All designs start with a problem no matter how simple that may be. So you want to design a chair, what's your problem? Your current chair might be ugly, uncomfortable or just plain boring. The first step is to put pen to paper and come up with a problem statement.
It's time to do your research. Yes you can trawl Pinterest, but try to get out into the real world. Go to a design museum, work out how your everyday items are made. Ask your friends and family what they like, listen and write it down. There's a fine line here between getting good research and being overcome by tunnel vision. Keep an open mind.
You have a problem and a little bit of background, now you're going to define the solution. We're still not sketching but rather writing some constraints so that we can design the right thing. We'll also use this at the end of the process to check we ended up with the right product. This is often called a specification.
Now for the fun part. Find a clean space, a large piece of white paper and a black pen. How you do this bit is entirely up to you. Scribble, sketch and fill your paper up with ideas and notes. Once your pen hits the paper don't stop. Let yourself go off on tangents and don't worry about feasibility. Just scribble. If you're doing this in a group then ensure a "no critique" rule. No idea is a bad idea at this stage and critical comments hinder the creative process.
It's time to find out what's feasible. Prototyping can take many forms and this is dependent on your project. Pens, cardboard, glue, tape and scissors make great prototyping tools. This is a rough and ready way of producing multiple prototypes. Produce a handful of prototypes from your better ideas. Start noting which ones have potential and which don't make any sense.
No is the time to get critical. List a dozen of your best ideas in a row as table column headers. Have a look back to your specification statements (part 3, define). Underneath create rows for each of your specifications. Go through each design and give it a score for each point in the specification. 10 if it meets it perfectly, 0 if it doesn't. Sum up these scores and the highest could be your winner. If none of them score highly it's time to go back to the drawing board with some added direction.
With a great idea to work from its time to start refining that prototype. This is an iterative process and you'll go back and forth between physical models and sketches. Repeat until your product satisfactorily meets the majority of your specification.
You now have a prototype that offers some of the functionality of your final product. Test it in its desired environment and with fresh faces. Record this process through notes, questionnaires or similar. I personally like to leave the object in a public space and watch the interactions people make from it from a distance.
Implement your learning and iterate to presentable technical drawings.
You're nearly there. Keep testing and comparing against your original specification.
The design process is iterative and cyclic. Keep going back to your specification and checking that your product meets it. Check that your specification is still relevant as it may change as your learn more about the problem.
Ideate, Implement, Test.
Good luck! This is just a quick introduction, if you feel like anything should be added to the list or expanded upon - tweet us @Huxlo_UK.
Interested in having a go?