Page 1

Visual Communication. Topic 4: Design process: execution Subtopic 4.2: More about refining ideas

Below (left to right) Weblink, Video Content, Audio Content, Side-note, Further Reading, Foot-note & File Download.



1. Self-editing

We have looked at the process of focus group

As we have seen, the design process is a long

don’t repeat the process several months from

testing and determined that sometimes it may

and quite tortuous one where ideally nothing

now! A cool head combined with a completely

a story that can be expanded over time to fill

Source -

not be a good idea. It would be wrong to adopt

is assumed or taken for granted. We need to

dispassionate approach to the process of

new market segments and to reflect changes

Source -

this stance as a general principle, however,

ensure that the design team remains objective

evaluating exactly what we have and what we

in taste or opinion?

saying that as the designer we know best.

throughout and assesses its ideas without

still need to do before we are ready to go to

prejudice or bias in favour of any particular

the client is needed here.

• Does it have narrative? Will it be the start of

• Is it flexible? Will it have a broad appeal

Good designers know a great deal and are

solution. A self-critical, self-editing approach

thoroughly versed in their own profession.

is essential as we begin to refine our process

We might summarise this evaluation in the

new target audiences and not date too

They are great collectors and observers

towards the final presentation. Now we must

following terms.


of details that others might miss. They

begin to flesh out the preferred concepts,

assimilate experience from all over the

while making sure that they still respond to the

place and reconstruct it to form meaningful

client’s brief and will remain consistent within a

communication with target groups. They can

long-term communication strategy.

look at something and decide instinctively

across different applications? Will it reach

• Does the design have ‘legs’? Can it go the extra distance if needed?

If we are satisfied that we have objectively evaluated all of these issues, we should be reasonably comfortable that our design is

• Is it adaptable? Can we stretch it across

almost ready to go. There are certain key

whether or not it is likely to work. So why don’t

So how do self-edit? What exactly is it we’re

different formats, sizes, platforms and

practices that will help us tick these boxes,

designers simply presume that they know best

looking for? The key message here is ‘long-

distribution channels?

and if we are in any doubt about the process,

and take it from there?

term’. Just as our design solution will never be finite, it is also important that we never stand still. We need to be able to change and

Left to Right

we can address these now. • Is it scalable? Will it still work when the numbers change?

adapt in the course of the life cycle so we



2. Keep it simple, stupid

Keeping things simple is usually presumed to be a virtue but it is

You might argue that this contradicts what we have said about the value

important to be clear about exactly when and where it is appropriate.

of lateral thinking and innovation in coming up with ideas. Maybe we

Occam’s Razor

Simplification for its own sake is not always desirable, but to make a

shouldn’t take either Ockham or KISS literally, but rather think of them

message really clear, the ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ (KISS) approach helps us

as a useful guideline when we think about our ideas. We could use the

A scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be

to refine fine-tune our ideas. A better version of the same acronym is to

KISS/Occam’s Razor principle to test whether our idea is efficient and fit

‘keep it short and simple’. Our objective is to look at the essential elements

for purpose.

of an idea and to strip it back to its bare bones. It’s a very good way of ascertaining exactly how well it works in communicating the message to

But, of course, design is not built on utility alone. Good design is not

our target audience.

frivolous, nor is it simply an appeal to the whims of the day. Design enriches our lives. As we have seen, that enrichment is the result of a complex and skilful process that takes a lot of work and a great deal of thought. Simplicity and efficiency are the framework of great design.

multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities (Merriam Webster Dictionary) The rule is attributed to a fourteenth-century English scholar, William of Ockham, who proposed that any superfluous elements in any process should be pared back to produce a solution based entirely on essentials. In doing so the risk of introducing any inconsistencies or redundancies would be reduced.

Left to Right

In short, Ockham proposed that no solution should be

Source -

acceptable if a simpler one exists.

Source -



What do we mean by ‘design vocabulary’? This refers to the means we use to communicate using important differentiations based on age, culture and the tone of the message we wish to convey. We will use different verbal and visual language when talking to schoolage children and with mature-age adults. Although we normally imply verbal communication when talking about a vocabulary, in design it may be predominantly visual.

3. ‘Noise’ reduction

Elements that serve no purpose in a design, have no clear function, add

here. Remaining on message is essential, and as we have seen courtesy

A useful checklist might read something like the following:

no value and may have a negative impact on the finished product may

of Ockham and his razor, too many messages will often result in none

• Does this presentation correspond to the brief as we now read it?

be labelled ‘noise’. Few elements of a design are more frustrating than

being adequately understood.

• Does it meet and exceed all requirements as we understand them? • Is what we intend to present deliverable in terms of our original

random rules and backgrounds or irrelevant ‘ furniture’ on the page. Left to Right Source - Source -

These items lead us to assume that something important is being conveyed

Abstraction is a very important method of reducing specifics to acquire


when in reality there is not.

a more essential meaning to the design proposal. Such means can

• Have we missed any fundamental drivers from our ideation sessions?

be extremely effective, concise and very much to the point. There

• Does any prototype truly reflect what we wish to present?

Most designers, if honest, will admit to a penchant for certain types of

is a danger, however, that in reducing recognition and thereby cues

• Are we comfortable that we can leave it with the client?

‘noise’. It’s a very hard habit to break. However, it is important that we

to recognition, we run the risk of complicating and quite literally

• Are we satisfied that we have reviewed the presentation thoroughly for

do. If in doubt, review the project with a group. Internal focus testing is

‘abstracting’ the message counter-productively.

any redundancies, irrelevance, ambiguity or general noise?

very effective, although it may be a good idea to be wearing one of De Bono’s six hats when you get together!

• Have we prepared a compelling presentation and rationale that reflects The most effective way of refining and reducing our design before we

the amount of work that we have put in to this point?

move forward to the actual presentation is to reconvene the design team Ask: how do we know where to look? What is the tone of our design

for a final critical analysis. We might compare our original interpretation

If we are comfortable that we have answered all of these questions with


of the client brief and run through it point by point to ensure that we

confidence, we can begin to look at what is required in fulfilling the last

have covered off the requirements as we have understood them. We

point. How will we present our case to the client? How will we ensure

An eclectic approach to our design vocabulary can be both sensible

might revisit the notes from our ideas generation sessions and the

we give our project the representation that it deserves? How will we

and noisy. Approaching a solution laterally while incorporating a diverse

outcome of the brainstorming and mind-mapping to compare the

ensure that we produce it to a standard of finish that it warrants? Some

We will use different verbal and

array of ideas and themes is a very effective way of aligning oneself

immediacy of those ideas with what we have now refined from them.

great ideas get ruined through bad or careless production. We need to

uage when talking to school-age

with the target group. However, a word of caution needs to be inserted

e mean by ‘design vocabulary’? This

e means we use to communicate

rtant differentiations based on age, the tone of the message we wish

d with mature-age adults. Although

make sure that the quality of our creativity is matched in the quality of our production. We will take a look at that in the next section.

y imply verbal communication when Page


Comm Trial  

Comm Trial