Parallel design is a method where alternative designs, often
interface designs, are created by two to four design groups
at the same time. The aim is to assess the different ideas
before settling on a single concept for continued development.
The design groups work independently of each other, since
the goal is to generate as much diversity as possible. Design
groups should not discuss their designs with each other until
after they have produced their draft design concepts and presented
them in a design workshop. The final design may be one of
the designs or a combination of designs, taking the best features
Although parallel design might at first seem like an expensive
approach, since many ideas are generated without implementing
them, it is a very cheap way of exploring a range of possible
concepts before selecting the probable optimum.
- Allows a range of ideas to be generated quickly and cost
- Parallel nature of the approach allows several approaches
to be explored at the same time, thus compressing the concept
- The concepts generated can often be combined so that the
final solution benefits from all ideas proposed.
- Only minimal resources and materials are required to convey
- The technique can be utilised by those with little or
no human factors expertise.
However, parallel design requires a number of design team
members to be available at the same time to produce the concepts
and it requires a lot of time to be invested over a short
period for the design work to be carried out. Also, time must
be allocated to compare parallel design outputs properly so
that the benefits of each approach are obtained.
The method requires design team members to be available concurrently
in order to carry out design work in parallel. A requirements
document is needed to make sure that the design groups are
given the same information so that design work starts from
the same starting point.
The following procedure may be adopted for implementing this
- Define clearly the boundaries for the parallel design,
i.e. goal of system, tasks that it should support, user
characteristics, etc. Each design team should receive the
same set of requirements before starting the design activity..
- Each design teams may use whatever media they prefer to
present their designs. It is recommended to use a low level
of prototyping. No extra points should be given for ‘sophisticated’
- Design teams should have roughly equivalent skills.
- Decide beforehand how much time to allocate to the design
work and set a clear time limit. 10 - 20 hours per group
is often sufficient.
- Agree on the criteria by which the designs will be assessed.
- Allow sufficient time to carry out a fair comparison of
the designs produced. This is often carried out in a design
workshop, where all groups and their member participate.
- Discuss each design separately and then discuss how different
aspects of the designs may be combined.
- The objective is to settle on one design concept based
on the total effort.
Evaluate the design ideas.