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putting it all together
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THE WORKING PROCESS
Concept Development Every designer
works differently, and every project is
unique. Regardless, the process of design-
ing ultimately starts with ideation, or
developing concepts. Designers approach
concept development from myriad direc-
tions. The very notion of
what a concept
is
differs among designers: some see the
content itself as the concept, while others
see it as a raw thing, to benefit from
embellishment, visual metaphor, allusion,
or a kind of storytelling. And some design-
ers weigh these philosophies and choose
one or the other approach as appropriate
at a given time. The process of ideation
involves research. To craft a visual form
for an idea that supports all its richness, a
designer must first fully understand that
idea. There are many means of researching
material: Comparing existing projects of a
similar nature; making brainstorming lists
and mind-maps; collecting images or
objects by association; and simply sketch-
ing intuitively. Many designers follow a
staged process learned from early formal
training, even if they are very experienced:
researching, and then brainstorming as
many different ideas as possible; compar-
ing these to find aspects that are poten-
tially useful, or which, if any, may be
combined to mutually enhance each other;
focusing on the result of this comparison
to construct the necessary parts of the
Comparative Research
One important method of
research is collecting samples of
design work that is related to the
project one is conceptualizing—
potentially for inspiration but,
more importantly, to establish
a sense of the context in which
one’s project will ultimately find
itself. Seeing how other design-
ers have communicated a given
idea helps understand not only
the expectations of the project’s
intended audience but also of
what conceptual directions to
beware in favor of those that
will help differentiate the work
being undertaken for the project
at hand.
List-Base Brainstorming
and Mind-Mapping
Most people are familiar with
brainstorming in the form of a
written list. A mind-map is
a form of diagrammatic brain-
storming that allows a designer
to track the paths from associa-
tion to association and—even
better—to see when particular
associations appear along differ-
ent paths, suggesting rich nar-
rative interconnections between
seemingly unrelated ideas.
Making Mood Boards
Another method of research is to
collect visual material that seems
somehow relevant—either liter-
ally or metaphorically, by way of
association. Such material might
include images of people, found
objects, fabric swatches, chips of
paint, and even text like poems
or excerpts from literature. The
materials are then assembled
onto boards to create a kind
of library of feelings and ideas
(hence, “mood boards”).
Visual Exploration
The designer examines a range
of different approaches to under-
stand their respective potentials
in the given context: visual brain-
storming to discover possibilities.
The goal of this phase is not
to arrive at any conclusions—
and never to preconceive the
outcome—but, rather, to roughly
and rapidly generate as many
ideas as can be.
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