Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

Classroom Compass
Volume 2 Number 3
Summer 1996


Stages in the Design Process

Design is a creative process that occurs in many settings. The steps outlined below offer a structured format for a formal design process based on models from industry.

Analyze the situation
Before beginning the design, sort out what problem you are trying to address.

Write a brief
Write a short statement giving the general outline of the problem to be solved.

Research the problem
Sometimes a problem can be solved "straight out of your head," but in most cases you will need to gain some new information and knowledge.

Write a specification
This detailed description of the problem spells out what the design must achieve and what limitations will affect the final solution.

Work out possible solutions
Combine your ideas with information obtained from your research to suggest several possible design solutions. Sketch several possibilities on paper.

Select a preferred solution
Decide which solution to develop. Although the chosen solution should, ideally, be the one that best satisfies the specifications, other constraints such as time, cost, or skills may limit the decision.

Prepare working drawings and plan ahead
Draw the chosen design including all the details that are important to its construction.

Construct a prototype
Make the product. In industry a model is usually built first and the final product is developed from it, but in most classrooms, the model is the final product.

Test and evaluate the design
Testing is ongoing as the construction progresses, but a final test of the entire system or model proves if the project does the job for which it is designed. Look back at the specifications and check the requirements carefully. Ask such questions as: How well does the design function? Does the design look good? Is the product safe to use? Were suitable materials used? How could I have improved on my design?

Write a report
The report provides evidence of your work in analysis, planning, designing, carrying out the practical work, evaluating, and communicating.

Adapted from Garrett, J. (1991). Design and Technology. Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press.
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