In March, we highlighted the use of a data-based assessment to determine a new track alignment (article: “Data-Based Analysis Can Help Direct You to the Right Track”), an approach that is great when there are numerous constraints to balance and it is unclear which option will provide the best overall value. But what if you have a project where the reverse is true? What if the space you have available has numerous potential options with relatively few constraints, and you need to narrow them down? Say, for example, a track expansion in an unused portion of a yard. For this type of scenario, rapid concept development may be a good fit.
The idea behind rapid concept development is to create one or more high-level designs so that they can be discussed and adjusted before progressing to 30% design. This process is different from a typical concept design submittal. Less emphasis is put on the sheeting effort: fewer callouts, fewer dimensions and less time making everything look just so. The concepts could even be presented in Google Earth KMZ files or sketches sent in an email.
The idea behind rapid concept development is to create one or more high-level designs so that they can be discussed and adjusted before progressing to 30% design. This process is different from a typical concept design submittal.
Ideally, portions of the rapid concept process would be done live, with stakeholders giving their thoughts and ideas and someone in the meeting immediately turning those thoughts and ideas into sketches or modifications to the design. When there are lots of options to be considered and lots of stakeholders, rapid concept development puts the focus on progressing the underlying design to a point that everyone’s needs are met (or at least balanced when there are competing priorities), without spending a portion of the design budget on making the printed versions of multiple concepts look great.
It may seem like a minor item to print a design to paper with a nice border and labels, dimensions and callouts, but all those steps take time, and time translates to money. The process of creating multiple iterations of concepts for review also tends to bring things to light — stakeholder priorities that weren’t brought up in the initial list of project criteria. Integrating this information into the design early in the process saves on potential rework later.
As designers, we can come to the table with knowledge of client and industry standards and lots of great ideas, but there are a limited number of “right” ways to do things, and part of our job is to figure out the client’s goals for the project and their design preferences. Rapid concept development is one of the ways we can do that. We present our best ideas and then collaboratively work with all project stakeholders to make sure needs and preferences have been identified and integrated. While not right for every project, rapid concept development is worth considering. For more information on how this approach to plan development could fit your project, contact Lauren Schroedter at firstname.lastname@example.org.