“Backward-Design” is Forward Thinking: Design-In-Practice Series

Warren Feld
13 min readJul 9, 2020
Land of Odds homepage detail, Source, Feld, 2020

So often, designers struggle to figure out the reasons why their designs did not feel finished or as successful as they could be. They get so caught up in the here and now of design that they forget to study what was, and fail to sufficiently anticipate what will happen when that design is introduced publicly — to the client, to the client’s client and to the world.

Clients sense this. When the designer does not share, or at least anticipate, the understandings and expectations of the client, the project could go awry. The designer could end up expending many non-billable hours trying to adjust, tweak, re-do, re-conceive the project. And the whole process ends up not feeling good. Unfulfilling. A chore.

Often the core of the problem is the design approach to the project. Designers like to follow a linear process of design. This is an unfortunate remnant of the scientific management philosophy prevalent in the 1930’s. A belief that everything can be reduced to a progressive series of steps, performed in an objective, almost-scientific way. Processed from a beginning, through a middle, and leading to an end. No iteration or back and forth. Little trial and error. Objectively gather information and data. Analyze it. Formulate a hypothesis. Test it. Draw conclusions. Set goals, objectives and activities accordingly. Organize resources. Arrange things in a pleasing manner and implement. Evaluate. Happy client, happy life.

But, as we all know, things aren’t so linear. They aren’t so clear-cut and pat. They are not so perfectly objective and universally understood. We have all felt these things:

  1. Working with imperfect information.
  2. Often inarticulate clients.
  3. Or clients not understanding or appreciating or anticipating what you are trying to do.
  4. Some limits to the access to resources we want and need.
  5. Not fully skilled in every single technique that might come to bear.
  6. Can often get caught up in our heads, sometimes over-thinking, other times not thinking enough.
  7. A fear of failing to know when enough is enough.
  8. A weak sense of what happens when we introduce our designs…
Warren Feld

Beading and jewelry making have been wonderful adventures, from custom work, production work, and teaching. *Design is about the ability to make smart choices.