Firstly, you need to know that I am not a qualified designer of anything…except for learning experiences of course. But I am a designer, and I think that you should be too.
A designer is a problem solver.
A designer looks at a situation that is unresolved and goes through a thinking process to find the best possible solution.
This process can be stated as the acronym P.R.I.S.M.E.
Begin by defining the Problem, or opportunity. Break the problem down into parts, and decide what each part should achieve or be like. If there are parts that are not important, don’t set a goal for them. Choosing which parts of the problem are most important is called abstraction. This is a key skill in the Technologies curriculum.
Next, consider all of the Restrictions, or limits. These are the boundaries you have to work within. Some common Restrictions to design are time and money.
Once you are clear on the current situation and exactly what you hope to achieve, Investigate possible solutions. Has anyone solved this problem before? Then research the result. Brainstorm. Sketch. Make models out of paper. Know that your first solution may be good, but is not often the best possible solution.
When you have run out of ideas (or time) you need to choose the best idea. This will be your Solution. This step is not always easy though, as it is always a bit of a compromise. The important thing is that you make a careful comparison of all your options to make an informed choice.
And then you need to Make it happen! This often requires more detailed planning. Little glitches occur that take you back to the beginning of P.R.I.S.M.E to work out. But that’s ok – that’s just how it is for designers.
You may wonder what the ‘E’ stands for. It is not really a step, it is a mindset. Evaluate. It’s the designer word for reflect, and is a critical skill for all learners. When you are defining the problem, you should always be thinking about how each part affects the whole issue. When considering restrictions, never forget that you don’t need to work right up to the limit. If the budget is $10.00, that doesn’t mean you have to spend $10.00. If you are investigating other people’s solutions to your problem, compare their results against your goals. Think carefully about any parts that are not quite right so that you can improve on them. And as you get in to Making it happen, every step you take you should evaluate. Ask yourself, “Is this step leading me closer to the goal?” and “Is this the most efficient way?”. Reflect. Evaluate.
The design process is a great strategy for working through tricky problems. My wife and I are currently using this strategy as we plan our dream home… but that’s a topic for another post. Give P.R.I.S.M.E. a try, and please comment with your experiences!