An exclusive third excerpt from 'Design to Value: The architecture of holistic design and creative technology' book by Mark Bryden, Professor John Dyson, Jaimie Johnston MBE and Martin Wood. Published by RIBA Books.

Design to Value evolved gradually and intuitively – and holistically. From designing the brief to considering how elements should be delivered on site to how best to engage the supply chain to how to repurpose existing technology – these things were always central to the Design to Value thinking, even before being labelled as such.

Design to Value purports that the front-end of the project needs to focus on developing data to support decision making at all stages of a meandering process – where each decision step is influenced by the one before. This has to be done on a project-by-project basis because decisions vary accordingly, demanding different amounts and kinds of work and design elements. Fundamental questions of viability and value must be asked early and answered using data-driven modelling and schematics.

Sitting with the client and asking questions forms the basis of every project that follows a Design to Value approach. Rather than proposing a building to a client who in turn decides if they (a) like the idea and (b) can afford it, Design to Value first asks What is it that you need? What are you trying to achieve? That of course could end up being a building. In this framework, the brief becomes a much more malleable concept. It’s a starting point. It’s a way in which a client can express their perceived need. Given that the brief charts the course for the remainder of the project it is critical that it is a well-articulated leading document. An architect’s inability to spend time developing the brief – and in many cases being cast as simply ‘another consultant’ rather than an enabler and driver of a process – means that the most critical part of a project might simply follow the flow of least resistance. Significantly, depending on the project, the sequencing of the steps will vary. The core components are:

• open dialogue

• rapid iteration

• divergent thinking

• evidence-based design

• innovation and invention

• trying things and failing fast

These processes act as a tool bag: one is never sure at the start of a project the necessary order of things – although dialogue always comes first.

Many clients might expect a roadmap that they can follow, but part of Design to Value is the capacity to live with a bit of uncertainty. Clients need to understand that their project team members might feel uncomfortable about a new and unfamiliar process and we encourage the senior client representative to reassure their team that this is expected and it’s okay. They need to understand that the standard processes are comfortably wrong: everyone feels comfortable about them but they produce the wrong answer, and that is because the path is predefined.

Once the values of a project are established, diagramming begins. Visual language is key to articulating this. For instance, a client might express that they need a space to do
X process in, which needs to be near a space that can handle Y process, which needs to be next to something else essential but perhaps seemingly unrelated, and they all need to have good light and be highly adaptable. For this, a diagram to spatially explore how this might work is a key tool for communication and design. Once all the stakeholders can understand and visualise the connections, designing a physical space unfolds. Function comes first.

To purchase this book, visit RIBA Books