J. PAUL NEELEY      SPECULATIVE DESIGN      SERVICE DESIGN      PROCESS     ABOUT  

DESIGN PROCESS
I tend to think of the design process in the map above. There are three main phases: research, design, and implementation. The processes starts with questions or problems, with research leading to insights, then design to proposed solutions, and then finishes with implemented solutions. The height of the three phases represent the divergent thinking at the start of each phase, and the convergent thinking towards the end, with the amount of divergence diminishing as we move from research to implementation. I also render multiple paths within each phase to try and show the various directions explored and complicated nature of each phase.
Another idea that I find useful to layer on the design process is the consideration of the spectrums of current state to future state (x-axis), and concrete to abstract (y-axis), the above inspired by the Analysis-Synthesis Bridge Model (Dubberly, Evenson, & Robinson). We generally start with concrete information about the current state (lower left quadrant), and with this data about how the world is we synthesize an abstracted model of the current state (upper left quadrant). We then design an abstrated vision of the future state (upper right quadrant) and then work make real that vision of the future (lower right quadrant).
One of the issues that design and business face today is that our methods typically simplify and isolate problems to a scale and scope that we are comfortable with and can understand. We then we design solutions that address this view of the world, and celebrate these solutions, but in reality we have no idea what we've done. In focusing on any particular problem, we've really just ignored everything else.

This idea is of critical importance, and I'm continuing to explore its implications with New Kind of Design. What I have found is that in our abstractions of the current state and future state we should include and will only benefit from radical expansions of our purview, always taking as much of a holistic systems approach as possible. Its one of the reasons I've drifted towards service design in my practice.
Most of the design work that I undertake has a significant technological component, and I've found Amara's law to be an important concept to keep top of mind. When we look to the future we tend to think about technology moving forward in a linear progression, but in reality improvements happen in a exponential fashion. This means that we over estimate its effects in the short run, and underestimate technology's impact in the long run. This understanding changes the way that we consider design proposals as we look forward towards the future.
The above chart is drawn from Dunne & Raby's (and Stewart Candy's) view of future cone's of possibilitiy, with the added curve to express the exponential nature of change. The shades indicate (moving from the inner to outer) probable, possible, and plausible futures, with the black line a potential preferable future. This view is one that has strongly influenced my design approach. Too often we talk about and design for highly probable futures, suggesting perhaps that the future is in some way set. Rather, time spent exploring the all possibilities & and even speculating on ideas at the edges of plausibility help reframe the view of our current state and remind us just how malleable the future is. Keeping this breadth in mind, and exploring throughout, helps us to not confirm our current trajectory, but to have serious discussions about new trajectories and preferable futures.
I've been very inspired by Dunne & Raby's a/b. Emerging from their practice, and explored extensively within Design Interactions at the RCA, (a) represents design as it is generally understood and how it typically operates today, and (b) suggests a sort of critical, and speculative design, one disconnected from the constraints and incentives of industry & the market. Many of these comparisons are profound, and this new view opens up expansive new opportunities for design. One comparison that has left a big impression on me is that of user/person. To design for the messy, complex, contradictory people that we are, rather than the perfect consumers that we are supposed to be is an extremely honest and inspiring starting point that leads us to exciting new kinds of outcomes.