Image: Four stage model of the Systems Design process.
Rather than following a single big idea I believe that designing is about following a number of related concepts and in exploring the opportunities that the design space offers you. It is about the insights that your own imagination brings to the surface as you continue the journey while sensing the environment and the situation that surrounds the particular opportunity. This is why the outcomes are so unpredictable but if you persist and remain sensitive to the insights you will eventually develop a set of convictions that will prompt you to act in a particular manner and then subject these explorations to a number of tests as these are evaluated in the progressive stages of the design process.
In my model of the design process, which I teach my students at NID during the Design Concepts and Concerns course, I offer a four stage model where the User Research leads to Scenario Visualisation and this will bring to the surface many ideas and concepts that can be shared with users and others as the work progresses. These concepts and models can be subjected to debate and discussion as well as detailed modeling and testing till you are ready to invest time and effort as well as develop the basis for obtaining the costs to detail out one, two or more of these scenarios and subject these to further testing, all usually done in rapid succession. So, in this way designing is an action oriented work where research is invariably interspaced with action of modeling and discourse as well as a good measure of discussion and debate based on which your insights and convictions would develop more fully and you will then make some decisions about directions and goals that need to be reached. Both goals and possible solutions as well as means of achieving the goals are co-developed or co-evolved as the work progresses.
The third stage is Concept Development which takes a substantial amount of time and money in a business situation. Here the detailing of some promising concepts are taken up in a systematic manner and this can take a good deal of time effort and cost and the fourth stage is to develop Business Models that can help realise the concept in the real world. I have these models on my website and you can download these as pdf files if you wish from the site below from the Design Theory section of the website:
By the way I have posted another story today on my blog about my experience in Madras in 1974. Take a look. This an the previous posts show case studies of design action in the real world and the impact these can have on a business situation, particularly in a small scale industry setting.