.: 27 December 2014 :.

Why you should document during your design process

Especially during student design projects, the documentation of the design process is often postponed to the very end of the project. All the design work has been done and the document becomes just a summing up of the activities performed. Because the first moment of reflection happens after the process, then comes the realization that the activities are not connected well. The process is not coherent. As a result much of the process gets ‘faked’; it is presented in such a way that it appears to be more coherent.

As a result much of the process gets ‘faked’; it is presented in such a way that it appears to be more coherent.

Why you should document not after but during your design process.

1. You solidify vague ideas

The design process is a learning process. You perform activities to gain new knowledge. This knowledge can be about anything: the restrictions of a material, the likes of your target user or the skills of your team members. Much of the knowledge you gain from your activities is tacit at first. It is vague and even hidden, you can’t really put you finger on it. This makes it a poor foundation for further activities.

Through documentation, you solidify your tacit knowledge, enabling you to built on it. The act of writing is crucial in uncovering tacit knowledge. You will only discover much of what you have learned once you start to write about it.

Through documentation, you solidify your tacit knowledge, enabling you to built on it.

Once made explicit, it becomes easier to built upon your gained knowledge. As a result, your activities will be connected better. Automatically, you design process becomes more coherent and the need to ‘fake’ your process decreases.

2. Your progress becomes visible

After weeks of hard work you might ask yourself what you actually did. It feels like you are right were you started. You think you haven’t progressed. Change perspective now. Look at the design process as a learning process. Progress is not just about finding something that works, it is also about finding out what does not work.

By documenting, you will suddenly start to see how your activities are connected. You will notice how the knowledge you gained during one activity helped you during one other. You realize you made a great progress. This realization will definitely give you a motivation boost!

By documenting, you will suddenly start to see how your activities are connected. You will notice how the knowledge you gained during one activity helped you during one other.

3. You get an overview of the process

When designing, you are taking a first person perspective, working on the ‘product level’. During the documentation however, you are forced you to ‘zoom out’. You take a holistic perspective enabling you to look at the process as a whole. This adds to your awareness of the process. Now you can even start to deliberately stir your process in the wished direction.

Now you can even start to deliberately stir your process in the wished direction.

Now you are hopefully convinced to start documenting, here are some tips to get you going.

1. Focus on what you have learned.

Don’t just make a diary in which you just sum up your activities. The true value emerges from your reflection on what you have learned.

2. Collect a lot of material.

Not just document the stuff you think is worthy documenting. During the act of documentation, you will discover new value which you did not expect.

3. Have your camera ready at all times

Taking photos is a very effective method to quickly capture your process without interrupting your workflow. These photos will enable reflection after the actual activity. Don’t worry about the visual quality of your photos, any smartphone camera will get the job done.



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Martijn van den Broeck (@MartijnvdBroeck)

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