VCD Theory and SAT Design Process

Design Process.

Part 1.



How to manage your design journey

How designers work

The following stages are in Design Process Part 2.

Our design process


VCAA, 2018, Visual Communication Design Study Design, Figure 1: A process for creating visual communication. (p 11). VCAA, Melbourne.

UK Design council double diamond


The UK Design Council, 2007, Double Diamond.


Design thinking

Design thinking is a term given to kinds of thinking that are used to stimulate, consider and evaluate design  and decisions. This section will examine how design thinking is embedded in each stage of the design process.

The role of creative, critical and reflective thinking in the design process



Take a look at the animation at left. This is a short, visual look at what happens in the Design Process, from an initial idea through to the production of a final presentation.

The animation also contains some blue circles. These show how three kinds of design thinking called Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking and Reflective Thinking are used at each stage of the design process to drive creativity, evaluate design decisions and reflect on a designer's journey.

As practitioners working within the Design Process we are expected to understand the role of Design Thinking and incorporate it at each stage of our work.

Some examples of how Design Thinking is incorporated into each phase of the Design Process are shown below.

Branch out


Click the image above to visit my page on Design Thinking and find out what kind of thinking is used in the Design Process.



Critical and reflective

Critical and Reflective Thinking strategies are used to

  • Identify and describe a client and analyse the scope, breadth of and the nature of their business.
  • Clarify a design problem by identifying and describing one (or two) communication needs
  • Elaborate on the communication needs by identifying and describing
    • the target audience
    • the purpose
    • the context
    • relevant constraints that apply and content that is required for the communication need. Expectations for how the solution to the communication need should be formed
    • The proposed presentation format for submission



Creative, critical and reflective

Creative, Critical and Reflective Thinking strategies are used to

  • guide investigation around a expanding on a communication need
  • analyse and evaluate information
  • sort and classify information to direct the Design Process with relevance to the brief
  • synthesise ideas and key features of designs. This can be achieved by;
    • sketching and combining images and ideas
    • sketching relevant parts of images and ideas
    • cutting and combining ideas in new ways or contexts
    • analysing colours in swatches, colour schemes
    • analysing type and layout by annotating type anatomy and components of a grid
  • reflect on how similar design problems may have been or have not been solved successfully by others
  • predict the challenges that might lie ahead of us and what might need to be done to solve them


  • Identify the kinds of research being undertaken
  • Identify, describe, analyse and evaluate research including;
    • aesthetic and functional qualities and considerations
    • effectiveness in engaging and maintaining the interest of the target audience
    • effectiveness in their present role including purpose and context
    • relationships with environmental, technological, economic, social, historical, stylistic factors that shape design
    • how they may contribute to the development of ideas for the present communication need
  • Link areas of research
  • Structure, sort and categorise research
  • Predict your process - suggest and direct where your further exploration could lead. Write a paragraph statement that explains what you have learnt from your research and describe the possible design directions you might take.
  • Explain the synthesis you have made
  • Link observational drawing with research
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations.

Generation of ideas



Critical Thinking helps synthesise research material by incorporating, combining, eliminating, changing and/ or adapting key features of existing designs.


Creative Thinking helps stimulate a wide range of approaches to visualising new ideas.

Creative thinking strategies are also used to re-invigorate or broaden the process of visualising divergently.


Reflective Thinking enables the

  • identification of features
  • discussion of how they may/ may not contribute to the design journey
  • evaluation of ideas as potential for meeting the needs in the brief.


  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on ideas in relation to the brief with this simple checklist about key ideas you have made;
    • how well does this appeal to my target audience?
    • how effectively does it meet the purpose in the brief?
    • how effectively would it suit the proposed context?
    • in what ways does it address the constraints in the brief?
    • does it have potential to be developed further? If so, how?
  • Direct your Design Process by sign posting and road-mapping further exploration
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Explain connections between your ideas and concepts and your research
  • Journal your Design Process

Development of concepts



Creative Thinking is used to drive further innovation directed at satisfying a communication need at deeper levels than that required during Generation of Ideas.


Critical Thinking routines are used as mechanisms from which useful feed back can be gained to support the evaluation of designs made. It also supports synthesis between ideas and key features of concepts by sparking innovative hybrid ideas that may satisfy a communication need more efficiently.


Reflective Thinking used to

  • consider the suitability of concepts from a variety of perspectives
  • as a framework to progressively record the analysis and justification of design decisions leading to the selection of preferred concepts for Refinement
  • to frame reflection on the use of the Design Process in a design journey and evaluate progress during various phases of development
  • to consider and expand on feedback leading to the improvement of design concepts.


  • Describe the functional and aesthetic qualities of elements and principles of design to support the purpose of the visual communication
  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on the development of concepts in relation to the brief
  • Link areas of development and synthesis
  • Document thinking from different perspectives
  • Explain and justify design decisions using design elements and principles and other terminology
  • Gather evidence to support and reject concepts
  • Document and provide reasons for selection of preferred concepts in relation to the brief
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Journal and evaluate the use of the Design Process
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations.



Creative and critical

Creative and Critical Thinking are used in similar ways to those used for Development of Concepts, however, the orientation of thinking is altered as the Refinement phase is one of convergent thinking.


Reflective Thinking drives the process of describing, evaluating and justifying design decisions against the communication needs identified in the brief.


  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on the refinement in relation to the brief
  • Link areas of refinement and synthesis
  • Document thinking from different perspectives
  • Explain and justify design decisions using design elements and principles and other terminology
  • Reflect on refinement of concepts in relation to the brief
  • Document and provide reasons for selection of preferred concepts in relation to the brief
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Document methods of testing prototypes and mock-ups
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of mock-ups following testing, referring to the in/ appropriate selections of materials, methods, media in relation to the functional and aesthetic requirements in the brief
  • Journal and evaluate the use of processes referring to the challenges and opportunities faced whilst producing mock-ups
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations.

Resolution of presentations



Reflective Thinking is used to consider and evaluate feedback received during and after the presentation of mock ups to a client. Reflection is required to determine necessary changes that need to be made to refined concepts prior to the Resolution of Presentations.

These reflections will be identified and described in detailed written annotations.


When producing final presentations Critical Thinking is used to consider, evaluate and ensure the maintenance of

  • innovation
  • technical expertise
  • ways of gaining attention and maintaining engagement of the target audience
  • relevant technical, layout and/ or typographic conventions
  • the purpose
  • the context
  • constraints and expectations
  • the proposed presentation formats chosen for the visual communication
  • relationships between visual communications where more than one are being produced


  • Reflect on and synthesise feedback received from testing prototypes and mock-ups
  • Describe, analyse, evaluate and reflect on prototypes and mock-ups in relation to the brief and presentation format
  • Document and expand on further development required to satisfy the communication need in relation to the brief
  • Describe and explain the design and construction of presentation formats
  • Explain and justify design decisions using design elements, principles and conventions
  • Explain links between presentation formats
  • Identify Design Thinking strategies used
  • Journal and evaluate the use of the Design Process
  • Reference all content observing trademark, copyright and legal obligations.


Your first task is to imagine you are a real designer at work. Consider and determine how and for whom you work and what it is they want you to design and present. Clarity at this stage is essential to drive your design process successfully.


There are many components to writing a successful brief. A student may begin with wondering. Others may have a strong idea about what it is they want to design. You are not expected to know exactly every thing at first, but we will undertake some tasks to assist you clarify your ideas about design problems called communication needs.

Format for Brief

There is no prescribed format for a brief as they are generated in a variety of different ways, usually in collaboration with designer and client. In fact, a brief is usually the result of several meetings or conversations between these parties as both become surer about the exact nature of a communication need, the constraints and how it is to be met. Typical formats for a student brief in Visual Communication Design are a list in paragraph form or a letter. Either are ok, as long as each contains the required information. The brief may be guided by a word limit.

Your teacher may set a time line for the drafting and completion of a brief and include a final sign off where it is finished. After this final stage the brief then becomes the criteria for evaluation of ideas and final presentation formats.

Some references to help

Familiarise yourself with the content of each of these pages in writing your brief.


What’s the problem?

The purpose of a brief is to define the nature of a design problem. This is known as a communication need. The brief identifies and describes;

  • who has set the problem (the client),
  • who exactly will use or see it (the target audience),
  • the reason for the need to be met(the purpose)
  • were it will be used or seen (the context).
  • There is also usually a list of requirements or features a client wants to see in the solution to their need. These are called constraints and expectations. Constraints are typically physical or tangible in nature, like words, numbers (text) or pictures (image) content for communication design, for environmental design constraints might include the number of rooms wanted in a house. Hence constraints usually refer to the functional considerations of the proposed design. Expectations typically refer the aesthetic considerations the client desires. These are also known as ‘tone and manner’. Examples of expectations could include a client wanting their design to be futuristic or perhaps rustic in feel.
  • The brief concludes with the identification of ‘proposed presentation formats’. This means the kind of deliverable (presentation format) the designer will supply. In communication design this may be an actual poster. However, for industrial or environmental design it is appropriate to represent the design solution as technical drawings, a three-dimensional rendering, model or prototype.


Tiea Sacco, 2019.

Let's get our creative on

The first set of tasks is designed to help students understand that it is problems or needs that drive designs. In addition, constraints and other factors shape the ways solutions are proposed for communication needs. Work through these activities to broaden students' understanding of the things they could consider designing for the SAT.

Two problems to the problem

The two problems involved in writing a brief are;

  1. knowing what you want to design
  2. writing the brief correctly.

Tasks 1 will help determine what students want to, or could design. At least it will give them something to think about and reflect on prior to actually writing the brief.

Tasks 2 will help students to write their brief.


Design thinking for this stage

Don't forget to do the Design Thinking relevant for this stage.

Press the link at left to visit the section.

tasks 1


Work in groups or pairs to consider why things were invented or designed. Choose and collect a picture of about ten of the world's most important inventions or designs. Some examples might be;

  • pen
  • cart
  • water bottle
  • bike
  • train station
  • gallery
  • your teacher
  • book
  • eye chart
  • hologram
  • velcro
  • TV
  • personal computer
  • moveable type
  • Google
  • Tesla car
  • school LMS

Under each picture describe the problem that existed prior to this product existing. When you do this you will be identifying the communication need.

Discuss your answers as a group.


What are some problems you would like to solve?

We may choose to do this as a group 'Post it' task. If so, let's all think of three kinds of problems that if solved might improve the world. Remember, problems - not solutions.

Put them on the table. Sort them into categories. Design fields, social improvement, environmental improvement are a couple I can think of.

Or are you interested in commercially motivated design like logos or album covers? That's ok - you will adapt them for social awareness soon.

Using your first piece of reflective thinking write up an area you are interested in designing in.

Make your initial choice of two problems now.

Will your problem call for an invention or a design? Find out quickly (not major research) how it or similar problems have or are being solved right now. Are they? Create a heading and write them down.

Who are the present developers of solutions to the problems in the areas you have identified above?

Are there any other companies that could or might be interested?

Create a heading and write them down.


Who, like what kind of people would use or benefit from having a solution to the problems you have identified?

Describe them.


Do your best to define your two design problems now.

For example; the problem for an office chair would be; a product to support a person whilst doing office work safely and comfortably.

The communication need is office chair.

The problem for a music festival poster would be; a visual communication to promote the festival and inform people about the details for the event.

The communication need is music festival promotion.

Lock in your two design problems and describe them as communication needs now.


Make a simple table to explore the purposes and contexts for each of your communication needs. Think broadly at this stage.

Create a heading and write them down.


Jump back to my page on factors that influence design.

Work in pairs to tease out which factors might shape the way you meet the communication needs.

Create a heading and write them down.


What design fields to each of your communication needs fall within? Why do they?

What conventions will you be likely to observe when you try to meet the needs

Create a heading and write them down.


Jump back to my page on presentation formats to explore formats that could be used to meet communication needs. This list is not exhaustive, there are more. Consider further options.

Create a heading and write them down.

Will your two presentations pass the test of 'distinctly different in intent and format'?

Writing the brief

In this second set of tasks students will learn how to set out a brief and what they need to include. Jump back to my page on the brief (link above) to find out exactly what is needed to be included.

tasks 2

Writing brief
2.1 Format BRIEF
Create a new file. Copy in the subheadings. Ensure it is complete. Close file.
Prepare a draft of your complete brief. Submit for feedback.

Review your work and write your brief cohesively.

Add space for teacher and student sign off and date.

Format in Illustrator if desired.


Submit brief for signing off.



The research stage is a wonderful opportunity to get to know your audience, your market, your visual communications or products and the reasons why they were made.

However, it can be a stage where students simply collect information without synthesising it.

There are no points for simply collecting and displaying material. One must use design thinking to sort, describe, evaluate and propose ways for research to inform new designs.

Finally, regular checks of the assessment criteria are essential to ensure the work done is staying on track.

Understand your communication needs

The Research phase of the design process is a designer’s crash course in everything to do with understanding a communication need. This includes finding out how similar needs have been already solved, how to make a solution appealing to a target audience and plotting a potential course toward a successful solution. Research is a phase where a designer engages with the ongoing discourse in the design world, and in society at large about trends, styles, functions and preferences to do with communication needs.

Research from a range of sources

Catriona Thompson, 2016.

Sources for research

Effective and higher scoring research is made by visiting a variety of sources. Using the internet alone is not sufficient to demonstrate a creative and divergent approach to collecting ideas that will inform your design work.

Sources you should use include;

  • your own photos
  • scrap booking
  • surveys
  • dedicated internet sites
  • design books
  • libraries
  • field trips
  • social media posts
  • magazines
  • pop culture, TV, Youtube

Three approaches to VCD research

Target audience profiles

The first strand is knowing about the specific target audience for whom the design will be made and how to engage and maintain their interest and how to appeal to their preferences. Techniques of trend and market research are employed to gain this understanding. Qualitative (opinions) and quantitate (numerical data) surveys paint a picture of the exact characteristics, opinions and values of the potential customer or user.

Product research

The second is knowing as much about the kind of product the client wants – what similar designs have already been made, what kinds of inspirations might be useful, which existing products might share features that could be adapted to a new design and the backstory of designs in the product category.

In addition, industrial and environmental designers need a sound understanding of ergonomics meaning how a product relates and interacts with the human body, and a knowledge of health and safety relating to the use of similar products.

Observational drawing

The third way students can engage in existing visual communications deepen their understanding of form, space and layout is by drawing them.

Drawing with a subject before one is called observational drawing or drawing from life. It must be done with the actual subject in front of the artist and not from photos, scans or images on screen.

Approach 1

Target Audience Profiling

The designer needs to understand the needs and wants for whom they are designing. They need empathy for not only demographic information recording facts about their audience but also what their audience believes and thinks. What the audience values in life determines how they form preferences for purchases. Considering Visual Communication Design is usually for communication of commercial ideas, it’s not surprising we designers need to understand how target audiences shop.

Target audiences are surveyed to determine their likes and preferences. Surveys can use interviews to gather extended responses. This amounts to qualitative research. In addition, online surveys can be used to gather numerical data in response to questions or images shown to members of the audience. This is referred to as quantitative research. Data can be aggregated to build a useful picture of preferences. It can also be accessed to compare the way different characteristics such as gender or age in members of different sub-groups belonging to the same target audience, respond to examples of text, art, nature and design. Mood board tools can be used with written descriptions to build a visual picture of an audience profile. Know the audience, what they think and what they value and your designs will meet their expectations.

Resources for Target Audience Profiling and surveys

Demographic survey

market research survey

qualitative market research

Quantitate market research


Find out facts about your audience.


Get a clear picture of what you want to know before you make a survey


Use qualitative market research to find out audience opinions on products, preferences, issues or beliefs.


Use quantitative market research to find out information that can be compared numerically.

Research about audience and market


Amy Nguyen, 2018.


Amy Nguyen, 2018.


Amy Nguyen, 2018.

Design thinking for this stage

Don't forget to do the Design Thinking relevant for this stage.

Press the link at left to visit the section.


Creative routines for this stage

Check out creative thinking routines to diversify your research.

Press the link at left to visit the section.

tasks 3

Target Audience Profiling and market research
3.1 Audience member profile
Make a detailed profile containing pictures and text to describe a target audience member. Show how they look, their age and other audience characteristics, their interests and purchasing preferences.
3.2 Survey your target audience

Make a Google forms survey to obtain data on how your target audience perceives and reacts to examples of products, designs, colors, shapes, type or images. Survey a range of people in the audience group. Collect and process the data.

3.2 Who else makes it?

Who else makes it? Research the client and similar clients. Describe them. When did their business begin, why did it? Where are they located? Are they mass or niche market?

3.3 MOOD BOARD/ audience collage

Make a visual survey of the hobbies, past times and preferences of members of your target audience. Collect images that describe what they look like, like or images that they might like. Include words to describe the values that unite your audience. Are they all the same? Are there differences between members of your audience?

Approach 2

Product research

Product research is conducted in a wide range of forms. These are known as sources of inspiration. Field research involves the designer going out to where designs are found and recording information about similar and competitors’ designs and products. Documents are collected, photos taken, sketches and observational drawings made and notes are written that describe all that identify trends relating to designs, products and the ways target audiences use them. Shops, parks, trade shows, site visits, exhibitions, documentaries, films, book shops, cafes, festivals all make excellent locations for accumulating field research.

Secondly, designers conduct Desk research. This refers to processes of collection and analysis of information that are made from the desk or office. Trawling relevant internet design sites and social media feeds keep designers in touch with current design trends and trends and styles to do with consumers and influencers. Books and magazines are also read and notes recorded. Designers may share information with other designers on dedicated photo sharing websites. Both field and desk research is intended to place the designer at the center of a changing and evolving world relating to the product or design they have been asked to supply. Collect everything, process it later.

Research about products

4.1 Mind-map

Catriona Thompson, 2016.

4.2 Know the back story

Discover the history of your visual communications.


Elise Wilson, 2008.


Catriona Thompson, 2016.


Lachlan Peek, 2016.


Lisa Peric, 2014.


Elana Monteleone, 2009.


You can examine one or a set of the products you have collected to see how the designs have been influenced by a range of fact


It's amazing how many different ways there are to achieve the same result. Explore them.



Test out different words for your two axis. Suggestions are expensive/cheap - creative/traditional; safe/renegade - easy to use/hard to use.


Processing findings

Following the collection of information comes sorting, anylising and evaluating. Creative, Critical and Reflective Design Thinking is used to make sense of loads of written and visual resources. Sorting can take the form of simple categorizing, grouping or grading by shape, colour, price, country of origin, year made, etc. This exposes trends within categories of designs and products that would otherwise be invisible. Evaluations of products and designs are made by reflecting on a design’s suitability to fulfil the need it serves. They can be evaluated against its use or against our brief, then discussed in terms of how aesthetic and functional considerations are used.


Synthesise and interpret material

This is not a task but an approach that needs to be taken consistently throughout research and generation of ideas.

To further stimulate our engagement in research and understanding of trends, students should synthesise and interpret information. This takes research from passive collections of pictures, words and snippets of life into fuel for creativity by uploading it to the designer. Techniques of synthesis include;

  • making sketches that copy parts of designs
  • adapting designs to new contexts
  • making sketches that combine selected parts of designs
  • recording colour swatches and type samples
  • associating type, designs and/ or images together
  • spotting, aligning and analyzing connections between past and contemporary designs in annotated examples
  • associating and making links between unrelated designs or features of designs that could be combined to form new ones.

Remember, synthesis is at the heart of the assessment for this part of the outcome.

A nice page showing how we can extend understanding directly from research material. Rene Coco, 2008.

Design thinking for this stage

Don't forget to do the Design Thinking relevant for this stage.

Press the link at left to visit the section.


Creative routines for this stage

Check out Creative Thinking routines to inspire your Development.

Press the link at left to visit the section.

tasks 4

Product research
4.1 Mind-map
Make an ultra-detailed mind-map to investigate several different aspects or directions that could be taken to interpret the breadth of the product you are to design. Think histories, forms, materials, functions, sizes, etc., for each branch of the mind-map. Make connections across the branches with descriptions where possible.
4.2 Range of similar products

Collect a diverse range of similar products.

Search for products at different ends of the market from your target audience.

Search for products from different countries, periods of time and cultures from your target audience.

Synthesise you results by sorting, grouping, classifying, naming and justifying your groups.

4.3 Know the back story
How long has the design you’re researching been around for? Was there anything that came before it? Go on a treasure hunt to find out? Collect information about similar products as far back as you can go. Name and date them so you can arrange them in order. Map trends in style use of text, image content, style or form.
4.4 Stylistic periods as they influence design
Find examples of the product you’re researching that were made in several of the main artistic or stylistic periods. Determine how the social or stylistic influences shaped the designs.
4.5 Keeping up with the Joneses!
Now you have a thorough understanding of your client, who are their competitors? If you are designing a consumer product, take a trip to a shopping center and find out what are the competitor’s similar products. See what price points competitor’s products sit at. Analyse why some are more expensive or cheaper. Discuss the features or aesthetics at different price points.
4.6 Factors that shape design
Environmental, technological, social factors are all influential in shaping design. Research clients and their products that show a heightened (or reduced) awareness of the impacts of environmental, technological or social factors having shaped their designs. For example; are certain designs made with sustainable or reduced environmental impact inks and manufacturing processes? How does the cost and availability of technology help to shape certain designs? For example; why are modern passenger jets now being made from composite plastic instead of aluminum? Find out about designs that are socially, culturally and gender inclusive. How and why have they come to be? Are the designs you found accessible to all peoples? Do you know that there are accessibility standards in use that apply to design from websites to buildings? Are there still designs that are not inclusive? Why? Record your findings. Describe what could be done to change the situation.
4.7 Pushing my buttons
Operations, controls and interactions and user interfaces are important aspects of designs. Make a search of related and unrelated products to that of your communication need that use similar operations (do things like mix, cut, blend, inform, etc.,), controls (buttons, interfaces, menus, etc.,) or have similar interactions with the audience such as charts or handgrips. These features may be able to be combined with your design.
4.8 Can I DIY it?
How else can it be done? Search up alternative methods or devices that might achieve the same end as you have been instructed to design. One of my favorite possessions is a toy truck I collected from an Aboriginal community in Northern Territory years ago. It consists of merely of a long piece of stiff fencing wire bent at the top into a circle acting as a steering wheel then extending down about a metre to a horizontal tin can which it pierces, making an axle upon which the can revolves. It is used by a kid holding the circular ‘steering wheel’ in their hand and running forward, pushing the can before them. It works surprisingly well. Who would have thought, a truck made from one piece of wire and an old Milo tin? Consider, are there any make shift or DIY solutions you could use to answer the communication need? Identify and describe them.
4.9 Four Quadrant Matrix

Creativity, innovation, function, aesthetics. Collect a range of designs or products in the category that you need to design. Create a “4 quadrant matrix” where each segment of the chart is labelled with 4 words to describe the products or designs. Suggestions are expensive/cheap - creative/traditional; safe/renegade - easy to use/hard to use. Arrange the images you have collected on the table so as to evaluate each one in relation to the characteristics you have set.

But don't forget
Click on the link to jump up to design thinking for research. Check for how to annotate and synthesise your research to inform your work.

Approach 3

Observational drawing

One other way to engage positively with real inspiration is by sketching from life. Observational drawing is required in the SAT in Visual Communication Design and is a powerful tool for understanding form, surface and how designs interact with people.

Observational drawings begin as freehand line sketches and are then enhanced by rendering techniques that enhance form with shade, tone, texture and record and depict colour, surface and materials.

Observational drawing is a tool to help a student engage with form. It is here that we are required to process three-dimensional reality into a two-dimensional representation. It is in this process that learning and understanding occur. For this reason, observational drawing must be done with the real object or built environment before the artist and not from a photo or computer image.  Hard as it may be, only then can we intercede as translator and therefore become fully cognizant of a design we are learning about.

Observational drawing

Elana Monteleone, 2009.
Amy Nguyen, 2018.

Design thinking for this stage

Don't forget to do the Design Thinking relevant for this stage.

Press the link at left to visit the section.


Creative routines for this stage

Check out creative thinking routines to diversify your research.

Press the link at left to visit the section.

tasks 5

Observational drawing

Observational drawing is sketching from directly life.

  • You are not required to use any particular drawing method. Sketch as it comes naturally to you.
  • You are required to represent form.
  • You are required to structure with line, tone.
  • You are required to enhance form and materials with tone and texture.
  • You may use black and white or colour or a mixture.
  • Not all drawings have to be finished pieces of art.
5.1 Line drawings

Make a series of line drawings of objects, places or spaces that relate to your brief.

5.2 Enhance for with tone

Work into one or more of your drawings to enhance form with tone.

5.3 Enhance form by representing surface, texture and colour

Render one or more of your sucess

But don't forget
Click on the link to jump up to design thinking for research. Check for how to annotate and synthesise your drawings to inform your work.

Working legally

Finally, as research will require collecting, recording and storing of pictures and information made and owned by others we are required to reference authors or copyright holders faithfully. Students are reminded to take notes on where information is found that can be used to cite references when and where images are included in their research. It is not sufficient to simply state ‘the internet’, ‘pintrest’ or ‘google seach’ as a reference for images. The exact web address (URL) must be copied and inserted or printed beside the image, as should be the date and time the image was accessed. Citing of references extends to images and text recorded from any source including books, magazines, exhibitions and other locations.

tasks 6

Acknowledging copyright
6.1 Reference images, quotes and sources

Ensure that you reference every image you take from the internet, every typeface, every location you visit, every book you read. Place references beside images and content. Not at the end in a bibliography. Reference in real time not at the end.


Generation of ideas.

The first stage to solving a communication need.

1000 ways

For every problem there are a thousand ideas to solve it. However, an idea only becomes a design when it has form and can be seen by others. Those with an understanding of copyright and intellectual property laws, realize that an idea is a non-tangible, construction and itself cannot be protected. It must first be given form in order to be known and be born in history.  This section is about the visualization of ideas; making ideas visible. Generation of Ideas is the phase in the Design Process that contains the highest emphasis on divergent thinking. One idea leads to another, then another, hopefully like a chain reaction, problems are deconstructed and every facet of possible ways to solve them are explored.

Yet there are challenges to creating a flow of ideas. These include;

  • The ability to draw well to make form visible
  • Continuing to think divergently when ideas run dry
  • Keeping the visualization of ideas relevant to the communication needs described in the brief
  • Referencing and incorporating information gained through research.

Visualisation drawing

Catriona Thompson, 2016.

Making form visible

Freehand sketching is the best way to build form. However, to visualize something and to find a solution simultaneously is understandably hard. Two strategies to assist are;

  • Visualise an object through a process drawing small thumbnail sketches that alternate between two and three-dimensional views. These sketches may take in a whole object or centre on details as ideas form.
  • Use simple geometric forms as stand-ins when trying to visualize complex forms. For example, students wishing to draw a café counter or kitchen can step up to a group of class room tables as these simple forms contain the necessary structure underpinning an accurate two-point perspective. Likewise, a coffee cup is a similar form to a hair dryer and allows one to create a realistic central structure from life, prior to modifying form for a different purpose.

Finding new ways

Working with different materials, methods and media stimulates growth of ideas. For example, making models from different materials (boards, papers, woods) brings different approaches to design - soft aluminum from a drink can will fold like paper in origami. By contrast balsa wood will not and will dictate, a different method of construction, inherently creating a totally different outcome.

Alternatively, imagining objects that could be made from different materials (in drawings) leads to  more results. For example; one chair shown made from a range of different materials ranging from foam, fiberglass, plywood, plastic, wood or even glass will yield many variations.

Working in a variety of drawing methods also pushes ideas. Try visualising a logo in a Third Angle orthogonal, one-point perspective or exploded view in isometric. Why not? No one says you can’t.

Keeping faith with your brief

You might find that with all this creativity your ideas stray from the communication need. Revisit the brief frequently. Pay particular attention to the purpose, context, constraints and expectations.

Then use Critical Thinking skills to identify, describe and discuss features of your drawings relevant to those specifications and pinpoint those that are not, and will not be taken forward.

Suggest ways, in your annotations for how designs can be brought closer to solving the need. This is all valid material for assessment. Good is good. Bad is good. Just describe everything you do in relation to your brief.

Making the most of your research

You might also find that your drawings start to wander from the research you made earlier.

Drawings  are not intended to be made in a vacuum. Surround yourself, literally, with your research. Print it, put it on the wall in front of you, place it to your left and right and use it as reference for form, surface, materials, type forms, style and structure as you create.

Iterate, iterate

Look up, look down, look forward and look backward in your folio. Remember the Design Process is an circular model. This means you work continuously between Generation of Ideas, Research and Brief.

Initially, the loops will be small but later in Development and Refinement you will be working father from your Research as your concepts develop.

All the while, don’t forget the brief – it’s what you’re marked against.

The objective of Generation of Ideas

The first aim to accumulate the widest range of ideas. If we consider that the further we go into the Design Process, away from our initial Generation of Ideas, the more our thinking becomes convergent. This means that with the use of Critical and Reflective Thinking to select better ideas and reject inferior ones, the number of ideas we have will necessarily be reduced.  My point is, if we start with 100 initial ideas, that are cut and combined to 50, then to 40 leading to 30, 20, 10 then right down to the last, that folio will be ever so much stronger a folio than one that begins with just 5 ideas, that cut to 3, then 2, and finally the last. Quite simply, you need as many different usable ideas as you can get as early as you can.

The second is to provide one with the widest range of approaches to meeting the communication need. As you work on the Generation of Ideas phase of the Design Process, you will notice that different ideas seem to share similarities in approach. This could be in their form, the number of components they have, materials they are made from, the style they follow or how they function. Again, with Critical and Reflective Thinking you will be able to group them together to move past a collection of ideas and create a range of concepts. Label them ‘Concept 1’, ‘Concept 2’ etc. You will  carry forward at least two of your best concepts into your Development of Concepts phase of the Design Process.

Cafe logo

Kate Gaylor, 2014.

Sauce bottle label

Elana Monteleone, 2009.

Examples of visualisation drawing

Cosmetic label

Catriona Thompson, 2016.

Audience analysis

Amy Nguyen, 2018.

Bottle form

Monique Pretto, 2008.

Hospital bed

Tori Salvaggio, 2014.

Water campaign foldout

Amy Nguyen, 2018.

Game vehicle design

Navishka Fernando, 2016.

Cosmetic poster

Catriona Thompson, 2016.

Cosmetic label

Catriona Thompson, 2016.

Design thinking for this stage

Don't forget to do the Design Thinking relevant for this stage.

Press the link at left to visit the section.


Creative routines for this stage

Check out creative thinking routines to diversify your research.

Press the link at left to visit the section.

tasks 7

Generation of ideas
7.1 Drawing ideas

Using only line create pages of thumbnail sketches of ideas for visual communications. Let your ideas flow without restriction. Aim to achieve 10 to 20 different ideas on one page. Leave space for critical thinking annotations.

7.2 Creative thinking routines

There are many cool strategies to encourage divergent thinking shown on my page on Creative Thinking. linked above. Visit the page. Try out strategies that will suit your design field and communication need best.

Label each page with each Creative Thinking technique you use.

But don't forget

Click on the link to jump up to Design Thinking for Generation of Ideas. Check for how to annotate and describe how visualisation is used to inform your work.

7.3 Leaving this stage

Click on the link to jump up to Design Thinking for Generation of Ideas again.

Read and consider the prompts in Reflective Thinking for this stage to  evaluate key ideas.

Inform your reader how you have used the design process, the brief and your research so far and how you will use them to develop your ideas.