We Need to Constantly Challenge our Design Processes

As designers, we all have processes, systems and tools that we use day in and day out. Each one employed to solve a specific problem in a specific way. As we attempt to automate our design process and optimize our methods we invariably realize that our answers are becoming more and more generic—formulaic, if you will.
As we utilize frameworks and design patterns to help us move faster, we are accepting that a certain level of our design decisions have already been made for us. And in the process, we begin to bypass the moments that, while often frustrating, lead to incredible discovery or innovation.
We tend to try and automate everything in our lives so that we can achieve more, faster. However, the power of design is its ability to make the inanimate more human. This is not something that happens when design becomes a checklist, a process or a formula. Inevitably, as the designer yields to the design system, we find ourselves faced with products that don’t emotionally resonate with us as human beings.

This is why a Design (Thinking) Process should not be taught in rote. Not only that, this is also why you need to be “doing” design, so that you can learn to walk-through or challenge your process differently each time.
Indeed, the best designers know that every design solution will have a different process required to get there. The trick is structuring this process well, which fortunately gets easier as you age.

via Design Systems Need To Be Challenged – 52 Weeks of UX.

  • Design Translator

    November 18, 2010 at 2:53 pm Reply

    Sorry for the late reply everyone, let me get to the feedback.
    @Fiona: Thanks for your feedback.
    @Tim: Thanks for sharing your insights. It is pretty grey this area, and I can see where you are coming from. I don’t think one is being dumped into the other’s bucket. There is a process in Design Doing, just as in Design Thinking (I supposed I view DT this way ;)…). The point is to constantly challenge the process itself.
    @Llyod: Great insight as always, and from someone that has been there and done that. I like your statement that “…design creates the process around itself by the act of doing.” Indeed something Design Thinkers might miss.
    Regardless, I’m glad I’m catching up on the comments left as a project I’m working on is or was planned to be rather open ended. Your comment got me to realize that my proposal was a “dive head in” and craft the way as we go, and I has somehow assumed that my client was a risk taker. A possible mistake (assuming) on my part, so this has been a good learning experience for me.
    Perhaps there is also an element of trust. Having an establish design process helps credibility and builds trust. Challenging it, requires the trust to be already there. Thanks!

  • Lloyd Pennington

    October 30, 2010 at 5:21 pm Reply

    Well I agree. certainly with the idea of putting the design process under constant review. Indeed I am doing just that right now. I’m sitting with clients to get their feedback, speaking to suppliers and co-workers too. We design products, services or a piece of communication, so why shouldn’t we re-design the design process? My current (and still evolving) thinking is that perhaps design creates the process around itself by the act of doing. For the past couple of years I’ve experimented with ignoring traditional notions of a design process in favor of plunging in head first with no sence of process, simply waiting to discover what comes out at the end. It’s had it’s problems for sure. The ensuing chaos has meant it difficult to communicate the design as effectivly. Projects have taken longer than anticipated and the margins have been squeezed hard. The end result though has been a (ultimately) happier client (it’s perhaps important to note, that I chose to take this approach with clients who enjoy experimenting and risk taking). The final product has been better recived by the consumer, and the costs of production have been reduced.
    Does design even need a process at all? I think probably not. A philosophy certainly, a guide perhaps but one that has the greatest possible latitude. If this is to be the case then, the rest of the business that has an unfetterd, processless design philosophy must take up the slack that is left behind. This will surely strain resources but through itteration those strains will ease over time.

  • Tim Fife

    October 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm Reply

    While i totally agree with the fundemental message here, that we mustn’t fall back on what has worked for us before, as that will one give us more of the same, I would humbly disagree with one point of this argument. I think it’s fanning the flames if the wrong argument to associate the issue of design process, as discussed here, with design thinking. What we are looking at here, I believe, is a failure to be critical of our design doing. Design thinking is about understanding the value of the process and having flexibility (or at least that’s how I choose to view it…which of course points to an entirely separate and equally valid, if over-trodden, debate: the definition of design thinking). When it comes down to making the choices, we’re talking about the doing of design.
    Again, I think the point is entirely valid, but I think it’s a mistake to try and put every issue we have with of the design industry into the design thinking bucket. Sometimes, when we do stuff, when we do design, we’re just not being that original.

  • Fiona @MEETeyewear

    October 22, 2010 at 10:20 am Reply

    This is so true! I realize this applies even to selection of colours in products that we designed. Can be really really frustrating. Need to always think out of the box.

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