Decisions vs. options in the design process

If you're not making decisions, you're opening up options. Also, vice versa.

This is the crux of the design process, and one needs to be very clear in which phase of the project they are in order to be able to emphasise one over the other.

Early on — in the discovery phase — we want to be opening as many options as we can, and not bother with making decisions. In fact, it would be detrimental to the project to insist on making choices as this point as one would be limiting themselves by making a commitment so early on.

This is the time to collect, talk, explore, and curate. Not create.

Truth be told, sometimes these early choices can prove to be a good thing down the road, but there is no way to control this. It's a gamble.

As the process moves forward we will need to start making decisions, and commit to certain choices which will shape the end result of the design process. Committing to choices — from a now preselected, narrowed-down option pool — at this point is a very productive action towards the end result, and a guaranteed way to conduct an efficient design process.

At this stage we're starting to create, and make choices. Introducing options in this stage of the design process — post-discovery — is a sure way towards an expensive project. The general idea of the end result should be formed by now, because it's been cooking up all this time. If we were to question it, it would mean throwing a wrench in the gears and stopping the production line.

It's so important to guide stakeholders — but designers themselves should be aware of this, perhaps even more so — and emphasize the importance of doing certain things at the right time in order to be able to plan things, and keep costs predictable.

If things are not getting done, feel free to tell your client — or your designer if you're a stakeholder — that you need to stop with the options, and focus on making decisions.

Good luck.