July 26, 2014

The Power in a Design Brief

travelling into new territory

What is the role of a design brief?  What are the key tensions inherent in a design brief that seeks responses that are distinctly different from the status quo?

In trying to meet the two main challenges of a design brief:

  1. Be SPECIFIC enough to describe what is required based on the knowledge that the education setting has on its resources, needs and values
  2. Be AMBIGUOUS enough to be open to what the design process might unearth

tensions between reconciling these two seemingly polar-opposite concepts will inevitably arise, particularly if the design brief seeks something distinctly different from the status quo – i.e. it seeks innovation, rather than incremental change.

There will be tension between the known and the unknown – the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.  There will be tension between knowledge and concept – practical reality (knowledge) and creativity (concepts);  and there could be tension between trying to reconcile what BIG wants (eg. Education minister, School system; budget constraints) with the wants and needs of the SMALL (eg. individual students’ learning needs, work skills needed for future).

There is value in a design brief that acknowledges and identifies these tensions and constraints so that they can be brought to the design process, informing and becoming part of the end solution.

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