How do you d

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esign Everyone designs. The teacher arranging desks for a discussion. The entrepreneur planning a business. The team building a rocket.


Their results differ. So do their goals. So do the scales of their projects and the media they use. Even their actions appear quite different. What’s similar is that they are designing. What’s similar are the processes they follow.


Ourprocesses determine the quality of our products. If we wish to improve our products, we must improve our processes; we must continually redesign not just our products but also the way we design. That’s why we study the design process. To know what we do and how we do it. To understand it and improve it. To become better designers.



In this book, I have collected over one-hundreddescriptions of design and development processes, from architecture, industrial design, mechanical engineering, quality management, and software development. They range from short mnemonic devices, such as the 4Ds (define, design, develop, deploy), to elaborate schemes, such as Archer’s 9-phase, 229-step “systematic method for designers.” Some are synonyms for the same process; others representdiffering approaches to design. By presenting these examples, I hope to foster debate about design and development processes. How do we design? Why do we do it that way? How do we describe what we do? Why do we talk about it that way? How do we do better?

Asking these questions has practical goals: - reducing risk (increasing the probability of success) - setting expectations (reducing uncertaintyand fear) - increasing repeatability (enabling improvement) Examing process may not benefit everyone. For an individual designer—imagine someone working alone on a poster— focusing on process may hinder more than it helps. But teaching new designers or working with teams on large projects requires us to reflect on our process. Success depends on: - defining roles and processes in advance - documentingwhat we actually did - identifying and fixing broken processes Ad hoc development processes are not efficient and not repeatable. They constantly must be reinvented making improvement nearly impossible. At a small scale, the costs may not matter, but large organizations cannot sustain them. From this discussion, more subtle questions also arise: How do we minimize risk while also maximizingcreativity? When must we use a heavy-weight process? And when will a light-weight process suffice? What is the place of interaction design within the larger software development process? What is the place of the software development process within the larger business formation processes? What does it mean to conceive of business formation as a design process?



The oldest developmentprocess model I’ve seen dates from about 1920 and describes how to develop a battleship for the Royal Navy. Discussions about design and development processes began in earnest shortly after the second world war. They grew out of military research and development efforts in at least three fields, operations research, cybernetics, and large-scale engineering project management. Pre-war efforts to makeradar an effective part of the British air-defense system led to operations research, which then matured into an academic discipline. Development of automatic piloting devices and fire-control systems for aiming large guns led to servo-mechanisms and computing devices, anticipating the emergence of cybernetics, one of the roots of artificial intelligence. Large engineering projects undertaken duringthe war and later cold-war projects, such as the Atlas and Titan missile projects, demanded new techniques to deal with increased scale and complexity. The excitement of these new disciplines and the success of these huge engineering projects captivated many people. From operations research, cybernetics, and large-scale engineering project management, academic designers imported both methods and...
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