There’s no one way to design

Boring alert.  Or should I say “taking all the mystery out of design” alert. This won’t be nearly as cool as watching how crayons are made on Sesame Street but it will explain how the design process can be as unique as the garments themselves. I was watching my portfolio students develop their collections and each of them developed their own way to apply their brainstorming process to the next step.  A professor once told me, “You’ll never have enough time or money” so I like to keep tabs on the way they actually do it while they’re stressed out, freaked out, unsure, sleepy and/or short on time because they come up with smart and streamlined ways to design.

This first approach is a lot like patternmaking where you have your main patterns, or blocks and you work and make changes based on them.  After developing a few pages of sketches of garments inspired and drawn from the design brainstorm, the student jumped into Illustrator to nail down the flats.  You can see that she drew a basic shape for pants and made short steps and changes from design to design, each building upon the last.  She also has a little library of details to work from in the center of the image.  This is design at it’s most refined.  I like to dare my students, and you, to find a Burberry ad that doesn’t feature a trenchcoat.  Why is that?  Because it’s their currency.  They developed it (in 1856, mind you) and it works really well and you can sure as hell bet they’re going to use it until the very end.


This next student has jumped from hand drawing to working in Illustrator too but has chosen a more natural gesture in the croquis.  You can see the student is working with a few details (color, shoulder emphasis, and a feather detail) discovered while brainstorming to create the line and imposed those restrictions from look to look.  A collection needs it’s basic pieces: tops, bottoms, dresses, etc. so applying them from style to style becomes a pretty straightforward process.  It will be important to not be afraid to let go and change your mind if the elements become boring or you feel like breaking out of it a little bit.


This last student has a more holistic, “throw everything on the wall and see what sticks” approach. She took everything she’s accumulated: drawings, photos, fabric swatches, and the customer profile and laid it all out to create a big, non-edible, fashion stew.  Most importantly, she also created a list of the garments she wants in her collection and then refers to her brainstorm wall to develop her designs, getting ideas and checking them off as they develop.  This allows her to see everything at once and how they work together.


The wonderful part is that each one of these ways came naturally and were a system developed by the student alone.  They are all correct, and they all work.  On a larger scale, say in a big company, the processes will differ depending on many things, mostly the fact that this is just how they’ve always done it.  There’s no one way to design and it isn’t always a straight road.  It can also be a lot of going back and forth.  Some start by playing with fabric, some start with drawing, some just start, god bless them.  My mistake was in thinking you can only go forward and not wanting to change or go back for fear of thinking I was redoing work or it meant I made a mistake.  With my students, I try to dispel expectations and encourage a system so it won’t feel like doing work again.


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