60 interiors+sources july2017 interiorsandsources.com
The word “charrette” is derived from the French term for “little cart.” Today, a charrette is an intensive planning session in which all constituents of a project—citizens, designers, and other collaborators—can participate in a vision for development,
drafting a solution to a design problem, or providing a forum for ideas,
providing immediate feedback to the designer. The concept of a design
charrette continues to evolve in professional practice and in design
education. Successful design and creating an optimal user experience is
sometimes better accomplished by integrated project teams.
Design charrettes come in handy to unveil any unknowns, or to generate a
good representation of what participants do know. The charrette may take
out the days of dwelling over a design strategy or solution, save time, and
employ the power of a team to solve problems from a new perspective.
In addition, charrettes will kick start a design because solutions are
inspired by ideas from various people. They are also inclusive as they
include priorities from people in different stakeholder groups, and they usually
make each participating person feel listened to and considered equally.
Design processes are often complex, and if we can manage to keep
them transparent, with an open-communication approach and a collaborative
spirit, we are likely to succeed in solving design problems more inclusively
and in less time.
To start a charrette, gather people in a room and provide participants
with a few sheets of paper, pencils, Post-it notes, and flip charts or white
boards. If this is a group of 20 people or more, divide them into smaller
teams of four or five participants. Each member may first sketch or write
their own ideas for five minutes before they share with the team, explaining
the reasoning behind them.
Charrettes are process-driven, and the team will focus less on the
deliverables and more on developing ideas and concepts, trying to draft a
design solution. The team will generate a problem statement first, which
will lead to a set of assumptions and goals helping to design for the
issue(s) at hand. Feedback from the collaborating team through discussion,
sketching, and comparing the hypotheses of the initial design goals is key.
In a charrette, every idea is worthy of being explored. Brainstorming
ideas for problem solving allows the team to generate initial answers.
Note that there will be more than one answer, which will generate more
Here lies the power of the charrette: The team can quickly prioritize
success or failure of initial solutions, and how well the design answer
would support an understanding of the problem. In general, the team
would move on with an assumption if the answer is not understood,
quality set of design answers has been generated by the charrette team, it is
time to test them; ideas are presented to external stakeholders for consider-
ation, debate, and revision.
The design charrette in a student studio environment offers learning
opportunities in a condensed period, which might be difficult to achieve by
other means of pedagogy. The Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC), an
association of design education professionals, has many members who are
experienced in leading charrettes and have studied the impacts and outcomes of
the process, both with students as well as in professional practice (Webber,
S.B., 2015; Chun, M. J. and Hong, M., 2017).
IDEC recently organized a design charrette at its annual meeting in
Chicago. Members put the power of the charrette into action as they
embarked on a service initiative intended to work with a local senior living
service provider, Weinberg Senior Living Community and Residence, located
in Deerfield, Ill. The service intention of the design charrette was to give
back to the community where IDEC held the gathering. Visit idec.org for
Hans-Peter Wachter is a professor and the department chair at the University
of North Texas, College of Visual Art, Department of Design. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Hans-Peter Wachter, IDEC and Migette Kaup PhD, IDEC | Photography courtesy of Hans-Peter Wachter
A design charrette allows participants to collaborate
to formulate ideas and solve design problems,
addressing various concerns and hypotheses.
THE POWER OF
The collaboration of participants and exploration of possibilities
lend to the effectiveness of design charrettes in project planning.
Migette Kaup is a professor at the Kansas State University, College of
Human Ecology, Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design. He can
be reached at email@example.com