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"Design-Hacks" for Young Carers

Architecture Unknown

Jun 2021



Messy, always unknown and never finished. That's design.

Recently we were asked to prepare engaging exercises for young carers in Hulme and Moss Side to illustrate and inspire them to think like designers. We've copied a section of the transcript below introducing the day's activities and showing a few keys ways that designers approach problems. These "design hacks" are fun ways we use to stop ourselves getting bogged down when we're tackling new problems and keep our thinking fast and agile.


Today is focussed on how to THINK like a designer as much as it is about designing great wellness-concepts. In our work we design every day, we take complex problems and break them down to find suitable solutions. We have to be able to turn this skill on and off to “schedule in” creativity rather than wait for it to strike! To do this we have developed a series of “design-hacks” to trick our brains into being creative without letting the complexity of the problem become overwhelming. Today we’re going to tell you our “7 steps to creative thinking” and ask you to apply these to the ideas you came up with yesterday to develop these thoughts into workable projects.

- Never approach a blank page head-on:
Don’t expect to be struck by creative inspiration looking at a perfectly blank page. That is just a route to stress and frustration. Today we’re going to be focussing on how you can trick your brain into being creative by getting you to think AROUND a problem NOT approach it head on.

- Design is like a spiral staircase:
You feel like you’re going round in circles but actually you’re always going upwards. There is something inherently chaotic about design and even the most simple design questions have lots of layers that it is impossible to unpick all at once. Just keep stepping!

- Investigate, create, analyse, adapt:
Each of those steps on the designer’s spiral staircase is a different “design process”.
Investigate: Research the background of your design.
Create: Allow this research to influence you and apply your own creativity to improve those ideas. Do this roughly and follow your gut instinct, don't aim for perfection!
Analyse: Step back from your work and check to see if it works! Judge it against the criteria of the questions you’re answering and your own feelings.
Adapt: Make changes to the design to reflect the areas it could be improved.
Then return to the start again - investigate the problem your design solves to reflect more complex requirements etc… until you run out of time!

Smiling Man on Laptop

Design in positive spirals, each step leading to more knowledge and refinement of the design

- Fail positively, fail upwards
Bear in mind that even the most experienced designers never get it right the first time. More important is to not be discouraged by partial failure and remember that each time you Analyse something you’ve made it's an opportunity to improve it no matter how good or bad it looks right then.

- Great design takes time
Stay focussed on the task at hand and try not to get distracted by what’s coming up. This will just adding pressure on you. Don’t try and jump to the end of the design process. Don’t try to climb the outside of the spiral staircase just to go vertically up, it’s much harder!

- Remember there is no right answer
Design is all about your opinion and understanding but there is no right way to design and different designers can come up with equally excellent but very different answers to complex problems. Design is neither right nor wrong, it exists naturally in shades of grey because it is based on our lives.

- Don’t be afraid to have an opinion
It’s no secret that designers can be opinionated which is great for pushing you to excellence, BUT remember just because you have an opinion doesn’t make you right. Be respectful of other people’s answers to complex design questions and try to understand how and why they have come to different conclusions to you. Learn from others and stay constructive!

Today we’re going to be leading you through a designer’s process to evolve your ideas from Friday and show you how to think like designers. So, whilst you’re focussing on the answers to your design questions also bear in mind these “design-hacks” and if you’re stuck just let us know and we will help you think around the problem. Don’t forget to have fun!

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