Sat. Jan 21st, 2023

Design documentation – basics

Requirements of the brief

You are expected to produce an outline of the brief. You may have viewed this as ‘rewriting the brief’, and to an extent this is true.

However, it is conceivable that the requirements have been written by several different people: perhaps some of it is technical, some is artistic, and some is related to a required outcome. These pieces of information will not necessarily be collated, nor will they tie neatly together.

Your job is to include all aspects of what has been requested, and state what has been requested, and what will be produced. Ensure that where you may have been given several disparate sets of requirements, you combine them to make a single, cohesive set.

Background research

Imaging you are being asked to design a product, for a company, and they are going to pay you. In reality, you would probably be one of several companies touting for business. How does the client decide who to offer the work to?

How many times have you seen applicants on Dragons’ Den fail miserably, when asked a simple question like “What is the size of the market for…” or “Are there any other products like this on the market?” as they try to secure an investment into their fledgling businesses? It’s easy to sit at home watching and shouting “Why didn’t you research this?!”, but many people fail to complete this basic task.

When putting a design together, you should always do some background research around either the company or the topic(s) as appropriate. Asked to create a presentation for a company? Research the company first! Asked to create an educational tool? Research the topic – look at what has been tried in the past, and whether it was effective. This makes the job of selling your design far easier – you’re showing the client what they will gain by using your design.

Legal and ethical considerations

The terminology and content has already been covered in section A. However, during the design, you should ensure that these considerations are practised: that means the sourcing of assets should include contact/owner details, copyright information. Content should be factual and not libellous. You get the idea!

Filing and storage

Throughout the design and production process, filing and storage should be carefully organised. Ultimately, the file structure is up to you, but you should consider creating folders something like the following:

  • Design
    • Research
    • Initial design
      • Design and other documents
      • Feedback and questionnaires
    • Final design
      • Design and other documents
      • Justification for final design
  • Product
    • Assets
      • Images (unedited)
      • Images (edited)
      • Audio
      • Video
    • Initial design
      • Product
      • Feedback
      • Testing
    • Final design
      • Product
      • Justification for improvements made
      • Evaluation

Alongside this, you may also wish to consider backing up your work at regular intervals. Do not rely on having a single copy on the network: not because the network may fail, but if you break/overwrite this copy by mistake, it will be easier if you have your own backup which can be restored.

Source of assets

When creating products, you are unlikely to create every single aspect of it from scratch. Some parts will either be outside of your comfort zone (e.g. background music for a video or animation), or it would be a waste of time to reproduce something that already exists (“re-inventing the wheel”).

In these cases, it is perfectly acceptable to use existing assets, in the same way that it is perfectly acceptable to quote authors or use sections of code that are published online as long as you acknowledge this so that you can’t be accused of passing it off as your own work.

In order to do this, maintain an asset table with information such as the following (note that in ‘Item’ we also record why we need the item):

ItemTypeFilenameSourceDate accessedStatus
Audio of car – to be used for start sequence Sound Commons
Rocket ship – for when the car starts flyingImagerocket.jpgwww.big-rockets.com20/04/20Non-commercial use

NB It is a requirement (even in Harvard referencing) to include the access date for any resource from a website, because the information is subject to change without notice. (For example, you use a sound effect which was labelled as Creative Commons when you found it, but now it is copyrighted; without the date saying when you accessed it, you would be in legal trouble).

Bespoke assets

Bespoke assets are those that are created especially for your product. In a real project, this might mean assets produced by third parties: you could commission someone to write a score, create sound effects, provide artwork and so on. In the case of bespoke assets being included, (and you will be creating your own bespoke assets – so this advice still applies but the supplier will be ‘self’, you should record (‘Item’ to include purpose as above):

ItemTypeFilenameDateProduced by
Logo for product 1Imagelogo1.png20/04/20Tom Brady
Explosion for when rocket launch goes terribly wrongAudiobang.mp320/04/20Tom Brady