Designing a functional garment is not the same thing as designing a pretty dress. Like a pretty dress, functional clothing is worn by a person with aesthetic needs and desires, and here the aesthetic eye of the designer comes in to play. But functional garments have a range of other requirements to fulfil, and this requires a multidisciplinary approach. My background not only as a fashion designer, but also within graphic design, new media art, interaction design, and education all come into play throughout the design process, from the initial meeting to the final prototype.
For each project I follow a similar work process that generally looks like the description below. Research, experimentation and brainstorming are an important part of the process to help me find the best possible solution for the design challenge at hand. Included here are examples from Spacewear.
- Collect information. Interview clients and collaborators about the goals and themes of the project, research the project area, industry or market. Establish the aesthetic concerns of the client and the target wearer.
- Blue-sky brainstorming. Play, ask absurd questions like How can we make a good first impression on aliens? or What clothing element is the most iconic for ‘human fashion’?, forget the goals of the project and just think deeply and abstractly. Record anything interesting that comes of this exercise.
- Sketch and play. Design on paper, play with materials, rapid-prototype. Fail fast and fail often (the best ideas will emerge from a large number of experiments).
- Digitize. Bring best ideas to the computer and work through them, create illustrations or moving images – whatever best communicates the ideas.
Presentation and feedback
- First meeting: Present a summary of the interviews, research, and inspiration. Offer three general design directions and collect feedback.
- Second meeting: Present updated ideas that build upon the best ones and include more detail. Collect feedback.
- Third meeting: Present final designs that accurately reflect the design(s) that have been chosen and plan to produce. Collect any further feedback.
- Create. Work with materials to create the first prototypes. These rapid prototypes are rough and quickly pieced together in order to work-out the main interaction and design challenges. Fail fast and fail often.
- Meet. Meet with client/collaborator/partner to get feedback about the work with the rapid prototypes.
- Create. Meet. Create. Meet. Repeat this cycle until the perfect design is achieved.
- Create. Make the final sample with selected materials.
Work out any further design and usability challenges by getting feedback from people using the samples. The degree to which the user-testing is carried out depends on the scope and aims of the project. Results are collected for the next version of the garment or accessory.
Photograph it. Photograph and document the final sample so that it can be shared with the world.
Read about my adventures photographing light here: Capturing Light