Dan M. Brown lays out a case for thoughtful design documentation in Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning.
Brown defines design as a, “complex process composed of many smaller activities,” including (but not limited to):
“…listening, analyzing, evaluating, brainstorming, synthesizing, experimenting, composing, describing, discussing, exploring, reacting…”
-Dan M. Brown
Site maps, flowcharts, wireframes, design briefs, and usability reports might not sound exciting. But these documents allow designers to capture the design process in a form that can be shared, discussed, tweaked and improved by others.
I never used to think of myself as a designer. My experience with graphic design was limited to one art class in middle school (and let’s face it, I will never be a graphic artist). Then suddenly I was a young professional working with designers and developers. It was a tough learning curve. My team would often send a project out to designers and get something totally different back. Or we would get exactly what we asked for, but technical difficulties prevented it from going into production. As I began to take on the role of project manager, I found myself learning to speak the language of designers and developers. As I did, my own thought-process began to change. I used to think of design as just “making something pretty.” I began to realize that design was actually about purpose, function, and form.
Documentation is crucial to good communication and digital project management. But perhaps more importantly, these documents allow for collaborative design. Brown argues that the main challenge for a web designer is to,”help everyone contribute to the design process, to establish a vision and help a multidisciplinary team realize it.” (xi)
The diagrams and deliverables that Brown outlines in his book are documentations of the design process, not the process of design itself. Not everyone knows how to create a flowchart (or even how to use AdobeInDesign). But (hopefully) everyone knows how to listen, question, and explore. Historians need to be able to think about design to offer their own expertise to the process.