Designing the Design Process: Part 1 of 2

Tara Loosvelt  

November 17, 2011

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If challenges around digital design are often solved through design, how important is the design process?  According to the discussion I attended last weekend at Wharton University's satellite campus, the shape and workings of the design studio itself is becoming a critical factor in determining the outcome for consumers, businesses and designers alike.

Two lovely (and smart sounding) Finnish individuals working in design leadership at Nokia had been focusing on this challenge as students. They led the discussion appropriately entitled "Design Studio Thinking" premised on working out a better strategy around the design process. Here, I would like to share what I learned about the basic two principals surrounding the thinking within a design studio.

The first principal discussed was meaning. Sometimes projects or deliverables are given very specific parameters and definitions of meaning. In the business world surrounded by many shareholders, meaning often times gets lost or at least boiled down to something less abstract and very, very specific. What would happen if it were given some space to develop more organically. The concept of meaning in this context is very similar to the idea of totem poles (yes, the ancient object).

Totem poles were additive, visceral, and participatory. As embodiments of meaning, they were also abstracted enough to create an adaptable framework that is a great metaphor for meaning in modern day design. Here is an example of using an abstracted framework that is necessary to convey a concept: Designing a mobile phone to make a user feel smarter instead of the object itself actually being smarter. This could mean very different things in terms of design. Service reliability would be a more important driver for decision making than creating a smarter device itself.

What do you think the other basic principles of designing the design process is? Stay tuned till next week for Part Two!

*Photo credited to Adactio at