Some background. I presented a live version of this post to a beginning thesis class at Pratt. I was tired of showing my own work and wanted to inspire them to get out of the classroom, go into the world, and Do Design. The video above and my 10 slides below are my attempt to do that.

What’s important and awesome about this video is that Eames is awesome. And Funny. Many of his answers are simply “No” or “I wouldn’t” (insert laughing!)

Listen in, about three minutes, when he is asked about constraints.

Q: “Does the creation of Design admit constraint?”

A: “Design depends largely on constraints.”

Q: “What constraints?”

A: “The sum of all constraints. Here is one of the few effective keys to the Design problem: the ability of the Designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible; his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. Constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface, of time, and so forth. Each problem has its own peculiar list.”

Q: “Does Design obey laws?”

A: “Aren’t constraints enough?”

Constraints are what I would call Step Zero of Doing Design. Eames said that the mark of a designer is their willingness to accept constraints, and to design with them. I don’t think this means we can’t change the world. We should, however, know what the world is all about before we decide what we are going to change.

The presentation below has 10 steps…or 9+1, as I like to say.


Step 1: Make something bad.

This is to say: start somewhere. After we’ve understood (or begun to understand) the constraints of the problem, we should start in the middle. Or as my thesis advisor would say:

Mock it up before you Fock it Up.

Truer words were never said.

Step 2: Mix up your Fidelity.

High Fidelity design experiments give higher fidelity results. Low fidelity prototypes give low fidelity results….but you can make more of them. Which way is better? Both!

Or…make a low-visual fidelity high-motion fidelity prototype. Mix it up.

Step 3: Make lots of things.

This is only to say that we should free ourselves to have lots of ideas, good and bad. Pretty straightforward.
How many flowers do you need in a field? Lots. More than you would think. There is no right amount. 17 pieces of flair? Is that the minimum required?

Step 4: Find real people to use those things.

Go outside, test your stuff out. You might learn something.

Step 5: Tell everyone about your passion

For students, this is easier…rope everyone in as your deputy. People will start funneling you ideas (good and bad), contacts and shared enthusiasm. If you share your passion for your project, it can only grow. Finding ways of relating your passion will refine it, make it clearer and sharper. This is storytelling. It’s important!

Step 6: Partner with enthusiasts

When you go into the world, you may be so lucky as to find like-minded souls. Hold onto them. Show them your work and get their opinions. Then take their advice and re-do your work. Then show them again. Since they’re enthusiasts, they won’t get bored of this. That’s good.

Step 7: Design for yourself

Wait…what? Yes…for yourself. After doing all of this, you will hear many conflicting opinions. They are non-reducible to clarity. You will have to be that instrument to weed out what’s important from what is less important. You will have to make choices. Design for yourself, with your values…through the user’s eyes. I call this Empathy.

Step 8: Stop digging

You might be getting tired now. Or is the work getting stale? Is the curve of awesomeness flattening out? When to stop? That’s up to you.

Step 9: Arrange your results, interestingly

Rule one of Information architecture is that organizing information creates new information. Arranging your results in an interesting way will tell you something out them. Organize them by ranked user preference. by size. By preference and cost. Use 1, 2 and three axis sorting methods. Try a few.

Step 10: Lather, rinse, repeat.

You might have learned something from steps 1-9. If you think you’re done, then you actually didn’t learn anything from step 9. If you’re over budget and over time…stop and ship. But if you can…start again at step 1 with what you learned at step 9.

So yeah…that’s all of that. Enjoy and share your thoughts!