Communication & Design

From WikID

In product design, communicating the results of a design process is unmistakably a very important part of a designer’s work .There is a wide variety of means designers use to communicate their design results. It depends on the purpose of the communication which means are suitable to apply. For example: when you have to convince a client and you want the client’s commitment for a next step in the product development process, you will need other presentation techniques than when discussing a production plan with a production engineer.

How to Communicate Design Results?

The mode of communication depends on your purpose or objectives e.g. to convince, to explain, to instruct, to document or to discuss design results and to whom: the target group e.g. the audience. It is also important to know how much time you have to prepare and how much time the audience would like to spend. When you communicate your design result, conveying the content of your story is most efficient when paying extra attention to the form and structure of your communication. Consider what main points and minor points you want to make, and in what order.

Communication of design result can have the following forms:

  1. An oral presentation: e.g. using digital text and images projected with a video projector, on a laptop or flatscreen; poster(s) on a wall; 3D models.
  2. A written report: e.g. text and drawings, an executive summary for quick readers, annexes for detailed information.
  3. Technical documentation: e.g. total assembly, mono drawings, 3D renderings.

Elements of successful communication

The most important aspects that should be distinguished and questions that should be answered before working on a means to communicate design results are:

  1. Objective: What is the purpose of the communication? E.g. to convince, to inform, to explain an idea, a concept, a product-user interaction… In informative presentations you present only the facts, often because your audience needs that information to make a decision or form an opinion. In persuasive presentations you present evidence to underpin and stress your own opinion. In instructive presentations your aim is to increase the audience’s skills in a particular field.
  2. Target group: Who will be the audience and what is the interest of the audience? E.g. a client, engineers, a financial manager, a large group or a single person, culture… The more uniform your audience is, the easier it is to adjust your presentation. If you have a mixed audience, they will have less in common and share a smaller common frame of reference.
  3. Context: What is the location and how much time and which means are available? E.g. a studio with tables, a congress hall, a chair in a waiting room at the airport, 1 hour, minutes…
  4. Means: Which means are appropriate? E.g. posters, 3D models, beamer, role-play, movie, sound, collages, design drawings, technical documents, report…
  5. Feasibility: What can be realised within the time, by the means etc. that are available?

Oral Presentation

Designers often have to give oral design presentations for small groups, e.g. a client (i.e. a team with a project manager, a marketing manager, an R&D employee and an assistant). When listening to oral presentations people have some general preferences:

  • Appreciations: Clear structure, to-the-point content, a gripping, enthusiastic style, with a sense of humour, 3D objects…
  • Annoyances: Unclear structure, difficult to hear, bad slides, reading from a written text, lack of time or enthusiasm…

Some guidelines for an oral presentation

Content & Structure:

  1. Make the objective of the presentation explicitly clear
  2. Make and use high-quality visual and oral means
  3. Prepare a good introduction (how to get the attention of the audience?)
  4. Prepare a clear structure of the content
  5. Prepare a good closing of the presentation (e.g. summary or message…)

Presentation Technique:

  1. Keep good contact with the audience
  2. Use good speaking skills (practise!)
  3. Listen to your voice: the right volume, intonation, articulation, speed
  4. Use suitable body language (for a big audience use large gestures)
  5. Show involvement, enthusiasm
  6. Use the right means at the right place
  7. Give examples and/or checklists

Written Report

Designers often have to present their work in the form of a document or a report. In the setting of a study, reporting on the process and the progress of the design is very important in order to receive constructive criticism from coaches and teachers.

A written report can have the objective of explaining a design (process) or convincing an audience of the value and quality of a design. When explaining the process of design, a chronological order is suitable. When aiming to convince your audience, the structure of a report can be different, e.g. in a logical order.

Some guidelines for writing a report

  1. Structure: Every report contains an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
  2. Content: The content of the report serves the purpose. When explaining a design process, you should pay attention to the relevant stages of the design process. Make sure that you remain to-the-point.
  3. Layout: By paying attention to the layout of a report, you contribute to the readability and appeal of the report.
  4. Visualisation: When explaining a design, make sure to use self-explaining, clear visuals (2D and 3D sketches and renderings). Do not forget to explain how the intended users in the intended context will use your design.

Technical Documentation

The most important objective of technical drawings is: Unambiguous recording of a design in order to:

  1. Evaluate the design result (discussing with yourself and other parties)
  2. Explain the production of the product, including assemblies (to production engineers)
  3. Control dimensions/measurements
  4. Calculate and discuss sales (e.g. quotation)
  5. Communicate maintenance and disassembly
  6. Certify the product.

In order to be understood by all parties involved, the technical documents have to meet the TecDoc international norms, these are conventions for:

  1. The way of drawing
  2. The representation of parts
  3. The recording of parts.

There are 4 types of drawings to be distinguished:

  1. Total assembly (according to conventions!)
  2. Mono drawings (according to conventions!)
  3. 3D renderings
  4. Animations.

The 10 TecDoc commandments for Bachelor students at the faculty in Delft are:

  1. The identified parts should be fully described
  2. Scales should be clear
  3. It should be clear who the draughtsperson is (name)
  4. Projections should be right
  5. The number of views should be limited
  6. Lines should be clear
  7. Symmetry should be obvious
  8. The shape should be established
  9. Parts should be detectable
  10. The parts list should be complete.

References and Further Reading

  • Laaken, van der, M. and Laaken, van der, B. (2007) Presentation Techniques. Bussum: Coutinho Publishers

For IDE Delft staff and students:


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