The term “design process” gets thrown around so much that it’s easy to forget most processes aren’t a fixed formula. Well-publicized methods like Ideo’s brainstorming Post-it notes or Google Ventures’ design sprints might be positioned as tried and true. But creative processes are most effective when they’re driven by the work and the individuals behind it.
At a little over six months old, the design studio HAWRAF doesn’t yet have a defined design process, but the designers are also of the mind that such a concept is a myth. To explore that idea, three of the four partners—Carly Ayres, Andrew Herzog, and Nicky Tesla—are staying up for 26 straight hours to complete 26 individual project briefs, one for every letter in the alphabet. The marathon session, which they are live-streaming (below), is meant to provide a crash course in how the designers work together, and give anyone who wants to follow along a front-row seat.
You can watch them here:
The designers started the project, called A-Z, at 7 a.m. this morning and will continue working until 9 a.m. Eastern time on November 16. Each hour, a custom-made online generator will take one letter of the alphabet and spit out a word and a definition pulled from an online dictionary. The designers will use that information as a jumping off point for a new project, conducted in alphabetical order. The resulting projects can span across any medium—the designers have experience in software engineering, graphics, and industrial design among them—and the studio’s current space at New Inc., the incubator inside of New York’s New Museum, means they have 3D printers, a laser cutter, and other tools at their disposal.
Prior to starting HAWRAF, the designers met at Google Creative Lab (the fourth partner is Pedro Sanches, who is currently in Cuba). Disillusioned with the idea of a singular creative process that encourages exclusivity and gives the impression that there are only a handful of ways to design, the partners dedicated their new studio to the opposite. A-Z marks the studio’s first public project under an initiative the designers call Creative Accessibility, a founding principle that emphasizes sharing “information, experiences, knowledge, mistakes, successes, failures, and processes in public space.”
What exactly that will look like in practice is still evolving, but the designers envision projects, both online and in physical spaces, that bring in others as well. They’ve also been documenting their experience setting up a studio, and plan to make available material like templates for proposals or invoices.
As for A-Z, the project’s constraints are the brief, the budget, and time—not to mention stamina (they didn’t build in any breaks for themselves). The hope is that it will make the design process less elusive, and model a design community that values transparency and inclusion. By learning how they work together best in a very public way, the designers hope others will learn from their experience. “We’re interested in taking a look at our own processes, putting them on display and hoping people can learn from them, but also learn that process is fluid,” says Herzog.
We’ll be following along as well from the live stream above. Check back with us later this week for the best projects and processes that come out of the experiment.