Pretty much every designer will tell you that they follow some sort of rigorous design process, a series of methods, tools and techniques that led them to their final design outcome — which is great, it’s an essential, and very necessary part of being a designer and almost always required to realise a quality design solution — I certainly have no problem with people following a design process. The issue lies with those people who follow the design process — the magic bullet, a one-size-fits all design process, and in doing so believe, simply by going through the motions of a design process, that they are therefore thinking creatively.
“Create the greatest design ever in just five simple steps!”
More and more people appear to be self-proclaimed “design thinkers”, often believing themselves as such simply because of the process they follow. I’d argue however, that the qualities separating ‘Design Thinking’ from other ways of thinking goes beyond process alone; simply following a procedural design process doesn’t automatically result in quality design solutions. That’s because the design process isn’t a magic process that will miraculously transform anyone into a creative, it isn’t about sketching something a million times in order to stage that perfect portfolio “process” shot, and it isn’t something you do simply to get marks from your professors. It’s a series of methodologies that facilitates learning, defining and refining. True ‘Design Thinkers’ are those creative people with the ability to use these methodologies as a vehicle for inspiring themselves (and others); it enables them to think beyond the obvious to uncover, unravel and solve even the most complex of problems. So, if you’re blindly following a design guide like you’re checking items off a shopping list, you’re not only stifling two of your most valuable assets; your creativity and your intuition, but you’ve also failed to understand the fundamental purpose of a design process.
So what is a good design process? It’s my opinion that there is no singular ultimate design process. A design process should be custom-made, tailored to the scope of each individual project, because, while many of the methods and techniques may be transferable across different projects, every project is different, coming with it’s own unique requirements and constrains. A design process should also be fluid, with the ability to adapt to the needs of the designer as the project unfolds. Doggedly sticking to an initial project plan regardless of whether the entire nature of the project has shifted along the way, is a sure-fire way to lose sight of your design’s intended direction.
However, even the perfect process or project plan won’t guarantee innovative results, not without right mentality accompanying it. Without the creative drive of real design thinking, it’s easy to run through a design process with blinkers on, blind to everything except what you want (or assume) the outcome should be — and if that’s the case, aren’t you just wasting a lot of time and effort? Time and effort that could have yielded a lot more had you had brought a the right design thinking mentality to your design process.
But hey, this is just one designer’s opinion. What do you think?