4 Stages of the Design Process

“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”

~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Part II of the series of articles on The Art of Design:

4 Stages of the Design Process:

  1. Ask All the Questions

    Artists come up with lots of great designs. However, when designing a piece the engineering or functionality of the piece should be well thought out prior to starting with the actual material.

    Of course if the piece doesn't need to be functional, well that’s entirely another design consideration. Consider how is it going to hang, is the hole in the right area to provide balance, does the piece have symmetry or are you trying to provoke emotion with 3 elements, can it take wear and tear, are the materials suitable, etc.

  2. Think Laterally

    Challenge yourself to think laterally when designing from inspiration.  Instead of seeing the obvious, look to see what elements, ideas, or inspiration can be gained by finding a solution beyond the obvious. 

    Do you just see the saguaro cactus or do you see the undulating lines that could be formed by fold-forming a piece with a hammer and vise?

  3. Consider the Elements

Create a checklist for each of your creations until it becomes second nature.  Your list might have the following: shape, form, texture, line, mark, color, the 5 senses, emotion, function, materials, and process. 

    What elements do your piece contain and which should be carefully edited or added?

  4. Apply the Design Development

Take one element from your design or idea and begin to sketch.  Sketch additional  ideas and elements.  Think laterally and in stream of consciousness fashion asking yourself “what about this” or “what if I add or subtract that”. 

    Consider each new sketch, each progression and refine as you build the design.  This is the voyage of your design.  Enjoy the trip!

Don't forget to leave a comment and get entered to win a F*R*E*E give-away from Whole Lotta Whimsy! Drawing is November 15th, 2011!

15 Responses to 4 Stages of the Design Process

  1. Love the thought process! I enjoy having pieces come to me instead the other way around. I have many designs that have been pushed around on the design table…sometimes for over a year and then….bam! I have a dream or see something that strikes me and it all comes together. I love sketching make an effort to do more of that and stretch my abilities. Thanks for sharing! ~T.

  2. I started doing this recently. I had been kicking around an idea for weeks and finally sat down to make it, and it didn't work out the way I thought it would. A booki on design that I was reading made suggestions similar to what you have listed above, and I worked through the list, thinking about my idea. It was very instructive, and I resolved to do this step before sitting down at the workbench next time.

  3. I would love to be able to sketch my ideas prior to fabrication, but I can't get my hand to create the idea that is in my head. So, I usually end up creating a piece as I go. The end result, many times, is not a thing like what I had imagined. Sometimes I have to scrap the piece and begin again, or sometimes an entirely different design emerges. It's all part of my creative process. Surprises can be fun!

  4. In another lifetime, I was a software engineer. The process you outline hold for every project or problem I ever worked on, and still works for me as a jewelry artist. Its one area where I don't fight that side of my brain! However, I still need to work on thinking laterally when it comes to making jewelry!! Great article & great reminder!

  5. Great reminder Tonya – all too often we get an idea, and if not thought through before execution, it needs reworking or scrapping because it's not functional. I have a piece on my bench right now that's been sitting there for weeks for that very reason.


  6. You always help me to look at the way I am doing things and realise I could do it better! Thanks, Tonya, I am going back to all my designs and re-examine them!!! Not to mention push the envelope on any future designs that I might come up with!!! I especially like your checklist idea!!!

  7. I can never seem to get what I have in my head on paper, and the few times I have drawn out a design, I end up building something totally different by the time it's finished. Now I take out my cut stones, arrange them on the workbench, open up my silver stock box, and began building – it tells me when it's done!

  8. When considering the elements I also like to think about the person I am designing for -how can the piece be a refection of that person.

  9. Design is only part as you clearly state. From past experience I found that a piece must be worn to find it's flaws.

  10. Thanks for this. It is good to really consider all these aspects, even when you have and idea in mind. It may be incomplete until some crucial time.

  11. Designing is very visual for me. I have to see the items together to get a perspective. I've never been a sketcher but maybe it would be something I should give a try. I am working more with silver clay and I can see where a sketch would be valuable.

    Thanks for all the helpful hints and ideas, Tonya.

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