My design process obsession began in the sixth grade, with a late morning pop quiz.
Directions: Read all the directions before beginning. Take out one sheet of lined paper. Write the number of siblings you have with a purple crayon. On line three, draw a picture of your favorite food...
In order to save time and be more efficient, I started carrying out the instructions as I went, until I reached the final directive:
Ignore directions one through twenty-five and enjoy watching everyone do this activity wrong.
A heavy rock sank down into my gut. I was probably the only kid in the room who had diligently plodded his way through illustrations of flowers, scrawling stars in the page corners, and folding up my sheet of paper in all sorts of intriguing ways, only to realize at the end that he should have stopped at the beginning. And it didn't help that my teacher and my classmates were watching me, wondering when I'd figure it out. Yes, I was the one keeping them from going out to the playground.
I'm not a linear thinker, okay? No wonder I ended up in this profession. Besides, doing great design work isn't this diagrammatic. Most designers can't quite articulate how they get the work done, other than to say that they iterate towards a result. You can't write that process down on a sheet of paper, hand it to someone else, and have them easily cough up a killer logo.
But when you're working in a group larger than you, that's exactly what you need to do, over and over again. We can't jog around our offices talking about how we're paid problem solvers, then go solve the wrong problems in a roundabout fashion, bearing the cost of wasted time, effort, and emotional turmoil. Those kinds of situations burn away at our patience until we snap. We don't want to get to the end of a project only to discover we took the wrong path at the beginning.
Here, I've tried to tease out some of the critical questions that need to be asked as part of your overall design process -- whether when dealing with clients, working your way to a design solution, or negotiating client feedbck.