The 24 design factors – a holistic design methodology


2 years ago I read the book “The Checklist Manifesto – how to get things right” by Atul Gawande (a book I can only recommend to anyone). I have always been impressed by the checklist as a concept, because when it comes down to it, in the cockpit when the pressure drops or in the operating theatre during a cardiac arrest, a checklist is usually the weapon of choice.

And while it might not be a case of life and death doesn’t this apply just the same in the design field? So much depends on a single development. Success or loss – of money, jobs and in our field of medical devices design in fact, indirectly, the fate of patients are all effected by the smallest of details.

Making mistakes to harvest questions
For years (almost 24 years) we have collected any major issue that has arisen during the design development process. What causes there were behind mistakes made, which questions should have been asked sooner and simply which questions were the right ones to be asking when developing a new design. Our list grew long and longer and while we were happy with the plethora of interesting and informative questions, we soon realised that the list had become somewhat overwhelming to digest. Then Atul Gawandes Buch inspired me to make this wide range of information more accessible and easy to master.

What would it be like if we had every major issue in front of us? If we knew we had remembered to consider everything and forget nothing that could cause us a headache later? With this motivation, the methodology of the 24 design factors was born.

In this article I will explain this unique methodology.

And give you full access to our 24 design factors.

Works with product and …
As a product designer, minds often go straight to considering questions surrounding the product, but it does not end there. Given its significance on the development of the product the brand holds at least as high of a consideration in the designers mind. The value of the product is inextricably linked with the brand and so to view these two areas as independent would be a recipe for failure. These two domains, the product and the brand form the backbone of the 24 design factors. The third area is that of the products realization, the area in which all questions regarding the physical creation of the concept come to bare.

… also works for the brand alone
Though born from the brain of a product designer, the 24 design factors are also applicable to brand projects in full. It is even very useful to think of the subject matter of a trade mark task as a product. Even if it is a software interface or a flyer: the questions “What is the purpose and what the product environment?” make perfect sense.

24 designfaktoren poster

A universal tool in development
The 24 design factors are not a process but a condensed checklist for holistic design. They can be used at any point in the development and can help to focus or even widen the views of the participating stakeholders. Perhaps most important though is to use the checklist in the initial stages of projects, during the briefing for instance. The aim here is to focus on what is important and not to get bogged down in the details. Furthermore, the definition of the task should leave enough room for creativity, prioritization and flexible handling.

24 chances to classify importance
The 24 factors are always all applicable but are never of the same relevance and priority as each other. It is therefore necessary to weight the individual factors. Here the experience of the developer comes into play, as otherwise the wrong priorities are set. The particular value lies in the clear structure and robust mould through which all aspects are considered. Within only a short time users will know exactly where to find what they are looking for on the poster, whether it be Interaction top right or Production bottom left.

24 chances to initiate creative interaction
The 24 design factors support the open discussion of all stakeholders. I have found that during briefings it is critical that the creative lead with questions. I compare the briefing to an interview prepared by a professional journalist, each question teasing out the true story and the most relevant details. There is no point in the client spending hours telling me their story, I need to question and ultimately understand the business from my own perspective. Only then can the actual creative process and a productive debate between all members of the development team begin.

The value of a closed system
The 24 design factors form a closed system which has the great advantage that it does not have to be constantly expanded. Because it allows the ideal balance between abstraction and concretization, it offers the experienced experts support, whilst guiding the beginners through what might be their first experience in this area. The system gives the designer the assurance that nothing essential is forgotten and this trust carries over to the customer. The 24 design factors have been printed as an A1 poster and for in-depth questions, a supporting deck of illustrated cards.

The 24 design factors in use


In particular, our customers love the 24 design factors because they are so compact. Some even so much that they frame each of the 24 design factor cards and hang them into the meeting rooms. Our A1 poster is often seen on the walls of our customers within sight of the desk.

For about a year now, the 24 design factors have been in use and now form the basis for all our projects. We can now handle more complex relationships and deliberately set priorities. We are particularly proud that the method is already used in counselling practice by third parties in particularly in the expert system TIMEWAVER. This is used to support strategic management consulting firms in decision making and the 24 design factors form the “product & brand” module.

Why 24?
Last but not least – why actually 24? Why use a fixed number? This is perhaps already clear from what has been said. Exactly because it was intended that way. Here mathematics and aesthetics come very close in the form of the Golden Ratio (which is soon to experience a renaissance by the way). Of course, at the beginning there is a certain amount of information that will be divided. But whether 19, 23 or 26 – does it really matter? I do not believe so. 24 provides a fixed frame and by the nature of the matrix forms of a closed shape however devisable by 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12. The effect is fundamental and has an immediate positive impact on the identification and reliability of the tool.

Recently, we introduced our 24 Design Factors bit by bit as every day we introduced a design factor in our “wild Advent Calendar”. Now all doors are open and you can study each design factor in detail.

And if it has taught you something, or you want to ask any question or make a comment – down below is the space to do so, answers guaranteed!

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Markus writes about design- and innovation management, creativity methods, medical design and intercultural branding. More about...

Originally written by Markus Wild, 14. January 2015. Last updated 23. April 2023


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