The message is in the brief

Today, I was reading some students feedback on the projects we ran with Design Mobel, SCION and Queensberry and one of the comments written down in black and white was something like:

why did we spend 3 weeks developing the brief and then rush to design it?

This comment amused me! Seriously? Yes seriously.

The project was a NPI (New Product Innovation brief that had the following embedded within it:

Introduction

This project is aimed at enhancing your ability to tackle ‘New Product Innovation’. Within this broad area of practice this project will encourage you to develop expertise in several ways, including: client relationship management, project management, communication development, exploitation of ITC, and prototyping.

You will be given the opportunity to work with different client organisations on name out of the hat basis. Each client will have unique characteristics and requirements that will need to be understood and satisfied through the execution of the project.

The project will conclude with digital and verbal group presentations to the client representatives and academic staff of the project research, business case and prototype(s).

Aims           
•    To develop design opportunity spotting and design research abilities in relationship to a client’s aspirations.
•   
To facilitate individual project management skills.
•    To enhance the communicative dimension of designing for others.
•    To encourage the development of the professional design practitioner.

What you can see highlighted in red is one of the keys to the brief , in other words, we aren't going to tell you what the client wants rather we are going to facilitate the relationship and YOU – the designer must illicit the information required via interaction with the client.
True, the project is a hard project and each year students 'comment' on the difficulty but in reality….well just that, its real, a real project with real clients and real opportunities.

Companies are searching for designers who can uncover latent needs, surf the companies product library, that of its competitiors, interpret trends, read and process, cross reference, challenge, create new direction and work out what's the next 'thing' that should be offering. As new designers the skill to spot design opportunites is arguably more important that the ability to turn given briefs into ideas and producible products or deliverable services.

So what is my message here?

1) read the brief
2) ask if you don't understand
3) realise once and for all – design isn't about making things
4) take responsibility for your own learning

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