design development

The Process of Design: Design Development


Each design project is unique, but the process of design here at Moss follows a well defined path.

Here’s what you can expect from each stage, from Program, and Field Measuring, through Schematic Design, Design Development, and Construction Documentation and on to Permits and Construction Administration.  Between design meetings, we are are doing work on your project at every phase.

This series of posts will explore our approach to the design process and give you an idea of how we might handle a future project of yours.

Design Development: Focus and Decisions

Once Schematic Design has been completed, everyone has agreed on the scale and scope of the design and the general direction that a project will take.  There are still many details to work out.  After doing most of our schematic design work by hand, we generally translate the design to the computer so that we can be more accurate with dimensions – make sure everything fits.  Other elements are handled in the computer or with a pen depending on the project.  We start to make firm decisions about materials – what things are made from – and begin tracking potential finish and fixture choices.

Again, to illustrate, we’ll show content created for two our of projects – a house on Carmen Avenue and a new restaurant and specialty food market in Andersonville.  

Floor Plans

By Design Development we create floor plans in the computer – where we can be sure that every dimension is accurately noted – we may still reorganize parts of the floor plan layout but the general outline is now set.  We add dimension lines to show the placement of walls and other structural elements and we use accurately measured layouts of furniture and other key items that will need to be contained in the final design.  Below is the first floor plan for the Carmen Avenue house.  At this point the plan is pretty clean – a few dimensions and text labels.  (Note: by the time it reaches the Construction Documents phase it will be ALMOST unreadably cluttered with vital information, stay tuned for the next post to explain all that clutter).

/Volumes/projects/Vyas-Austin House/Drawings/Plans/Vyas-Austin-F

The floor plan below of an Andersonville restaurant is a little more detail filled – it already shows accurate placement for all the kitchen equipment (these are tagged with numbers leading to more information elsewhere), the locations for all the restaurant seating and has ADA compliant restrooms and code designated life-safety exit routes.

Floor plans in the Design Development stage are meant to catch all the relevant details so that once we start figuring out how mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, finish details and custom furniture will fit in with them – we don’t have to go changing things around in 14 different places because a major program item was missed.

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Plans/Pastoral_

Sections and Elevations

Once we reach that point of clarity with the floor plans, we can use design development as a time to get serious about the way the exterior of the building will look.  Designers use elevation drawings – flat views of each side of the building, with no perspective – to study those exteriors.  Sometimes these are done by hand at first, as with the pencil sketches of the Carmen Avenue house below.

The section drawings at the top of the post show several different ideas for designing the roof line – each of which uses the same “final” schematic floor plan.

/Volumes/projects/Vyas-Austin House/Drawings/Plans/Vyas-Austin-F

Under other circumstances, we work directly from a computer drawing program (CAD) to create these.  Often the various options for facade layout go hand in hand with decisions about the materials that will be used on the outside.  Again we turn to photographs, of our own projects or others that we like, to illustrate what those materials might look like.

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Plans/Pastoral_

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Plans/Pastoral_

/Volumes/projects/Pastoral Clark Street/Drawings/Plans/Pastoral_


We start to assign materials to the major structures of the building – brick walls on the addition, living roof, eg – during Design Development.  And at the same time we start to determine where there might be decorative tile inside, what floors will be wood or exposed concrete, and what built in elements may be composed of.  The study below is for a residential remodel on Seminary Ave that is in the design development stage right now.

contrasting wood colors

Working with annotated sketches, often photoshopping various material options right into the drawings, is a good way to convey the idea of how an element will be constructed and make sure that everyone is on the same page with the design.  The rendered sketch below shows a concept for the central bar of the Andersonville restaurant indicating both layout and where materials like reclaimed wood siding and zinc counter top might be used.

p_bar concept

Based on these choices we move forward into specific product choices – which will be designated in the Construction Documents.  We also use Basecamp, our trusty project management web system, to share ideas for potential specifications – fixtures, finishes and products – with clients and track them within the office.

Moving forward from Design Development

The driving force behind the Design Development Phase, aside from furthering the project concept with the clients, is to get enough information together about the future building so that it can be accurately priced.  So the concluding document is a “Pricing Set” of drawings, both in the computer and with illustrative sketches of any custom built-in items.  This allows us to check up on the square foot estimate price leftover from Schematic Design and confirm that we are on track with the budget goals.

The first two phases, Schematic Design and Design Development, are the ones which require the most feedback from and interaction with our design clients.  Once we have decided on the major outline of the building design, and concluded that it fits with the budget, we turn a little more inward and get down to the work of preparing the detailed drawings for the city building department and for contractors to use in bringing our design to reality.

Next step … Construction Documents.