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This book is not finished. We’ve been developing it over the past few years. It began as a manilla folder with copies of different process models. We completed the first “book” version as part of a project undertaken for Elaine Coleman and Sun’s Virtual Center for Innovation. We present this version for educational purposes only. We have obtained no permissions to reproduce any of the models. Copyrights remain with their owners.

If you know of any models which are not featured in this book, please feel free to share them with us.

Everyone designs. The teacher arranging desks for a discussion. The entrepreneur planning a business. The team building a rocket.

Their results differ. So do their goals. So do the scales of their projects and the media they use. Even their actions appear quite different. What’s similar is that they are designing. What’s similar are the processes they follow.

Our processes determine the quality of our products. If we wish to improve our products, we must improve our processes; we must continually redesign not just our products but also the way we design. That’s why we study the design process. To know what we do and how we do it. To understand it and improve it. To become better designers.

In this book, I have collected over one-hundred descriptions of design and development processes, from architecture, industrial design, mechanical engineering, quality management, and software development. They range from short mnemonic devices, such as the 4Ds (define, design, develop, deploy), to elaborate schemes, such as Archer’s 9-phase, 229-step “systematic method for designers.” Some are synonyms for the same process; others represent differing approaches to design.

By presenting these examples, I hope to foster debate about design and development processes.

How do we design? Why do we do it that way?

How do we describe what we do? Why do we talk about it that way?

How do we do better?

Asking these questions has practical goals:

  • reducing risk (increasing the probability of success)
  • setting expectations (reducing uncertainty and fear)
  • increasing repeatability (enabling improvement)

Examining processes may not benefit everyone. For an individual designer—imagine someone working alone on a poster—focusing on process may hinder more than it helps. But teaching new designers or working with teams on large projects requires us to reflect on our process. Success depends on:

  • defining roles and processes in advance
  • documenting what we actually did
  • identifying and fixing broken processes

Ad hoc development processes are not efficient and not repeatable. They constantly must be reinvented making improvement nearly impossible. At a small scale, the costs may not matter, but large organizations cannot sustain them.

From this discussion, more subtle questions also arise:

How do we minimize risk while also maximizing creativity?

When must we use a heavy-weight process? And when will a light-weight process suffice?

What is the place of interaction design within the larger software development process?

What is the place of the software development process within the larger business formation processes?

What does it mean to conceive of business formation as a design process?

See also our Model of The Creative Process.

Download PDF

35 Comments

  • [...] of Anatta or “not-self”. I had just finished reading through Hugh Dubberly’s new book – “How do you design – A Compendium of Models” which I enjoyed thoroughly. I’m a sucker for diagrams that offer to map out the creative [...]

  • [...] think I posted it here but this initiative about mapping and analyzing design process is of tremendous value. Hugh Dubberly collected [...]

  • [...] you to Nicolas, find a .pdf of interest: Hugh Dubberly, a planner and teacher has compiled: How do you design?, a compendium of models. There are plenty of other goodies on the Dubberly Design Office website. Our processes determine [...]

  • [...] How do you design? : An PDf draft of a book looking at 100+ different designer’s processes. “Our processes determine the quality of our products. If we wish to improve our products, we must improve our processes; we must continually redesign not just our products but also the way we design. That’s why we study the design process. To know what we do and how we do it. To understand it and improve it. To become better designers.” [...]

  • Dean Meyers

    Dec 5, 2008
    5:46 am

    This is a tour-de-force, wiht great (and, halleluia, consistent) diagramming to accompany clean clear text on designing as a process.

  • How do you design?

    Dec 5, 2008
    11:02 pm

    [...] Dubberly from Dubberly Design Studios is writing a book called How Do You Design?, which examines design processes that they have collected over the years. The premise is that, [...]

  • carlnunes

    Dec 7, 2008
    5:12 am

    trial and error

  • How do you design? Ebook | Konigi

    Dec 8, 2008
    11:03 am

    [...] do you design? Ebook Hugh Dubberly has released a free E Book on design and development models. In this book, I have collected over one-hundred descriptions of design and development processes, [...]

  • [...] Dubberly has released a free E Book on design and development models. © 2008 Catch & Release Media, LLC. ALL RIGHTS [...]

  • BrianSJ

    Dec 9, 2008
    3:18 am

    Thank you so much. It is wonderful to see great work, such as Chris Jones’, being brought to a new audience.

  • [...] [Beta] How do you design? This book is not finished. We’ve been developing it over the past few years. It began as a manilla folder with copies of different process models. We completed the first “book” version as part of a project undertaken for Elaine Coleman and Sun’s Virtual Center for Innovation. We present this version for educational purposes only. We have obtained no permissions to reproduce any of the models. Copyrights remain with their owners. [...]

  • Nick Marsh

    Dec 10, 2008
    1:43 am

    Thank you so much for putting this together – Its a super inspiring (and excitingly daunting!) piece of work. I’ve posted it on my blog to share with the service design community. http://www.choosenick.com/?action=view&url=how-do-you-design Also, we have a process description on our website that you may wish to incorporate: http://www.enginegroup.co.uk/service_design/our_process

  • [...] we discuss about an online book – how do you design? — that provides a review on cross-displine design processes. The book is a compendium of [...]

  • [...] mi fa scoprire Eightface che mi ha fatto scoprire Dubberly. Dubberly sembra piacere anche a Kurai che però si scorda il (via), ma lo perdono…Ottimo [...]

  • Christopher Fahey

    Dec 12, 2008
    5:11 pm

    What a fantastic collection!

    My favorite of all time, however, is still this one:

    Michael Beirut on his design process: “When I do a design project, I begin by listening carefully to you as you talk about your problem and read whatever background material I can find that relates to the issues you face. If you’re lucky, I have also accidentally acquired some firsthand experience with your situation. Somewhere along the way an idea for the design pops into my head from out of the blue. I can’t really explain that part; it’s like magic. Sometimes it even happens before you have a chance to tell me that much about your problem! Now, if it’s a good idea, I try to figure out some strategic justification for the solution so I can explain it to you without relying on good taste you may or may not have. Along the way, I may add some other ideas, either because you made me agree to do so at the outset, or because I’m not sure of the first idea. At any rate, in the earlier phases hopefully I will have gained your trust so that by this point you’re inclined to take my advice. I don’t have any clue how you’d go about proving that my advice is any good except that other people — at least the ones I’ve told you about — have taken my advice in the past and prospered. In other words, could you just sort of, you know…trust me?” (http://www.designobserver.com/archives/entry.html?id=17485)

  • sascha

    Dec 14, 2008
    8:01 am

    Locative media and the city: from BLVD-urbanism towards MySpace urbanism by Martijn de Waal

    “Great cities are not like towns, only larger”, urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs observed almost half a century ago. But what then is it that makes a city into a city? Now that telecom operators, handset builders, and media companies are churning out new media technologies that promise to drastically alter our sense of place, this question has once again become very urgent. Whether we call them locative media, contextual media, or placed-based media, these technologies promise to change the way we interact with our surroundings. Let me call this new way of experiencing the city “MySpace urbanism”.

    http://www.receiver.vodafone.com/locative-media-and-the-city

  • [...] I’ve always been a bit of methodology junkie, so imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this great Beta E-book on design methodologies. Author Hugh Dubberly walks us over 100 different processes and methodologies in his book How do you design? [...]

  • [...] How Do You Design – Exploration of design processes currently available as a free download. [...]

  • [...] How Do You Design – Exploration of design processes currently available as a free download. [...]

  • Adam Richardson

    Dec 30, 2008
    11:38 pm

    Thanks for bringing this together, it’s a great collection. I look forward to absorbing it in more detail. I actually did a bit of consulting for Sun on their new product development process, but for SMCC rather than SunSoft, so it was interesting to see their process – actually quite different.

    There is a great quote in Ralph Caplan’s classic book By Design from Charles Eames about the process that he and Eero Saarinen used in one of their early collaborations. It’s lengthy so I won’t quote it here, but I have it in an old blog post: http://www.richardsona.com/main/2006/2/22/the-difficult-things-are-easy-its-the-simple-things-which-are-difficult.html

    Would be fun to see this one broken down as a graphic!

  • [...] Dokument przygotowała firma Dubberly Design Office [...]

  • [...] December 18th There’s an amazing pdf of people’s design process’ collected by Hugh Dubberly at [Beta] How do you design? Via [...]

  • How do you design? - modula

    Jan 8, 2009
    8:20 am

    [...] How do you design? is a book about different process models by Dubberly Design Office. You can download the beta (pdf) by following this link. [...]

  • [...] [Beta] How do you design? [...]

  • [...] How do you design? is Hugh Dubberly’s ‘unfinished’ book with a great collection of over one-hundred descriptions of design and development processes, from architecture, industrial design, mechanical engineering, quality management, and software development. [...]

  • [...] for more design ideas check out Hugh Dubberly’s “How do you design?” and get the pdf. This is an ‘unfinished’ book with a collection of over hundred [...]

  • Christian Drehkopf

    Mar 25, 2009
    7:33 am

    You probably should have a look at our diploma. We developed a “Design-Process” for designers who want successfully design business. The process could be used for service design as for business-model and brand design also. For instance it is written in German but will be translated into near future.

    http://process-design.org/bilder.html

    Cheers Christian

  • Waikit Chung

    Apr 22, 2009
    11:01 pm

    Thank you for the very nice free PDF book, which is very interesting to read. I have shared it with my readers, who are mostly industrial designers:

    http://www.productdesignhub.com/articles/35-design-insights/55-how-do-you-design

  • Tytti-Lotta

    Oct 7, 2009
    11:57 am

    Fantastic! Thank you for sharing this work.

  • Pavankumar Sargar

    Dec 5, 2009
    12:45 am

    Nice one!!

  • Minneapolis Electrician

    Jan 27, 2011
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    Jan 30, 2011
    4:07 pm

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  • Constanza Miranda

    Feb 3, 2011
    7:42 am

    Great piece of work, I hope I can help with the contribution as I fulfill my dissertation.

    Thanks! Constanza Miranda-Mendoza Design for Social Innovation PhD Student NCSU.

  • shiva

    Oct 21, 2011
    4:11 pm

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  • Ricardo

    Sep 13, 2013
    12:30 am

    All the funnel models need to be included…

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