Design work experience student workbook

A 20 page workbook to help students complete work experience in a design studio.


How work experience works
How to organise your studio contacts
Suggested interview questions
Help write a design brief
Achievements checklist to record outcomes

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The book will be supplied as a PDF.
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The design process

You will be able to get more from your work experience if understand the design process. It will also help you get involved with designers during work experience. But you need to understand that designers don't say 'Right now we are going to start the design process so we start with reading the brief.' Designers have their own version of the process and will modify it to suit the client, the job, the budget and the time available. Also their experience with a client may shorten or eliminate areas such as research. By understanding the process you can learn how different designers use it in particular jobs.

There are many models for the design process.
One of the starting points to understanding the design process is the diagram below that was prepared by Damien Newman from Central Story.

Design Process

This shows the progress from 'fuzzy' logic into research that refines the thinking and then into development of a concept, prototype and final design where the solution is very tightly refined and focused.

The stages of the design process can be shown as:

Design brief – this will have a clear statement of the design goals, the intended audience, the communication methods/mediums, outcomes and measurement. During the work experience you should read the brief related to every job you work on. Remember that some briefs contain confidential information and this may mean you are not allowed to read those sections.

Analysis – analysis of the brief. This is still in the 'fuzzy logic' area. The designer is questioning everything in the brief and approaching it from a multitude of directions. Use your workbook to record your analysis of the design brief. Listen to the designers as they discuss the brief and make note of what they have obtained from the brief.

Research – investigating similar design solutions, the audience, the mediums and the outcomes. You can get heavily involved in this section. It may mean you need to do web research on a particular subject, collect samples of competitor or peer materials, visit libraries or look at products in stores and supermarkets.

Specification – specifying the resources that will be needed to achieve design solution. Usually the point where a scope and estimate are presented to the client. Observe what time and resources are given to the job. The studio will have a system to allocate time for a project. Make a note of the time given for research, design development (concepts), artwork, presentation, and revision. Make a note of the resources used in production such as printing.

Problem solving – developing concepts and producing design solutions initially through rough sketches and then onto the computer for development of prototypes for presentation. Watch how the designers develop their concepts. Some may go straight to the computer, other may use sketch books. Try developing your own concepts starting with sketches in your workbook.

Presentation – presenting design prototypes to the client. Watch and listen to how the designers present the work to their colleagues. Do they have story behind the design? How much do they refer back to the brief? How much research do they bring into the presentation? Record your analysis in your workbook.

Refinement – refining the prototypes following client discussion. Listen to the feedback and understand why refinement is needed. Make a note of this in your workbook.

Testing – testing prototypes with the intended audience. You could get involved here by doing 'vox pop' testing in the street. Some jobs have a budget for focus group testing. Ask to observe this process if it happens. The level of market testing will be dependent on the budget, so don't be surprised if the testing is only internal with the client as the ultimate test.

Refinement – refining the prototypes following audience feedback. Observe this process and make a note of it.

Presentation – presenting final design solution to the client. You may not be able to attend this. It will depend on the studio, the job and the client. If you are not able to attend the presentation ask if there will be an instudio debrief after the presentation. Ask to attend this and record the feedback given by the client (check that this is OK with the studio owner).

Implementation – producing the design solution and delivering it to the audience. This usually involves artwork that may be done by a Mac operator. Observe how they st up files and manage the process of producing artwork. Look at their file structures, their back-up systems and their time and resource management. Record all this in your workbook.

Evaluation – examination of the process and results, including suggestions for future improvements. There may be a post production debrief. It may be as simple as a quick review of the final printed piece or it may be full blown design effectiveness measurement. Observe the process and make a record of it. Given that you are only doing a short work experience placement you may not get an opportunity to observe this step as many jobs take weeks or months to go from brief to evaluation.