Design process. Design process. Design process. Your going to hear it from every professor and interviewer. Show me how you have utilized the design process. How did it affect your work? What did you learn from the process? etc. This process is a big enough deal for new designers to do a bit of study on. The fault of young designers is to rush their design straight to the computer and crank out exactly what they see in their heads. It’s perfect, if I can only get it in a sweet mockup, you’ll see. This is a problem because the computer DOES make even the lamest designs look finalized and even professional and impressive. This leaves the young designer feeling satisfied with her work, which means that she sees no room for improvement. BAD. Your first idea is almost never your best. So, how do you ensure your design is the best it can be? This is where the design process comes in.
With access to the right software and an unlimited resources for tutorials, anyone can become a designer. The design process is what sets apart a designer from a good designer. It shows that you know how to think outside of yourself, you know how you arrived at your solution, and you know WHY your solution works. It also proves that you know how to work with a team. Even if you’re flying solo, the design process forces you to let others test your work and give you feedback. Being able to take criticism is something every designer must come to grips with. Grow thick skin, and don’t take it personally. Your design is not your baby.
There is not a one-size-fits-all design process out there. Every designer will adapt their own way of utilizing the process, but there are some clear steps that are seen throughout every designers’ work. My Print and Production 2 class, was divided into teams and tasked with re-creating the school’s existing student service handbook. The current one having an overwhelming amount of information and a lack of hierarchy. It was similar to reading the terms and conditions of a website. Below I describe my team’s experience working through the design process.
You’ve been given a problem to solve. The solution won’t be a generic fix, but a calculated design that is meant to reach a specific client or people group. In the empathize stage, your goal is to put yourself into your target audience’s shoes. The questions are as basic as: How old is my audience? What will they respond to? Where are they located? What do they want? How do they like to be related to? What is their social class? By answering these questions, you start to narrow down what your end goal is. That awesome design you came up with in the beginning, maybe it’s still awesome but if your target audience can’t relate to it, it serves not purpose. Throw it out.
In the define stage, we simply took the information we gathered in the first step, and defined it. For my team, the definition of our problem was “Young adults to sixty-year-olds, need easily accessible information on the services that Chattanooga State Community College provides.”
Also known as brainstorm. Now that we have our problem defined, we spit out ideas onto paper. We’re still working in low-fidelity, so don’t be shy; some of our ideas stunk, but we only knew they stunk because we threw them out there. It is important to be thorough in this stage and think outside the box. Every team member must participate, because we need ideas from all backgrounds. Our solution was a handbook. In hindsight, we should have spent more time in this stage, because a handbook is just the sort of thing we were trying to move away from. Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of time throwing up ideas.
We are now working in medium-fidelity and it’s time to give the client a visual for the solution. In this stage you make as many inexpensive small-scale versions of your solution as necessary and present them to your client. This allows you and the client to test the usability of the product. Our experience was a bit different. Rather than having each team print out and present multiple solutions, each team presented one mocked-up solution to the client and the clients chose from the selections. We presented ours in the form of a presentation.
Here the prototype is tested, tested, and retested. This stage is for refining the issues found in the prototype stage. My team’s project was not chosen as the final solution, so the whole classed helped the team whose design was chosen, and we tested together.