion to create beautiful and purposeful designs.

Final outcome. Design is an opportunity to continue telling the story, not just to sum everything up. Tate Linden Actually, the term “final outcome” is rather contradicting. One’s work is never really finished. After it is executed well, it must be presented, launched, and followed up. In my design experience

in school, it seems like when that presentation is given, the work is done. Now I can just forget about it and move on to the next task, right? I have learned that this is not true in the real world. You have to be able to live with your work. Some projects that I have completed, I’ve filed away and somewhat forgotten about. I guess you could say I didn’t want to live with them anymore. But that’s okay. That is what pushes me to create beautiful designs that are purposeful, useful, and ultimately, are able to live with.

See this process online at

Don’t forget to visit my website at

Š 2009 Laura Woodhouse

Journey of a Design Process  

This short book takes you on an adventure through my mind as a designer, all the way from research to the final outcome. It's an interesing...

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