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What do innovators, designers, architects and artists think about?

They live forward, they live in the future, they learned from the past, that´s why they sketch more. They think about concepts, holistic and viable entities to be realised. They have a secret drawer with the future in it. The sketches.

Concepts, conceptual thinking, concepting (conceptualising) and formgiving are the only things the innovators, designers, architects and artists own over the other contemporaries and coevals.

Design, as well as the arts and architecture, is dependent on concepts and conceptual thinking. Chapel du Ronchamp was born from a concept, so did Leonardo’s helicopter too. Don´t ever ask the artist, designer or architect, what they have done and built. Ask them, what they would do and build, if they were allowed to open their drawer.

The drawer is the answer. Full or empty, dreams or pompous present? The drawer tells the secret.

ArchitectureRock Concepts is a drawer. A drawer open.

Concepting skills are the most important design assets


Concepting article and an example of Innovation Labs concept draft. Concept (right). The vision, idea and meaning of an Innovation lab and makerspace was concepted in a very early phase to be base for further ideation and development. It is easier to communicate to a team with draft plans and pictorial papers. Conceptual sketch about NTNU IDI Software innovation Labs, A4 paper, pencil and colours. Juhani Risku 2015.

Abstract What is concepting?

During the concepting process you create a product or service on both an imaginary level as a practical and functional model. Concepting is envisioning, ideation, planning, design and realisation in one package.  During concepting an idea is built for the first time to a functional and viable solution, on paper, model or prototype. The next step for a concept is to be built in a real world solution, product or service.

A concept can be a mental representation that exists in the brain. Here the concept is an idea on system level, which can be seen as a functioning and independent entity. Design concept is a product or service description, which is planned and visualised so that in can be communicated to relevant stakeholders.

Concepting (conceptualising) is a process, where a system or its detail is envisioned, planned, designed in its idea, meaning, dependences, scale and details into a functioning and sustainable entity. Concepting as a process is a combination of a flow of direction vector and iterative approximation. So, as a result of concepting there is a viable product or service to be manufactured.

During the concepting process there are several small scale iterations inside large scale, and the large scale has its loops through all details. Small scale iterations are detail level development loops to reach a sufficient level of functionality or quality to go forward along the concepting vector. During the iterations the large scale reaches a viable level of existence a.k.a. functioning concept.

Techniques for concepting

You need special skills to concept effectively. The most important human practice is life-long note-making. When making notes e.g. during master student’s 3200 lectures hundreds of concepts can be created.

When adding more skills like sketching, structuring and mental calculation concepting begins to communicate and get realism. When estimating, guesstimating and iterating your brain is going through hundreds of options.

When sketching and drawing it is better to do it as fast as you think. There are two styles of drawing: structural and look-alike. Artists and designers use both of them, as we know from Leonardo da Vinci.

Details lighten the concept. Designers know, that beauty is in the details. By studying the nature and phenomena from big picture to details with microscopes, telescopes and analysing with pencil and paper the quality of your concept rises qickly.

Concepting should be taught at every university beside the implementation of Student’s workstation.


Chart. Innovation process developed at Nokia Corp. year 2009 by Juhani Risku. Conception phase is the primary appearing of an idea. An idea can be a wordless notion or a working system in your brain or anything between. Invention is a new product or process introduced for the first time. Prototyping is a real-world formulation of the concept. Design is a subset of planning. Design is an iterative and holistic process, where the original idea and conceptual details are chec-ked and applied to the product and its essence in branding, for the customers and the business. In implementation the product is split into manageable parts like SW, HW and appearance to be deve-loped and manufactured properly. Product launch is the occasion where the publicity is faced.