Everything we do, from deciding what clothes to war and what to eat is a design project. The reason why we design solutions is because seemingly
simple actions can often have complex consequences. The good news is that designing solutions can be taught, and therefore, mastered in a way
that we can apply it in everyday life from personal problems through professional problems to world problems.
Design is a process based on the scientific method with the addition of risk analysis. When we feel we have a path to develop solutions to our
problems, we are more likely to be at peace with ourselves and others. Designing solutions to problems involves:
- Observing a problem and its "physics" and then assessing the boundary of the problem, that is, the context for framing the problem.
- Developing a hypothesis, that is, a theory for how you would like to solve the problem.
- Analysing the possible solutions.
- Testing the solutions using Bench Level Experiments.
- Implementing and pondering the solutions.
The "magic" at work in this process is the use of rational scientific thought within a context of personal expression. While we often use one or
the other to solve our problems - rationality or personal feelings, we rarely use them both together. And when we try to use them both we often
end up pitting self-expression against rationality in a "feeling vs fact" cul-de-sac.
The design process involves freeing ourselves from the steadfast rational approach to problem solving so that we can explore with enthusiasm how we
feel about what we are doing, before applying rigorous advanced manufacturing techniques to come up with concrete solutions that are both rational
Designing the Problem
- Consider a particular matter that has deep personal meaning for you. It could be a personal matter or a cultural matter.
- Illustrate the problem in the form of an inlaid mosaic, which could be a collage, a drawing, a painting or a mix of many techniques.
Remember your aim is to illustrate your own "picture" of the problem, not to do a "good" illustration.
- Critique the design. Meaning, review aspects of your design that you meant to express more specifically, and also those aspects of your design
that you meant to develop more freely.
- Evolve the design. Meaning, elaborate on the design in order to state more clearly the essence of the problem as you see it, which involves
both attention to detail and extrapolating out to the big picture.
- Repeat steps 3 through 5.
- Now, apply the problem to the world as you see it. Meaning, make it bigger and yet more focused with the view to examining possible solutions.
- Throw a party to celebrate the potential for solutions to the particular problem use music, food, plays, poetry and costume while paying close
attention to atmosphere and setting.
The most creative source of solutions is individual thought. So, do what inspires you to creative thought; it usually involves some leisure
activity or other.
Research what everyone else seems to be doing and take notes. Evaluate how existing ideas might help and then remove yourself from the "traffic".
Go off on your own with an idea that interests you and develop it as a potential solution.
Analysing Feasibility and Risk
Remember that everything that does something has a cost. It also comes with high, medium or low risk. Make contact with people with some experience
of the solutions that interest you most and take what you can from off-the-shelf solutions that mitigate risk.
Much of the ideas and advice around brainstorming relate directly to personality conflicts on a team, especially those that arise from competition
among team members. Remember that all team members need to experience their own significance on the project, otherwise they will get bored and leave.
What you are looking for at the end of a brainstorming session are the best ideas that you can all agree on as a group. Make sure you take note
of who came up with each idea first, especially those that generate enthusiasm.
Documenting the Solutions
The purpose of specifications is to bring the solutions from the realms of feeling into the realms of the practical. We are taking here from the
manufacturing and scientific community in order to bridge the seeming gap between possibility and potentiality.
The challenge when writing specifications is to pay attention to the details - the trees, without losing sight of the big picture - the forest,
while remembering that without enough trees there will be no forest. The functional specifications require constant updating and revision, but
as they take shape they will help you monitor three particularly important factors on your project: time, money and performance.
You do not want to spend too much time and money on relatively small increases in performance. It is a good idea to take turns keeping notes so
that the rest of the team can have room enough for experimentation and play. It is the interactions between function and design that make things
exciting, and there will be so me to-ing and fro-ing between function and design.
There is often a tendency to come up with design solutions that are really cutting-edge, so unless you can network with someone in a particular
field who can devote some time to the project, you might find you have to tone down some of your design ambitions. A good designer knows when to
let go! It is best to document function as completely as possible first, and then consider the design that will implement these functions.
You should not have to backtrack too much if you do that and you can save time by letting go of overly elaborate designs, which you can always
add as a temporary appendix to the functional specifications.
One way of getting started with a funcitonal specification is to write down the changes that you need to make to the project between the seed
of the idea - "the small", and the world-class solution. It is helpful to do some brainstorming on the function and the design - pitting one
idea against another and mixing the ideas around a bit to see what might bubble up.
Once you have fairly solid specifications it is time to do your press releases. A fairly solid specification means enough possibilities and
potentials that you can easily pick out your favourite ones. The purpose of the press release is to generate enthusiasm among the media and possibly
involve them more thoroughly in the popularization of the project.
Each team member needs to do their own press release - written; No Talking! The idea then is to pool them together to make a narrative for
an "infomercial" that can act more effectively as the press release. But before you submit your press release to the pool, let someone read it and
see if they "get it" without having to explain to them any further what the project is about.