The process of design, or designing the process?
How do we get from A to B?

My typical design process starts with a determination of the target users or audience, time and resource budgets, and a careful analysis of the exact goals of the design. These goals can be very precise and purely functional, such as the requirements of an interactive or printed form, or more subjective and nuanced, such as identity design. Once these initial steps are addressed, it's time to dive into the actual designing, with all its joys of discovery and agonies of the elusive muse. It's here that the process can become nebulous, at least with projects of the more "subjective and nuanced" kind, since the nature of inspiration is so elusive. It's safe to say that it involves finding non-obvious connections and a little luck. I confess that all too often there's a point in there somewhere when it feels like nothing is working; it's the universe's way of keeping me humble. I have to find a way through that stage to teasing out solutions that please.

Designing the process implies that requirements and goals have been sorted out and now the task is to determine the most efficient and effective task execution — what's the production workflow going to be? This is a design process I enjoy and have succeeded at in production workflows of numerous kinds. It's my nature to always be monitoring any process I'm pursuing with an eye to improving that process. In this field, I'm always interested in new functions included in software updates that open up new process solutions, such as nested styles in InDesign.

Perhaps a brief discussion of the use of styles, whether CSS or in InDesign, QuarkXPress, or even Photoshop, will serve to illustrate one way I design the process: most designers I've worked with have a limited understanding of styles and the power they can deliver in constructing document files. An informed use of style sheets and templates makes possible documents that are efficient, predictable, readily altered and updated, and display nuanced and consistent typography that can be very difficult if not impossible to otherwise achieve. Such use of styles offers a much, much quicker approach to the alternative of brute-force local formatting, especially as documents become longer, more complex, and undergo revision cycles. I strive to use very little if any local formatting in page layout, thus creating documents that lend themselves to even radical alterations in appearance if required, with much-reduced effort. Proper use of styles also facilitates repurposing of documents from one medium or application to another.