DonnaM » Blog Archive » Design is similar across domains

Design is similar across domains

I’ve had some time off over the last 3 weeks (though I really don’t know what time off means in my life of client-community-business work) and have finally had a chance to start some weaving again (as a friend once said – “I knew you were a computer geek, but didn’t know you were a fabric geek”).

Anyway, I’ve been working on a new weaving project and having spent so much time thinking about the nature of design in the last year or so was struck by how similar the design process is across domains.

In working through the design process, here’s what I’ve had to think about:

  • Goals: I want a scarf to wear at the IA Summit. Not just any scarf, but one that reflects the summit visual identity.
  • Time constraints: I have to finish it before summit, not much point otherwise.
  • Cost constraints: It goes without saying that I have no budget.
  • Resource constraints: I want to use yarn already in my stash. And I think I’d like to use silk, which imposes its own character on the design.
  • Innovative: It doesn’t need to be the next best thing, but should be unique and definitely not copied from something else.
  • Skills: I need all my foundation weaving skills – understanding of weave structures, colour theory, understanding of how fibre works, how to use my loom. Without those, I have no chance of creating something great.
  • Planning: Weaving is a highly planned activity. I have to figure out everything before I touch the loom – yardages, colour sequences, threading patterns, treadling tie-ups
  • Prototyping: I really should create a prototype before I weave the whole thing – this would give me a chance to check what will happen with the fabric and that it works as expected. As in most development processes, I’m going to skip this due to time constraints (it would take me an extra couple of weeks) and resource constraints (I don’t have enough yarn to waste). Of course, the risk is that I’ll mess up the whole thing and have no output instead.
  • Documentation: The end result of the design process is a written down plan. In theory, I could hand this off to someone else to weave. In practice, I’ll weave it myself, and the documentation is useful if I ever want to repeat the design.

So off I go…back into the studio.

Maybe later this week I’ll tell you how I once designed and prototyped an orchard…

4 Responses to “Design is similar across domains”

  1. David Malouf Says:

    HI Donna,

    But where is the Design stage? I”m sure you had to come up with ideas for what the design would look like, and “sketched” out a few ideas of different color and pattern combinations with guesses of the fabric textures you were hoping for?

    Otherwise what it looks like above is really just “craft”. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way at all, but I want to call out that craft is distinct from design and that I’m sure you thought up something GREAT!, but did that thinking go through a design process where you explored through sketching many different ideas and then evaluated, combined, borrowed, “weaved”, eliminated elements from each sketch into the final prototype (that you mention above).

    In our discussion on the IA-Members list, I think this distinction between craft and design may be what was missing. Design does not require any sort of skill of craft, and craft does not require any sort of skill or practice in design.

    – dave

  2. Chris McLay Says:

    Have a read – if you haven’t already – “Thoughtful Interaction Design” Löwengren & Stolterman

    I enjoyed the design discussion more than the specifics on interaction design…

  3. Dan Saffer Says:

    A scarf? You do know that Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert, right? :)

    You forgot a design constraint: context. The solution has to fit the context. :)

  4. Donna Maurer Says:

    Dan – yes, that’s a constraint I didn’t mention (but did take into consideration – the scarf will be silk and decorative, not warm)

    Chris – thanks

    Dave – yes there is a design stage in there. This isn’t craft – if it were, I would just copy and tweak something I already had done, or follow a pattern. Instead I have to use quite a big skillset to create something that suits my goals & constraints. So I should have included the iterative aspect of the entire process ;)

Leave a Reply