Workshop: Hacking the Brief (Conceptual Design Thinking)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Description of Activity

Typically, Design Schools around the World do not formally teach conceptual design thinking to their students.

Many of the students that I have worked with during the past 20 years, struggle to conceptualise a design proposal because it is such an abstract idea to comprehend.

With any artistic production, to solve a design challenge or problem, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer.

Presenting a design idea in front of other students or a panel of tutors can be frightening and off-putting if someone lacks confidence in, or does not fully understand, what they have designed and how they have designed it.
Presenting a design idea in front of other students or a panel of tutors can be frightening and off-putting if someone lacks confidence in, or does not fully understand, what they have designed and how they have designed it.
When I was at university, conceptual thinking was an area of design that I struggled with; in my formative years as an architecture student, thinking in a non-linear manner was difficult and did not come naturally to me. Only with time and experience of working with ‘Real’ clients on ‘Live’ projects in practice, did the process become clearer.

To begin to solve this issue for my own students (who do not consider themselves to be ‘naturally gifted’ designers), I produced an interactive conceptual thinking workshop.

This workshop is called ‘Hacking the Brief’.

The workshop uses a combination of the ideas and principles theorised by Alex Faickney Osborn and Edward De Bono.

In a 2-hour period, this workshop enables participants to begin to understand conceptual design thinking.

Working in small groups, the workshop begins with a hand drawn ‘portraiture’ ice breaker exercise (Osborn), then takes the needs of a client or an organisation (described in a ‘Challenge Question’ or ‘Problem Statement’) and reinterprets them using synonyms (De Bono), then utilises interactive methods of creative thinking relating to ‘Brainstorming’ (Osborn).

The workshop uses Osborn’s key headings (‘go for quantity’, ‘withhold criticism’, ‘welcome wild ideas’ and ‘combine and improve ideas’) as starting points to reinterpret a design brief and turn it into something that is personal to the participants in an exciting and interactive way.

By using a combination of De Bono and Osborn’s principles, participants are able to describe and define their own design positions in simple and effective ways. The benefits of using fun and exciting methods is to engage students and help them to build confidence about developing design skills.
I have been running my ‘Hacking the Brief’ workshop with design students but also with members of the public, from non-design backgrounds, as part of my public consultation events, since 2008.
Period20 Oct 2022
Held atThe One Academy Art & Design College, Malaysia
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Keywords

  • Architectural education
  • interior design
  • Student Engagement
  • Workshop
  • International Outreach
  • international education research
  • International collaboration - Malaysia
  • Malaysia