|By Lee Simon / The General Group / July 2005|
|I will share with you one of the most valuable lessons that I learned
in college … it is the definition of success. Success equals expectations
plus one. That is to say, that in order to truly succeed - at anything
- one must not only meet, but exceed the expectations that exist.
This especially holds true in the design process. While I have spent
the last several years using this column to address issues related to design,
it dawned on me that I had never really discussed the design process itself.
Furthermore, I have noticed that many of my clients are unfamiliar with both the stages in the design process, and what to expect at each stage. So, I felt it was important to spend some time discussing the stages in the process. After all, if the expectations are not clear on the front end, it becomes very difficult to succeed – which is a recipe for disaster and disappointment for all involved.
A Known Sequence
Though I have been challenged on this issue in the past, it remains a fact that the design process is a linear process, with an established sequence of events that must be completed for the best results. In other words, one must complete step A before B, and B before C. Now, can they be completed out of sequence? Yes, they can … but the results are often inefficient and wasteful. Think about the way that we learn to read. First, we learn the alphabet – what each letter looks like and the sound that each letter makes independently. Then we focus on sounds that result from a combination of letters. “TH” and “SH,” for instance, have distinct sounds when placed together that they do not make when they exist on their own. The learning process continues as we learn how to put sounds together to make words. Eventually, we focus on reading several words and then sentences together to comprehend their meaning. The design process is very similar. Each stage in the process builds on work completed in the previous stages – it is a cumulative effort.
Stages in the Design Process
The following section will briefly review each stage of the design process, as well as some of the activities associated with each event.
At the end of the Specifications phase, the design documents will have been completed and the bidding and construction phases will begin. As you read through the phases of the design process, and the activities contained within each, it becomes apparent that there is a sequence of events that must be followed. Can you imagine trying to develop written specifications in the design development phase – before most of the engineering of the space has been finalized? Only if the entire development team (including the owner) is aware of the required sequence can the design process be effective and efficient. I often encourage clients to hold off on proceeding to the next phase if they are not 100% sure of the current direction. Going backwards is difficult, as it requires both undoing and re-doing the work that has been accomplished. Not only does this require a substantial amount of time, but it also increases the risk of costly mistakes in the development of the drawings.
Throughout the design’s evolution, the development team must check back with the previous phases to ensure that the design solution is consistent with the original objective. In other words, at the end of Design Development, and before the initiation of Construction Documents, the team should review and compare their current effort to the end result of the previous phases … just to make sure that they are content with the current direction. If all is well, then keep chugging along! If all is not well, however, then it is time to stop, review, and address the elements of the design that are not consistent with the overall objective. After all, it is much cheaper to revise the design than to make revisions in the field, in the midst of construction. Stated another way, it is much easier to change paper than it is to change concrete and steel.
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