Design Free Of Process

There are times when you feel that you had the freedom to invent everything. That you did not have to worry about reinventing or following on what others have said or processes that other have laid or standards and best practices that others have recommended. Free of everything, a chance to start from scratch without any imposition or the way things are to be done.

I do sometimes think about this, and wish that sometimes that would be better. But I also wake up to the reality that while it might be desirable in the beginning, it might take me to a stage where I have created something that others will not understand, that others will not be able to use with the other stuff that they have, or worse that they will not benefit from it. Or I will end up delivering something a couple of years late and being the biggest reason for its fall. That is why I need processes and standards so that thought about the user is incorporated in the design.

As an other extreme, this can also lead to the same drab and boring designs, which are always expected, which are without an element of creativity or surprise. I have heard quite a number of times from my friends that they think standards kill creativity. Standards sure do put a fence around, but that is because they make sure that your creativity is useful to others. It applies specifically so in engineering where design is being done for consumption by others.

However, a dose of completely free design is necessary, to feed that creative creature inside who hates the fences. Which is what I found in CUin5 (via Elyse Sanchez). It is a mobile phone design, being done as part of an upcoming book, non.object by branko Lukic. I cannot write anything that will replace the presentation, so headover there and take a look.

I am not saying whether such a process is productive or not. But I am sure that the extent to which surprises are accepted by users depends on their benefit to them. A surprise might require the user to learn new things and probably unlearn some old things. Only the benefits can justify this effort. But what I do like about this is that it can lead to a new thinking, a new path that leads to a better solution. The old thinking, which includes standards and best practices, might be imposing constraints. And this new path can lead to a solution that breaks those constraints providing a better solution for the future. That is the reason, I feel, every individual should travel down this path, in parallel to the everyday task of providing today’s best solutions.

Discussion [Participate or Link]

  1. Anonymous said:

    There’s a lot of value in this. It’s stifling to start from requirements instead of ideas or goals. Yes, I’m differentiating between goals and requirements. I think it’s more important to define what you want to provide idealistically/conceptually instead of locking it down to the technology or previous methodologies first.

    It’s outside in thinking vs inside out. If you start from the premise of a web page or worse, a common format of web page, you’ve cut off dozens of possible avenues.

    Don’t stop at just applying this to design though! There’s a rather big business movement currently gaining steam that uses these exact principals, CEM. This applies to all process oriented projects, and indeed, creativity in general. As soon as you apply a set of known rules you’ve stifled yourself.

  2. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    I agree with you that idealistic/conceptual solution is very important. However, I feel that there needs to be an intersection between the goals and requirements. Or else, the product should be such that it creates a market for itself. But if it is targetted towards solving a problem, the design has to consider the requirements somewhere. I am not saying it should be limited to that, but consideration should be there.

    I am completely with you there when you say that do not limit it to design. I think such thinking is required in each and every discipline.

  3. Rune Juhl-Petersen said:

    Design is all about compromise. If nothing else, the laws of physics will be a constraint to your applications. Creativity does not exist without boundaries and limitations (otherwise it would be very easy).

    When designing I initially focus on what I would like it to be. Afterwards I evaluate my design towards the requirements (as in design rules). Some designs might be rejected because they just don’t fit. Some designs might have to be changed a bit, and some designs will change the design rules.

    Requirements are inevitable when designing. Whether technical or functional, they are the challenge of designing. They can never be completely ignored. Therefore I don’t think there is such thing as a “Free Design”. I think that understanding your boundaries is the key of designing something new and different.

  4. Abhijit Nadgouda said:

    Yes, I agree with you that knowing the boundaries is key to a design. Otherwise the purpose is missing.

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Abhijit Nadgouda
iface Consulting
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