The Shape of Design

I alluded to a design theory about two years ago. Rather than allowing it to collect more cerebral dust as my take on what’s important to design becomes aged with each passing day, I thought I’d share parts of it now.

In truth, it’s more of a construct than a theory, and it’s not at all original at that–all the parts are derived from the well-established principles of design management. I just applied different components of that application into a visual model that made sense with the way I’ve been seeing and working with design every day for the past couple of years.

The shape, like a lot of theoretical models, is composed of three equal circles that converge at the center. What’s important to know about this model, though, is that it starts broadly at the top and funnels its way down to a more narrowly focused endpoint. This purposely suggests that design problems in need of a solution, regardless of individual design practices and organizational structures, optimally start with a large overall strategic objective, which eventually or simultaneously merges with operational practicalities, and becomes something real through iterative tactical execution.

The Shape of Design

All of the relevant parts are equal and overlap at multiple points, suggesting that each are far from estranged from one another, but rather remain integral to a higher working order which requires constant communication and coordination throughout a design life cycle. At its core, I believe, lies the heart of real design thinking, which independently can be used to develop the mythical “shared brain” among design practitioners and business thinkers alike.

While this model certainly needs a lot more substantial examination, if not explanation, I’ve found that it’s been adequate enough to allow me to organize where disciplines, people, and ideas fit into a given design context. I think it also sets my expectations for what design is, and where I think it needs to go–for the time being anyways.

I’ll be interested to see how it holds up, myself, in the future.