The purpose of our Design Studio
Our design studio combines divergent and convergent thinking: it allows designers to explore a wide set of ideas and create a shared vision to move forward with. The process incorporates brainstorming, critique, and prioritization into a single session.
Running an effective design session requires our developers to lead ideation activities to generate ideas, and guide their colleagues through design-critique discussions, and use prioritization techniques to build consensus on possible design directions or valuable features.
We clarify the brief to ensure all members of the team understand our client’s requirements before commencing the design element of the studio.
The developer reads the brief to the rest of the team, with a list created by the co-ordinator of the key items from the client’s brief, be it an emotional, spatial or technical requirement. A scoring process is then undertaken to weight these in order of importance to enable the team members to understand what key elements to focus on when producing the design for the project.
We look at inspirational and high-quality architecture that responds to the client’s brief and the project surroundings to provide the aspiration and inspiration for the design of the project.
Each member of the team spends an agreed time researching precedents for the project before choosing their favourite two images and presenting to the group why they can be used as inspiration for the project and why they are high quality architecture. After the images have been presented the remaining team members give their opinion on the chosen projects. These images are saved to the project folder and printed out to provide inspiration during the remainder of the session.
Generate a wide set of ideas in a short amount of time around our clients brief;
During this first part of the design studio, the developer leads the group through a timed sketching activity that results in a large amount of brainstormed ideas. We focus on a quantity goal rather than a quality goal, so that people do not feel intimidated at the idea of presenting their ideas to the group. The time constraint also prevents people from censoring ideas too early or pausing to think in too much detail about their ideas.
Present and Critique
Share and discuss ideas through thoughtful and constructive critique.
Each team member has a set amount of time to both present and receive critique; for example, three minutes to present and five minutes to receive critique. The developer allows the team member to explain their core ideas, while the other team members who are not presenting at the time provide critique. We ensure that participants understand the difference between critique and reaction-based feedback to ensure the critique revolves around how well a design does or does not satisfy the clients brief rather than individuals’ opinions.
Take the strongest elements of various ideas and combine them into a new idea.
Once the strongest areas of each idea have been identified through objective critique, our team members brainstorm as a group in order to continue driving the vision forward. We then create a group concept that incorporates those elements into a collaborative idea. The team work together to develop an idea based off the strengths of previous individual ideas rather than just throwing out new ideas. It is about how the ideas developed in steps one can be evolved or combined to become more relevant or a stronger concept to produce an outstanding design.
Here we create consensus within the group about common themes and the elements that are most valuable to the objectives of the design project.
With a variety of ideas on the table, the co-ordinator leads the group through a convergent activity that solidifies the design direction resulting from the studio session. Otherwise, individuals might walk out with the incorrect assumption that the concept they created is the final design. It’s critical to lead the group through the activity that defines and prioritizes common themes and elements and allows the group to document reasoning (and open questions). This process creates a record of the group’s logic to serve as reference for when development begins.
The design studio is not about creating a single, final solution. They are used to help to refine the overall design direction that will continue to be explored after the design studio workshop is over.
Collaborative design approach and avoiding designing by committee
It is important that roles are clearly defined within the design studio, and peoples input and importance is considered by their position on the design skills ladder. Our design sessions are a learning process to allow junior members to progress as designers. The project lead should recognise when an idea can enhance their design and incorporate this into their completed design to get the most out of sessions and instil confidence and pride into other members of the team who have suggested ideas.