The design process

The design process’ is a term that
covers a set of operations which,
when carefully undertaken by
the designer, result in a thoroughly
considered and well-craft ed design
solution that meets the needs of
the client.Th e process is not exclusive to interior design and, in one form or another, applies to all fi elds of design.

Interior Design might be seen as a largely linear activity, with a start point (at which the client makes fi rst contact with the designer), and an end point, when the project has been implemented (that is, constructed or built).

However, the reality is that within the process many of the individual tasks are interrelated and highly dependent upon one another, so changes to one element of a design solution will oft en require that earlier parts of the process are revisited and revised as appropriate.


Analysis is relevant at two related but distinct parts of the project cycle: In the very earliest stages, before in-depth design work takes place, the designer will need to assess the
scale and complexity of the project work to be undertaken.

This will allow preliminary estimates to be made of the time and resources needed to complete the project, and these will in turn provide a foundation upon which the designer can base a fee proposal.

Part of the work at this stage will involve determining the scope of the project and the likely format and content of the presentation, as this will control, to a large degree, the amount of drawings and visuals that are prepared, all of which take time that will need to be charged to the client.

Following this and once the client has agreed to the proposed interior design work being undertaken to reach the first presentation stage, the designer can take an in-depth brief from the client. Initial examination of the brief, allied to a general understanding of the project, will give
the designer a starting point for further research.

All of this work will lead to the second tranche of analysis, in which the designer is aiming to edit, distil and ultimately make sense of all the information that has been gathered. Some of the information will relate to the practical aspects of the brief, some to the aesthetic, some of which could be contradictory in nature.

Over time, the designer will become used to sett ing priorities and reaching a comfortable compromise with regard to confl icting information.

It is very rare to fi nd a project that does not need some element of compromise to succeed, but there is never one single way to deal with it. Each project must be looked at on its own merits, and decisions reached that refl ect the unique nature
of that project.


Th e development stage of the project is one of the most interesting for the designer. It is where the natural talents of most designers fi nd their expressive outlet, and where the individual can really make their mark on a project.

This the stage where the needs of the client are taken and transformed into a workable, practical and aesthetic intetior design solution.

It is where ideas are generated and given life, where ‘fl ights of fancy’ are captured and turned into  feasibleand stunning reality.

Th e discovery of an idea and the realisation that it can be used and made into something special is exciting, it is an experience that designers live for. It motivates and helps spur the designer on to discover more of what the project holds.

Interior design is problem solving on a large and complex scale, but we are also adding the aesthetic touches, the humanising elements, that make interiors appealing and functional on an emotional level.

Development work can sometimes be hard, requiring a great deal of thought and re-working until the result is as perfect as is practicable, but the pleasure and pride that the designer experiences when it goes well are worth the effort.

Afer the project has been presented to the client, and the client has approved the work to date, further drawing will be needed to progress the project. These drawings, done in more detail than those for the presentation, will be sent out to tender to allow accurate quotes to be given by potential contractors.

They will highlight what work needs to be done to the space and, where necessary, will show constructional details, thus ensuring that the designer’ s vision for the project is realised by the contractors as intended. It should be said that, while the designer is always aiming to
provide the best solution possible, that solution is almost certainly going to include compromises.

At the very least, there will be competing, if not confl icting, needs and wants in almost every design brief. It is the job of the designer to make judgements and to prioritise. In some situations, it will be the practical that is the most appropriate, in others the aesthetic will win. You will be able to make these judgements having referred to your design analysis and concept.


After all the interior design work has been agreed and signed off by the client, implementation can begin. Once contractors have been engaged to carry out the work, the involvement of the designer could be minimal, with a number of site visits to check that work is being accomplished as intended.

The designer could, on the other hand, be involved in a very hands-on supervisory role. In some countries, depending on the depth of training that the designer has undertaken, legislation may limit their involvement with the implementation process.

The term ‘project management’ is sometimes restricted to those who have undertaken specifi c training in that subject, so the designer may fi nd legal limitations on what they are able to contribute to this part of the process.

Even if this is the case, it is likely that the designer ’s input will be required to resolve some of the issues that are bound to arise as the implementation progresses.

A good relationship with contractors and others involved in the project will be a great help, and this can in part be achieved by proving that you understand some of the problems that may arise during the implementation phase.

Knowledge of building practice, materials and their limitations, and local building regulations, will all give the designer credibility with those in the building trade. Neat, legible and complete
drawings are vital in communicating with the construction team.

As part of the development stage, you will have tried to anticipate all the drawings that will be required for the various trades involved with the project to accurately
interpret your instructions.

This may well be a much greater number of drawings than was needed to communicate your interior design proposals to the client. Even at the implementation stage it may be necessary to create new drawings to deal with some of the unexpected and unforeseen situations that arise.

Long-term professional relationships with tradespeople are oft en forged by designers, with the same contractors being used time and time again for their projects.

The trust that is built up in this way can be very helpful to the easy running of the project, allowing for a more effi cient workfl ow because of the familiarity that exists with the
designer ’s ways of working.

Good workmen will trust and respect the designer ’s judgement, even if this means working outside of their experience, but this trust can take time to mature. If contractors are not known to the designer, then it is especially important that the designer maintains a professional att itude at all times.

All drawings must be thorough and complete. Decisions made and changes agreed need to be fully documented and recorded, as
disagreements could be costly and cause friction between the parties involved.


It is healthy for a designer to constantly question the chain of decisions that have been taken to that point, and to maintain a self-critical att itude towards everything throughout the life of a project. Before reaching the implementation stage, revising work that has already been done can be a healthy way to work. From the client ’s point of view, the design process is usually considered complete aft er the implementation stage, but the designer should also evaluate the project in an effort to learn from it.

A time of refl ection will be valuable
immediately aft er the design has been delivered, as lessons learned during the process will still be fresh in the mind, and it is good practice to revisit the project aft er an appropriate period has elapsed (say six months or a year), as lessons which become apparent only aft er a space has
been occupied and is functional can be learned. While it may or may not be possible to rectify any shortcomings that are identifi ed on an individual project at this stage, the knowledge acquired can be fed into subsequent projects.