Design Process

Design Process | Evaluation Techniques

By August 23, 2018 No Comments
Design Process | Evaluation of Ideas

In my last post, I discussed the popular Mind-Mapping method of idea generation. Here we continue the ‘Design Process’ series by using these ideas to look at ways to evaluate and choose the most promising concepts. My method is based on De Bono’s PMI system.

But first, why is it important to evaluate more than one idea? Sometimes, one concept stands out from all others and it’s hard to even think about going in any other direction.

I thought this too and I regularly went along with my first ‘genius’ that came into my head. The problem is, your initial idea usually isn’t genius. It’s usually been done 100 or 1000 times before and probably better than you will ever do it.

What happens when you force yourself to dig deeper and deeper? You’ll surprise¬†yourself at just how creative you are! Ideas that at first seemed completely unrelated will merge and develop. You’ll find yourself walking along/in bed/eating breakfast one day and a warm, fuzzy feeling will take over your body and you’ll just know that this concept is the one. I truly live for those moments of sparks of unique creativity and I can genuinely say that I’m proud of the work I have done only when I’ve followed this process.

The PMI System – what is the design process?

The bare bones are P – list what you find positive about an idea, M – list what you think is a minus and, I – list what you think is interesting.

Positive: Anything you really think has potential. It could be colour, shape, line, texture, context, typography, symbology…anything you feel could be taken forward, by itself or in conjunction with other elements.

To do this you have to get your analytical eye on and really deconstruct each element. Trust me, it’s worth the effort!

Minus:¬†This could be anything that is too ‘done’, not unique or has no real reason to be present in the design. My personal preference is simple, meaningful elements only but other designers like to have more of a busy design.

Interesting:¬†Rather than these elements being positive or negative, they are simply points which could warrant further investigation. These are the points that you don’t really feel strongly about either way, or that you need to investigate further in order to understand if they are related to your brief.

Continue to do this about each concept you came up with in your initial mind map until you have a list of positives, minuses and interesting points.

It might not sound like much, but when armed with this list, new thoughts and direction seem to spring up from nowhere.

It might look a bit like this:

It’s then good practice to get out the sketch pad and pencils and record any new thoughts that came to you during this process. Doing this helps you clear away everything in your head so that new ideas can percolate and form. Remember to keep your pad with you at all times so you can jot down thoughts when on the move.

What’s next? Now you have your design evaluation list you are ready to move into the development stage. In my next post, I cover a wonderous development process called ‘divergent thinking’. It’s a tool I find really helps to take those initial concepts a step further to really get to the good stuff and make your clients really pleased.


Although design certainly isn’t linear, I’ve developed a checklist for myself to follow which I share with you below. It helps me to remain focused on which stage of the design process I am at so that I can come and go to my desk as I pleased, without fear of losing my train of thought.

CHECKLIST | Design Process

Idea generation:

  1. Mind Map Process
  2. Take the top 4/5 ideas
  3. Thumbnail your thoughts on paper
  4. Create a mood board for each concept

Idea Evaluation:

  1. Thumbnail further ideas (leave some time between this and the last stage)
  2. De Bono’s PMI System
  3. Take forward 2/3 concepts – these should be more fully worked up and complete so that your client can understand your thought process
  4. Get some feedback!

I will cover the Concept Development stage in my next post.