Charette Best Practices


If you want to use these tips in a real-life charette, be sure to register ASAP for the IIDA Oregon Chapter Student Design Charette Qualifier, taking place February 15 at Oregon State University. The winners will advance to the Western Region Student Design Charette in April 2020  in San Francisco California, which will feature the winning teams from all Western Regional Chapters. You must be a student IIDA member to participate in the Regional charette. The winning Western Regional Chapter team will go on to the International IIDA Student Design Charette at NeoCon 2020 in Chicago.

The charette process is a chance to learn essential skills that are highly valued by employers, appreciated by colleagues, and offered as design services to clients. In order to maximize your participation in the charette, IIDA Oregon Chapter as one of the IIDA Western Regional Chapters, * recommends the following best practices:

Create a Timeline:
Time is of the essence, your team will have a mere few hours to complete your problem! Take time after you review the problem, structure and deliverables, to map out how long you should spend on each phase of the design. Think about the charette process as an accelerated schedule for a real-world problem, that only includes concept, schematic and design development phases. Talk about how long your team is going to commit to a certain level of development at each phase. Be sure to leave time to regularly check-in and collaborate with each other; this is a great way to ensure that your overall design goals are achieved and cohesive. Also consider how long it will take to prepare your visual and verbal presentation; outline the content and who will be telling what parts of the story.

Evaluate Strengths and Areas of Interest:
Share what you believe your strengths are and how you see them contributing to the success of the end goal. Also convey any areas of interest that you may have so that your team can benefit from your research and expertise.

Examples may include material sustainability, technology integration, space planning and program applied research, etc.

Identify Individual Scopes:
Based on your discussion about strengths and areas of interest, evaluate the list of deliverables together and assign tasks accordingly. In the profession it takes a variety of individual skill sets to achieve the end result. Each team members role is vital to the success of a project; there is no menial job.

Develop A Strong Concept:
One of the key aspects to developing a winning solution for a charette problem is a strong concept.  In discussion with your team members about the program and context of the site, begin the planning of the problem with a creative brain dump to start forming your concept. This could include diagramming, written sentences, or verbal words that synthesize a clear tangible thought or ideas. Once you have finalized your carefully crafted concept this will ground your design solutions and help you easily develop key ideas that can be applied throughout the entirety of the final design.

Work Collaboratively Together:
The responsibility of the group is to facilitate contribution from each team member. This is in the team’s best interest in regards to content production and in presenting a collaboratively developed cohesive concept. Value each idea, but be willing to move on from ideas that don’t fit.  Each idea builds upon another, allowing for the best idea to surface and evolve.

Communication is key to collaboration and a professionally successful process. As much as you contribute to the conversation, also be an attentive and active listener to your teammates. Ask clarifying questions when you don’t understand and resist the urge to interrupt. Strike a balance between humility and confidence when sharing your ideas and listening to others. As you check-in with each other regarding your progress and process, be sure to provide and accept constructive criticism.

Successful Presentation:
A successful presentation will communicate WHY you designed what you did, in addition to HOW you did it. WHY was that your concept? WHY do believe that your design will improve the end-user’s experience? WHY tells a story, HOW tells a process.

  • Identify what the purpose of your design is. Revisit your team’s initial design goals and evaluate how they might have evolved as the project developed. This will help you to identify what the end goals and concepts were, how your design achieved them and how it informs the story of your design.
  • Consider telling the story of the how the end-user will interact with the environment and how the design improves that experience. In what ways can your team personalize the story of your design so that it is successfully conveyed to your audience?
  • Edit, edit, edit, your story. Identify what exactly it is that you want to communicate and be intentional about your vocabulary. Consider the key points (driven by your concept) you want the jurors to take away about the design.

Whether this is your first charette or tenth, this exercise is sure to be very challenging  yet invigorating. We hope that you find these suggestions helpful for working as a group. Any Interior Design professional will tell you that the skills learned and demonstrated in a charette will directly apply to your professional career.

As IIDA Oregon Chapter, our members strongly believe the design charette process lends to your professional growth as an emerging commercial interior designer. We have every confidence that you will be successful in your collaborative efforts and look forward to seeing your design solutions!

*IIDA Western Regional Chapters include: Oregon, Northern Pacific, Northern California, Southern California, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Intermountain, and Hawaii Pacific Chapters 

Content by Peter Harrison, IIDA Oregon Chapter – Director of Student Affairs. Photos by Scott Griggs, Bora Architects.