A methodology to my madness
I have a lifelong horror of the empty page. I used to think this was a terror specifically and unfortunately mine, but apparently this Fear Of Nothing afflicts even incredibly successful people. Whether writing or designing, I have always been much more comfortable starting with something (anything!) and then adding or subtracting to improve it.
Sometime in graduate school, I learned about methodologies and frameworks. I now cling to them as Linus to his blanket. It doesn't matter to me if a method matches what I'm trying to do perfectly. It needs to gives me a place to start that isn't the dreaded empty page, and a rough path forward. I can handle it from there.
In the case of designing and building for clients, I use the Stanford Design Thinking process as my framework.
This is basically a series of steps that allow me to really get to the heart of a client's needs, and work *with* them in a systematic and structured way. In my adaptation of the process, the actual making doesn't show up until the last two stages of the design process. Most of the work is contained in the first three phases.
(image from https://empathizeit.com/design-thinking-models-stanford-d-school/)
So how does this look in a client relationship?
So far, it works a bit like this:
- Initial interview. Who are you? What is the problem that needs a solution?
- If the problem isn't clearly defined, I give you some homework to try and define it more clearly. If there are other members of the household who will be using what I make, do they see the problem the same way? Are your needs and wants the same? What are your "must-haves" and your "nice-to-haves"?
- I send you a cost estimate (offerte) and we sign an agreement. If necessary for the final product, I visit the site to put some physical context to the information you've given me, and take measurements. We talk about aesthetic and usability and whatever else is important for me to know before I start cutting dovetails and stuff.
And that's just the first three steps! After which, I go build the darn thing and (if applicable) install it. After you've used it for a couple of months, I follow-up with you for an evaluation.
After all that, if it's not making something better for you, it's back to the drawing board.