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Designing: Process vs. product

How we design is dictated in large part by what we are focused on. If we are focused on the product, our design process is quite different than if our focus is on the process. A product oriented person will visualize the finished piece as an organic whole, complete in every detail. Then he will attempt to work out methods of production that will allow the piece to be produced with no compromise in the integrity of the original vision.

A process oriented person will come at the design from a completely different perspective. For the process oriented designer, compromise is the name of the game. Efficiency of production methods is of the utmost importance and if the design has to be altered to increase efficiency, the change is made without question. A product oriented person is just as likely to look at their equipment and ask "what can I make with this?" The product oriented designer is more likely to ask "what do I need to produce this particular shape?" Produce oriented people are more likely to be found in the smaller "artisan" shop, producing limited edition or one of a kind pieces. The process oriented person is typically happier in a factory setting where high volume production is the goal.

This is not to say that the output of the process oriented must be of lower quality. There are many examples of this kind of work that are of excellent quality. It is true that most low quality work comes out of factories but most of those factories are driven not by concerns about quality but by profit margins. It is still possible to mass produce decent quality woodwork. It just takes a different mindset.


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