Seeking an Alternative Approach for Preparing Studio Project Brief: A studio experimental exercise for a spatial design project

Fang Xu, Chun Li and Wenxian Huang
2014 Conference

Establishment of an appropriate project brief is crucial in the design studio environment as it defines a project’s parameters and impacts the subsequent execution of studio exercise. Many students often experience difficulties implementing the multifaceted text-based nature of project briefs into the dynamic features of a design process. Hence, creating a brief that captures and conveys the essences of a studio project has been a challenging task that directly correlates with studio teaching and learning activities.

This paper presents a studio experimental exercise that seeks an alternative approach for preparing studio project briefs. 20 second-year undergraduates are involved in this experimental task through a spatial design project. The principles of Instructional System Design (ISD) and Gagne’s instructional theory related to the learning process were selected as guiding frameworks. During the 5-week studio exercise, students each selected a renowned building/place as their case study. They examined tangible and intangible characters through the use of objective descriptions and subjective interpretations in order to expose the original intentions of the designs. By visualizing and identifying the object’s original intention through a combination of diagrams, images and concise notes, students can finally develop a set of the objectives, criteria and desirable outcome, which are the critical components of a project brief. This backward induction offers an alternative approach for the process of preparing a studio project brief, and critically develops students’ abilities to create a more relevant project brief in design studio environment.

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About the author

Fang Xu is currently an Associate Professor in Art & Design, UNSW where he is the convener of Environments / Spatial Design.

Fang’s expertise is drawn from his cross-cultural background, wide range of professional design experience and interdisciplinary research interests.  With thirty years experience as a practicing designer and tertiary educator both in Australia and overseas, Fang has a deep understanding of the nature of design, and its social influences and cultural values that shape contemporary design education and practice.

As an educator, Fang’s interest in design education is on the relationship between culture, design process and design methodology.  The research examines the influence of cultural manifestation on design teaching and learning in both Australian and Asian Universities’ contexts.  It also investigates the increasingly hybrid nature of inter-disciplinary approach in response to the transformation of the design industry in the real world.

As a researcher, Fang is interested in issues central to design practice in the changing context of values, objectives and methods. His recent research concentrates on the role of public participation, community engagement, social innovation and design intervention in design practice.  This approach is reflected in his research outcomes of studying public open space, urban renewal, aged care and other topics relating to the theme of social sustainability.


Chun Li is a lecturer from the School of Architectural Art, Guangxi Arts Institute, Guangxi province, China


Wenxian Huangis a professor from the School of Architectural Art, Guangxi Arts Institute, Guangxi province, China