Design Methodology

While studying at university for my BA, my design methodology was largely concerned with process and experimentation - exploring techniques that spanned ceramic's, metalwork, laser cutting, screen printing, papermaking and origami - my creative journey was a very hands-on tactile experience.

Moving from education into industry with a job at Marks& Spencer design office called Tigerprint I was exposed too a much more cutthroat and efficient way of working. Creativity was encouraged and I was able to flourish as a designer, however, the design process was heavily brief driven. Why design something if there is no need, or space for it to be sold. Having such a quick turn around in the design office (a brief each day) meant there was very little time for exploration, creative pondering and design methodologies to be explored.

Coming back to education to study my MA here at Manchester Metropolitan University I was introduced to a much more theoretical and conceptual approach to design thinking. If I'm honest this was initially a real struggle and I found myself craving design briefs.  As the year has gone on I have found myself appreciating that the way you think and the questions you asked as you approach a design problem strongly influenced not only the ideas you have but also the final product outcome. If you’re trying to design a new bedframe and all you look at is existing bed frames, you are unlikely to come up with a new concept. While studying on the MA I have been introduced to a company called IDEO who have a much more user-focused approach to design. If you are still designing a bed frame then the design process would be about building bed frames, lying on them, talking to people who sleep on them, looking at people who sleep on them - it’s all about the problem, observing it, living it, experiencing it and then hopefully coming up with a solution.

The module we are currently undertaking called CUTE values of product design, for me is inline with IDEO’s approach to product design. Being based in the engineering school they have a much more pragmatic and realistic approach to design. Creativity and conceptual thinking are as encouraged however there is also a user or a persona involved in the process. I have found the initial research, user persona creation and the brief identification process wonderful. There are no limits to the persona or brief you can create - allowing you to be as safe or as wacky as your imagination will allow, however there are boundaries. You set yourself boundaries from the start and your product must fulfil these boundaries.

As I’m approaching my final major project here at MMU I feel I will take on the CUTE values approach to product design. I have found the boundaries to be a reassuring limit on my imagination. As somebody who can quite literally come up with 100 ideas everyday the ‘no boundaries approach’ has left me almost like a rabbit in headlights.