Successful Design Briefs are not all Black and White

The University of Gothenburg
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings for Crafting the Future, 2013, pp. 1 - 10
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The task of a designer is to project the future into the present by articulating a possible outcome to an existing condition. This paper will examine the outcomes of these projections, through a comparative analysis of a controlled group of design students designing products and spaces for birthing units. Linked to a larger interdisciplinary study on the impact of birthing unit design on communication between birthing mothers, staff and family/support members, this research provided an opportunity to explore practice-led research together with case studies and literature reviews of current conditions. With the educational design directive to explore conceptual ideas, the first of two groups of students were presented with a standard written brief for the redesign of birthing units. They were asked to focus on either: a product, space, or combination of product and spatial design to address the needs of a birthing unit. A second group were given the same problem but were also provided with detailed video ethnographic information to supplement the written brief. The aim of this paper is to critically reflect upon the differences in the outcomes of a traditional form of design brief with that of the brief using video ethnography. By examination of all the factors affecting the complex context of birthing units, and the mode of communication of a project brief, this paper will present its findings that will facilitate future design briefs for birthing units to lead to more appropriate outcomes. In doing so the issue of whether or not a black and white text document is sufficient for improving the design of birthing units.
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