method: A particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, esp. a systematic or established one.
I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of people talk about “The Design Studio Method” recently, and it’s really sticking in my craw. Here are a few examples:
The Design Studio Method - Todd Zaki Warfel
Introduction to Design Studio Methodology - Will Evans
Collaboration through Design Studio and Critique - Adam Connor & Aaron Irizarry
I don’t have a problem with the methods that are being described, and I have a lot of respect for the people that are presenting them—my problem is with the name. “Design Studio” is not a process.
Well then, what is it? Design Studio can be defined as both a place and a culture. A design studio is a collaborative space in which multi-disciplinary teams work together to solve problems and create. The space may be divided into multiple areas, but it is typically open and malleable. It will have tack boards, white boards, computer projectors, and other tools and materials for visualizing and sharing ideas. It will allow for both individual and group work, though it is not concerned with privacy. It does not contain cubicles, and would prefer not to be referred to as an “office”. The space facilitates brainstorming, critiquing, presenting, prototyping, sketching, researching, synthesizing, and many other activities that figure within the design process. Sometimes it smells like pizza.
There are no rules about when it is used or how it is used. It is not limited to a single project. There is no sequence of events that must take place within it. There is not a list of products that must exist before it may be entered, any more than there are required results that must be had before it is left. There is no timeline dictating its usefulness. It doesn’t exist temporally as a phase within some larger entity, nor is it a conglomeration of phases. The design studio contains, facilitates, inspires, showcases, and remembers.
Illuminate, Generate, Present, Critique, Iterate (and variations on this) is a fine method, one that I was taught in my undergraduate Graphic Design program, but it isn’t the definition of a design studio.