The Nebulous Nature of Design Artefacts



Have you heard the term ‘Design Artefact’ before? Well, if you haven’t, you’re not alone, but if you are involved in software development, you should become a little more familiar with it – if you can – and that’s not easy in itself, because even the hottest young developer brains out there, battle to define it definitively.


If you try and research it rather blindly, you could be badly misled. You might be taken to sites that refer to its roots being in ‘The 3 Amigos’ and the ‘Rational Unified Process’. And if you’re not really that knowledgeable technically-speaking, you might stumble on a reference to the ‘The 3 Amigos’ comedy film of the late 80’s, where three actors find out the hard way that they aren’t playing onscreen bandit -fighters, but are expected to be the real thing. This is not ‘The 3 Amigos’ computer boffs understand. The computer software version of ‘The 3 Amigos’ refers to 3 pioneering software developers who created a software design blueprint known as the “Rational Unified Process”. The term ‘artefact’ appears to have become popular at that time, and refers to software design.


So what are Design Artefacts? Simply put, they are all the documents, diagrams, designs, models, mood boards, interactive prototypes or virtually any element or ‘output’ created during the design process. Some describe the function, architecture and design of software, while others are concerned with the process of development itself. They are often termed as ‘deliverables’ especially in terms of handing them over for client approval, but they are in fact formative rather than summative – in other words, critical to the formation of the design itself. Experts believe that design artifacts should exist first to document a design decision, because, as checks and balances, they are integral to the success of a project. Hence the nebulous nature of the beast.


To get your head around the essence of a design artefact, think in terms of how you can’t have a good design without effective problem solving. Thus, all those process artefacts are absolutely essential to a good end-product design. As simple or as complicated as that.


Technology is moving ahead faster than the speed of light, and to remain relevant in this ever-changing environment, we need to continually keep up to speed, and keep our fingers on the pulse – even if it is the pulse of a constantly moving nebulous beast!

Leave a Reply