Introduction to Design Studios

Amy Ogrin
Amy Ogrin
Aug 18, 2016 · 2 min read

“There are no rock stars in collaborative design.” -Will Evans

The Design Studio methodology is a rapid iterative process that allows teams of varied individuals to work together to solve design problems. It is about collaboration, iteration and idea creation. To get more familiar with this methodology, I read a bunch of articles and have combined their shared knowledge here.


Every article I read presented their own method of how to run a Design Studio. As you can imagine, they were all a little different. Below are a few different methods for running your own Design Studio.

Create. Pitch. Critique.

Goal: 6–8 concept sketches in given time frame, that solve the design problem.

  • Teams get a persona & design scenario.
  • Teams should be cross functional.
  • 5 minutes to create. 3 minutes to pitch. 2 minutes to critique.

“Critique is based on goals, not what you like or don’t like about the design.” -Todd Zaki Warfel

Illuminate. Sketch. Present Critique. Iterate.

Multiple cycles of this process are run individually first, then as teams. The goal is 1–2 solid concepts.

  • Illumination: 45 minutes to get business context & challenges
  • Collaborative Ideation: Rapid sketching activities
  • Presentation: Sell ideas, accept change, negotiate positions
  • Critique: Provide actionable and positive counterarguments
  • Iteration: Extract concepts and do it again!

“But this is not “design by committee,” by any stretch. Design Studio guides participations through an evolution in experience ideation.” -Will Evans

Research. Sketch. Present. Critique. Repeat.

  • Research: Well-defined design challenge, including a persona
  • Rapid sketching rounds: Teams of 4–5, 8 minutes tops
  • Presentation & Critique: Then refine ideas
  • Repeat: Repeat for 3 rounds

“Two big hurdles in running a design studio are comfort level with sketching and experience of participants in giving critique.” -Kelani Nichole

Decide participants. Write Exercise Brief. Set Up Rounds.

  • Best teams mix up participants from different backgrounds.
  • Take time beforehand to write up a short brief.
    — Personas : Who are you designing for?
    — Scenario: What situation are you designing for?
    — Design Principles: What guidelines should you consider?
    — Business Requirements: Are there business requirements?
    — Layout Studio Organization: What does everyone need to do?
  • Set up rounds (“charrettes”)
    — Round 1: 5 minute sketch, 10 minute critique
    — Round 2: 10 minute sketch from “best” sketch in round 1; 20 minute critique
    — Round 3: 15 minute sketching of SINGLE best sketch; 30 minute critique
    — Round 4: 20 minute sketch (one concept as a team); 35 minute critique

“Use this structure as a starting point for yourself, but change it up if something else works better for your group.” -Blake Sirach, Willowtree


  • Butcher Paper
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Sharpies
  • Stopwatch
  • Grid templates (for quick sketching)
  • Pencils

I plan to use the Design Studio methodology during Sprint 0 of an upcoming project, and will follow up with my experience then. Follow me to get notified when that’s published!

Amy Ogrin

Written by

Amy Ogrin

UX Strategist, living in Austin, TX.

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