No matter what I’m designing, I always start with writing, even if it’s a little diagram with a few words on it, a list, or a series of notes on my phone. Whenever I’ve done it any other way, I’ve not really optimised my time, I’ve dawdled or gone into a series of non productive directions. Writing helps set the initial direction and attitude. In a lot of the work we do at RITH, the writing part of proposing a project, or writing a specification of work, is inseparable from the design phase.
In order to write, I have to research and read or just think carefully as I write each sentence. I spend a fair bit of time doing this at the start of a project. It’s a slow process but it’s something you only do once. Call it creative procrastination or whatever, it works for me. It helps me fill in all the cracks in my knowledge just enough to be able to schedule production, before I begin something. Sometimes my writing can overcomplicate things and I can get a bit sidetracked, I’m aware of this, so I start making, drawing and sketching as soon as that starts to happen, whether it’s in digital form as a quick prototype or a sequence on paper or a design exploration. I also do this to start showing what I’m thinking of visually, but then, I discuss it and this is done in writing with notes and annotations. So we’re back to writing. It’s an inseparable part of my process. Doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone but it’s good for me.
If I’m collaborating, the process of writing is more important to me, it helps clarify what’s being built in clear terms. But herein lies the issue, what works for me isn’t necessarily useful to my collaborators, so I supplement it with whatever medium works for them too.
Design itself is a certain kind of language or series of interconnected concepts, rules and connections that are facilitated or instigated by a language. To me a designer who can’t talk through their work, or communicate the aim of their design activity with words, better be able to show you through their work directly, otherwise I’d be curious what their process is and if it’s any better.