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Design Process

The design cycle model and the design process

"Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” Steve Jobs, Apple Computer.

1.1.1 Describe how designers use design cycle models to represent the design process.

Design may be described in a variety of ways and degrees of complexity. Some design cycle models are simple and some are more complex. The design process usually consists of successive stages that can be arranged as a systematic cyclical process that eventually converges to produce a solution to a problem.


1.1.2 List the stages of the IB design cycle model (DCM)

The IB DCM is made up of six following stages:

  • identifying or clarifying a need or opportunity
  • analysing, researching and specifying requirements
  • generating ideas and solutions
  • developing the chosen solution
  • realising the chosen solution
  • testing and evaluating the chosen solution

We will use IB design cycle model (DCM)

I.B. design cycle model

1.1.3 Describe a design brief.

The design brief is the formal starting point for a new design. Occurs when the designer presents the design to the client. It is a statement of the expectations of the design. The brief does not provide the design solution, but is a statement that sets out:
  • the design goal (for example, a working prototype to be evaluated in terms of its feasibility for volume production)
  • the target market for the product (for example, for children, disabled adults)
  • the major constraints (for example, should comply with new legislation, have fewer working parts, be cheaper to manufacture) within which it must be achieved
  • the criteria by which a good design proposal may be achieved (for example, increased value for money and/or cost-effectiveness for manufacturer).
  • Design problem & Brief example.
  • ClearDesignUK outlines the steps and provides an example of a Design Brief

1.1.4 The identifying or clarifying a need or opportunity stage

The context of the problem is described and a concise brief stated. The design process can begin with a problem, an identified need, a market opportunity, a demand, a desire to add value to an existing product, or a response to opportunities presented by technological developments. The initial design problem is a loose collection of constraints, requirements and possibilities. From this, the designer has to make a coherent pattern. The design brief states the intended outcome and the major constraints within which it must be achieved.

Every designer begins with the identifying of an opportunity and with an idea of how to successfully take advantage of the opportunity. The idea may initiate with an individual or in a meeting or be original or a past success. A designer should foster his idea and ask questions, informally assessing the market and technical feasibility, take advantage of resources, and analyse the outcomes of his need.

  • Fostering your idea and allowing it to be worked on, you lower its chance of being deserted before it could evolve into a successful development. When considering the idea further ask questions such as:
    • Who will benefit from the idea?
    • Is the idea technically feasible?
    • What will be the costs of developing this idea? And could we afford it?
  • Informally assessing the market and technical probability.
    • Be tolerant of the practicality of the idea (can change it to make it a more successful one) If the idea fails, the designer should be prepared to do research on the technical and marketable probability of your idea- which could involve making connections with customers and providers of materials.
    • Demonstrate to other people, need to know product is needed
    • Learn more about idea by taking advantage of the Internet, books, conversations, and reports.

1.1.5 Design specification

The design specification justifies the precise requirements of a design. The specification will include a full list of the criteria against which the specification can be evaluated.

Design specifications are the foundation of designing. These steps are used by designers all over no matter what may be the product.

A more detailed PDS can be found here PDS

1.1.6 Describe the analyzing, researching, and specifying requirements stage of the IB design cycle model.

Developing the specification from the brief is an evolving process beginning with an initial set of specifications and culminating in a final product design specification (PDS).
  1. Start of with a set of basic initial specifications. Use Pugh's plate or a list of areas (and their sub-categories) such as; market, practical function, appearance, materials, construction, social and environmental effects.
  2. Next research and collect data under those areas.
  3. Analyse the data.
  4. As you research start to finalise the product design specification (PDS). In fact, you may change them as you start to develop your design as you encounter new problems or ideas.

Benefits of analyzing, researching and specifying:

  • Makes clear what you want to achieve and helps you set goals.
  • Clarifies what works well and what might be more challenging.
  • Makes you recognise future problems early so that you can avoid them or correct them.
  • Informs you perhaps about future decision taking we might face later on in the developing process.
  • Tells you about additional information needed to proceed.

1.1.7 Describe the generating ideas and solutions stage of the IB design cycle model.

Divergent thinking is used to consider ways in which a problem may be solved. The starting point for the generation of ideas should be the design specification, and proposals should be evaluated against this specification, with evidence of relevant research used to rate the ideas in terms of their usefulness. A variety of approaches should be used, and different possibilities explored and analysed, before deciding on the most suitable solution.

As a verb, "to design" refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component. As a noun, "a design" is used for either the final (solution) plan (e.g. proposal, drawing, model, description) or the result of implementing that plan (e.g. object produced, result of the process)

Activity: Pick a topic. Use a blank sheet of paper to jot down any ideas that come to mind. Do not try to control the mind or make critiques of the ideas that you have made ... just keep writing. When done THEN you can review what was written.

1.1.8 Describe the developing the chosen solution stage of the IB design cycle model.

A final concept is developed taking into account the conflicting needs of the manufacturer and the user, and the requirement of the design as set out in the specifications. A complete proposal is developed based upon the research and the designer’s personal ideas. This stage involves detailed drawings (of a style relevant to the task).

These are some of the drawing techniques:

  • 2D or working Drawings - front, top/pan/elevation and side views
  • 3D Drawings - Isometric
* Isometric drawings
* Single Point Perspective
* Two Point Perspective
  • Exploded Isometric Drawings
  • Sectioned Views
  • Animations (with moving or rotating designs and parts, or 'pop-up cards'

This site shows some great Development Sheets to help illustrate the development step.

1.1.9 Describe the testing and evaluating the chosen solution stage of the IB design cycle model.

The final outcome is tested and evaluated against the requirements set out in the specification. Recommendations for modifications to the design are made. A reiteration process should now begin.

Testing the final outcome of the product.

  • After production, the “prototype”, must go through a strict series of tests.
  • Different tests are used and are important for specific products.
    • A child’s toy, for example, must go through damage tests. As in this example, we know that children, may not be so careful and often drop things, therefore the product will be tested for damage control, as it must be rugged.
  • The opinion of the end-user, is deeply important, they must be questioned, and there responses taken into account.
    • These end-users must try out the product and give feedback about it. Such as a Boxer, trying out new gloves.
  • Safety, is also a key factor, the product must be checked for potential hazards.
    • They could be shown in many different forms, such as; toxicity in crayons, or small parts in children’s toys.
  • One very important factor is that it meets the market areas standards.
    • Different countries, and sometimes cities, have different requirements and standards.
  • The design must also be checked for manufacturing price, and material change if needed.

Evaluating and redesigning the final product

  • After feedback is received, it must be implemented in to the final design, before mass production, and/or standard manufacturing.
  • Through redesign, the product should become more user-friendly, and therefore increase product value.
  • After the redesign is completed, it must re-go the initial testing procedures
    • It must, once again, be shown to the end-user, and the feedback should be taken into account; weather the design is proclaimed ready, or it must re-go even more change.
    • Also the standards of the market must be checked, and the product must meet them.
Keypad testing Phone usability test

A Souvenir: Design and make an attractive souvenir that features Egyptian themes which tourists would like to buy.

1.1.10 Explain why the IB design cycle model is not linear and why it is iterative in practice, thus making it representative of design thought and action.

The model emphasises that designing is not a linear process. Evaluation, for example, will take place at various stages of the process, not just at the end. Similarly, ideas for possible solutions are not only generated at the “generating ideas” stage; some good ideas may develop even as early as the “identifying needs” stage. In practice, it is impossible to separate the stages of the design process as clearly as the model suggests.

The fact that there is no definite direction or specific order attached to the design wheel, enables the designer to have any starting point. This gives the designer the freedom they wish.

Topics: Iterative process, generating ideas innovation.

1.1.11 Explain the role of the designer in the design process.

The designer’s role varies depending on the complexity of the process and the intended outcome.

Working as a designer usually implies being creative in a particular area of expertise. Designers are usually responsible for developing the concept and making drawings or models for something new that will be made by someone else. Their work takes into consideration not only how something will look, but also how it will be used and how it will be made. There can be great differences between the working styles and principles of designers in different professions.However the designer is not limited only to designing the product but rather he is provided with the job of taking charge of the whole design process.

1.1.12 Describe how designers interact with others and how the emphasis of the design process varies depending on the designer’s role.

Designers often work as members of a team. Priorities will vary depending on the nature of the activity. For example, the information required by an architect will be different from that required by an engineer.

Carry out the The Marshmallow Challenge

Samsung Design Team TEDtalks ... Tom Wujec: Build a tower, build a team

1.1.13 Explain why elements of the model may differ in importance according to the particular design context.

Depending upon the nature of the problem, not all elements of the cycle carry the same weight in terms of time allocation and complexity. Points to consider include cost, resources, skills, time, original design specification and product modification.

1.1.14 Define incremental design, radical design, convergent thinking and divergent thinking.

Incremental design
Small changes to the design of a product that seem trivial but the cumulative effect of which over a longer period can be very significant.
Radical design
Where a completely new product is devised by going back to the roots of a problem and thinking about a solution in a different way.
Convergent thinking
The ability to analyse information in order to select an answer from alternatives.
Divergent thinking
Using creative ability to produce a wide range of possible solutions to a problem.

1.1.15 Describe the relationship between incremental design and convergent thinking.

Since convergent thinking is analytical and solution focused and one typical area it is used is during evaluation where limitations are discovered or noted and recommended improvements on the design are given. This by nature is supported incremental design.

Look at your mobile phones. Identify a limitation and suggest an improvement. Is there something missing that would be nice?

1.1.16 Describe the relationship between radical design and divergent thinking.

As divergent thinking is conceptual and problem focused and one stage it is evident is the generating of ideas. Where 'thinking outside the box' is promoted to come up with new ideas based on a set of specifications. Brainstorming is a good example of divergent thinking.

Look at the person shovelling snow. Ergonomically it is not very sound to performing this act on a regular basis. It could cause harm. Brainstorm ideas that would improve the situation of having to shovel snow.

For the activity

1.1.17 Explain how elements of the design model reflect convergent and divergent thinking.

Convergent thinking is analytical and solution focused, for example, during evaluation. Divergent thinking is conceptual and problem-focused, for example, used to generate ideas.

Study the I.B. Design cycle and identify the areas where divergent and convergent thinking occurs.

1.1.18 Explain how design work is often a combination of incremental and radical thinking.

For example, the use of a new material for a product may be a radical leap forwards but the product may look very similar to previous products: a tennis racquet made from carbon fibre is a radical development, but the shape and form are similar to previous designs.
Wooden Racquets Carbon Fibre Racquets

The Alessi juicer (below) is a combination of incremental and radical in that the juicer must still function as a juicier and that must be intuitive to the user. It has incorporated plenty of small changes from previous products, however, the one radical change is in its form;

Look for 2 products that have a combination of both radical and incremental design. Include a picture. Explain why.
Look for two products each that are either radical or incremental only in design. Include a picture. Explain why.


Numbered list and italicised paragraphs are excerpted from Design Technology: guide. Cardiff Wales, UK: International Baccalaureate Organization, 2007.

Images are clickable links to its location.

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Page last modified on August 19, 2013, at 08:17 PM