Understanding-centred design process

The Outcome-centred design process has its emphasis in the development of a design outcome. Currently designers are increasing the amount of time and money invested in research and analysis to solve design problems, as can be seen in new born design disciplines such as Service Design and Social Design, however often designers still tend to skip analytical stages and move to designing stages at once.

Diagram of the Outcome-centred design process

As part of my PhD thesis, I was looking into a different design process (the design problem solving I apply) which is centred in understanding the situation and problem before start thinking in/visualising a possible solution. Both the understanding-centred design process and the outcome-centred design process are led for designers and their purposes are similar: solve client’s initial problem. Essentially, the difference is that an understanding-centred design process shifts the emphasis to the initial stages of the process: analysing and organising actions, researching and defining methodologies; leaving development and designing at the very end of the process. In other words, the most important stages of this type of process are the initial ones. Of course, final outcomes are also given the appropriate style and refinement, but the creation of aesthetic designs is not my main purpose of this type of process.

Diagram of the Understanding-centred design process

An understanding-centred design process is composed for three main stages which are explained below:

Stage 01: The first stage is focused on exploring and analysing client’s initial problem until the client(s) and the designer(s) achieve the same understanding of the situation. Then, the most appropriate methodology is defined and a set of methods to work with is selected. After this, if necessary, additional research strategies can be conducted to collect more insights to help solving the initial problem.

Stage 02: Organising and classifying the information obtained throughout the initial stage are the main actions. The information is structured and possible solutions are pencilled. The most appropriate solutions are presented to the client. Most of them might not be final design outcomes, instead, a design strategy might be presented.  If the client requires the cycle continues to the last stage: development

Stage 03: The final design outcome is developed throughout this stage, but it is not only about design development. During this stage is also when evaluation and refinement strategies might occur.

In an understanding-centred design process the first stage is enlarged to include more specific levels of actions and tasks not seemed to be included in an outcome-centred design process.


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