Image: Design Journey: Thoughts and actions in design
The design journey starts in the mind and in the senses with the first perception of an interesting relationship and pattern that is triggered like the “stone in the pond” metaphor suggests. The ripples that are generated by the impact of the first sensations start a flow of excitement and this results in a dual process of exploration and inploration, an outward looking and pattern seeking behavior as well as an inward looking insight seeking behavior, both working in tandem. Exploration is much like that of an explorer wandering in an unknown territory and the search and research is done with a high degree of motivation seeking insights and nuggets of knowledge with all the curiosity and motivation that drives such a search for new knowledge. The inward journey which I call inploration is not just made up of a string of images being manipulated in the mind but these include numerous sensory inputs and information that is drawn from all the sensory sources of touch, smell, taste and feel as well as being informed by memory and prior knowledge that is made available in a non-verbal mode, with deep feeling and sensitivity.
Each surge of exploration is accompanied by a corresponding set of inplorations and these together produce a number of insights that are gathered and held in what I call the designers antennae, a a collective phrase for the reservoir of sensory and imaginary information that collectively leads to produce a degree of conviction in the direction and content of the design journey. The nature of design thinking goes through a variety of phases and these thinking styles and modes would change according to the stage in the particular design journey that is being undertaken. These modes of thought can be iterative and the designer is usually quite comfortable with a great deal of ambiguity that would need to be faced all through this kind of exploration and articulation. Starting with clarifying intentions through some pretty focused and also fuzzy explorations using intentional thinking the design journey would progress to the establishment of categories and a degree of order in the understanding of the design space. This would be done by repeated bouts of brainstorming and categorization till a suitable framework for the structure of the design space is developed and modeled. This process is not straight forward but could be like a meandering stream that flows through the terrain of the design landscape exploring the context and the trends are gleaned to inform further action in the form of tentative and later more definite insights that would feed into the designers convictions about the nature of the design opportunity. A variety of approaches are explored and these would be tested periodically at both the macro as well as the micro level of detail. The macro would inform the designer of the viability of the approach while the micro details would provide approaches to the numerous possibilities that would be available in the choice of materials, structure, form and performance attributes that could be taken up for further refinement at the stage of taking firm decisions.
A number of analytical tools could be adopted by the designer and these would be typically drawn for a host of disciplines and fields of human knowledge and depending on the nature of the task the knowledge could be from any domain that is found relevant and usually there us no hard and fast boundary for what would be considered a valid field to be included in such a journey. Access is important and the constraints of cost, access, ability of the designer and his team would usually determine what is included and what is excluded in the scope of the design journey. These explorations and inplorations would continue till the designer feels comfortable with the quality of the concepts or when the deadline for decision draws near when in a creative leap of motivated imagination a number of concepts are offered for examination and subsequent testing and evaluation. This is done through a unique set of thought patterns that move from explorative and generative in which many alternatives are thrown up and this is followed by rapid and deliberate combinatorial explorations which tend to produce a situation for the incubation of new and interesting patters in a creative leap of imagination and expression. All through these explorations numerous external representations are produced and set aside, rarely documented, but all of these produce traces in the mind that are rich with insights and these move quite explicitly form being abstract to being increasingly tangible in their form and treatment. For instance early expressions may take the form of deedless and later ones in the form of more explicit diagrams and even three dimensional expressions which too would move from soft models to a more hard models with defined contours and attributes. Cascading decisions are taken all along this journey and the early decisions are usually strategic in nature while the later decisions are of a more tactical nature and would deal with numerous details that would need to be resolved to make the concept fit the context which will be in constant review. However once the design action is taken in a reflexive space the act is done and it is usually out of the hands of the designer and only the consequences would be attributable to the designer and the final outcome could be either success or even disaster if the context were to change dramatically with the designer having little control on these outcomes.
While all these explorations are in progress the designers emotions too would go through a roller-coaster ride with all its associated ups and downs, and at some stage even an extreme low in confidence and conviction which could lead to the project itself being dropped or delayed by being set aside till the circumstance or opportunity were to change for the better. This can be a very lonely journey even when one works in a team unless there is a good deal of external representation the various team members would have no access to the designers imagination and therefore would not be able to share in the associated convictions that the design thinker would have generated at any particular stage of the design journey. The impact of the design outcome is compared to the effect of a well managed fire, being beneficial, however if the factors are out of control the results could be a disaster, but the designer would still be responsible for the consequences and this can be quite painful indeed. In the review of the numerous decisions the design journey would involve evaluative thoughts that are reflective in nature and decision making is by judgment and not just by the accumulation of facts and evidence that would be used to justify a particular decision. The compositions that are offered in design are one in many options and there are no correct answers and it is the judgment call of the designer that is valued in most cases although many clients would insist on the use of many systematic decision tools even if they have a limited relevance.