Stages of the Design Process

There are five stages in the design process that every designer or architect follows. It is a natural progression that helps take you from the beginning of the design to final built completion of the project, whether it is an house or an art piece.

While design can be very artistic and free flowing, the design process can be seen as very scientific. It allows for checks and balances at each stage of the design process so that you know when you are drifting in a different direction.

Schematic Design

The first stage is called schematic design. This is when the ideas are laid out and the potential problem that needs to be solved with the design is set forth. An architect will use this stage to get an understanding of the client's needs and wants and try to really understand what it is they are looking for in their design. It is at this stage that an architect will use such tools as an adjacency matrix and a bubble diagram to help understand the potential design requirements while putting together the criteria that are required.

Design Development

The second stage is design development. This is when the design is starting to take shape and the spaces are understood and recognized. This is also when an architect will start picking out the materials and the structural system that will be used in the design. The style and direction of the design will start to be developed at this stage.

Construction Documents

The third stage is construction documents. This is when the details of how to build the project are put together in a concise and thorough set of plans. A set of construction documents consists of the drawings and a set of specifications such as electrical diagrams. They are kept together so that a contractor has all the information needed to build the project.

Bidding and Negotiations

The fourth stage is the bidding and negotiations stage. This is when the construction documents have been approved and an owner gets estimates, or bids, from potential contractors.

Construction Administration

The last and final stage is construction administration. This is when the project is being built and the architect is in charge of interpreting and clarifying the drawings for the contractor. Many times this is the most time-consuming aspect of the process, because many different variables come into play when putting a project together. Sometimes materials that were available 6 months ago during the construction documents stage are no longer available during the construction administration stage, so substitutions have to be found, approved and ordered.