The Design Process – Part 1

The ‘Design Process’ identifies the direction one wish to take when embarking on an architectural project. It is  the formula, the identity and the process all in one. It has a start and a finish. It has a beginning and an end. It explains the philosophy of the designer.

Every act of creation has a beginning and an end. This probably follows a debate on metaphysics i.e. whether the world will end and so on… but we will leave that for now.

Our concern is on the topic of the ‘Design Process’ where when given a problem in the beginning, say; design a house for an elderly couple; or a prototype design for a school or; design a school bag for six year old children. We can see the crux of the problem from just glancing at the project’s topic.

Everything is about the user, whether specific user/s (that could be a real client, say the elderly couple is Mr. and Mrs. Jones) to the prototype design for a school to the design of the school bag for six year old children. The others may be a bit clearer in terms of defining the scope and function, but for the prototype design we are not sure whether the school is for small children or older children and so on. However the crux of the problem had been identified in each of the projects and a direction could easily be set.

The user, the function, the brief, the client…could be identified by just that topic. But other questions would follow: Where is the house? Urban site? Natural site? How much would it cost? Where is the school? What is a prototype design? What design parameters must I use? Do I design the interior and furniture of the school prototype as well?

During the ‘Design Process’, you must be able to time the work in a non-linear manner. The only time you work in a linear manner is when you do production drawings (working or tender drawings) or presentation drawings or anything that has to do with the end of the project rather than the beginning.

After you found out about the topic in a very basic way, you need to be ‘philosophical’ about it. You need to put on the ‘Hat of the Philosopher’. You need to read before or when you start sketching. Reading around the subject, say on an elderly couple’s house will take you to many examples about elderly couples houses in magazines, books and the internet. Then you explore further, literally by reading about ‘elderly’, ‘ageing’, ‘couples’, ‘living together’, ‘gerontology issues’ and so on. You need to create a story. You read with a reason, and that is to narrate your concept by knowing what it is. This is a very important part of the beginning of your design process. This is the germination of ideas and concepts.

To digress a bit, I would like you to think about the ‘Design Process’ having inductive and deductive reasoning processes. The deductive reasoning process shows that if you read more and more, you will form or pick up theories on the topic, and eventually form questions and assumptions about what is important for you to explore. You will then study cases or case studies and you will then confirm these assumptions by designing from these assumptions.

On the other hand, the inductive reasoning process will first take you to visit real cases or cases studies of houses or schools where you will observe in-situ and note the patterns that you will see and then form assumptions and concepts which you will try to prove with your design.

I needed to explain about the inductive and deductive reasoning processes in the ‘Design Process’ because we need to be aware that we are actually doing “research” when we are doing an architectural project. We are doing research to justify our actions, our concepts and ideas. That is an important aspect to the beginnings of the ‘Design Process’.

The ‘Design Process’ does not ignore the designer’s trademark approach. In my opinion, unless you are involved with real projects or you are an experienced designer, will you then have a trademark or a distinctive approach. Otherwise, as an undergraduate, you are picking up the skills and adopting philosophies and approaches taught in the school. You may use approaches using precedents, be they an architect, groups of architect, theories on architecture and/or methods taught in the studio or elsewhere.

To be continued….

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One thought on “The Design Process – Part 1

  1. looking forward for part 2. Before this i am blur and always confuse as my design process is distinctively non-linear manner….well i finally understand, this is not only a design process but a learning process. Learning to establish my own ways of design process.

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