Oh the process

“Just get to the concept and then build it! I hired you because you are part of the top 1%. I am not interested your process!” was what Saher Sidom said to our group of designers and hackers during a Hackmasters Hackweek last summer in Berlin when we were stuck in getting to a solution. At that moment I realised I was hiding behind my holy design process I had been facilitating all these years.


In my and other peoples quest to get creativity and design out their in the world we try to explain and sell creativity and design by showing the design process and its different phases. Which is understandable because a lot of our audience is new to design and that audience first wants to understand before they act, because that is what feels comfortable to them But that’s most of the times the opposite of what designers do. We act and by acting we understand. And that is what we feel comfortable with, dealing with insecurity.

The writing of this blog was triggered by Lucas Verweij who wrote a blog (dutch) about the simplicity and standardisation of how the design processes are presented in publication about design methodology. In short Lucas states that the way the processes are presented and used “3 Phases (Think, Create, Act) to 7 (Define, Research,. Ideation, Prototype, Choose) are all similar throughout all the different design disciplines and lead to mediocre design. And that true design processes are much more chaotic. To Lucas creativity is a dark horse which isn’t something scientific and is therefor not boxed into a standardised process.

I agree with Lucas that in reality going through a design process is much more chaotic then it’s often presented or explained and that the starting point is different every time. As a designer you probably go through all the steps as seen in the “standardised” overviews but often in a different order.

But I think it is to bold to say that these standardised processes lead to mediocre design and that it’s purely a (design) management tool to predict and sell. And if so what is wrong with that? And what is mediocre design, isn’t that just a subjective thing. eWhat seems mediocre to someone could feel brilliant to someone else.

To conclude, for me both the “standardised” and “chaotic” design process are relevant to me but they each serve a different purpose. When I am designing myself it is chaotic, fusy sometimes nervous and I love that. When I am sharing design with students, teachers, ngo’s, government and other people that want to learn about design and it helps them understand that by using a “standardised” design process I enjoy it as much. And for me that has nothing to do with selling. For me that is knowing when you need to use what in order to create impact with design and help people forward. That sometimes means being chaotic and sometimes analytic.

Author: Jeroen
Featured image: Dennis Cup



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