Design thinking is an organized way of problem solving, based on research into user behavior that results in a personalized, human-centric solution. While we don’t necessarily believe in a rigid formula to solve problems, we’ve found that design thinking parallels our process and has strengthened our approach. We take an unconventional approach and push into creative solutions, but design thinking provides a framework that keeps us on track. This process cycles through, and take steps backwards, and having a defined set of steps makes us feel like we’re always making progress towards the best possible end result.
From its early origins, IMHOTEP has focused on custom solutions to help individuals and small businesses. We start our process by getting to know our clients and their goals through brand exploration and in-person meetings. We research the local landscape to develop a better understanding of where our clients fall in that market. A strategy is then developed with the goal of identifying who our clients target customer is and what they are drawn to. The design aesthetic that emerges is completely driven by our research into the client’s identity, their goals for the space and their customers’ needs. The human-centered perspective from which we’re approaching our research is really key– we want to come into it from a place of empathy because understanding our clients will give us a solid foundation to then communicate their identity through physical design, and create the experience they want for their customers.
Based on client input and our own analysis, we identify the design objectives early on in the process so as not to waste any time or creativity. It can be frustrating to present an idea, feel it was well-received, only to find out later that the client wants something different. We’ve found it’s best to establish clear and honest communication early on, so our clients feel comfortable expressing their needs and opinions to us directly, and vice- versa. Having a clear definition of the problem leaves less room for misunderstanding and can help us discover the best solution.
In this part of the process, we explore the values and concepts defined by our research and translate that into a plan for physical design. Our designs are individualized for each space and each client to develop for them an aesthetic that speaks exactly to who they are what they wish to communicate. We are not limited to what already exists, and instead innovate to develop custom solutions, knowing that our design team can execute anything we dream up. We’re smart and strategic about the ways we incorporate elements that have significant visual and conceptual impact, while still prioritizing function.
Prototyping is how we develop our design more fully and think critically about whether our ideas can be built. We use a combination of sketches, reference images, 3D modeling, and watercolor renderings to work out details and create a cohesive vision. We also use our workshop to create material samples before committing to an expensive element or treatment. After compiling everything, we sit down with our clients to present our ideas and explain how each of the physical elements are in line with their brand identity and will help them achieve their physical goals. The prototyping phase has many iterations, as we take our clients feedback to inform changes to the design to best meet their needs.
For us, the test of our design happens when we move out of the conceptual phase and into the physical, functional logistics of the build phase. If the build phase is the test of the conceptual design, the success of the business is the test of the physical design. With the physical design, there is less flexibility to make significant changes once the build portion is completed. But we are still able to learn from our clients what works and doesn’t. In terms of “passing” the test phase, we think that we’ve done well. We’ve had numerous repeat clients, which speaks to the quality of our work and our success in accurately communicating our client’s identity in a physical space.
We’re always looking for ways to improve our process as a commercial interior design firm, but for our current size and scope, the design thinking process feels like a good fit. Within our company, we’ve become more efficient and better at communicating with one another. This all benefits our clients, in addition to any parts of the process that strengthen our relationship with them as well.