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17 February 2011

The Design Brief

P/S: (additional notes) There are times where you are tempted to begin with a design brief before you identified a design need. It's quite common, but you must know how to deal with cases like this. The following is what you can do if such things happen...

Below is a sample design brief:

Design Brief
'Design and make a kitchen tower holder to store kitchen tower which will not take up too much space on the kitchen table'.

Taking a step backwards, take a closer look and see what we can discover
In this case, you claim that the kitchen tower storage is taking up too much space.

If you set yourself a task to design a storage so that it 'does not take up too much space', what do you think that implies about existing storage? - So, the size of the holder is really too big for the table? Really?

5 Whys
Use the 5 'Whys' and very soon you'll find out if the size of the storage is really the problem.

For example:
The kitchen holder is taking up too much space on the kitchen table.
Why the kitchen holder is taking up too much space on the kitchen table?
Because the table is currently cluttered with bottles of spices and for drying kitchen stuffs like pots and pans.
Why are those things on the table taking up space?
Because there are no other proper storage areas to cater for pots and pans. Can't put them on the floor to dry right? And where else can the spices go to? The whole kitchen is full of stuffs!
Why...

It may be the 5 'Whys' technique, but I do not need to go beyond the third 'why' to conclude that the size of the kitchen tower holder isn't the problem! Perhaps a new way of organizing stuffs in kitchen needs to be worked out. Or the solution could be as simple as working out redundant stuffs and getting them out of the way to make space!

Can you imagine if the solution ended with a brilliantly more compact kitchen tower holder? That doesn't solve anything. But a wasted effort to design something that isn't really doesn't meet the need of the problem.

Conclusion
As a rule of thumb, whenever you think you have identified design needs or design opportunities, they must automatically prompt you to research to support those claims. In case you jumped ahead, or inspirations struck, and you want to make a, say, an ERASER HOLDER because..., remember to take a step back, use the 5 'Whys' to make sure you nail the real need behind it.

So, at the end of the day... RESEARCH. Establish your claims. Prove and justify your claims. Refrain from simply writing some ambiguious design situation, need or brief that is not an outcome of good research.

Reminder
Researches should be well supported with photographs, images and purposeful annotations.

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