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Design process.

How do
designers work?

The Design Process is a framework that visualises the process designers use to design. It is constructed within a circle because this process is both iterative and cyclical. The Design Process for VCD refers to Creative, Critical and Reflective Design Thinking. These are terms given to different approaches to thinking within the Design Process. There are six distinct phases or stages to the Design Process for Visual Communication Design.

DESIGN PROCESS

The Design Process is a representation of design processes as they are used in the fields of visual communication. It does not take into consideration the many different ways studios and their designers work, but rather sets a model process to support students in the creation of visual communications. The stages of the design process are a guide both for the conception and realisation of design ideas and for discussion of the process of design in written analysis tasks.

As you can see, the diagram is formed around a circle. This is to indicate that the process is not linear but is cyclical and iterative. The word iterative means that students may work forwards and backwards in the process, re-visiting previous steps if required, as they develop and refine their designs.  In fact once a design is finished and evaluated, it's often time to start again.

Underpinning the arrows around the diagram is the term Design Thinking. Creative, Critical and Reflective Design Thinking routines are both enabling and metacognitive and occur at any relevant stage of the design process.

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The Design Process image at Helveticamediuma.com is based on the VCAA VCD Design Process. This image can be found below.

Design process models

Academics and business have studied the ways designers work in the hope that knowing how design is done well can be applied to other situations to improve efficiency. There are many models that describe this design process. Two leading models stem from design research in the United Kingdom.

Stuart Pugh (1929 - 9 October 1993) was a British product engineering designer. He created a ground breaking model for the design process that recognised that design was both linear (moving from top to bottom) and iterative (each step of the process has a circular dimension).

Following a wide study of eleven successful businesses done in 2007 the UK Design Council formed a model known as the Double Diamond. This model shows four stages of the design process. The purpose for showing you this is to highlight two concepts. The first is divergent and convergent thinking and the second is a term known as the fuzzy front end.

This representation of the design process is the uses two diamond shapes. If we think of them like a map reading from left to right, you can clearly see that the space enlarged and contracts twice. The process of discovery (first stage) is where a designer finds out as much as possible about the nature of a problem and the many possible ways in which it could be solved using divergent thinking. However, in the define stage (second stage), they distil their ideas and concepts in order to present one or two concepts to their client for review and selection. This uses convergent thinking. Once preferred ideas are identified in the central red dot, development of concepts (third stage) once again uses divergent thinking. The final stage, deliver (fourth stage) is once again a time for convergent thinking.

The second aspect I wished to draw attention to is the fuzzy front end. This is a term to describe the way designers work to discover and define a problem during the writing of a brief. One limitation of the VCAA design process is that it suggests that a brief may be formed at the commencement of the design process, when it be drafted during a process of discovery. The Double Diamond illustrates this well.

Our VCE VCD Design Process is shown with a blue circle. There are six staged of this design process. The dotted lines between earlier stages allow for movement forward and backward, as designs are developed and the communication need is re-framed. This model also shows the role of design thinking. Students of VCD must use this model.

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Design Process by Stuart Pugh.
(Redrawn from; https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/ document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf)
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The UK Design Council 'Double Diamond' by Richard Eisermann, 2007-8 redefined the way design is known.
(Redrawn from; https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/ document/ElevenLessons_Design_Council%20(2).pdf)
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The VCE Visual Communication Design Design Process clearly shows the role of Design Thinking in this process.
(VCAA, 2018, Visual Communication Design Study Design, Figure 1: A process for creating visual communication. (p 11). VCAA, Melbourne. Used with permission.)
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Development of the Brief

The VCD design process begins with the brief. This is where the client identifies their design need. Designers need a brief to ensure they meet the client's wishes properly.

Your starting point

A brief is a document that identifies a design need/s. They come in many forms including a document from a client, a list written by the designer after talking to a client or an email from a client. A brief in VCD identifies and describes;

  • the client
  • the communication need/s (what is to be designed)
  • the anticipated target audience
  • the purpose and context for the design
  • any constraints or expectations from the client
  • the proposed presentation (or delivery) format.

A brief in VCD may be generated by the teacher, a client or the student.

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A brief for the VCD SAT written by Amy Nguyen, 2018.

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For further information on The Brief click on the link at right.
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Brief

Design thinking

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CREATIVE, CRITICAL AND REFLECTIVE

Creative, Critical and Reflective Thinking strategies are used to;

  • Identify and describe a client and analyse the scope, breadth of and the nature of their business.
  • Clarify a design problem by identifying and describing one (or two) communication needs
  • Elaborate on the communication needs by identifying and describing
    • the target audience
    • the purpose
    • the context
    • relevant constraints that apply and content that is required for the communication need. Expectations for how the solution to the communication need should be formed
    • The proposed presentation format for submission
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Research

The research stage is about understanding the communication need, the target audience, similar products and getting your head around drawing them.

UNDERSTAND YOUR COMMUNICATION NEEDS

In the Research stage students gather inspiration and analyse and interpret information. Desk and field research is conducted into the target audience using interviews and surveys for target audience profiling. Students collect images of existing products. They make observational drawings of their forms.

Students should use a range of sources for their research including; interviews, surveys, field trips, site visits, internet searches, trends on social media, libraries.

Critical thinking is used to sort and analyse information gained. Students annotate and sketch beside their research and drawings.

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Field research means finding similar products in their actual context. Elana Monteleone, 2006.

Three phases of research

Research for Visual Communication Design involves;

  • finding out about a target audience
  • benchmarking existing products
  • observational drawing

Students work through these three phases as they develop informative research for communication needs.

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For further information on Research click on the link at right.
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Research

Design thinking

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CREATIVE, CRITICAL AND REFLECTIVE

Creative, Critical and Reflective Thinking strategies are used to

  • guide investigation around a expanding on a communication need
  • analyse and evaluate information
  • sort and classify information to direct the Design Process with relevance to the brief
  • synthesise ideas and key features of designs. This can be achieved by;
    • sketching and combining images and ideas
    • sketching relevant parts of images and ideas
    • cutting and combining ideas in new ways or contexts
    • analysing colours in swatches, colour schemes
    • analysing type and layout by annotating type anatomy and components of a grid
  • reflect on how similar design problems may have been or have not been solved successfully by others
  • find links that exist between designs made in different locations, cultures, historical periods, artistic styles or design fields
  • predict the challenges that might lie ahead of us and what might need to be done to solve them

Annotations

  • Identify the kinds of research being undertaken (Desk, field, qualitative, quantitative, primary, secondary)
  • Identify, describe, analyse and evaluate research including;
    • aesthetic and functional qualities and considerations
    • effectiveness in engaging and maintaining the interest of the target audience
    • effectiveness in their present role including purpose and context
    • relationships with environmental, technological, economic, social, historical, stylistic factors that shape design
    • how they may contribute to the development of ideas for the present communication need
  • Link areas of research
  • Structure, sort and categorise research
  • Predict your process - suggest and direct where your further exploration could lead. Write a paragraph statement that explains what you have learnt from your research and describe the possible design directions you might take.
  • Explain the synthesis you have made
  • Link observational drawing with research
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations.
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Generation of ideaas

Students visualise as many different ideas and approaches to solving the communication need. Creative thinking routines are used to drive fresh inspiration.

Blue sky thinking

Students synthesise ideas and information found in the Research stage and use visualisation drawing methods to draw a wide range of initial ideas in response to the communication needs in the brief. Students use line drawing to make ideas visible quickly.

Students generate a range of approaches to satisfying the communication needs.

Creative thinking techniques are used to expand the range of ideas. Reflective thinking is used to document the creative process.

Students find and document links between their ideas and their research. They note how they could be extended in the development stage.

Generation of ideas is intended to expand ones ideas around the brief. Critical and evaluative thinking are not the focus of this stage.

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A nice range of approaches to solving a branding communication need. Catriona Thompson, 2016.

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For further information on Generation of Ideas click on the link at right.
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Generation of Ideas

Design thinking

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CRITICAL

Critical Thinking helps synthesise research material by incorporating, combining, eliminating, changing and/ or adapting key features of existing designs

Creative

Creative Thinking helps stimulate a wide range of approaches to visualising new ideas. Creative thinking strategies are also used to re-invigorate or broaden the process of visualising ideas divergently.

Reflective

Reflective Thinking enables the;

  • identification of features on designs
  • discussion of how they may/ may not contribute to the design journey
  • evaluation of ideas as potential for meeting the needs in the brief.

Annotations

  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on ideas in relation to the brief with this simple checklist about key ideas you have made;
    • how well does this appeal to my target audience?
    • how effectively does it meet the purpose in the brief?
    • how effectively would it suit the proposed context?
    • in what ways does it address the constraints in the brief?
    • does it have potential to be developed further? If so, how?
  • Direct your Design Process by sign-posting and further exploration
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Explain connections between your ideas and your research
  • Journal your Design Process
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Development of concepts

In this stage selected ideas are improved so that they progressively meet the communication need/s effectively.

Turning ideas into concepts

 Critical thinking routines are used to help students select their preferred ideas.

Creative thinking routines support students as they use a range of two and three-dimensional, manual and digital methods, materials and media to develop the form and function of ideas.

Design elements and principles are also selected and applied creatively to develop the aesthetics of concepts.

Students may begin to incorporate typographic, layout and/ or technical drawing conventions into their work during Development of concepts.

Critical thinking is used to survey and evaluate concepts against the brief. Reflective thinking is used to document the creative process. 

In the SAT (in Year 12) a pitch is used for students to present ideas and test them with their peers.

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In this image the student has experimented with materials, methods and media to develop concepts for a drink coaster. Monique Pretto, 2008.

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For further information on Development of Concepts click on the link at right.
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Development of Concepts

Design thinking

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Creative

Creative Thinking is used to drive further innovation by broadening approaches and sparking new ideas.

Critical

Critical Thinking routines are used as mechanisms from which useful feed back can be gained to support the evaluation of designs made. It also supports synthesis between ideas and research by sparking innovative hybrid ideas that may satisfy a communication need more efficiently.

Reflective

Reflective Thinking used to;

  • consider the suitability of concepts from a variety of perspectives
  • as a framework to progressively record the analysis and justification of design decisions leading to the selection of preferred concepts for Refinement
  • to frame reflection on the use of the Design Process in a design journey and evaluate progress during various phases of development
  • to consider and expand on feedback leading to the improvement of design concepts.

Annotations

  • Describe the functional and aesthetic qualities of Elements and Principles of Design to support the purpose of the visual communication
  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on the Development of Concepts in relation to the Brief
  • Link areas of development and synthesis
  • Document thinking from different perspectives
  • Explain and justify design decisions using Elements and Principles of Design and other terminology
  • Gather evidence to support and reject concepts
  • Document and provide reasons for selection of preferred concepts in relation to the brief
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Journal and evaluate the use of the Design Process
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations
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Refinement

During refinement students progressively improve their designs by making changes to improve their function and aesthetic qualities.

Constant improvement

Critical thinking is used to process feedback on the effectiveness of concepts to communicate ideas contained in the brief and to select preferred concept/s.

Students apply conventions relevant to the design field/s, methods and presentations format/s.

Students complete components of multi-part presentations in Refinement, prior to designing and constructing these presentations.

Modifications are made to mock-ups to improve them based on evidence gained from testing in simulated contexts. Reflective thinking is used to document the creative process. 

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Changes are made to selected, preferred concepts to ensure that they fully satisfy the needs in the brief. Navishka Fernando, 2016.

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For further information on Refinement click on the link at right.
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Refinement

Design thinking

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Creative AND critical

Creative and Critical Thinking are used in similar ways to those used for Development of Concepts, however, the orientation of thinking is altered as the Refinement phase is one of convergent thinking.

Reflective

Reflective Thinking drives the process of describing, evaluating and justifying design decisions against the communication needs identified in the brief.

Annotations

  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on the refinement in relation to the brief
  • Link areas of refinement and synthesis
  • Document thinking from different perspectives
  • Explain and justify design decisions referring to Design Elements and Principles and other terminology
  • Reflect on refinement of concepts in relation to the brief
  • Document and provide reasons for selection of preferred concepts in relation to the brief
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Document methods of testing prototypes and mock-ups
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of mock-ups following testing, referring to the in/ appropriate selections of materials, methods, media in relation to the functional and aesthetic requirements in the brief
  • Journal and evaluate the use of processes referring to the challenges and opportunities faced whilst producing mock-ups
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations.
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Resolution of presentations

Students use typographic, layout and technical drawing conventions to create final presentations that realise their ideas and satisfy the communication need/s in the brief.

final presentations

Students design visual communications using the presentation drawing methods and applying conventions relating to the presentation formats identified in the brief.

Multi-part presentation formats are carefully designed and constructed.

Constraints of the brief are satisfied and in final presentations.

Critical and reflective thinking is used to respond to feedback and evaluate the creative process. 

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A beautiful final presentation for an app design for tablet device. Deborah Nguyen, 2019.

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For further information on Resolution of Presentations click on the link at right.
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Resolution of Presentations

Design thinking

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CRITICAL AND REFLECTIVE

Reflective Thinking is used to consider and evaluate feedback received during and after the presentation of mock-ups. Reflection is required to determine necessary changes that need to be made to refined concepts prior to the Resolution of Presentations.

These reflections will be identified and described in detailed written annotations.

Annotations

  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on the refinement in relation to the brief
  • Link areas of refinement and synthesis
  • Document thinking from different perspectives
  • Explain and justify design decisions referring to Design Elements and Principles and other terminology
  • Reflect on refinement of concepts in relation to the brief
  • Document and provide reasons for selection of preferred concepts in relation to the brief
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Document methods of testing prototypes and mock-ups
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of mock-ups following testing, referring to the in/ appropriate selections of materials, methods, media in relation to the functional and aesthetic requirements in the brief
  • Journal and evaluate the use of processes referring to the challenges and opportunities faced whilst producing mock-ups
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations.