Value-based reformulation of the design draft



Designers and Stakeholders

Design phase:







This teaching activity enables the students to identify and characterise the toned (explicitly mentioned) and untoned (not explicitly mentioned) values embedded in a design brief from a client, to analyse the design brief in light of the toned and untoned values, and to evaluate and adapt the design brief based on the complete set of values. The outcome gives the student/group the opportunity to iterate the design brief based on the value landscape map.


To our experience, students have a hard time critiquing design briefs and maps (e.g., value landscape map, mindmapping), as well as assessing the values in a design brief they receive. They tend to take what is explicit for granted and to ignore the untoned. A design brief is defined here as the formulated demands and expectations of the project provider, e.g., the client.

This activity teaches students to work with toned and untoned values in a design brief. By “toned” values, we mean values that are explicitly mentioned in the design brief (such as the available Publications of each stakeholder involved in the project). By “untoned” values, we mean values that are not explicitly mentioned in the design brief, yet that are implied; taking them into account may impact the project (such as power relations among stakeholders).

The aim is not to broaden the design brief, but to make better informed decisions on which values to take into account in the design process.

The teaching activity is performed after the Mapping value landscapes teaching activity, which results in a direct and indirect stakeholder analysis and a value landscape map, that is, the relations, objectives, ethical stances of stakeholders involved in the design project.

The students analyse the value landscape map, which enables them to characterise untoned relations, and may lead to an evaluation and adaptation of some aspects of the design brief.


After the teaching activity students will be able to:

  • identify and characterise the toned and untoned values embedded in a design brief,
  • analyse a design brief in light of the toned and untoned values,
  • evaluate and adapt the design brief based on the complete set of values.


  • The students should have completed the teaching activity Mapping value landscapes, resulting in a value landscape map consisting of all stakeholders involved in the design project. For this activity, the value landscape map is the resource the student/group starts to work with.
  • The students should have access to a design brief (developed by themselves or a client).
  • Print students’ documented value landscape map or ask them to bring a printed copy to class.
  • A few coloured pens are needed to mark out what characterises the untoned values, and to determine the new relations among stakeholders. See the provided example of a value-based reformulation of a design brief.
  • The same value landscape map should be used for the entire activity, as compiled information progressively contributes to the finding of new paths through untoned.
  • The teacher walks through the process of the activity with the students: instructions, timeplan, and expected outcome.
  • The students can work individually or in groups.


The teaching activity consists of four steps.

Step 1 - Identify and characterise the toned and untoned values embedded in the design brief:

  • The student/group identifies each relation in the value landscape as described by the design brief. The path resulting from these relations forms the “original path”.
  • The student/group identifies each non-drawn relation in the value landscape, i.e., they discuss if there is any possible relation or influence between two entities for which there is no drawn relation in the original map. For example, if in a multi-stakeholder project, two stakeholders are not yet related, can we imagine any kind of power/financial/cultural relation between them? The students describe (the not explicitly mentioned) values. The highly plausible and credible relations are evaluated, while others may be further adapted or ignored.
  • Once the diagram is completed with the untoned values, the student/group constructs other paths to complete the value landscape map. Each path should be analysed with regards to the values it relies on.

Step 2 - Analyse the design brief in light of the toned and untoned:

  • The student/group presents the findings, especially demonstrating what was untoned, and explaining the way their own understanding of the design brief has changed in view of all relations, both originally toned and untoned.

Step 3 - Evaluate and adapt the design brief based on the complete set of values:

  • By assessing the design brief considering the toned and the untoned, the student/group can pinpoint the new opportunities. Then the student/group can adapt the design brief accordingly, by picking one path on the value landscape map. This path illustrates the narrative of the updated design brief.
  • Then this path should be compared with the “original path” from Step 1. This comparison leads to an evaluation of the most relevant and satisfying path in terms of stakeholders’ values as well as the student/group’s own.

Step 4 - Presentation and reflection (optional):

  • The students present their result in three parts:
    • the original design brief (if this one is different for each student/group),
    • an explanation of the untoned values,
    • the rephrased design brief.

    The teacher may invite the students to reflect upon the impact of this teaching activity on the rest of the design project.


To assess whether the intended learning outcomes were attained by the teaching activity the following assessment activities can be carried out (in class or after class).


Assess students' learning by asking them to hold a value-based exhibition or public workshop (authentic assessment) presenting 1) the original design brief, 2) changes in the value landscape and 3) the evaluated and adapted design brief in order to discuss it with potential stakeholders.

Assess students' learning by making them write a self-review with a focus on values handled in an activity (formative assessment) focusing on how and why values changed from the original design brief to the rephrased design brief, highlighting the toned and untoned values and how they evaluated and adapted the design brief based on those.


In the assessment activity ask students to focus on:

  • discussing the difference between toned and untoned values,
  • adapting the design brief in the light of the toned and untoned values to better incorporate a complete set of values,
  • reflecting on how values were taken into consideration for making choices between the original and rephrased design brief.



Suggested Assessment Activities: